It was a case of deja-vu for Arsene Wenger at the weekend as he once again lost to Jose Mourinho in the Premier League. The Frenchman has failed to prise 3 points out of the Portuguese in 11 attempts and Saturday’s showing was a sad indictment of his current crop of players.
The Gunners look rudderless when faced with any sort of trying task. It was evident against West Ham, midweek in Croatia and once again at Stamford Bridge. That was Arsenal’s chance to beat Chelsea on their own patch, to pour petrol on the towering inferno that was starting to engulf Jose Mourinho and Stamford Bridge. Instead, they donned their protective gear, picked up their hoses and put out the blaze.
We all know what Diego Costa did was wrong. He slapped Laurent Koscielny in the face and generally acted like a bit of a buffoon. However, Garbriel’s reaction was mindless and stupid, it’s exactly what the Spanish striker wants to happen when he’s barging his way around and generally being an annoyance. Even Arsene Wenger himself unintentionally condemned his own players when complaining about the former Atletico Madrid striker’s display: "He took advantage of the naivety of my team today."
Yes, Arsene he did, but that’s part of his job. Surely it is partly yours to ensure that doesn’t happen?
His opposite number branded Costa the man of the match. It may have been just to wind up the media and anyone associated with Arsenal, which it did, but it also underlined the fact that part of Diego Costa’s role in this Chelsea team is to rile the opposition. There’s no avoiding it, people may hate it but strikers have done it for years. Look at Didier Drogba, he was a constant annoyance, Alan Shearer was a nightmare and even Thierry Henry had a bit of chipper about him.
The incident with Costa was just another excuse for the north Londoners to use to justify another poor result against one of their main rivals. Surely it is time to look in the mirror. The real issue lies in the lack of recruitment and the absolute redundancy of leaders amongst their squad.
It is now becoming clear that only signing Petr Cech this summer was folly. Wenger needed to go and strengthen the team’s spine, he didn’t do it and Arsenal are already paying the price. The ex-Blues keeper was meant to add some solidity and organisation to a ramshackle defence, anyone watching Chelsea’s first goal on Saturday will see that has not happened. It is no fault of the Czech stopper’s that his team cannot defend set pieces properly, - he can’t head the ball and he can’t mark players - but more an error in judgement from those above him to believe that adding an experienced goalkeeper into the mix would cure defensive ills that have existed for years.
A lack of leadership at the Emirates has been apparent for a while but it was glaringly obvious at Stamford Bridge. Per Mertesacker looks to be the only player with any sort of influence over this group, Cech may also be considered something of a kingpin but his influence from behind the team cannot always be felt. The German defender was absent at the weekend and his replacement was reeled in like a placid salmon preparing itself for Costa’s imminent barbeque. It was stupidity beyond belief, and instead of directing his anger at Moruinho and Costa it may have been a little refreshing for Arsenal supporters if Wenger had aimed some of his discontent towards his defender.
He could also have reserved some choice words for Santi Cazorla. He was handed the captain’s armband, which in itself shows the deficiencies in the team, and he went and got himself sent off with his side already down to 10 men. It was needless and, once again, naïve, especially from a player who has 73 caps for his country and has twice won the European Championship.
Complaining about the actions of other players cannot disguise the issues at the heart of Arsenal Football Club, no matter how hard people try. They are a side verging on spineless and a ship without a skipper. Wenger is a wonderful manager but he is someone who has always had that strong leader on the field, at present there is no one in his squad who embodies all that it is to stand up and carry a team on your shoulders. When he needed his players most, they severely let him and their supporters down.