Reflecting on Arsenal’s Poor Start to the Season
I was at Abuja over the weekend and with nobody to hold the fort while I was gone, there were no blog posts but in my absence, the Gunners deemed it fit to drop two more points against Hull, taking their Premier League points tally to 11 points in eight games, which is also a whooping 11 points behind runaway leaders, Chelsea. This means that the Gunners are far away from a title challenge at this point, but they are just two points behind fourth-placed West Ham, since that’s where their ambition seems to be in recent times.
According to the stats boys, if Danny Welbeck hadn’t converted that late chance to make it 2-2, Arsenal would have had their worst ever start under Arsene Wenger. For a club of Arsenal’s stature, the start of the campaign has been simply unacceptable. The club started the summer pretty well, with the acquisitions of Alexis Sanchez, Matt Debuchy, Calum Chambers and David Ospina. However,
Wenger’s the club’s failure to sign a holding midfielder and more importantly, a central defender, especially after the sale of Thomas Vermaelen to FC Barcelona, was a glaring error.
The Gunners played Hull last weekend with Nacho Monreal playing in an unorthodox center back position alongside Per Mertesacker and it was expected that there’d be some communication lapses as both players have never played together as a central defensive unit. Many Arsenal fans are aggrieved that the referee failed to blow his whistle when Mathieu Flamini was clearly impeded by Mohamed Diame but a ‘stronger and more bulky’ DM like let’s say, William Carvalho, would not allow himself to be bullied by a fellow DM. Then again, where the hell was Monreal in the build up to that goal? I’m sure a natural defender like Laurent Koscielny would have had the positional discipline to cover his tracks. These are the kinda mistakes having a proper DM and an extra central defender would have averted.
It’s quite unfortunate that Arsenal will have to make do with what they have till January to say the least, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Wenger chooses to fold his arms again and watch the window pass by with any investment of any sort.
Arsenal’s overall defending this season has been downright shocking. For a team that had the joint-best defense in the Premier League last season, the Gunners have only managed one clean sheet in the Premier League which came at Villa Park. First, it was the schoolboy defending from set pieces early in the season and this was followed with lapses in concentration at key moments of some games. The players have been talking about how they want to improve things but we haven’t seen them replicate it on the pitch.
Another noteworthy concern this season has been the club’s niggling injury problems.
Arsenal’s injury situation has been well documented and it has become very tiring. The Gunners are already without Matt Debuchy (ankle), Olivier Giroud (foot), Yaya Sanogo (hamstring), Mikel Arteta (calf), Aaron Ramsey (hamstring) and Mesut Ozil (knee) but there’s light at the end of the injury tunnel as Theo Walcott, Serge Gnabry and Abou Diaby are on their way to full fitness, with the three players getting some game time in Arsenal’s last Under-21 encounter with Blackburn Rovers. It’s really sad to see how many first team players are currently on the sidelines but the essence of having depth is to ensure that the team would have adequate cover in the worst injury crisis. While the Gunners are well stocked in midfield, the same cannot be said for the defense that’s thread bare at the moment.
Finally, I’m deeply concerned about Arsenal’s inability to kill off games and in most cases, the team has been settling for draws. In eight Premier League games, the Gunners have had five draws. The first League draw of the season was creditable as the Gunners came from two goals down to salvage a late draw against Everton. While the draw against Leicester City was frustrating, in all honesty, it could have gone either way. Arsenal’s third draw in a row came at home to Manchester City but it was a game that could have easily been lost following the visitor’s late attacking surge that saw Samir Nasri’s goal ruled offside as well as Edin Dzeko hitting the post.
Arsenal’s fourth draw of the Premier League campaign came in the North London Derby, a game that was actually there for the taking, and of course, Welbeck spared the Gunners’ blushes last weekend.
There are still some “winnable” games still to come in recent weeks, and we can only hope that the Gunners improve on their current form, because in all honesty, it has been dismal and downright disappointing.
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