Arsenal endured a shocking 2-0 defeat against West Ham at home, marking their first home loss this season and denting their bid for the title while relinquishing the top spot to Liverpool.
The absence of Kai Havertz proved damaging for the Gunners, who struggled to fill the void left by the German. His replacement, Leandro Trossard, failed to impress in the left-eight role, falling short of securing a definitive claim to the position.
Havertz’s suspension, a result of accumulating five yellow cards this season, created a significant setback for Arsenal. While the team has generally maintained discipline, besides Ben White’s absence due to accumulated yellow cards, red cards for Takehiro Tomiyasu and Fabio Vieira have slightly tarnished their disciplinary record.
Despite their encounters with top-tier teams, Arsenal had largely upheld their composure. Havertz’s propensity for fouls, despite improvements in scoring, seemed to have affected the team, especially since November’s match against Newcastle, where he narrowly avoided expulsion.
During the clash with Liverpool, Havertz’s contribution was subdued until a yellow card for a shirt pull on Wataru Endo resulted in his subsequent absence against West Ham.
With Thomas Partey still recuperating from injury, alternatives like Emile Smith Rowe and Declan are being considered, emphasising the team’s need for Rice in the defensive midfield role.
Havertz, acquired from Chelsea for £65 million in the summer, initially struggled to establish himself in the squad but has since showcased improved form, scoring crucial goals. His tally stands at five goals and one assist this season, solidifying his status as one of the team’s most productive players.
Looking ahead, Arsenal aims to rebound from the West Ham setback against Fulham. Manager Mikel Arteta remains optimistic, expressing belief in the team’s ability to overcome the defeat.
Arteta emphasised in his pre-Fulham press conference: “It’s not about panic; it’s about striving for more, performing better, and winning games. If the team maintains this level of play, they’ll secure numerous victories.”
He praised the team’s performance, noting their record for touches in the box as a positive sign. However, he stressed the importance of that final touch to convert opportunities into goals, highlighting the team’s current focus.
“Without a spark, you don’t generate what the team generates [against West Ham], it’s impossible. But it’s the final thing, the final touch, the final action that puts the ball in the net or not, and that’s what we need.