Saturday, 25 October 2014

Arsenal's Premier League Trip To Sunderland Previewed

This season has been far from easy for Arsenal fans to endure thus far. We have a team who can and do play good football on a regular basis, but for some reason it is not working at the moment. The team are labouring through games and more often than not waiting on a grandstand finish to get something out of them or at least so it seems to me.

Last Saturday was the first home league match that they scored first in, but they then managed to fall behind before an injury time equaliser got a point from Hull. It means they have had to come from behind in all four of their home league games so far and only managed to win the first of them against Palace. An unbeaten home league run stretching back to the opening day of last season is all well and good, but the draws are piling up and you lose ground on the pacesetters when you draw at home in particular.

There has to be a reason for Arsenal's inability to win games at the moment and I saw some very interesting statistics on Twitter on Wedbesday night. It would seen Arsenal are a far more productive team so far this season when Jack Wilshere isn't on the pitch. The difference between their goals for and against when he is not playing or has been substituted is startling. I'm not one for blaming all of the team's ills on Wilshere, but there has to be questions asked as to how he is being deployed in the team.

I was far from happy earlier in the season when Mesut Ozil was played in a wide role to allow Wilshere to perform in his favoured playmaker's position. Ozil is one of the best players in the world in that role while Wilshere still has a long way to go to realise his full potential. He has been plagued by injury for the last few seasons, but it appears he is now a permanent fixture in the team and I'm not sure how good that is for the team.

Far too often he can be seen taking too much out of the ball in possession and then losing it as two or three opponents surround him. He's very fond of castigating team mates for lack of movement when he has the ball, but this Arsenal team are at their best when they use the ball quickly. I really like Wilshere as a player, but I'm not sure what his position in the team is or should be for that matter.

He will be suspended for today's game after receiving five yellow cards already this season and it will be interesting to see how the team perform without him. By my calculations Arsenal have scored 14 goals when Wilshere has been off the pitch this season and only conceded two. He has started almost all of their games which means the late goals Arsenal are so find of have come when Wilshere has gone off and seven of the goals came in the two games he missed out on.

When it comes to Sunderland this afternoon I would expect to see a very similar Arsenal team to the one which was abject at times against Anderlecht on Wednesday night. They got out of jail with two very late goals and will have to have a lot more tempo to their game against Sunderland. For me it always seems Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is the first player to be dropped after a poor performance from the team and so it was on Wednesday. He might not have been good against Hull on Sarurday, but neither was anyone else with the exception of Alexis Sanchez.

Wojciech Szczesny will of course return after suspension ruled him out of Wednesday's game with Emiliano Martinez dropping to the bench. I thought Martinez did all that was asked of him well against Anderlecht and was in no way at fault for the goal Arsenal conceded. When the cross came in it was in fact Mathieu Flamini who lost his man, but he was covering after Per Mertesacker went walkabout. It wasn't helped by Nacho Monreal playing as a central defender as it's a role he just isn't suited to.

Anderlecht adopted a style which works all too often against Arsenal by defending in numbers and hoping for something on the break or from a set piece. As it was their goal came from a break, but the disorganisation in the Arsenal defence was frightening. I know there has been a lot of injuries and a lot of change as a result, but defenders have to know the basic concepts of how to defend correctly.

This season has already become a struggle to make the top four yet again with all hopes of putting in a title challenge all but gone. The optimism after last May's FA Cup final win is as good as gone and it's almost painful watching Arsenal playing at the moment. The deficiencies in the team are glaringly obvious but it seems Arsene Wenger sends the team out to make the same mistakes game after game. Is his influence over them so little that he cannot inspire them to put in the effort and play at the tempo needed to regain their form. 

After last week's embarrassing 8-0 defeat away to Southampton there has to be real doubt in the Sunderland camp. They will be glad Arsenal are playing far from their best, but Sunderland have to be there for the taking. If Arsenal can come out of the blocks firing on all cylinders and get a lead then Sunderland's confidence has to be brittle. I think Arsenal can win by a few goals if they go about it in the right way, but the big question is how will Arsenal play.

I would like to see Hector Bellerin come in at right back with Calum Chambers switching to the centre of defence. In midfield I think it's time Mikel Arteta came back into the team after spending the last two games on the bench since his return from injury. Santi Cazorla is the obvious choice as the playmaker for me with Aaron Ramsey making up the rest of the midfield trio. That would leave Danny Welbeck as the central striker with Alexis and Chamberlain in the wide roles. I think that's a team which could take the game to Sunderland and have enough attacking threat to score a few goals too.

There's a possibility of Theo Walcott making the bench for today, but Laurent Koscielny looks like he's out for a few more weeks. The defence is so much weaker without Koscielny, but Walcott will at least be back in the near future. I think he has been sorely missed in the last nine months and his return will be very welcome. Who knows he might get a few minutes before the end of the game if things are going Arsenal's way.

I seem to say this week after week but it's time for Arsenal to get their season started. There can't be a better chance to get things going in the right direction than against a team who were beaten 8-0 last week. I know Sunderland's fans will be looking for a reaction after that defeat, but it's up to Arsenal to make sure they don't get a chance to do so. I think Arsenal will win and by a couple of goals too and the week they get off before their next game won't be a bad thing. Maybe the players will get a chance to practice their defending during that week and save us all from some further worries every time the opposition cross the half way line. 

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.


  1. The last time Arsenal played Chelsea,I had predicted the so will win by a 2 goal margin.
    It proved true.The thing is Wenger's style is predictable with the accent on attack is the best from of defence.Every gunner is encouraged to attack with the result that Costa with 2 defenders to beat had a much easier time than the gunners taking on 11 Blues.
    shots and failing to score.
    Sunderland could win by 1-0 regardless of Arsenal having a hundred shots.
    Poyet may have one shot but his forward scored has scored .If the game were based on stats,Arsenal would have won by a mile.Same with red face 1999. He was battered,pummelled,pulverised
    .Had 2 shots and 2 goals and he won.
    Does anyone remember BM were the better team that night?

    1. By the time Costa got the second goal Arsenal had to push forward in search of an equaliser but they were quite unlike Arsenal until they went behind. Sunderland could easily win with a goal on the break but what would happen if Arsenal sat back and tried to hit them on the break. The team needs some new players who can change how we play at times but we have little option other than how we play with the current crop.