The British Premier League kicked off yesterday and for Arsenal fans many of our worst nightmares materialized. A 1-3 home loss
to Aston Villa left many of those at the Emirates in open revolt against Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. Many of the problems that Arsenal have been fighting for the last several years reared up again in this game. Let’s take a look:
1. Inability to hold a lead / no killer instinct? Yep.
Just over five minutes into the game and Arsenal are up 1-0 thanks to some really nice play from Walcott and Giroud. That should have been a cue to put the pressure on and make a statement. When Man U took a 1-0 lead today against Swansea, the put in another two minutes later and eventually went up 3-0 before winning 4-1. Arsenal however went into half tied 1-1. This seems to be a recurring issue with Arsenal – when does a lead ever feel safe? Not only do we seem unable to get that second quick goal, you always feel like we’ll leak the equalizer at the other end.
2. Lack of focus/desire on defense? Yep.
Too many times it just looks like Arsenal treat defense as something not to be too bothered about. On the first goal, Gaby Agbonlahor bobbed and weaved his way through several Arsenal defenders. Once he did so, several other players decided to become spectators rather than pursue the play. On the second goal, Arsenal gave the ball away easily in midfield. Bad call on the penalty? Yeah, probably, but don’t turn it over like that and the penalty/non-penalty never becomes an issue. Yes, on the third goal Arsenal were pressing hard to get an equalizer, but where was the left back? Did no one have defensive responsibilities on that play?
3. Lots of possession, not much to show for it? Yep.
Arsenal have an abundance of skilled players and as a result often have the bulk of possession. Yesterday was no exception as the Gunners enjoyed 64% of time on the ball. But that possession resulted in only four shots on goal (as compared to Villa’s 6 shots). Would we have taken more shots if Podolski had come on before the 93rd(?!) minute, or if Cazorla had played more than 45 minutes? Probably, but they didn’t, and Arsenal only managed one goal. Either the players on the pitch must simply have a go more often, or the manager needs to come up with a new game plan. Either way, four shots on goal, at home, against mid-table opposition is going to result in a poor result, greater possession or no.
4. Brittle players? Yep.
I don’t watch many games from the other BPL teams, so maybe this is common across the league, but Arsenal players seem to be injured, nicked and bruised an awful lot. Putting aside the players who were unavailable before the game started, during the game Gibbs, Sagna and Oxlade-Chamberlain all seemed to pick up injuries of some degree. Even if none of them miss time, their losses within this game shows the brittleness of our players. It just doesn’t seem to take much to bang our guys around.
5. Lack of squad depth an issue? Yep.
For the last several weeks Arsenal fans have been waiting for the transfers we all thought were coming. Sure, the transfer window is still open, but the games count now. Arteta is out for 4-5 weeks, Vermaelen is also out till mid-September. Monreal missed the first game… I appreciate that Wenger doesn’t want to go out and just pick up any player, especially at an inflated price, but if bringing in players earns the team points on days like today, well then they aren’t over-priced. 16 BPL teams found players worth purchasing this summer, why couldn’t Arsenal?
It’s just one game, but let’s see if this result spurs Wenger to make moves now.