Same old Arsenal?

Written by Carl Walker

For the past 12 seasons Arsenal have been the nearly men of football both in Europe and domestically. What tends to happen is Arsenal start the season at a blistering pace and the there is a capitulation in November followed usually by a lean February in terms of results. As November approached this season you thought, here it comes!

However this season Arsenal had other plans, they managed to go the entirety of November unbeaten, with the exception of the league cup game in which Arsene Wenger fielded a experimental side. Was this a new, more resolute Arsenal? Was this year finally going to be their year? I myself thought that this could have been turning point for the club.

On recent evidence, it looks as though I may have been wrong. After Arsenal ground out a hard fought result against Stoke at the Emirates they sat second in the table, 3 points off rampant Chelsea. The next two games against Everton and Manchester City, both away, would be crucial and would show us all that Arsenal meant business this season.

They lost both games 2-1 and it has exposed the same old fears, and a few new ones, as Arsenal rather limply, dropped points and now sit 9 points off Chelsea. So what went wrong for them in these two games?

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credit Ronnie Macdonald

Against Everton, Arsenal travelled to Goodison Park unbeaten in the league since the opening day of the season and for the first twenty minutes were sublime. Crisp, incisive passing, retaining possession and keeping their shape fantastically and a goal eventually arrived through Alexis Sanchez to put them deservedly ahead. Then Arsenal sat back and Everton fought back and eventually won 2-1.

Arsene has played Alexis up front for the majority of the season, and it’s paid dividends, as he is the joint top scorer, but the tactics employed by Wenger in the game of cross after cross were not suited to the Chilean and he had very little to feed on. Then when Giroud was brought on, the crossing stopped again giving him no service.

Mesut Ozil was pretty much non existent. There was no cutting edge, he didn’t create anything and didn’t seem to want the ball and he was at fault for Willian’s goal, not marking on the corner, a free header for the Welshman. Arsenal were woeful on the whole the night as a whole.

Manchester City away and it was almost an identical line up to the game against Everton except Iwobi was in for Oxlade-Chamberlain. Again, Arsenal started very brightly and went ahead through an early Walcott goal and City in the first half were very poor. Arsenal though were dropping deeper and deeper and a very very poor second half saw Arsenal again beaten 2-1.

Mesut Ozil had a terrible game, it bypassed him and he didn’t seem to interested to stick around afterwards. The stats don’t lie and make horrible reading for Ozil against Manchester City. Arsenal fans look away now!

Chances created – 1
Crosses completed – 0
Take-ons completed – 0
Shots – 0

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This is further proof that Ozil goes missing in the big games. Big game players like Ronaldo, Messi and Lewandowski always turn up in the big games when needed.

Manchester City showed their dominance in the second half and completely outplayed and bypassed Arsenal and this was a City team missing Aguero, Gundogan and Fernandinho and who themselves have been leaky at the back of late.

The tactics that Wenger used in this game, along with every other game were the same. There seems to be no game management from Wenger. Sanchez was dropping so deep to get a touch of the ball leaving the back line of Manchester City marking no one. This a game that would of been perfect for Giroud up top and Sanchez out wide.

Manchester City’s back line are susceptible to crosses and Claudio Bravo does not fill you with confidence when he comes to claim the ball. However there was none of this. It was the same line up, same instructions and once again Arsenal fans were sent home unhappy.

So what next for Arsenal? Two home games to get back on track but they will not be easy games. Arsene needs to change the formation, especially for the big games. After Arsenal Humiliated Conte’s Chelsea, he switched his formation and they are on a splendid run and now sit 9 points clear at the summit, they seem to find a way to grind out results like all title winning sides do.

There is also the January window approaching, will we see Arsene dip into the market? It’s highly unlikely as it is notoriously difficult to do business while in the Champions League and Wenger is very cautious with spending money.

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credit Ronnie Macdonald

Arsenal were missing Mustafi and Cazorla for these last two games but Arsene has assembled a squad that he believes is capable of winning the Premier League title, in reality, they’re still at least 2 or three players short and as mentioned, its doubtful Arsene will strengthen in January. The current crop don’t have the mentality to challenge for the league or even in Europe where Bayern await in the last 16.

The mentality is the biggest cause for concern amongst the Arsenal faithful, who, as do many, believe this team doesn’t posses that winning at all cost mentality like the players of old. Players like Adams, Keown and Vieira would do whatever it took to get the win, with a never say die attitude. One thing is for sure, If Arsenal don’t change something soon they could find themselves further adrift of the title challengers

I previously wrote a piece for All out Football on 5 possible replacements for Arsene Wenger, if he goes at the end of the season when his contract is up. I wonder if they are considering the options already? If not at least Arsenal FanTv will remain entertaining for the foreseeable future.

Arsenal fans, are you Wenger out or in? Can January give you  a boost? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

featured image by Ronnie Macdonald