Monday, 15 September 2014

Arsenal Face Six Games To a Make Or Break Their Season

Arsenal played at home to the reigning Premier League champions on Saturday and came out with a point from a game which could easily have gone either way. After going 1-0 down they came back to lead 2-1 before conceding a late goal to share the spoils. There were chances aplenty with the woodwork saving both sides and plenty of controversy too.

City manager Manuel Pellagrini wasn't happy with either Arsenal goal as he felt there were fouls on City players in the build up to both of them and he also thought Jack Wilshere should have had a penalty given against for handball. For me all three were marginal calls and could have gone either way, but like any manager Pellagrini is always going to see it from his team's perspective.

Arsene Wenger wasn't exactly ecstatic with City's rotational fouling and the referee taking so long to issue yellow cards to the City players. If he had been stricter Arsenal might well have profited more on some of their many breaks through central midfield after winning the ball. 

A point at home to the reigning champions is not the worst result for Arsenal, but it didn't feel so good after Arsenal had led 2-1 with less than 10 minutes to play. Their inability to defend set pieces was their undoing again as City scored their equaliser from a corner despite Arsenal having every single player in the box to defend it. After that goal City went on to hit the woodwork twice more and Arsenal were more than a little fortunate to escape with a point.

Of course Arsenal new boy Danny Welbeck had also hit the post in the first half after racing on to a mishit back pass and chipping Joe Harte in the City goal. If Welbeck had taken his chance it would have put Arsenal ahead when they were well in the ascendancy and it might have been a very different game. As it was City went ahead soon afterwards when they caught Arsenal with a sucker punch on a very fast break. The defending for that goal left a lot to be desired but it was oh so typical of Arsenal.

I read a startling fact today that Arsenal have conceded with the first shot on target against them in each of their four league games so far. If I'm not mistaken they have also conceded half of their goals from set pieces and it's something which has to be addressed. For the boss to say afterwards that Arsenal are an attacking team is just glossing over the genuine defensive problems the team has as a whole. They have conceded six goals in their four league games and only scored seven while Chelsea have conceded six in the same time and scored 15.

The performances of both Jack Wilshere and Alexis Sanchez were excellent against City, but both Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil were far from their best. Ramsey did at least have a hand in the Wilshere goal and could have put Arsenal 3-1 up just before City equalised, but Ozil's contribution was far from that expected from a player of his class. I cannot understand why he is still being played out of position to accommodate others in the team when he should be played in his favoured and best position. He has a proven record of making chances at the highest level when he is played there and Arsenal need to utilise him in that position.

There's little time to reflect on the result though as the games are coming thick and fast for the next few weeks. First up is a trip to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League on Tuesday night followed by a trip to Aston Villa next Saturday in the league. Those games are quickly followed by games against Southampton, Spurs, Galatasaray and Chelsea before the next dreaded international break rears it's ugly head.

Dortmund lost their first league game of the season but have bounced back to win their two games since then and are a force to be reckoned with. Arsenal have been drawn in their group in two of the previous three seasons so the venue and the opposition shouldn't hold too many surprises for them at least. It won't be easy for Arsenal though with the speed Dortmund possess on the break and Arsenal's defensive vulnerability.

On paper the trip to Villa looks a little easier but Villa have had a great start to the season and have taken 10 points from their opening four games. They won 1-0 away to Liverpool at the weekend and have only conceded one goal in those opening four games. Arsenal are certainly good enough to beat them but Villa will sit back and look to hit them on the break too.

The Capital One Cup game with Southampton will be no easier with Arsenal playing their fringe players and an in form Southampton probably putting out a strong team in the hope of progressing in a cup competition. After the Southampton game there are two home games for Arsenal which will be absolutely must win games with the local derby against Spurs followed by their first home game in the Champions League against Galatasary. No matter how the previous games have gone these games will have to be won for more reasons than I can go into until closer to the date.

The final game before the players head off with their countries again is a trip to a Chelsea team who have been very impressive so far. Arsenal were humiliated there last season and need to show they have learned a lesson from that game and can get something from their trips to the other top teams in the Premier League. Chelsea have brought in some real quality this summer and are a free scoring machine at the moment, but that could have changed before we play them in a few weeks.

What's certain for me is that Arsenal need to turn some of their draws into wins or they will find themselves too far behind the pacesetters in the league. They're already six points behind Chelsea after only four games, but all of the other contenders are within a point of Arsenal one way or another at the moment. If they're going to have a chance in the league and qualify for next season's Champions League then they have to find a killer instinct.

At least the team played well against City going forward in particular and that's got to be encouraging ahead of those six upcoming games. I think Welbeck will fit in well once he gets a chance to gel with the rest of the team although the chances to do so in training are limited with the team playing twice a week. Both Ozil and Ramsey need to offer some more because they are the players who can really make a difference for Arsenal.

I hope to be sitting here writing a report on the Chelsea game in three weeks talking about how the performance against City was the game which kick started the season for Arsenal. If the team can come through those games in good shape in the league and the Champions League then I think they can kick on from there, but it's by no means certain at the moment. 

The failure to add any more defenders in the transfer window is looking riskier by the day after Mathieu Debuchy picked up an ankle injury on Saturday and the squad now has only five fit defenders. An injury or suspension to any defender will leave the defensive options stretched to the limit and the January transfer window a long way away. Let's hope the team can be lucky though, but wishing for good luck with injuries is hardly a sign of proper planning from the club. I'll be back with my preview of the Dortmund game tomorrow, as games come thick and fast.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. Wenger was lucky not to lose despite MC's systemetic fouling.He is never known for his defence.He is too attack minded even though a strong defence wins you games and trophies.The game aginst AV will tell us how far he can handle the defensive side of the game.
    You can bet AV will be well organised defensively after going into the lead.
    These are early days but the special one is leading and it aint going to surprise if he wins the epl. He is pragmatic and puts the accent on winning instead of pretty soccer with many passes.Watch how Chelsea scored their goals.
    It's no harm learning from top managers and I believe Wenger shd be down to earth
    and start shooting instead of passing all over the place.