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Sacrificial lamb?

The fallout from the defeat to Swansea has been dire and depressing. The “Wenger OUT!!” brigade has come out in full force after going into hiding for a good few months now. Granted, they had no reason to voice their concern during that period. What with the wins that we kept racking up and the continual move up the table. With only 7 points out of a possible 18 garnered in the last 6 Premier League matches, I would be lying if I said it’s not slightly worrying.

Despite the incredible possession game that Swansea displayed on Sunday, there were still ample chances for us to get back into the game or even go on to win it. Wonderful going forward, Brendan Rogers’ team were hardly value for money when it comes to defending. However, tried as we liked, and that includes the introduction of the Thierry Henry, we were unable to find the right response.

It lead to an angry rebuttal from Henry himself, to which he was later apologetic about. It is not a situation which he is familiar with. Although when he left, we were also not winning trophies but the anger of the fans has not boiled over yet at that time. Fans were far more forgiving back then because the trophy has only started but now that we’re into our 6th year without a trophy, patience is wearing thin.

It is a test for Henry and perhaps he should have been more understanding of the situation than to have reacted in the way he did. Yes, I absolutely believe that whenever the team is playing, we as fans should always give our full support. Yet, I can also understand the frustration when result doesn’t go our way. As much as I don’t like to see it happen, these fans have every right to have a go at the team after such a defeat. Heat of the moment thing but the anger only highlight the passionate nature of the fans, more than anything.

So where does that leave us now? We are now in 5th place, level on points with Newcastle and a point ahead of Liverpool. Looking up, we are 4 points behind Chelsea in the much coveted last Champions League spot and a good 10 points behind our arch enemy in North London. With 17 games left to be played and slightly over half the season gone, we’re in a precarious position.

Of course that is related to the qualification to next season’s Champions League. The cash cow of a competition and one can’t help but think of the financial implications of missing it. Yet, we also cannot deny how playing in the second tier of European competition could also hamper our desire to keep the better players in our team and also our wish to sign more established stars of the footballing world.

Recent results has put a dent on our revival. A recovery from the right awful start we had to the 2010/11 season. A recovery that is aided by the signings of several seasoned professionals and the ability to avoid injuries. Since then, several key players has gone into surgeries and the treatment room. The loss of full backs (left and right) and Thomas Vermaelen has halted our progression.

The way Arsene Wenger likes his team to approach the game, a big emphasis lies on the ability of full backs to support the play and go on the overlap. Francis Coquelin’s appearance on the flanks was the closest we ever came to having a marauding full back. Playing centrehalves in those wider positions has given us perhaps more solidarity at the back but in reverse has also increased the responsibilities of the midfield/attack.

Opposing teams has taken advantage of that by just marking out the wide players in Theo Walcott and Gervinho and shepherding them away from the penalty box, without having to worry about anyone overlapping on the outside. Even the solidarity at the back was found wanting on several occasions as opposing teams make full use of their pace on the wings to make it an uncomfortable deputation of the centrehalves.

You can understand the problem when a player is played out of position but the performance of those back-up players / fringe players is something of a major concern too. Yossi Benayoun, Tomas Rosicky and Andrey Arshavin are all international captains of their respective countries. Players with vast experience and quality but they have not help the team out as much as we required out of them. These are not players who were forced to play out of position and their performance has left a lot to be desired.

The player who has to bear the biggest brunt of the criticism is none other than Arsahvin. Lazio are reportedly interested in acquiring his service and I’m sure Wenger is seriously considering letting him go. I know he did not play wide positions when with Zenit or with the Russia national side but if he can perform in that role when he first arrived, there’s absolutely no reason why he can’t do it now.

The problem with the team is not solely his fault though. The same blame can be laid at the rest of the team. If they can come up with the goods to beat the likes of Borussia Dortmund and Chelsea, it’s ridiculous to think that they can be as bad to only managed a draw against a struggling Wolves and losses away to team very much in mid table. At times, it does seem that the team lacks the right motivation to maintain their game against lesser opponents.

I’m sure they will raise their game for the visit of Manchester United. Not only because of the earlier thrashing we got from them but because their United. Even if we do go on to beat United, it doesn’t wash away all the problems we have. It lies deeper than that and I’m not sure that a signing or two will solve the problem.

That said, I’m not opposed to see someone new being brought to the club.