The Season So Far & The Questions It Poses – Arsenal’s Quizmaster Has The Answers
Today at North London Is Red I am pleased to introduce James Wareing as a guest blogger. You will all know James from his twitter account, and his weekly Arsenal quizzes that have even the staunchest of supporters scratching their heads. Today James examines our season to date and what we might be able to expect from this team moving forward. Take it away James….
It is fair to say that despite being just 9 games in this season has had its ups and downs. From defence solidity (resulting from the famed ‘Bould Effect’) and potential title contenders to frustratingly poor in front of goal. So as we approach the end of the first quarter of the season I think it would be prudent to take a step back and examine both ourselves and what realistically should be our aims.
Defensive solidity has been a luxury in the past but having approached this new season with Steve Bould in the role of Assistant Manager we have started with reassurance at the back. In the first 9 games we have conceded 6 goals; a marked improvement on last season considering we shipped 8 against United. This has also placed us in unfamiliar position of boasting the tightest defence in the league. The improvements of Jenkinson and Mertesacker have been paramount to our improvements. Jenkinson’s emergence this season as a genuine rival to Sagna has been superb. He is technically a very good defender who is rarely beaten 1v1 and he his constantly learning. His distribution, despite the occasional heart stopping passes across the back four has also improved and he now has more confidence on the ball. When he came up against world-class wingers this season he has prevailed and international recognition surely cannot be too far away. The fact that Koscielny, undoubtedly our best defender last season, has been kept out of the team by Mertesacker is paramount to his improvement. His positioning and reading of the game has been superb and although he still does have the turning circle of a large lorry, his lack of pace no longer seems an issue.
The only issue I currently have with our defence has to be the man between the sticks. Whether you like it or not Wenger has not had a ‘world-class’ keeper for about 10 years and this year is no exception. Although Szczesny is undoubtedly a top prospect the back-up brigade are very worrying. Frankly they are not good enough and if we are to challenge when Szczesny is not around I think a more established keeper is required in January. And before you all clamour ‘Craig Gordon’ he can surely not be an option. However good he used to be if he was released by Sunderland and nobody wanted him in the summer he cannot be good enough for us.
The whole team’s defensive effort across the entire pitch has also been key. With Giroud, unlike RVP, we really do defend from the front and his effort in closing down and pressuring has been outstanding. The same can also be said of Podolski who despite his lacklustre performances going forward has shown his experience with his defensive support of Gibbs. However for me the unsung hero has been Mikel Arteta. Re-invented as an anchor man this season he has excelled. He leads the team in tackles per game and this has lead to him being a re-assuring figure in front of the back four. His reading of the game has been superb and he has become the perfect replacement for the void left by Song.
Despite the grumblings over some sloppy goals losing us games it has been some very poor attacking play that has let us down. Chances have been few and far between in some games and this has cost us vital points. Although some teams have frustratingly ‘parked the bus’ the lack of chances has been alarming. Arsenal fans have often used the excuse that the other team ‘parked the bus’ but top teams have to deal with that every week and the City’s and United’s still often prevail. In my opinion this lack of productivity has stemmed from our wing play. Despite his impressive work rate and determination to move off the ball Giroud has been given little to feed on in the box. Cazorla has often been man marked affectively which has meant greater emphasis is placed on our wingers and they haven’t provided. Podolski, whether carrying an injury or not, has often been ineffective, rarely beating his man or providing that killer pass to break through a defence. Gervinho, whether up front or on the wing, has been largely frustrating. For me he is a flat track bully, against weak wing backs he can often look brilliant when beating his man. However when faced with an experienced renowned defender he often lacks that penetration or variation to brake a team down. As an attacking unit moving forward I believe the key is providing a bit more variety and confidence in our approach. As a tough few weeks arrive it is imperative that we find that attacking form as, when we reach May, we will look upon this as a season defining period.
Going forward into the rest of the season I believe, as Wenger himself has said, that Champions League qualification has to be the priority and is the most realistic goal. We lack the consistency that could drive us to the summit of the league but if we can find a little more creativity up-front and maintain our solid defence I think this could set us apart as a top four team.
Thanks James. That was a fantastic and honest assessment of our season so far and I agree with pretty much everything you said. Thank you for this excellent guest post and I’m sure my regulars will agree when I say I hope to see you again on North London Is Red.
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