Yet another away game against a top-five opponent, yet another early kickoff and yet another thrashing for Arsenal.
It's beginning to get old, isn't it?
Arsenal's catastrophic demise continued as they were thoroughly beaten 3-0 by Everton at Goodison Park. In a game that was hyped up to be the "fourth-place derby," it was the Toffees that made a much more convincing case for why they deserve the final Champions League qualifying spot.
It's difficult to know where to start on a day where the only positive for Arsenal was that they didn't lose 6-0. Arsenal were as awful as Everton were brilliant, and the 90 minutes of football exhibited two clubs—more specifically, two managers—headed in totally different directions.
While Arsene Wenger displayed his ineptness as a manager—that's a flattering way to put it—Roberto Martinez looked a bit like, dare I say it, the Arsene Wenger of a decade ago.
The best place to start with is the tactical approach of each manager.
Arsene Wenger's side was set up exactly the same way that it's been set up for the past few months. Without Jack Wilshere or Aaron Ramsey, the double pivot of Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini in midfield failed miserably.
Mikel Arteta is simply not a defensive midfielder, while Mathieu Flamini can defend yet lacks creatively. While Arteta used to buzz around and dictate the tempo of the game with metronomic passing, the lack of pace that comes with aging means that he now merely sits back and exchanges passes with the center-backs.
The negativity of the "Flamteta" duo means the three players ahead of them carry the team's creative burden—in this case, it was Santi Cazorla, Tomas Rosicky and Lukas Podolski.
Due to Arteta and Flamini often passing sideways and backwards rather than breaking Everton's midfield line with forward passes, Cazorla often had to drop deeper in order to get on the ball as he wasn't finding any joy further up the pitch.
Tomas Rosicky tried his hardest as always, but it's on days like this one when you remember he's 33 years old. A midfield player of his age simply shouldn't be playing week in, week out—look at Frank Lampard at Chelsea as an example.
Lukas Podolski had a typical Lukas Podolski game. The German probably had Arsenal's best chances of the game with a few vicious shots that troubled Tim Howard, but aside from that he put in a rather anonymous shift as a left winger.
Then there's Olivier Giroud. Somewhere amidst all the criticism he's recently received from fans there's a logical explanation to his appalling form.
Maybe he's tired from playing nearly every game this season; maybe it's Arsene Wenger's fault for not having any other established strikers at the club. In fact, those are both probably true, but they don't take away from the fact that Giroud simply is not good enough—and, to be fair, that's not his fault.
Arsenal can't be a counter-attacking team with Giroud up front—it just doesn't work. Additionally, they can't be a counter-attacking team with no conventional wingers and no pace going forward. Santi Cazorla and Tomas Rosicky can pick out a pass, but to who?
It goes without saying that Arsenal absolutely must purchase a world-class striker (or two) this summer, while Giroud will serve as a solid backup that can do a job against lesser opponents.
Roberto Martinez, then, set up his team with tactical versatility: Everton's method of attack varied from quick counters to patient build-up, and they had the personnel to pull off either effectively.
To put it simply, Martinez had a Plan A and a Plan B. Arsene Wenger, on the other hand, simply had one attacking plan, which was what it always is: Hope that slick passing interchanges between the likes of Cazorla, Rosicky, Giroud and Podolski lead to a goal.
In fairness, when the plan works, it's perfection. When it doesn't work, which happens more often than not against the top teams who know to stymie Wenger's game plan, Arsenal's play is utterly one-dimensional and it leads to "sterile possession."
This leads to arguably Wenger's biggest flaw, which is his tactical stubbornness. When Arsenal were 2-0 down and clearly need a change, Wenger waited until the 66th minute—after Arsenal went 3-0 down—before bringing on Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
An hour played - no changes. AW obviously delighted with how Plan A is panning out.— gunnerblog (@gunnerblog) April 6, 2014
As expected, Arsenal looked much more likely to score after the pair were introduced: Chamberlain's pace was a breath of fresh air while Ramsey's willingness to run with the ball and pass forward gave the Gunners a much-needed attacking outlet.
Martinez, on the other hand, was constantly freshening things up, even after his team were 3-0 up. Although Lukaku was technically playing as a striker, his position on the pitch was often more towards the right wing. While we can't go into the mind of Martinez, Lukaku's positioning was likely in order to target Nacho Monreal, Arsenal's left-back and the weakest link in the back four.
Martinez's tinkering paid off: On Everton's second goal, Lukaku received the ball out wide and ran to the edge of the 18-yard box before beating Monreal and finishing with his left foot. The Belgian celebrated with his manager afterwards.
Cracking picture of Roberto Martinez and Romelu Lukaku celebrating the second goal. pic.twitter.com/2LAMYnn4ih— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 6, 2014
Speaking of Lukaku, Everton's acquisition of the 20-year-old was a masterstroke by Roberto Martinez in the summer. With just hours remaining in the transfer window on deadline day, Martinez snapped up Lukaku on loan from Chelsea, and it's made a tremendous difference in Everton's season.
That's not suggesting that Arsenal should've signed Lukaku. Jose Mourinho didn't let Demba Ba move to Arsenal as he viewed the Gunners as title contenders, so shipping Lukaku off to the Emirates would've been highly unlikely.
That said, I find it hard to believe that there was not a single striker available in the last two transfer windows that would've been an upgrade on Giroud, or at least one that could've provided competition for Giroud.
Wenger seems to have lost his touch in sniffing out a good deal in the way Roberto Martinez signed Romelu Lukaku.
Put all of the above together and it becomes quite clear that Roberto Martinez is the perfect replacement for Arsene Wenger, highlighted by the former's fantastic victory over the latter.
Wenger undoubtedly outthought by Martinez. Picking Naismith at CF v smart- drops in to areas we don't cover. Lukaku has terrorised Monreal.— gunnerblog (@gunnerblog) April 6, 2014
Arsenal's current state is, for lack of a better word, stale. They're unbearably predictable, the goals have dried out and Wenger's stubbornness means there's nothing new tactically. The club needs to be freshened up, which is exactly what Martinez has done with Everton this season.
After all, it's difficult to see a scenario where Arsene Wenger is still the Arsenal manager at the start of the 2014-15 season.
If his side either fail to win the FA Cup or fail to qualify for the Champions League (or, knock on wood, fail to do both), it's a clear sign that Wenger's time at the club is up and he should resign.
If Arsenal win the FA Cup and finish in the top four, Wenger should see the trophy as a parting gift and bow out with dignity, ending his incredible time with Arsenal on a high note.
Martinez is perfect for Arsenal: He's young, hungry and his sides play wonderful football. On top of that, he knows how to build a project, as he lay the groundwork for Swansea City's success through good football when he was manager there from 2007 to 2009.
This isn't another call for "Wenger Out," rather, it's a hope the Frenchman sees that stepping down might be best for all parties involved.