Friday 19 January 2018

We didn't deserve anything, fumes Cech

A frustrated Petr Cech leaves the pitch after Arsenal suffered a shock 2-1 home defeat against Watford. Photo: PA
A frustrated Petr Cech leaves the pitch after Arsenal suffered a shock 2-1 home defeat against Watford. Photo: PA

Jason Burt

Arsenal head towards Saturday's Premier League encounter at Chelsea in the grips of a midfield crisis and a fresh bout of soul-searching over the direction of the club who are on the verge of exiting yet another title race before the first week of February is over.

Aaron Ramsey's calf injury adds to a list of central midfield absentees, with Granit Xhaka suspended, Santi Cazorla injured long-term and Mohamed Elneny at the Africa Cup of Nations with Egypt and also carrying a calf strain.

Added to that, Jack Wilshere is on a season-long loan at Bournemouth without a recall clause in the deal.

It means that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is likely to be drafted in alongside Francis Coquelin to face Chelsea. If Arsenal lose, the gap to the leaders will be 12 points with 14 matches to go and Arsène Wenger's side then looking to maintain a place in the top four.

That would raise the pressure further on Wenger - currently serving a four-match touchline ban - who is in the final year of his contract, with a two-year extension on the table and yet to be signed. If Arsenal finish outside the top four and do not win a trophy, there is likely to be a change of manager.

Wenger caused further frustration after the 2-1 home defeat by Watford when he admitted that his players were not "mentally" up to the challenge of facing a team who had not won in the league since early December. There was an air of complacency around the Emirates.

There was an angry reaction from Petr Cech, with the goalkeeper admitting that so bad was Arsenal's first-half performance that they deserved to lose and did not warrant any "luck" even though Lucas Pérez came close to salvaging a point, striking the crossbar.

It is not over yet, but there is an enveloping sense of familiar failings about Arsenal this season as they spurned another chance to put pressure on the leaders.

"We didn't play well at all," Cech said. "We were second best in the first half. We made so many bad passes, we lost every challenge, we were simply second best.

"I always say that at this level you cannot play 80 minutes, or 85. You have to play 90 minutes with full concentration and everybody on top of their game.

"In the second half we improved, we had a lot of chances. We were brilliant second half, but we only scored one goal.

"We had chances but the keeper made some very good saves, we hit the bar and we could say we were unlucky in that way. But for the first-half performance, we actually didn't deserve a little bit of luck."


Cech added: "This was a huge setback because we wanted to put ourselves in a better position going into the weekend."

There were questions as to why Wenger did not start with Theo Walcott, who scored a hat-trick in the FA Cup at Southampton last Saturday, after recovering from a spell out injured, with the winger coming on as a half-time substitute. Ramsey limped off early with a damaged calf and the extent of yet another injury is still being assessed.

Wenger left Danny Welbeck, who also featured against Southampton on his return from 10 months out injured, out of his squad and justified the decision.

"We still have to be cautious with him," Wenger argued. "Physically he looks ready to play. However we still have to manage the times we use him and the times we rest him for a while."

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