Mesut Ozil is foolish to think Arsenal can win the Premier League this season, as the Gunners lack the tactical awareness or quality in key positions to match Chelsea and Manchester City.
Before their win over Manchester City Arsenal sat just one point behind the tally they had at this stage in the 1997-1998 season, where they won the title, leading some to believe they can repeat this success. The City win has obviously added to this optimism, but for multiple reasons they should simply be satisfied with another top four finish.
Arsenal lack a solid spine to their team. Their current one bears no comparison to Chelsea and Manchester City, currently clearly England’s best two sides by a significant distance. After beginning last season’s title challenge on an excellent defence and sitting top in January 2014, a year on and the backline again looks vulnerable.
The goalkeeper situation is still not fully resolved, despite letting Lukas Fabianski leaving and their signing of David Ospina. Wojciech Szczesny has been inconsistent at best and still cannot be placed in the same league as Joe Hart and Thibault Courtois, goalkeepers at the top two sides in England.
At centre-back the Gunners lack physical presence, most evident when Per Metresacker was pictured committing the ultimate sin of flinching and turning away from an oncoming shot.
This was most notably evident in Martin Skrtel’s late equaliser for Liverpool, a goal that showed the Gunners’ lack of a leader, in the mould of Tony Adams, at the back.
Centre-defensive midfield appears Arsenal’s most notable current flaw, and Wenger’s ignorance of the need to invest here reflects a stubbornness that is often unhelpful. In January 2014 he signed the injured Sweden international Kim Källström, while Wenger appears to consider Matthieu Flamini and Mikel Arteta sufficient cover.
The Gunners desperately need a midfielder like Morgan Schneiderlin, for not only his physicality but also his tactical awareness, discipline and reading of the game, qualities that Arteta and Flamini clearly lack.
Arteta’s contract is expiring imminently and Arsenal fans will hope this shall lead to the recruitment of a replacement who is a clear improvement.
Up front Alexis Sanchez has been excellent, carrying Arsenal throughout this season, though another striker is needed to play with him. Even Suarez needed Sturridge to thrive at Liverpool, and Aguero needs Dzeko at Manchester City – every good striker needs a partner.
Title-winning sides need four good strikers, and while Manchester City and Chelsea have this, Arsenal clearly do not. Yaya Sanogo is some way off the required standard.
It is also unhelpful when your best players are consistently sidelined, and Arsenal must address their injury list. This is currently shambolic, regularly topping the injury tables is an embarrassment for such a top European club.
Arsenal also do not strike you as having the mentality of winners, and this stems from Arsene Wenger and the board, protruding an attitude that 4th place = success. This mentality is reflected on the pitch, seen by players relaxing and getting complacent when leading against small teams, shown by the Swansea and Anderlecht results.
To win the Premier League a team also needs a good record against sides surrounding them – Arsenal’s record against Chelsea and the Manchester clubs in recent years is horrific. In these big games the players Arsenal should look to as leaders seem to disappear, and this happens so regularly that the finger must eventually be pointed at Wenger.
Tactically the Frenchman is also frightfully naïve, shown by pushing the full-backs high and wide throughout, leaving huge open spaces that makes Arsenal susceptible to the counter-attack. Arteta and Flamini are slow and even a better defensive midfielder would be unable to prevent this on his own.
Going forward Arsenal are wasting some of their biggest signings, earners and players out of position – Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla are not at their best out wide. Wenger needs to make better use of his squad’s obvious attacking talent and strike a more balanced threat against the opposition, rather than becoming too predictable, as they sometimes currently are.
These problems in tactics, mentality and heart were demonstrated in disappointing results against Spurs, Swansea and the Manchester clubs that showed exactly why Arsenal are a long way off Premier League success this season.
Mesut Ozil is mad to think otherwise – until Arsenal can sign a high-quality spine and address their tactical naivety then nothing will change.