The change in month, it seems, has not brought about a change in fortunes for our beloved Arsenal.
The optimism fostered by the pre-Christmas win at home to Manchester City seems a long time ago now. I suppose it was, but with only three points taken and three goals scored in our last four games, the feeling engendered by that brilliant win feels like it belongs to a different season now.
It feels to me, and I’m sure to you, like it’s starting to slip away now, doesn’t it? Clearly, this feeling won’t have been helped by Tuesday’s draw with Southampton. This result saw us slip further back from the Cities of Leicester and Manchester and behind the unmentionables – albeit on goal difference. It’s not a great time to be an Arsenal fan really, is it? Leicester seem to be unstoppable, Manchester City are a team we all expect to really get their act together and as for Spurs… I can understand the frustration people are feeling at the moment, but I honestly don’t think that the last four games are an accurate representation of the quality of this team.
Of course, it’s one thing me saying that and another thing that the guys actually go out there and prove it.
As we recorded the latest Daily Cannon podcast on Monday, a thought flashed through my brain. It was this:
We’re gonna finish fifth this season.
How can that be? How is it that I, who has been talking up the size and strength of this Arsenal squad all season is now looking at us and expecting the mother of all choke jobs? Well, I guess the first thing to say is that I don’t actually think that we will finish fifth. This was just a random impulse of my brain – regular readers are probably all too aware that this happens to me a lot. I do think though, that Arsenal are in something of a “negative spiral” at the moment and it’s difficult to see how we get out of it.
I guess the easiest way to get out of it is to start winning games again. It goes without saying that we will not start winning games until we can start putting the ball in the back of the net again. For Arsenal to have gone through three matches without troubling the scorers, with the players we have at this football club is unacceptable in my opinion. Okay, yes, one game was away at Stoke and in another game, we were hamstrung from very early on. That said, you can’t be happy when you don’t score for two home games in a row.
If the fans are feeling that frustration, and I think it’s safe to assume that we are, then I’m surprised if Arsène Wenger has any hair left on his head today. Speaking after the game, last night, he had this to say,
“I think we have to look at ourselves and start to finish with a bit more conviction. The way we have took our chances was not good enough and that’s why we dropped two points.”
And that’s from a manager not in the habit of publicly criticising his players. When you have watched your team have 21 shots on goal, 11 of which were on target and only one of those 11 from outside the box, let’s be honest, you’d expect to score at least one. Wouldn’t you? As it happened, assisted by some weak Arsenal finishing, Fraser Forster performed yet another Superman impersonation against us.
This isn’t going to happen every week. Of course not. I mean, it’s unlikely we’ll have 21 shots per game from the rest of the season. However, there will be games in the future where we will score two, maybe even three goals, from only a handful of chances. I think we’re just going through one of those spells at the moment.
If you take Alexis out of the equation, then we’re looking at a front line not really in the best of form. With Aaron Ramsey, normally a reliable source of goals from midfield, saddled with the willing but not very good Flamini as his partner, there aren’t too many coming from him at the moment either.
This columnist hopes that Francis Coquelin returns to give the team the bite it is apparently lacking. One wonders whether his return will free Aaron up to get forward more effectively. One also wonders whether the presence of Mathieu Flamini in the team represents a physical manifestation of the oft mentioned metaphorical handbrake. In the case of last night, I don’t think that is the case. It would take a much meaner spirited individual than myself to blame Flamini for the fact that our forwards would apparently struggle to finish their dinners at the moment.
“spell”, “at the moment”…
I think, I hope, that I’ve made it clear that I consider Arsenal’s current predicament to be a temporary rather than permanent one. I don’t think that the likes of Giroud and Walcott are going to keep missing chances and one would think that if we keep creating 10 good chances a game, there are some teams in for a battering between now and May. With Alexis back and firing, I think this possibility becomes ever more likely.
Perhaps, rather than dwelling on how we have slipped five points behind the league leaders, we might consider that, despite a month of our form being in the toilet, we are still only two wins from the top of the table. Bearing in mind the fact that Leicester have to visit Manchester City this weekend, before coming to us and that Manchester City will follow the visit of Leicester by hosting Spurs, it’s clear that all is not lost. Yet. We could even be top of the league, again, in ten days time.
Just as long as we beat Bournemouth…