Arsenal vs. QPR: 5 Moves Arsene Wenger Must Make
While there are many months left to go in Arsenal's season, it is safe to say that the Gunners are in one of its lowest ebbs.
Even after a shocking wake-up call provided by potential relegation fodder Norwich City, Arsenal could not get out of their own way on either side of the ball against Schalke, turning in another lackluster performance that culminated in a deserved defeat.
The fans and players know that the team is better than this. With extremely talented midfielders and forwards as well as a defence that would not let in a goal just a few weeks ago, it is a shame to see all this potential wasted in winnable fixtures.
Arsene Wenger is as frustrated as anyone. He knows that his team must be pulled out of their rut quickly, and he will need to make some impactful changes on the training ground and against Arsenal's next opponent, QPR.
Here are five he might try.
Gervinho has been Arsenal's most embarrassing performer during the Gunners' last couple games, and it is time for Arsene Wenger to try one of his better options.
The Ivorian, while Arsenal's top scorer, failed terribly on the right wing against Norwich City, falling all over himself and delaying his team's attack every time he got the ball.
At striker against Schalke, Gervinho did no better. Surprisingly preferred to Olivier Giroud, he could not hold up play for his teammates or engage in any kind of effective passing game.
With hungry, able and promising players of every age at Wenger's disposal, it is time to give Gervinho a rest.
Benching Thomas Vermaelen for Laurent Koscielny
Usually, Thomas Vermaelen's defensive faults are excused or ignored because of his skill in front of the other team's goal, but the Belgian is goalless and error-full during his campaign.
In the past, it would have been easier to bench Vermaelen, but with that little symbolic piece of cloth around his arm now, he is almost an automatic inclusion when healthy.
Per Mertesacker has generally done well this season, and Laurent Koscielny is Arsenal's best pure defender. They would be the best options in central defence, but it'll take something major for Arsene Wenger to bench his captain.
Starting Olivier Giroud and Getting Him Service
Again, playing Gervinho at striker against Schalke was a major mistake. There was no brawn in Arsenal's attack, and the Ivorian himself had an awful night. When Olivier Giroud came on in about the 70th minute, it was too late.
Giroud didn't have the opportunity to contribute anything of note, but he should against QPR. Even if the manager didn't trust him in the Champions League (which I still find hard to understand), he surely will against one of the Premier League's worst.
The Frenchman is Arsenal's only credible, recognized striker, and he adds things to the attack that nobody else can. Fit and rested, Olivier Giroud must get the nod up front.
Letting Steve Bould Loose on the Defence
I try not to be in the hysterical band of Arsenal fans that go to emotional extremes every time Arsenal lose or concede a goal. Despite my usual reservations, though, there is definitely something amiss with the Gunners defence.
In the unit's first few games, it looked impossible for any of them to concede a goal. Steadily, however, the goals have leaked through. Especially of late, defensive lapses have cost Arsenal dearly in games they were expected to win.
Steve Bould was the man getting all the plaudits during the outstanding initial run, and it is time for him to go to work again. With his defensive acumen and what will hopefully be a harsh attitude in training this week, he might be able to shore up the back line again.
Bench Santi Cazorla
Sitting arguably the club's best player down after two consecutive losses might sound insane (indeed, it did to me when I first concocted the thought), but there is a clear benefit to keeping Santi Cazorla out of the starting XI.
There have been arguments floating around recently suggesting that Arsenal have become a one-man team that is reliant on Cazorla's talents. While these sound a little like hyperbole, the Gunners performing well without him would show a lot about the makeup of the team.
And they should do well against a foundering QPR team that sits at the bottom of the Premier League on a measly three points and, with Reading, are one of two Prem teams that have yet to record a victory.
If the message of intensity and commitment has not gotten through to Arsenal's players, we will know based on the team's performance in yet another game that is eminently winnable.