Written by Chris Walker (@cwlkr20)
After a devastating 4–0 loss to Liverpool F.C., the current 16th place EPL team will have more questions than answers. Does Arsene Wenger know what he’s doing? What formation will get the best out of his team? Who loses to Stoke? How is the defense going to get solid? Who’s staying? Who’s leaving? Who’s arriving? Does Wenger deserve to stay?
They’re all fair questions. The North London club has a talented squad, that could fire its way to a top four standing. They do use a low bar of success as its measure, when the Gunners miss out on the title race. Which, judging from that recent trouncing, they probably are.
The Gunners have well-known issues on defense. When Shkodran Mustafi is benched because he might leave and Laurent Koscielny is thrust back into the fold after suspension, Wenger is trying to make lemonade out of lemons. They still got pulled apart. See Below.
In the nicest possible way, when your team looks flabbergasted by the tactics being thrown at them, it shows.
Which leads to back to one of the above questions: Does Arsene Wenger know what he’s doing? After a loss like that, it’s easy to say no.
It’d be unfair not to give him his credit, as the Premier League’s longest serving manager, but he’s stuck in his ways. For 20 years, Wenger played his defenders in a back four. When he switched to a 3–4–3 last season, it was a shock. What wasn’t shocking is that the Frenchman still doesn’t adjust, rarely making tactical halftime switches, willing to go on with what he’s already put out.
There’s a reason a contingent of Arsenal fans that constantly hammer on with “Wenger Out”. Their basic premise — the game has passed him and he allegedly doesn’t have the locker room. It’s not as if there isn’t coaching talent available — see Thomas Tuchel. However, the Arsenal board gave him a two year contract after the Gunners won a record breaking FA Cup this past May, but finished the Premier League in sixth place.
Another question: What is the board up to? No one knows. Even though CEO Ivan Gazidis and the board turned a solid profit this past summer, there is still a timeline of questionable moves they’ve contributed to. The best example being Alexis Sanchez not being sold this past summer; he is now on a glorified one-year loan deal.
In January, Sanchez can either be sold to another club (likely Manchester City) or wait it out and leave for free, which could lead to a better contract amongst a variety of destinations. Gazidis dropped the ball by allowing this situation.
Sanchez was clearly down vs Liverpool, which doesn’t give any resolve to him staying. Maybe he doesn’t like losing — who does? Maybe he just wants to compete for titles bigger than the F.A. Cup and the community shield — who doesn’t?
AS Monaco forward Thomas Lemar not signing on, to replace Sanchez can hold some blame. The young French forward, subject to an alledged €100 million transfer offer, is electric. He would be a direct replacement for Sanchez in this Arsenal squad. At the same time, would you want to leave a team that pays well, gives you playing time, and is in the Champions League?
Winning the premier league is equal parts hard work, tactics, talent, and luck, on many levels. Ask last year’s Chelsea F.C. Ask the 2015–16 Leicester City team. Ask the 2003–04 Arsenal squad. I wouldn’t ask this team. They’re mired in too many questions that not enough people have the answers to.