Just one more problem atop Arsenal’s mounting pile

Sam Allardyce: Has used up most of early goodwill at Everton.

Arsenal goalkeeping issue just another crisis...

There might be a long list of issues at Arsenal as we begin 2018, but their goalkeeping crisis should not be overlooked, and nor too should Arsenal’s guilt in establishing such a worrying state of affairs. Plus ca change.

Last summer, Arsenal sold Wojciech Szczesny after he had established himself as one of the finest goalkeepers in Serie A. Szczesny had left the Emirates a boy but had become a man. Arsenal had used the loan system to perfection, but then wasted the benefit.

That move would have made sense if Arsenal had two other in-form goalkeepers, but they didn’t then and still don’t. Petr Cech has been declining rapidly over the last two years, while David Ospina has rarely been fit for purpose.

Arsenal didn’t just sell Szczesny, but sold him to a better club for a pitiful price of £10m. The Pole has since established himself as a viable competitor to Gianluigi Buffon as Juventus No. 1, and is the great man’s heir.

...and what must Lacazette be thinking

“Arsenal are the club that plays the best football in England so I really wanted to come here,” said Alexandre Lacazette on July 5, 2017.

Arsenal’s new striker and record signing was being unveiled and was presumably delighted by the prospect of being serviced by Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil.

Six months later, a penny for Lacazette’s thoughts. He began his Arsenal career with a fizz, but it has gone horribly flat since.

The Frenchman has scored four goals in all competitions since September, must be at risk of missing out on the World Cup and is probably fortunate that Olivier Giroud is injured at club level.

Still, can you blame him? Just like every Arsenal supporter, Lacazette was sold a pup last summer, willfully misled by a hierarchy that talk a good game but fail to back up talk of progress with any meaningful action.

Arsenal are a club stuck in a hole. Wenger, Stan Kroenke and Ivan Gazidis provided the spades.

Relegation battle promises to enthral

The Premier League title race might have been over by Christmas, but this could well be the tightest relegation battle in years.

Leicester and Everton are probably out of the woods after changing their manager and subsequently enjoying a bounce, but Watford in tenth are only six points outside the bottom three.

Eleven clubs have lost between 10 and 12 league games, demonstrating that there is very little between any of the Premier League rest.

With three promoted clubs and a host of established sides who have already changed their manager amongst them, the next four months promise to be enthralling. It’s quantity over quality, but we can still sit back and enjoy the fast food feast.

Allardyce already running out of goodwill

Perhaps Sam Allardyce was always onto a loser at Goodison. By the time he took over, Everton were 14th in the Premier League and fears of relegation had already been allayed. Allardyce was the firefighter, but a bucket of water was enough to dampen the flames.

With results slightly less urgent, Allardyce’s playing style only became more important. A significant proportion of Everton’s support were unhappy at the club’s appointment of an arch-pragmatist.

For all Allardyce’s defensive improvement, football has to provide some entertainment.

Having impressed with his initial results, Allardyce has used up most of that goodwill.

Everton have managed four shots on target in their last five matches and have failed to have a single shot on target in three of them. The arrival of Cenk Tosun must provoke in Everton’s attacking ambition, or Allardyce can expect to be replaced as early as this summer.

Arnautovic the saviour of West Ham’s season

It is the managerial masterstroke of the season so far. If Antonio Conte transformed Chelsea’s 2016/17 campaign by altering their formation, David Moyes has revitalised West Ham’s by reinventing their attack.

Early in Moyes’ reign, Marko Arnautovic was persona non grata at the London Stadium. He was being picked as a left winger, but expected to track back into midfield and assist defensively. The Austrian was effectively refusing to co-operate, and Moyes told him so.

Yet Moyes also had a cunning plan.

With Javier Hernandez disappointing and Andy Carroll unreliable, West Ham’s manager dropped both and moved Arnautovic in a central role.

 

He told his forward that his responsibility to track back had been eased, but the onus on him to score and create goals had increased.

Since then, Arnautovic has scored or assisted nine times in seven league matches and has become the leader of West Ham’s attack. He was sensational against Huddersfield on Saturday.

Conte must find solution

Against Leicester on Saturday, Chelsea drew their third consecutive game 0-0 in all competitions for the first time in their entire history. It is an unwanted record for Antonio Conte. The defending champions are faltering again.

After the game, Conte again insisted that Chelsea’s problems were down to fatigue.

Yet supporters are becoming suspicious that their manager is using it as a facade for his own inadequacies. If the players were so tired after the draw against Arsenal, as Conte suggested, why did he pick virtually the same side?

For all the sympathy over the failure to land his top transfer targets last summer, part of successful management is learning to deal with an unideal hand. Conte is currently putting down the same cards time and again and hoping for a different result.


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