Another away game at City and another defeat for the Gunners.
More than the negative result 2-1, the manner of the defeat is really the worrying thing as it is a trend that stretches for three seasons at least.
Let’s look at the stats taken from the Athletics’ Katie Whyatt.
There is one question that need to be asked – why does the team not perform well enough in big games against big teams?
The usual process would be to analyse the root cause of the problems encountered in the previous games then rectify them. The second part should be done in training with a specific game plan for the upcoming games.
Obviously, the opposition’s quality should not be underestimated. Chelsea and Manchester City are Champions League regulars and have a squad full of top quality players. There has also been a struggle playing against Manchester United since they came back with a senior team.
You have to ask: Are the players not applying the game plan against Chelsea and City? If not why? If they are applying the game plan, but do not play well enough to execute it, again, you have to ask why?
Is there a mental or emotional block somewhere or are they simply no longer good enough to play that way? If they are not skilled enough, those players will need to be replaced at the end of the season. If the players are not prepared well enough for those tough games, then it is on the coaching staff’s shoulder.
I believe the answer is a bit of both, with players and coaching staff needing to take responsibility.
There is one obvious common theme in all the defeats – the team does not manage to implement its usual passing game because the opposition (City, Chelsea and United) know how to press our defence in the build-up phase.
There is a genuinely big problem here. Obviously, missing personnel influences the passing game quality and the off the ball movement around the ball carrier, because understudies are not as good as the main players.
But, you really get the feeling that the tactical answers are not there either. For example, I saw Reading playing in 4-2-2-2 on Sunday against United and they had specific patterns of play from any goal kick to deal with United’s pressing.
If we can’t break the opposition’s lines by passing through them, the risk of losing the ball in our own third, as seen with the City winning goal is huge. There is also no doubt that those three teams are well drilled and their pressing game is top class compared to Arsenal’s.
There is a nagging feeling that the players are struggling to find solutions. At the end of the day, once they are on the pitch the coaches’ job is done. They have prepared the players to the best of their ability and the players have to find the answers on their own.
The players’ decision making is not great and there is a deer in the headlights feeling during certain phases of play. Everybody knows how Arsenal build up their attacking football that is a joy to watch. It brings fans entertainment, a lot of goals and it is fun to watch and also must be fun to play.
But the opposition teams have raised their game following the 2018/19 title where the Gunners surprised everyone with their football brand. And Arsenal have not managed to raise theirs to counter that improvement from our opponents.
Now, it is not totally doom and gloom at all, far from it and there are more important things in life as seen with the recent Jenny Beattie news.
Arsenal are still in third place in the League:
Realistically, any title hopes are nearly gone as two defeats is really the maximum a title contender can afford.
But Champions League qualification is a must and can still be achieved as long as the team performances improve against the big teams.