A defeat to a lower level Bradford City has Arsenal fans on the verge of a nervous breakdown, while others are questioning Arsene Wenger's future at the Emirates. Tuesday's match showed a side of Arsenal that lacked self-confidence in the final third, while yet again, Wenger had to watch two of his players enter into a heated discussion during the match.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was seen late in the second half waving at Marouane Chamakh after a poor pass that could very well have put the Ox in on net; instead he was put in a 50/50 challenge that resulted in nothing. Regardless of how the pass turned out, the frustrations are clearly effecting not only the fans and manager, but also the mentality of the players.
So with the players frustrated, fans frustrated and Wenger looking like he doesn't have the answer, what is going on at the Emirates?
Plan A, Plan A And More Plan A
For quite some time, Arsene Wenger has one approach to every game and he doesn't really care to change it—ever. Whether they are losing by two, three or are tied, Wenger believes that his tiki-taka approach will resolve the problem when as we've seen lately, it doesn't always work.
When you add a group of players who are out of position and don't have confidence in themselves and the manager's tactics, things get even worst.
Going into every match, opposing teams know exactly what to expect from Arsenal —they won't change their strategy during the game. If their opponents play a high pressure game with a physical side to it, Arsenal's squad will get frustrated and they will turn over the ball very easily.
Tuesday's match was clear proof of that. Bradford put Arsenal under immense pressure and even players like Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere were giving the ball away very easily.
Having a another strategy to go to in case things don't go well is fundamental for success at this level. Champions are made of those hard fought and no so pretty victories that set you aside from the rest. Arsenal was getting hard fought wins and draws early on, but things have drastically changed as the season has progressed.
Under Performing Players In The Squad
If you take a look at Arsenal's squad on paper, the Gunners actually have a strong squad, but as we have seen—the names on paper don't always get the results on the pitch.
Lack of belief is one of the main issues with this current Arsenal squad. During the match against Bradford City (as well as with many others this season), the Arsenal players seem unfocused and lacking the heart that would take them over the edge.
Let's be honest, Arsenal didn't lose to Bradford City because of their opponents' superiority in skill or ability. Their defeat in the Capital One Cup basically came down to their opponents out-hustling them and wanting it more. With the team Arsenal had out there, they may have managed a victory without a manager going by the amount of talent.
Players like Aaron Ramsey who, since his injury hasn't been a shadow of what he used to be, are ruining Arsenal's flow of the game. To make things even worse, Arsene Wenger insists on playing Ramsey out wide—which is a risky move for the stability of Arsenal's structure.
Lukas Podolski has dipped in form as of late, despite his lack of playing a more central role. Santi Cazorla has had his ups and downs, but against Bradford City, Jack Wilshere and TV5 showed the most heart and desire to win that match.
Before Arsenal can move forward and have success, they will need to regroup and bring back that fighting spirit that helped them grind out results early in the season.
Fill The Gaps
With the departure of Robin van Persie and Alex Song, Arsenal retained a significant amount of money.
Either Arsene Wenger didn't think he needed to fill their voids, or Ivan Gazidis and the boys didn't allow Wenger to spend that money. At this point, Arsenal fans are stuck in a he said, she said situation.
Considering all that Wenger has given to the Gunners, Wenger probably wouldn't spend the money on proven players, even if he was given the proper funds to build his squad. Many are quick to blame the French manager but is it really his fault, or are his hands tied leading him to try and do what he can with the money that was given to him?
Abou Diaby was a hopeful player for this season as he has had and continues to struggle with injuries. The French international can be and should be a huge asset to Arsenal's squad even with Alex Song missing, but he spends more time in the training room than he does on the pitch. When Diaby plays, Arsenal's midfield is a whole different story, allowing Mikal Arteta and Cazorla to pull the strings closer to the offensive line, as opposed to doing it from behind midfield as they have been doing for most of the season.
RVP's departure instigated a lot of question marks, but while many are quick to criticize Giroud, he can be a great addition to the Arsenal squad, as long as he is used to his strengths.
The French striker is big and strong and isn't bad when he has to come back and play those quick flicks, but he isn't quick. Therefore, he isn't a complete all around striker.
So how do you play to his advantages? Well for starters, you get players out on the wings that can play a ball into the box. Gervinho can't seem to cross a ball properly, Ox has been playing well below expectations this season and Walcott is hit or miss.
Second, when you have a striker like Giroud, you need someone quick next to him who will complement his strengths and play off of him. Arsene Wenger doesn't believe that is the case. So when Giroud comes back to flick on the ball and Arsenal gets the ball wide, there is no one in the box to get on the end of the crosses... If they actually make it into the box.
A change of tactics and formation will help fill the void left behind from RVP.
January Transfer Window Will Be Important
The January transfer window is right around the corner and Arsenal fans are crossing fingers and toes hoping that Wenger, Gazidis or whoever else is in charge will actually spend some money and spend it wisely.
Needing a true defensive midfielder is key, although I would really like to see TV5 play holding mid with Mertesacker and Koscielny at centerback. The Arsenal skipper is strong, quick and he has height, which Arsenal lack in their midfield. Vermaelen is also very aggressive, which won't be so bad in the midfield opposed to him creating free kicks just outside the Arsenal 18-yard box.
Another true goalscorer is needed, with Chamakh either going out on loan to regain his confidence or being sold for good. I had high hopes in him, but after he started off well and RVP came back into the squad, his form dropped immensely, hurting his confidence.
Bringing in just two or maybe three well known players who will add to Arsenal's squad will be a big boost for the fans and for the players as they will see that the club is finally going to change their ways.
Also, will Arsenal sell Theo Walcott to a rival as they did with RVP? Walcott will probably hold out as long as he can to see what Arsenal does in the transfer window, although he should be signed. He has potential and he has proven this season that he can be a big lift for the squad offensively, so why not take the gamble on him? They have gambled on Arshavin, Diaby, Chamakh and a few others, so why not give Theo the chance?
What Is Left For Arsene Wenger And His Beloved Arsenal
Arsene Wenger still has a lot to offer Arsenal. Whether it be as a manager or a sporting director, he can offer the organization a lot. It would be better to see him succeed as the manager, but only if he changes his ways and his beliefs.
Arsenal no longer has the squad they had during the time of the invincibles and football is no longer the same game. At the time, Arsenal was a powerhouse in European Football despite their lack of titles on the European Stage. Today, their lack of spending and ambitions have them far from being a powerhouse. Other teams now have those difference-makers in large quantities just like Arsenal had in the early 2000's.
Focusing on the task at hand and convincing himself that he needs to stop being stubborn and do what's best for the squad is the main focal point. Knowing how much Wenger loves this club, I believe that if he see's himself unable to change the way he does things, he will walk away because he will undoubtedly look for what is in Arsenal's best interest.
It's unfortunate to see a manager who helped put this club on the radar have to go through such difficult times but looking at the big picture, things may not be all that bad. When tough times are finishing third last season after a horrific start and making it out of the Champions League Group Stage, well then how do all the other clubs that spend money feel?
If Wenger will only change his ways and have more than one plan going into games with a few proven players—the fans and the team will finally have faith in him.