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Arsenal’s unpredictability is why they won’t win the title

It’s been a turbulent week for Arsenal, and it defines their turbulent year. We just don’t know what to expect from Arsenal: do we expect the Arsenal that thumped Manchester United and out-maneuvered Manchester City in January? Or do we expect the Arsenal who fail to turn up for big games? The Arsenal who deal in the real and act pragmatically? Or the Arsenal who are the only club in Europe’s top five leagues not to sign an outfield player?

It’s the Arsenal who thumped Manchester United, Liverpool and Manchester City in those big games that we want to see. Even the Arsenal who have been frequently turning up the heat too, like against Leicester City the other week.

But the Arsenal who don’t sign an outfield player, despite needing a striker and possibly a defender or a defensive midfielder, that the Gunners’ faithful could do without. The Arsenal who didn’t turn up for two important Champions League games this season, whose naivety let them down in Europe just as it did against Chelsea earlier on this season.

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And that’s a shame, because this Arsenal side are the best equipped Gunners side in years to win a league title. But unpredictability won’t bring the league title back to North London, and Arsenal need to sort it.

It’s not that they’re totally unpredictable, they’re clearly a good side. A side capable of inflicting huge damage to any team in the league – as we’ve seen quite clearly over the last few months. There’s no title-chasing side they haven’t beaten, even beating Chelsea in the Community Shield. They have plenty of options around the club, pace, guile, skill and explosivity. They just need to use them more consistently.

But there seems to be something just a little bit soft around the club.

They lack a real powerhouse of a midfielder and they lack a really commanding centre back. They might not need such players in order to win the league, but it does make them look susceptible to the bigger teams. Arsenal have been bullied very often over the course of the last few years, and that perception of their team as weak doesn’t look like changing.

Progress, however, is being made. Despite all of these negative things, all of this unpredictability a form of progression. Being unpredictable, after all, is still better than losing predictably every week.

And what is striking about Arsenal over the last few months is how they’ve set up against the bigger teams. There’s a certain unpredictability in how they’ve set up in those games, too. They were solid defensively against Manchester City in January before picking off the then defending Champions on set plays and on the counter. Against Chelsea they lost two men and that was probably the reason they lost the game, but their game plan before that wasn’t one of the hard-hitting attack that we saw last weekend against United.

And they’ve managed to get results in these games by being pragmatic. Which is something Wenger hasn’t been able to do over the last decade. When it’s come to the crunch matches, the big games against the big teams, Arsenal have been found wanting.

So despite only one signing, despite the club sitting on a £200m windfall and not spending it on players, despite defeat in some important games when you feel they should have taken it more seriously, Arsenal are progressing.

Unpredictability won’t win them the title, and they may not be able to rectify that problem this season. Arsenal have a long way to go to shed the ‘soft’ tag, but they’re making progress towards it, even if they are the authors of their own setbacks from time to time.

Article title: Arsenal’s unpredictability is why they won’t win the title

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