This season has been yet another season of what could have been! The way we were alive in 4 fronts and how we collapsed and look like we will end up winning nothing, sounds quite familiar if you have been tracking Arsenal in the last 3-4 years. It has been a very very frustrating year for the Gooners, this year in particular as we thought we had a team that could win silverware and to some extent the fact that the other biggies Manchester United and Chelsea looked fallible and out of sorts throughout the season.
If I had to describe the form of the club based on the last match, the one against arch rivals Spurs, I need to just tell you about how our young goalkeeper, Szczesny performed in that match. He was brilliant when it came to making saves. He must have made atleast 4-5 good ones throughout the match. But then he gave away a penalty which was a silly mistake from an inexperienced goalkeeper. This cost us the match, or lets say 2 points. That has been the way our team has performed through this season. Brilliant in most of the phases in some crucial matches but lost concentration or became vulnerable when all we had to do was play on for a few minutes of the match. It has reached such a stage that we don’t know what is the buffer of goals that we need to say we are relatively safe and assured of a win.
The Newcastle match stands out as a glaring example. We lead by 4 goals and then spectacularly collapse to let Newcastle comeback into the match and draw 4-4. How sad can that be. We have not been able to close out matches by defending. We do score goals but you we also need to know how to defend as a team. I don’t want to individually blame our defenders but we need to show some more care in defending, especially if we are leading.
Lets look at some of the reasons why we are at this situation, not in any particular order-
a) Home form: In 17 matches we have won 10, drawn 4 and lost 3. If we look at Man Utd it is 15 wins and one draw. So we know which is the difficult venue to play and get points. There was a time when Highbury was known as a fortress and the visitors knew that they had to show up just to get beaten. But things have changed and now the visiting teams know that they have a chance to atleast draw at the Emirates.
b) Vulnerable Defending: We have been a very offensive team this year, having scored 66 goals in 33 matches. That is 5 less than United’s tally, which is fine. But we have conceded 34 goals this season and that is like 2 more than Utd and 7 more than Chelsea. The critical piece I believe is we have conceded goals when it mattered the most for us. Points lost per goals scored ratio might look very bad for us. I think the opposition doesn’t give up when they are a goal down against us as they think we are vulnerable and can let in goals.
c) Loss of form: Players like Arshavin seems to just play around casually this season. They don’t seem to be presenting any danger to the opposition defence. He seems to be just going around his motion, not come back and defend and not running as much as he should. And one player who seems to be presenting danger to his own team is Clichy. I never thought I would write about him like that. But sometimes he seems to be fooling around with the ball and making some costly mistakes. Bendtner has been subed in most of the matches playing at the right flank and being ineffective.
d) Goalkeeping: Like I mentioned this is a problem area for a long time and Wenger has not addressed it at all, making things work with what he has and not investing in a good goalkeeper. I think we need a goalkeeper who doesn’t make mistakes. Shot stoppers are fine, but we do not want some one who makes crucial mistakes which cost us a trophy or points.
There are many more which you could think of I am sure. Do let me know of your thoughts on the same. But lets keep hoping that a miracle will happen somehow this year 🙂