Arsenal’s title hopes took a miserable beating as the Gunners imploded for the second time in the week having led the game, Manchester City being the destroyers-in-chief this time around. It is only a week ago that we were all talking about the difference between the Arsenal of the past and the Arsenal now but the past week did contribute to a major change in that opinion.
The familiar moans about the “Same Old Arsenal” are back again and the mood at The Emirates Stadium has changed from that of a place basking in the glory of the Gunners to a crematorium mourning the death of the title hopes, which may yet prove to be an overreaction.
Whether it’s the same old Arsenal or not is surely up for debate depending upon your sehnsucht (or the lack thereof) for the dominant Arsenal narrative but we would surely be a touch too hasty if we were to write Arsene Wenger’s side off the title race, especially if you look back at the past seasons and see how well have they done post the new year everytime.
Consecutive defeats are, without a shadow of doubt, a setback in the North Londoners’ title chase, though not necessarily an end to it. If Arsenal could drop down from first to fourth in the space of a few days, there’s every reason to believe that it could happen to others too, after all, this is the Premier League.
Arsenal’s next six fixtures are all relatively easy (West Bromwich Albion, Crystal Palace, Bournemouth, Swansea City, Burnley, Hull City), ones that you’d expect to win any time of the year when you are a title contender, and that only boosts the Gunners’ hopes of a revival while also allowing the players to be rested as well a chance to find out the best midfield combination for a tough February, which (the midfield), one might say, has now become the team’s Achilles’ heel alongside a number of other problems.
As the going gets easier, here are the three changes Arsene Wenger must make in the meantime to resurrect his side’s Premier League campaign and hopefully carry on a title charge that “should” kickstart soon.
1. Aaron Ramsey in the Central Midfield
Since Santi Cazorla temporarily bid farewell to the side, his deep-lying playmaking has been missed by Arsenal who need his services as badly as a God does Ichor. This is where they could actually bank upon Aaron Ramsey, who, it seems, is the only solution that Wenger has at the moment and luckily so.
Notwithstanding the Welshman’s poor form so far, it is no secret that he’s a supremely talented player who has stepped up for his side whenever needed.
Another reason why Arsenal require him back is that the 25-year old is simply because Granit Xhaka and Francis Coquelin/Mohamed Elneny cancel each other out more often than not, meaning the forwards are deprived of the service they thrive upon.
In a way, that effects Mesut Ozil too who has been wrongly blamed for his poor displays. With Ramsey, there definitely will be a lesser defensively secure Arsenal, but more creative and potent, which is what the side needs instead of two midfielders who aren’t known for their abilities to create.
2. Rob Holding in for Gabriel Paulista
Arsenal might have to wait for Shkodran Mustafi’s return till the second week of January, so it’s only in their interests to bring in Rob Holding for Gabriel, who has been average at best as a centre-half.
Apart from making countless errors, the Brazilian hasn’t helped the attack either, unlike Mustafi, whose distribution of the ball and the ability to play it long helped bring about more fluidity up-front. Therefore, it isn’t surprising to see Arsenal lose twice in his absence.
“Never fear, Rob Holding’s here”. The 21-year old is almost similar to his German teammate in the sense that they are both ball-playing centre-backs, something that he has proved with his previous displays, which, mind you, were all more than just impressive.
As Per Mertesacker and Shkodran Mustafi make the team wait for them to be fit, the former Bolton player is the perfect man to do the job.
3. Lucas Perez on the Wing
Even though the left-wing isn’t really Arsenal’s Gordian’s Knot, deploying Lucas Perez on the wing seems an exciting prospect, given the way he has performed in the limited number of appearances he has made (five goals and three assists) this season.
Alex Iwobi and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have both been good, but Lucas Perez will certainly be better with the pace and finishing skills he has. Having already spent a lot of time warming the luxurious bench at The Emirates, it is time for the Professor to throw the Spaniard into the mix.