I’ve had some time to think about our first 3 games of the season which have been against Aston Villa, Manchester City and Middlesbrough.
In the first match of the season, Villa absorbed all of our pressure and snatched a goal from a header. We attacked, attacked and attacked some more and luckily Gilberto riffled a brilliant shot into the roof of the net – getting us a point.
Against Manchester City, we played exactly the same way and the opposition did as well – men behind the ball and Arsenal couldn’t convert a huge amount of possession into goals.
Then yesterday, we go a goal down again and we only equalise from the penalty spot.
Hell, even the Dinamo Zagreb game was a struggle!
So are Arsenal lucky or unlucky?
There are two ways of looking at Arsenal’s form and specifically the first month of The Premiership campaign.
The first one is the ‘unlucky’ viewpoint shared by Arsene Wenger. He maintains that Arsenal have suffered because of injuries, lack of match sharpness and also tiredness from the recent International break and the World Cup in Germany.
I suppose there is some evidence to support this. We’ve had the lion’s share of possession in all 3 games and created a few chances, which on another day could be a totally different result.
But the other viewpoint – and perhaps the most worrying – is that Arsenal have so far been lucky.
Against Aston Villa, we never really looked like scoring and lacked the killer instinct. We had a lot of possession but didn’t do enough to put the Villa defence under pressure – some could say that we were lucky that the usually indecisive Gilberto Silva decided to smash the ball into the Villa net. I dread to think we could have lost that game.
And the same happened yesterday – if Eboue didn’t win the penalty for Thierry Henry to convert then Boro could have beaten us! And they ended the game with 10 men!
The problem Arsenal have is that they play the same way which may be pretty for the neutral spectator, but it no longer brings the team and the supporters the results.
Yesterday I identified the lack of killer instinct from wide positions without the presence of Pires and Bergkamp, and unfortunately teams know that.
The opposition know that Arsenal don’t have Bergkamp or Pires (and even Vieira for that matter) to change defense into attack in a split second with a penetrating pass up the field. Nowadays it seems that we cannot get the ball up the pitch quick enough and the passing is over-elaborate – making it so easy for teams to get behind the ball.
With teams playing so deep Arsenal either play in front of the opposition or get it wide – but we don’t have Pires to deliver the final killer pass for someone to convert.
I think if teams had 10 men from the start we would still find it difficult to break them down.
The only way to make teams come out is to have a threat via shots from distance. If Frank Lampard or Steven Gerrard have the ball 20 or 30 yards from goal and they have a bit of space they will shoot, forcing the defenders to close them down. But defenders won’t close the Arsenal players down because we don’t shoot! So they just sit back and absorb the pressure and let Arsenal play around with the ball.
If Arsenal could score from headers, crosses, corners and set-pieces we wouldn’t need a Plan B – but we don’t!
The big question is what are Arsenal going to do about it?
People will say that Arsenal don’t have Vieira, Pires or Bergkamp anymore so why talk about them?
Well it’s because we play the same way!
We are not the same team as we were 2/3 seasons ago but saying that the squad is still full of talent, class and experience.
Arsenal have to play differently to get the best out of the current personel – for example how does Van Basten get the best out of Robin Van Persie while for Arsenal he seems withdrawn and restricted?
The same could be said about Reyes contrasting form for Spain and Arsenal – let’s hope the impressive Rosicky doesn’t suffer at Arsenal.
Hopefully the worst start to the season in over 25 years and being 4th from bottom of the league will give Arsene Wenger something to think about and might just be the thing we need to shake things up in the Arsenal side.
But then again maybe I’m worrying about nothing and maybe Arsenal will beat Hamburg and Manchester United this week. Saying that though it’s not really the results that have been worrying, it’s the performances and if we take this form into the next 7 days it is going to be a very long season indeed…