A tale of two trips for Arsenal
Whatever the outcome would be from Arsenal’s trip to Everton, the biggest regret surely has to be from the weekend, where a weak and unimaginative Arsenal could only leave Villa Park with a 0-0 draw. Whatever happened at Goodison Park, it was important that maximum points be taken from the weaker of the two away trips.
On some level, Arsenal do have to be applauded for the way they rose to a very good Everton side and came away with a result. That’s away trips to Everton, Manchester United, Liverpool and Manchester City, with only one loss out of those four for Arsene Wenger’s team. When you look at those figures on paper, the results don’t look too bad. It’s when you look at them in the greater context of the season that their shine starts to diminish.
Theo Walcott was once again Arsenal’s most impressive and dangerous attacker, further forcing the point that the manager simply must put aside his pride and play the England international at every given opportunity.
The depressing fact, however, is that yet again Arsenal’s finest performer in a season may be off once the calendar rolls into June. Fans may fight it, they might try to convince themselves otherwise, but every indication and every comment made by both camps suggests there is only one outcome.
But as always – and this issue won’t go away until Wenger does actually follow through with his latest revelation that he’ll buy in January – the depth, or lack thereof, is Arsenal’s greatest problem. The defence might certainly have looked good on paper, even with Laurent Koscielny taken off injured, but the defensive side of the whole team is lacking.
There’s something slightly Spanish about the way Arsenal play—and I don’t mean in that imperious and impressive way; more like a case of Jose Reyes. The cold trips up north seem to be doing nothing to bring out the best in Arsenal’s lightweight midfield. The trio of Cazorla, Wilshere and Arteta is fantastic on paper and can be fantastic when put into practice, but it doesn’t always work. It doesn’t work when the comforts of the Emirates Stadium aren’t close. Most importantly, it doesn’t work when the tempo of the game and the strength on display from the opposition equates to something typically English and very much what the Premier League advertises itself to be.
It was obvious that the team missed a presence like Abou Diaby in the middle of the pitch. A player who can drive the team forward with the manner in which he carries the ball, but also a strong individual who can help out defensively.
Everton are very much Arsenal’s rivals now for the final spot in the top four. The difference, and one that could separate Arsenal from Everton and even West Brom, is the Gunners’ ability to put the opposition to the sword in emphatic fashion. They’ve been involved in some high scoring games this season which is something that importantly shows their status in the league and ability to exert their dominance. But unlike Everton, Arsenal have been unable to work hard to grab points when there’s been a real battle on the pitch. It’s always far from a certainty that Arsenal will be able to hold on to an early one goal lead and see out the game. The match at Goodison Park was another example of that.
It’s those problems that need to be ironed out in order for a team with good players to become a good team overall. Stripping away all the other results and frustrations surrounding the club, the point at Everton is something that could become invaluable come the end of the season. It’s places such as that where Arsenal need to ride the waves of a hungry opponent and leave with something to show for their troubles.
The sun won’t always be beating down on this team, but consistency away from comfortable surroundings needs to formed. It seems that something of this ilk is said every season, but this January could be Arsene Wenger’s most important in his time at the club. Never before have so many clubs been good enough to make up the top four, yet once again Wenger’s team are lacking in crucial but very specific areas.
The right additions this January could be the difference between a Champions League team and one not quite good enough.