This breath-taking game against Chelsea has again highlighted one fact; that this Arsenal team has character and desire in abundance but perhaps lacks quality – the quality to turn draws into wins and losses into draws against fellow top-six teams.
The lack of quality I speak about is certainly defensive and not necessarily attack-wise, as we scored three and two goals against Liverpool and Chelsea respectively at the Emirates without winning either game.
Against United, we scored one and still lost by a two-goal margin. You simply cannot be conceding two or three goals against top teams, or any team for that matter, and still expect to win.
In fairness to the team, though, we have hardly been able to present a stable backline all season. Tonight for instance, three of the regular back-five who started the season – Koscielny, Monreal, and Kolasinac – were missing.
For those who might single out players like Chambers as not being good enough, you have to consider that there is hardly any understanding among our makeshift backline. Defensive cohesion and understanding comes by playing together regularly and not just in training sessions.
The bottom-line is that for Arsenal to make the top-four this season, never mind become title-challengers again, Arsene needs to sort our defence out, especially against the big boys.
Maitland Niles to star for Arsenal for the next decade
If there is one thing Arsene Wenger is an expert in, it is in converting wingers into successful full-backs. He did it with Gibbs, Bellerin, and now Maitland Niles. Ashley Cole , the legendary Arsenal, and later Chelsea, defender started out as an attacker too.
If Kolasinac were fit, you would still prefer to see him at left wing-back; nonetheless, seeing Maitland start games, due to injuries or Wenger’s preference, no longer looks as crazy or risky decision as it was some weeks back. The boy is just quality.
He is athletic, skilful, composed, has stamina, and is very confident.
In the 27th minute for instance, with Bakayoko seemingly through on goal, Maitland Niles came from behind to put just enough pressure on him to prevent him from getting a clean shot on goal and without giving away a penalty-kick, either.
Also, when attacking, he just doesn’t run on the outside or down the touch line, he is comfortable carrying the ball through the centre of the goal too.
Overall, Kolasinac still has much better end-product in the attacking third, nonetheless, you can now see why the manager continues to start the youngster, even in big games. He has composure and understanding beyond his years.
Is Lacazette Starting to lose confidence?
Lacazette, despite his goal drought, which extended to seven games yesterday against Chelsea, remains a very valuable addition to our attack.
What I like most about him, and which Arsenal has been lacking since RVP left, is his ability to create a yard of space in a tight box-18 with quick nimble feet or a sharp spin-away while still getting his shot away. This is a quality usually possessed by genuine world-class attackers – Aguero, Henry, RVP, Messi – therefore, there is no doubt Lacazette will score goals aplenty with time.
Another reason we don’t need to worry about his relative lack of goals is because he generally makes our attack sharper and more functional, at least when playing on the ground, which is our main style. Evidence of this was his two beautiful assists, one of them a sublime back-heel, against Liverpool.
Also, his goal drought has mainly been due to bad luck – inspired goal-keeping or balls hitting the bar. De Gea made one or two unbelievable saves from well-struck Lacazette shots, Courtois did same last night.
If it was a case where Lacazette was taking wayward shots or couldn’t create chances for himself when not assisted on a platter, then we could start to worry. Someday, very soon, Lacazette will have three shots on goal in a match and all three will score.
Saying all that, my only concern is that if he himself doesn’t see the situation as positive as I have described, he might start to doubt himself and lose confidence. He might become less spontaneous (and that his is strength – that box-18 sharpness) and start to think too much before shooting.
This was exactly what happened in the 51st minute when he took so long to decide where to place his shot when one-on-one with Courtois. Eventually, this allowed Courtois enough time and confidence to make a save with his feet.
A striker should always put a doubt on the keeper’s mind before he shoots but, at the moment, memories of the De Gea and Courtois saves are starting to put a doubt on Lacazette’s mind.
A striker should always put a doubt on the keeper’s mind when about to shoot but it seems, at the moment, that memories of unbelievable saves from De Gea and Courtois are starting to play on Lacazette’s mind.
Arsenal players need to be more clever and tidier defending in opposition box 18
Finally, the boss has recently described the spate of cheap or dubious penalty-kicks awarded against us as a concerning-coincidence.
While I totally share his concerns giving the questionable penalty-kicks awarded against us to Watford, Westbrom and, most recently, Chelsea, all of which affected the outcomes of the games, I think it’s time we started to look at ourselves too.
Why do we make clumsy and needless tackles in the box? Can’t we manage games better especially when we have just a one-goal lead – Westbrom and Watford for instance?
Bellerin, in situations of little or no danger, gave away the penalty-kicks against Watford and Chelsea. Therefore, that the manager thinks Referees find it easy to award PKs against us is the very reason he should have a word with his players about being cleverer and tidier in our box-18 and about general game management.
There is a saying in my local language, Yoruba, that goes: “A man who has been marked down for being set-ablaze should also not dip himself into oil.”
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS
- Do you agree that quality is what Arsenal lacks? If so, in what areas?
- Are you starting to get worried about Lacazette? Or he remains and good finisher and all-round attacker and his luck will soon change?
- Is it time Wenger started talking to his boys about being smarter when defending in our box-18 or are the referees just to blame?
Drop your comments below ⇓