Arsenal 0-2 Schalke: 6 Things We Learned
Arsenal's slide into mediocrity continued Wednesday in a Champions League clash the North London side would sooner forget.
Two late goals from Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Ibrahim Afellay sealed the result for the impressive German side Schalke that sees them leapfrog the Gunners as leaders of Group B.
In truth, Arsene Wenger's tired side's performance was insipid and dire, their second such display in less than a week.
Here are six things we learned from the game.
Gervinho Given the Nod Ahead of Giroud Yet Again
Let's face it, Arsene Wenger rarely makes questionable decisions.
But his preference for Gervinho in place of Olivier Giroud in the centre forward role may have been such a choice.
Granted, Gervinho has had an up-and-down season so far, but he is surely not the type of clinical goalscorer the Gunners need to succeed in all competitions.
Although Giroud may have needed the rest coming off a hectic few games, the Ivorian's touch is one of the most unpredictable in the game and just cannot be relied upon in the big games.
Andre Santos Has a Bit of a Shocker
Arsenal miss Kieran Gibbs—it's as simple as that.
Andre Santos had an absolute shocker Wednesday, given the runaround by Peruvian lightening bolt Jefferson Farfan on more than one occasion.
His and Carl Jenkinson's inability to step up with the central defence allowed an onside Huntelaar to score Schalke's opener—the result of pure laziness.
Santos was again at fault for Schalke's second, conceding his flank far too easily to Farfan in the build-up to the dagger.
Are Arsenal Currently Unable to Execute Steve Bould's Tactics?
Having been promoted to a more significant backstage role at the club in the summer, assistant manager Steve Bould has been hailed for the tactical revolution he's brought to North London this season.
But despite Arsenal having played some nifty football at times and dominating some midfield battles, the side are really not picking up enough points to be considered genuine contenders in any competition at the moment.
Bould's zonal marking was ruthlessly exploited on a number of occasions by Schalke, who were given far more space in dangerous areas of the pitch than is acceptable.
Is it a case of the players no longer adhering to the system, or is it time for the system to be tweaked?
Dare I Say His Name?
I truly hate to be one to jump on a bandwagon unless it's really necessary, but there has been so much talk this season of Arsenal having emerged stronger from the £24 million sale of Robin van Persie to Manchester that picking the other side of the argument really cannot be considered so.
But Arsenal miss the Dutchman, full stop.
They miss his tactical awareness in the final third, they miss his clinical finishing, even his passing in the lone striker role.
Don't get me wrong, Olivier Giroud may still come good—he probably will come good by all accounts—but the Gunners need a hitman in attack right now, and Gervinho just isn't up to the job.
Serge Gnabry Provides Rare Bright Spot
German youngster Serge Gnabry's brief 10-minute cameo for Arsene Wenger's side was a rare positive from a game everyone at the club will want to forget as soon as possible.
The attacking midfielder was lively, skillful and more of a genuine threat on Lars Unnerstall's goal than his teammates had been in the previous 80.
His late effort was Arsenal's only shot on target the entire night—a pitiful stat from a club that prides itself on entertaining attacking football.
Though he is unlikely to displace the likes of Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla from the first XI any time soon, more of a responsibility must be given to the burgeoning 17-year-old in coming games.
All Is Not Lost for Arsenal
Come the weekend, Arsenal must put what has been a horrific run of results and performances well behind them.
The Gunners are still in pole position to qualify from Group B despite Olympiacos getting a late win at Montpellier in the other game and are only six points away from the two Manchester clubs in the Premier League.
Though upcoming opponents QPR and Reading shouldn't be the sternest of tests on paper, killing off these types of teams is the mark that separates the contenders from the chumps.
The Gunners may be looking seriously fatigued and a little bereft of creativity at the moment, but it is certainly in them to rediscover that joie de vivre that saw them beat Southampton 6-1 not too long ago.
What did you think of Wednesday's game? Are Arsenal's problems serious, or a temporary blip from which they can recover quickly from?