Sunday, 11 November 2012

Are Arsenal Teetering On The Brink

Arsenal are 11 games into the Premier League season and have had their worst start to a league campaign in 30 years. They have taken only 16 points from 11 games and are looking more and more like an average Premier League team. If they're not careful they will become the next Liverpool.

A mixture of selling their best players and replacing them with players of less ability has cost the team dearly. There is apparently money to invest in the team, but it sits in the bank unused. There is a tipping point past which it is very difficult to return from and Arsenal are teetering very close to the precipice.

On the face of it Arsenal still have some very good players and should be doing a lot better than they are at the moment. There are problems in all areas of the team though and they need to be sorted out. That can only be done with the players currently at the club until the transfer window opens in January at least.

Vito Mannone has being playing in goal with the two first choices players injured and he clearly isn't good enough at this level. Thankfully Wojciech Szczesny was fit enough to make the bench against Fulham and hopefully he will be fit enough to regain his place next week against Spurs. It's a game Arsenal quite simply cannot afford to lose or there could be open revolt amongst the fans.

In defence the absence of Kieran Gibbs is being sorely felt. He was playing very well before his most recent injury but he is an injury prone player who cannot be relied on to stay fit. With that in mind Arsenal need decent cover at left back and it's something they just don't have.

The performances of Andre Santos in that position have been so poor recently that Thomas Vermaelen has been asked to fill the role. He hasn't been much better in the centre of defence though and it can't be easy on him playing at left back. A solution to the problem has to be found and it's the manager's job to do so.

It's great to see Bacary Sagna back in the team after his two leg breaks last season and maybe he could be the man to play at left back. That would mean the return of Carl Jenkinson at right back and it would be a just reward for how well he played when Sagna was out.

Whatever defenders Arsenal have on the pitch need to remember how to do the basics of defending properly. Opponents are always going to get chances in matches, but Arsenal are giving up those chances far too easily. The team seems to have some real problems imposing themselves on opponents and controlling games.

At the start of the season Arsenal looked very strong in midfield and the form of Abou Diaby was an important factor in that. If Gibbs is injury prone then Diaby brings it to a completely different level. It's not his fault that his career has been blighted by an horrific leg break over six years ago but it may have come to the point where his place in the squad should be taken by a player who can play regularly.

I would love to see Diaby make a full recovery and realise all of the potential he has, but I just can't see it happening. His latest injury occurred when he took a shot and has changed from a supposed three week lay off to three months I think. Some of that vast transfer fund could be spent buying a quality player to do the job Diaby can only do five or six times a season.

Until a week or so ago Arsenal were struggling to score goals or even create chances, but at least they have improved in that department. Olivier Giroud looks like he could be the player to lead the line and he may well have been money well spent. The lack of a real alternative to him is a problem though and again the solution has to be found in the transfer market. The difference in the striking options available to the two Manchester clubs and Arsenal is quite staggering.

Quite often teams in the Premier League will over perform as the team becomes better than the sum of it's parts. At the moment Arsenal seem to be a team that is worse than the sum of it's parts and the slide had to be halted. The lack of confidence in the team has to be addressed before it's too late.

I've been an Arsenal supporter for many years and I have seen Arsenal teams in far worse situations than they are at the moment. Some of those teams were pretty average and no more could really be expected from them though. The current team should be good enough to be doing a whole lot better and that's what is so infuriating.

The team seems to lurch from one crisis to another and there are no signs of improvement. There are no longer any superstars of the game at the club after the sales of Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie in the last two summers. Maybe a real high profile signing would be the boost the team needs to get back on track.

For quite a while now I've been complaining of Arsenal's lack of genuine wingers. The players asked to play on either side of the central striker in Arsenal's attacking trio are converted from other positions. There is no player in the Arsenal team to take opponents apart and cause panic in opposing defences.

How long can the club wait for the implications of financial fair play or the global recession to be felt. There has to be a stage where the current good of the club becomes of the utmost importance and not a possible future which is as of yet unknown. The club cannot continue to make profits on transfers every season and think it doesn't affect the overall quality of the squad.

Meanwhile it's up to the players on the pitch and the manager to turn things around. This whole business of a lack of confidence is almost laughable for professional footballers. The players need to knuckle down and give their all to the team to make things better.

They need to concentrate harder when playing and give everything they have to the cause. If they can put in as much as their opponents do then surely they can get the results that those performances will deserve. It's not as if the current don't have it in them to do just that.

They showed in the away game against Manchester City exactly how well they can play and they need to find that level consistently. It's up to the manager and the coaching staff to get the very best out of them in every single game. The level of performance has to improve and the manager needs to pick the players and formation to get the best out of what he has available to him.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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