After a stinging away defeat like the one at Anfield on Saturday, I don’t know whether it’s worse to have no game on at all and therefore the week feels like it’ll drag out from an Arsenal perspective, or whether it’s what we all need to take a breather, look at the situation, then have faith that the team will be working hard to address the issues that arose from the weekend.
My hope is that they are all stewing on it like we all are, because if we are all stewing then you can bet yourself any money you like that they will be. When I was reading about the build up to the game at the weekend I read a lot of articles from pundits talking about how Liverpool will be stung by the Brighton and West Ham dropped points and that Arsenal would pay the price for it. If you look purely on the score line it certainly feels that way, but we’ve been handed far worse batterings as a team with the same score line. But I hope that the Arsenal players use the same methodology Liverpool did on Newcastle this weekend, because there needs to be a reaction and we have to see an angry Arsenal performance.
Are we capable of it though? A battering of an opponent, is what I mean. I say that because what a lot of people are doing right now is looking at our attacking threat and I don’t think there can be any doubt that we have seen a reduction in it over the last 18 months or so. Perhaps even longer than that. We just don’t create the chances and we don’t score enough goals and that is the biggest concern right now. Against Watford we missed some decent chances, had Aubameyang have one of those stinker games he puts in every once in a while, but it didn’t feel like a game in which we won’t see again. This weekend we play a Newcastle side that has conceded the joint most goal with Norwich, but all most of us I think are looking for is victory to get us back on the horse. Winning games is all that matters and this team got in to a nice little habit of it and hey, if we win every game 1-0 between now and Christmas you won’t hear me complaining too much. But I am a fan who likes our margins for error to be a little wider than it feels like we have right now. In order to do that, we need to be creating more chances and scoring more goals.
Simple, I know, but crucial nonetheless. Aubameyang and Lacazette as a partnership has felt good and maybe it needs to be wheeled out again against the Geordies, but if I was in Arteta’s shoes i’d be looking at a little bit of a shuffle this week. Particularly with some of those stats we’ve seen doing the rounds about the number of big chances we don’t create, goals we’re not really scoring in abundance, etc. I’d be thinking about players like Odegaard and Pepe and this week I’d be saying to them “there’s an opening for you here lads. The form of previous weeks have made it difficult, but now I’m giving you a shot”. To me the fact we’re at home, the fact the opposition is weaker, the fact that some players have perhaps not been as great in the previous game, is a chance to really build some competition in the squad and the best way to do that is to give rotation a bit of a consideration. Tierney, Maitland-Niles, Odegaard, Pepe – all players who could feasibly come in and give the manager as well as other players in those positions, something to think about.
The longer term issue will be those forward line positions though. I am holding out hope that something will ‘click’ going forward but perhaps I am just being naive. I’m also a little bit worried about what else sits behind Aubameyang and Lacazette. Balogun is too raw and I think we all saw that at the start of the season. We know that we need to address the issue and I think in my mind I just assumed that it would be something that we will be able to ‘get by with’ until the summer. But the more and more I start to think about it, the more I wonder if we need some kind of injection in January. I don’t think it will happen but that doesn’t mean I/we shouldn’t want it. I think if you give Auba the service then he will get you between 15 – 20 goals in the league. But if Pepe isn’t playing and Lacazette is dropping deeper in to this hybrid role he’s been playing, then we need to see more from the other players. Partey and Sambi don’t do that and it is unfair to expect the kids like Saka and ESR to do it every game, so I do think we have some problems on the horizon that Mikel needs to fix fast. If we drop points against United, Everton, Southampton, Newcastle, etc, because we haven’t been able to outscore an opponent if the defence is having a tough day, then I suspect the clamour for a striker will grow louder amongst us fans.
I do think we need to get the monkey off our back of not being able to win whilst coming from behind. We tend to get the first goal and don’t get me wrong I’d much rather we always did that, but we need to know that these players have the mental fortitude to turn a game around. That hasn’t been tested yet and that will also be a test of our attacking prowess too.
There is still much work to do at The Arsenal.