Olympiakos vs. Arsenal: Defeat Highlights Gunners' Stunning Lack of Depth
A club that spends as much on wages as Arsenal shouldn't have fielded the squad fans saw on Tuesday night.
In a fixture that was looked at as a dead rubber, Arsene Wenger took the opportunity to rest numerous first-team players including Santi Cazorla, Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski. Sadly, that ended up being one of the few positives from the match as Arsenal found themselves on the wrong end of a 2-1 defeat.
Players like Marouane Chamakh, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sebastien Squillaci found themselves in the starting lineup, and for most part, failed to impress. As we have seen all year, Arsenal simply don't have the depth of talent their wage bill would suggest.
For years, overpaid mediocrity has littered the Gunners' roster and management has been unable to address it, mainly because of those wages.
Instead, Wenger has been forced to rely on running out roughly the same lineup week after week and hoping for results. It's a similar strategy to last season, when the rest of the club clung to the left foot of Robin van Persie, who somehow, despite his history, managed to get through the season without an injury.
And much like last year, the Gunners find themselves stumbling into January with tired legs, as Cazorla and Podolski look exhausted on a constant basis. It has become abundantly clear that Wenger doesn't trust the players he has behind them, and the ones he does bring on simply aren't good enough.
Where does Arsenal have the biggest issues?
Aaron Ramsey, a popular target among many angry Arsenal supporters, simply isn't good enough. He's had tough luck in his career, and has come a long way to get back into the squad, but there isn't one element of his game that has made the team better on the field.
He's too slow in possession, he isn't a dynamic attacking presence and he isn't clinical with his passing. There is no real reason why he'd be a major fixture in any top-flight squad in the Premier League, yet he's logging major minutes for Arsenal.
Oxlade-Chamberlain, for all of the promise he has shown since he signed two summers ago, reminds fans on a weekly basis that he's still a teenager. Not only that, but he has had too much pressure put on his shoulders, both by Wenger and England manager Roy Hodgson, who brought him to the European Championships over the summer.
None of this is his fault, obviously, but he shouldn't be looked at as some sort of super-sub to solve the club's issues. Not at this stage of his career.
While the Gunners are lacking in many other areas of the roster, the absence of viable goalkeeping depth is a problem that has gone unaddressed for years.
Wojciech Szczesny has gotten a reputation as a valuable first-team keeper, but if fans are being honest, it's because he simply isn't Vito Mannone. He makes far too many mistakes in terms of positioning and ends up being a step slow on shots that other keepers would have saved.
Not only that, but in terms of distribution, the Polish keeper falls well short of the mark. He is a talented player who has numerous rough edges that should have been smoothed out with competition from a valuable veteran presence pushing him in training. It simply hasn't happened.
That is the case at numerous positions, where players like Andrei Arshavin and Chamakh are stealing paychecks on a weekly basis. It's hard not to get frustrated with the fact that it's remained this way for so long.
If you believe the tabloids (quite a stretch, I know), Steve Bould ripped the team after the defeat to Swansea for failing to get results over the past month. He reportedly told them that they were letting the coaching staff down and had been doing so all year.
I know Bould is a new addition to the senior coaching staff, but for Wenger, this can't be news. These players have been underperforming for years and he hasn't strengthened the depth within the squad.
Arsenal have seemingly been happy with replacing world-class players with somewhat adequate replacements while allowing mediocre players to earn more than they're worth. Something has to give, and now the Gunners face a long December and no real relief in sight for a squad low on confidence and energy.
By the time Wenger gets a chance to reinforce the squad in the January transfer window, it may be too late, and even if it isn't, does anyone trust him to do what it takes to push the club into a fourth-place (or higher) finish?
Let's just say I'm not holding my breath.
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