With Arsenal down by two goals, Arsene Wenger decided he’ll take off his best striker, Olivier Giroud. Why? Hard to explain, although it was quite easy prediction that his team was just going to suffer for that decision.
In their 6-3 loss to Manchester City there were quite a few moments that seemed to be decisive in the outcome of the match. The equalizing goal by Theo Walcott, the offside that never was against Giroud when it was 3-2 for Manchester City, and Wenger’s decision to take out Giroud.
We’ve argued a few times on this site that the Frenchman does need some rest, but it all depends on who you bring in to play for him. Nicklas Bendtner, despite scoring a couple of goals since coming back from a very long hiatus, isn’t a man to lead an attack against a team like City, with Arsenal struggling to close down the gaps and keep up with the frantic pace of the match.
Taking off Giroud for a midfielder and making Theo Walcott the de facto striker would have made more sense, but in general, taking off you best scoring threat when you’re in desperate need of goals, unless he’s carrying an injury or something, simply doesn’t make sense.
Martin Atkinson and his crew were awful in the match, giving Manchester City quite a few benefits along the way, mostly by hitting Arsenal with an offside decision four times being in the wrong and at least once costing them a goal. Arsene Wenger was right to hit out at the referee who did a terrible job, but he also knows this loss can’t be excuses by just referring to the official’s mistakes.
But that’s where all the talk of the referee ends. It was a poor match from too many Arsenal players. Mesut Ozil pulled off another disappearing act and got into a shouting match with Per Mertesacker after the whistle was blown, with the centre back angry with Ozil for not going to thank the away fans, instead walking off to the dressing room. Mathieu Flamini was taken out of the match by some excellent work from Yaya Toure and the City midfield, making sure no long stretches of effective ball movement was going to hurt them.
Maybe the worst was Laurent Koscielny taken off with an injury which might keep him out for at least three weeks and not more, which means Thomas Vermaelen is back in the picture after losing his place due to poor form last season.
Arsene Wenger is hitting the rough stretch which will determine just how useful was all this brilliant start from Arsenal, now losing two big matches on the road to the Manchester clubs. He has a good, deep and strong squad, but if he doesn’t get his game management skills together during this more hectic period that ends the season, that first place they’ve been occupying for a very long time will become a distant memory.