What to think of Arsenal?

Arsenal is a lot like Manchester United this year, they have a lot of quality, but are really a shadow of their former selves.

While the 3-0 victory over Hull this weekend looked dominating on the surface, during the game itself Arsenal struggled during large stretches. Arsenal are no doubt one of the top teams in the league but this is not the same Arsenal as years past.

Arsenal continue to have their quintessential flowing attacking style of play and are stacked with pacey attacking technical players. But with the fairly pedestrian quality of the central midfield – Song, Diaby, Denilson (Fabregas of course the notable exception), and most importantly the lack of a true #9 striker with the loss of Van Persie, this is not a title contending team. But is it a team that could drop out of the top four?

I think that is unlikely, but I would expect inconsistency throughout the rest of the season. Without any size in the box Arsenal lack anyone to get on the end of aerial crosses, allowing teams to clog the middle and push play wide. Hull took this very approach and Arsenal was pretty much tamed late into the first half until a soft free kick was given and converted by Denilson. After gaining a lead Arsenal becomes a very different team. This is a side built to counterattack. Once they go ahead and the opposition has to go forward, Arsenal is at its most dangerous and is able to open up the opposition. Hence, a fairly even game can easily get out of hand if Arsenal get the first goal. This is why their goal differential is so substantial.

But their problem is getting that first goal. And that is especially problematic without Van Persie. Sure Arsenal have brilliance, especially in Arshavin, and brilliant players can get goals out of nothing – ie Arshavin’s goal against Liverpool. But brilliance, especially in the English winter can be stymied by mid table clubs. I think we will see a very inconsistent Arsenal, such as what we saw this week – with their draw to Burnley, followed by this 3-0 victory.

This inconsistency, and the ability of bottom-tier sides to neutralize Arsenal going forward, makes it likely that Arsenal will drop too many points to really put them in the title hunt – and Wenger’s frequent assertions that they are title contenders reeks of a little desperation. While Arsenal kept the dim hopes of a title challenge alive with the win over Hull, that game could have easily turned against them had Hull converted the second half penalty, even putting them on edge of dropping out of the top 4. But such is the topsy turvy nature of this Premier League season.

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One Response

  1. I’m starting to worry that Fabregas is gone. I absolutely love that kid’s game, and always have … thinking, thinking, thinking. And he has to now be seeing the flaws in Wenger’s approach. Will he stay, or does he go back to his previous club to form a magic midfield triangle with Xavi and Iniesta?

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