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Troubled Times

Isaac Lundall Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Since our thrilling home win against Leicester on the opening day of the season, things have taken a turn for the worse, with the Arsenal losing two games in a row. The away loss to the hateful enemy, Stoke City, was painful, but it was a game that the Arsenal dominated, and in which one sublime piece of counterattacking brilliance and clinical finishing on the part of the orcs condemned us to the first loss.

The loss against Liverpool was far more concerning. Liverpool completely outplayed us. Our defensive line was terrorised by Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane. Our attack was stifled, listless, and easily suffocated for space, never being able to settle into the slick passing game that is the hallmark of the Arsenal. Liverpool was relentless, and deserved the 4-nil scoreline at full time.

We fans are very disappointed by the performance, and as has come to be expected, and increasingly vocal subset of fans express their disappointment as anger toward the manager, Arsene Wenger. Many of us disagreed with the team selection against Liverpool. Our defensive lineup, especially, saw Hector Bellerin at an unorthodox left back with Alex Oxlade Chamberlain on the right. Many of us would probably have preferred to see Sead Kolašinac at left back, and Bellerin at right back, and Chamberlain in a central midfield or forward role. My ideal back 5 would probably be Monreal at left back, Kolašinac, Koscielny, and Holding as the three central defenders, and Bellerin at right back. The manager's unorthodox selection and formation seems like a blunder, given the result.

Another source of anger towards the manager is the management of player contracts. It is a recurring theme that star players' contracts are not extended timeously. As the end of their contracts approaches, it becomes increasingly difficult to reach an agreement because of interest from other clubs entering the equation. When the term left on a player's contract is less than a year, as is the case with the contracts of Oezil, Sanchez, and Oxlade-Chamberlain, the players are able to do what Kolašinac did to Schalke when he joined the Arsenal, that is, run down his contract and then negotiate personal terms for a move on a free transfer. The deal that a player can negotiate in that scenario can be more lucrative because the total cost of ownership to the club will exclude the transfer fee, which is usually in the tens (and sometimes hundreds) of millions of pounds. The money saved on transfer fees can be spent improving the players wages instead. This situation can only be avoided by renegotiating contracts timeously, as the equation only worsens the closer a player gets to the end of his contract.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain appears to be on his way to Liverpool if news reports are to be believed. That would be a huge loss for the club, as he is a young player who seems to be realising his potential. Sanchez and Oezil are established world class players who would be a loss to any team. To replace these three with players of equal or better calibre would likely be more expensive than accepting their salary demands unless their agents are making ridiculous demands.

However the contract impasse resolves itself, we need to remember that the Arsenal is not these three players. We have a team replete with quality and potential. The Sanchez or Chamberlain role can be handed to Alex Lacazette or Alex Iwobi, and the Oezil role can be handed to Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, or Santi Cazorla. However our roster looks on 1 September, we as fans need to get behind our players and our manager.

P.S. A heartfelt thanks goes out to Kieran Gibbs, a good and faithful servant of the club. We wish him well on his adventure with West Bromwich Albion.

© 2017, Isaac Lundall