Arsenal will finish fourth, they always do. Oh wait, they might not actually do it this year, with a five point gap between themselves and West Ham – who occupy the fabled slot – heading into Christmas, while a host of other sides are all competing in a densely packed top half – 10th placed Liverpool are only nine adrift of the Hammers.
Although it’s not been the disaster booing at a train station in Stoke would suggest, mistakes have been made by Arsenal’s boss this season, who appears so unable to adapt and change it’s bordering on insanity… So which FIVE errors have been the most unforgivable? We at FFC Towers have had a little look…
Even a casual observer over the summer could see that selling Thomas Vermaelen without a replacement in place was a bad idea. Yet, in his wisdom, Wenger allowed the Belgian to leave, and low and behold, the Gunners are short of cover at the back, with injury issues for Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny having been plentiful. In fact, the north Londoners have been so short on options that teenage rookie Calum Chambers has been shoehorned into the role, while the returning Mathieu Debuchy has also been used as a centre-half in recent games.
With £20m to spend in January, getting another body in is the aim for Wenger, who may turn to Winston Reid of West Ham or take a gamble on Celtic’s Virgil van Dijk.
It’s a problem that’s been on repeat for a while now at the Emirates, and it’s not Arsene’s awful coat! The Gunners have been without a genuine holding midfielder for as long as we can remember, with various stars – Alex Song and Mathieu Flamini – having failed to replace Patrick Vieira’s influence in the middle of the park. A lack of fight and grit contributed to the feeling that Arsenal have a soft underbelly, which has been exposed on more than one occasion this term – Stoke away is a prime example.
The likes of William Carvalho and Song himself were rumoured targets over the summer, yet Wenger opted against deals.
Arsenal have one way of playing under Arsenal. When it goes well, they’re irresistible, with pace, movement and technical excellence hallmarks of the Gunners’ style. Yet on an off day or in the event a team sets up to nullify their threat, they struggle. The first-half against Liverpool saw the Reds’ 3-4-3 set-up push the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck deep, isolating Olivier Giroud. It took Wenger some time to adapt to the issues, and had it not been for wasteful shooting from the Merseysiders, the game could have been gone by the 45-minute mark.
Arsenal have also shown a reluctance and inability to ‘shut up shop’ in games when ahead, with the 3-3 against Anderlecht – a game the Londoners led 3-0 – particularly galling.
Hector Bellerin really impressed against Newcastle the weekend before last. However, the young Spaniard’s start to life in the Gunners’ XI was not so fruitful, with his debut at Dortmund a game the full-back will have all but erased from his memory by now. Emiliano Martinez has also been thrust into goal following a spate of injuries, while the much-maligned Yaya Sanogo has led the line on more than one occasion.
Although it’s far from crisis time at the Emirates, things have not been going quite as swimmingly as was hoped for. Results have been somewhat predictable, while underperforming stars have been kept in the team in the hope of playing out of ruts.
But with the likes of Lukas Podolski and Joel Campbell waiting on the bench, there have been options to freshen it up. Between the pair – who both impressed at the World Cup earlier this year – a total of 374 minutes on the pitch have been racked up, which has led to criticism from sections of supports wanting something now and diverse.