Should success in the Europa League allow Wenger to stay on next season?

What has seemed to be a lengthy call for Wenger to leave his long-tenured post as Arsenal manager, it would seem that this season the calls got even louder and had a bit more venom behind them. Fans for years have been sold on the euphoric dream that Arsenal would be competing with forget domestic clubs, would be competing with the European elites. Yet here we are again with the same tired rhetoric of falling so far behind first place that it has become laughable. But there is a last saving grace for Wenger and it seems as if he is viewing it that way. The Europa League offers the last bit of optimism as it offers the only chance to get back into the Champions League. With success in the competition a viable possibility, will this leave the door open for Wenger to retain his position as manager?

Now I’m going to preface my statement by saying that I’m not sure that all the fans will agree with me, but I am most definitely resigned to the fact that any talk of winning the league whether it’s before or during the season is ultimately a farce. The best that the team can currently hope for is finishing in the top four and maybe winning one of the domestic cups. So with that being said, you would think that my expectations for the team would be low right? Wrong! There are certain levels that I expect the team to perform at and to say some of the performances this season have been embarrassing would be a drastic understatement.

 

Arsene Wenger, Manager of Arsenal

Arsenal have been off the pace for the majority of the season

 

There are a number of games that immediately spring to mind when deciding what Arsenal’s most egregious game of the season was, and there lies the problem. It’s infuriating seeing the amount of talent that currently resides on the team and then seeing tepid performances that are doled out on a far too frequent basis. Far too many players are looking for others to take the game over rather than taking the initiative and grabbing the proverbial bull by the horns.

So during the middle of the season, the calls for Wenger to step down from his role were more than justified. With the team coming out of the tunnel already looking defeated, and their performance on the field showing it, it was more than fair for the fans to be in uproar considering the amounts they are asked to pay to watch such performances. But for all the complaining and hooting and hollering from the fans, one thing that we know for a complete and utter fact is that Wenger is arguably the most stubborn manager in the league and increased pressure won’t force him out of the club.

 

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Wenger has come under immense pressure this season to leave his post

 

With the top four all but unattainable this season, what once was a Europa League gauntlet has been whittled down significantly to a much more viable task. With Dortmund and Napoli dumped out in the earlier rounds, the one team that should realistically (And I use that term very loosely) cause Arsenal any problems is Atletico Madrid. The stark contrast in performances between the Europa League and the Premier League will infuriate Arsenal fans even more because it reveals that the team can perform on that level, but finding that level of consistency seems to be the problem.

Winning the competition and ending Wenger’s barren ran in Europe would provide the perfect platform for him to ride off happily into the sunset. But, knowing the man like we have come to know, the more realistic option would be him asking for a further contract extension.

Sead Kolasinac: After a promising start to his Arsenal career, why is there such a lack of playing time?

Sead Kolasinac arrived at the Emirates with a cloud of smoke over his head. The Arsenal faithful had been crying out for Wenger to spend cash on a defender and when one duly arrived, it wasn’t the marquee name that we were hoping for. The Bosnian arrived with a fairly low-key profile with not much of a scouting report on him. But after making such a promising start to his Arsenal career and establishing himself as somewhat of a new cult hero, he has found his playing time severely diminished, but why?

The left-back position had been up in the air in the summer with Wenger favouring Monreal in more of a central role in the latter part of the season. So when the strapping Bosnian arrived at the Emirates, he looked like the perfect fit for the wing-back position in Arsenal’s new 3 back formation. Having garnered a reputation in Bundesliga as a forward-thinking full-back with attacking potential, he was rewarded with a spot on the Bundesliga team of the year. At only 24 years of age, it looked like Arsene Wenger mad managed to find another steal in a transfer market with inflated prices.

 

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Kolasinac has featured in 19 games this season scoring once and registering 4 assists

 

It all started extremely well for Kolasinac as he looked to have built a chemistry down the left-hand side with Danny Welbeck. Through the early parts of the season, the left-back had already accumulated four assists and chipped in with one goal aswell. He had already endeared himself to the Arsenal fans by scoring in the community shield and his early season performances served to only improve that relationship. But in recent weeks and months, Kolasinac has found himself relegated to the bench in favour of Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Monreal.

Initially, my first thought was that this was good management from Wenger. Coming from the Bundesliga, Kolasinac would have been used to having a winter break so giving him a break during the hectic Christmas period would keep him fresh for the second part of the season where he would be needed the most. However, that period has long gone and Kolasinac finds himself on the subs bench for league games and only seeing significant minutes in the cup competitions.

 

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Maitland-Niles has appeared nine times in the league starting five games

 

In his absence, Maitland-Niles played very assured football and reassured his class to the manager and the Arsenal fans. He was a threat going forward and was excellent in defence giving that the left wing back spot isn’t his favoured position. He was rarely caught out of position and when faced with 1v1 battles against wingers, he was assured in those battles. Additionally, it looks as if Monreal has solidified that position since his return from a few nagging injuries. The Spaniard is definitely a favourite of Wenger and it seems Wenger trusts him to provide that balance in defence as Bellerin is given much more licence to attack while Monreal plays further back.

This may have been the primary reason as to why Kolasinac has remained on the bench. It looked as if Wenger had stumbled upon gold with the switch to the 3-5-2 formation but with some early season struggles, he seems to have reverted back to 4-2-3-1. With the extra defender, Kolasinac had much more licence to roam forwards, but with a back four, he is tasked with much more defensive responsibility because having both fullbacks up the pitch would be suicidal. Monreal is blessed with a much more defensive mindset than Kolasinac, so with that in mind along with the trust Wenger already has in him, it makes sense for him to have re-established his position on the left.

 

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Monreal has started all 23 of his appearances scoring four times and adding two assists

 

With all that said, it looks as if Wenger has settle back on the four back formation due to the perceived stability it gives back to the team. Kolasinac did have a tendency to wonder forward and was suspect when left on an island against more diminutive wingers. But it’s good to know that Wenger has this option off the bench on the chance that some in game adjustments might need to be made and he can be counted on to slot straight back into the line-up.

By _TimPD

Alexandre Lacazette: How do we assess the first six months?

Alexandre Lacazette was brought from Lyon to Arsenal to be the spearhead for their future attack. After some stellar years in France where he amassed 100 goals in 203 appearances, there was hope and optimism that he would be the striker that Arsenal had been crying out for. The Gunners often had the creative midfielders to create the chances but were lacking the lethal striker to put them away and propel them to the upper echelon of the league. However, after a promising start to his life in the Premier League, he has tailed off and has been relegated to the bench.

Surely sold on the idea of playing with Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, Lacazette started his first few games with a bounce in his step and some sharp link up play. In the few games that the trio started together, the results were magical and the team was firing on all cylinders. But the times that the three shared the pitch together was few and far between and rather than Ozil and Alexis providing support, he was left with Welbeck and Iwobi. Not to be disrespectful, but those two aren’t even in the stratosphere of Ozil and Alexis.

 

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The Frenchman started brightly but has seen his form take a serious dip

 

But after such a bright start, the Frenchman’s form has not only taken a turn for the worse but has completely nosedived. A pathetic return of 1 goal in his last 13 games has found Lacazette on the bench for the recent brought in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. But the problems in his game stem way before the acquisitions in the January transfer window. In the majority of the games that Lacazette has started for the club, he rarely finishes. Often if the game is in the balance, Wenger will turn to Olivier Giroud to make the difference and sacrifice Lacazette in doing so. Brought in to be the main man but yet not given the confidence to bring the team home in tight situations looks to have zapped Lacazette of his confidence and now looks a shell of himself when he plays.

Now, all this isn’t to excuse Lacazette for his individual failures because to me, he just hasn’t been good enough. You look at all the other forwards in the league that are thriving thus far such as Kane, Aguero and Salah, there is a hunger and desire to get in positions where scoring becomes a much easier task. However, in the current case of Lacazette, he tends to drift out wide far too often and when the ball comes into areas where he should be, you can find him on the edge of the box or on one of the flanks. Whether this is a coaching decision, I have no clue. But, Lacazette is now faced with a dilemma in which he would have never envisioned when he arrived.

 

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Aubameyang was signed in January for a club record fee

 

If you would have told Lacazette that Giroud would be sold, the last place he would have expected to find himself is the substitute’s bench. However, as previously mentioned, Aubameyang has been brought in and Lacazette was immediately demoted to the bench and it’s hard to suggest that it wasn’t warranted. Maybe he wasn’t fully acclimatised to the rigours of the Premier League or maybe he hit a brick wall having not had his usual winter break, but his performances didn’t warrant him being in the starting line-up and he has an uphill battle to regain that position.

So has his time in London been a success so far, to me, it hasn’t. The signs are there for hope to still exist that Lacazette will justify the money that has been spent on him, but for now, it doesn’t appear he will be starting games anytime soon. It is now up to Wenger and the other coaches to get Lacazette refocused on his game and instill him with the confidence he showed in his days in France. But with the current state of Wenger’s coaching, I’m pessimistic about that actually happening.

Could Arsenal Turn This Season Around Into A Success?

It’s the same old story for us Arsenal fans isn’t it? In the summer, we are excited about the potential incoming prospects, not many of them actually arrive though. We start the season in fashion leaving many supporters and pundits alike asking whether ‘is this the season Arsenal finally gets over the hump?’. But by January, we are so far adrift of the title that we start settling for new goals (usually one of the domestic cups and Champions League qualification). But this season seems to be so much worse than the previous. Many of us have become numb to the continued disappointment that we just shrug it off, but with Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan reportedly on the verge of joining, will these two and a strong second half of the season be enough to quell the disenchanted Arsenal faithful?

After the continuous years of the board and management spewing their same drivel about us competing with the best teams in the world, the Gunners faithful have grown tired with the same tired and sorry excuses about not having the financial stability to compete with the other teams in the league. Surely that’s what we moved to the Emirates for in the first place, right? The cycle of false optimism followed by failed targets has become tiresome and I for one have come to the acceptance that under our current regime, the league is so far out of sight.

 

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Arsenal are reportedly interested in signing Aubameyang this January

 

Since we last won the league in the 2003-04 season, it seems that every team around us since that time has progressed significantly. Manchester United have always been a force in the league and were our rivals for a prolonged period of time. But in this time frame, Chelsea and Manchester City have won multiple league titles and established themselves as two of Europe’s finest teams. Even Liverpool and Tottenham who were seen as minnows in our period of dominance are in their period of resurgence under youthful and exuberant coaches in Klopp and Pochettino. While these clubs have seen progress on route to their future success, it seems that Arsenal has stagnated and somehow regressed.

So at this point, even if we secure marquee signings in this window, what will constitute a successful season? We are already out of the FA Cup and Champions League qualification looks like a stretch already. So would a Carabao Cup and Europa League trophy be enough to silence the doubters that still exist, I doubt it. We as fans want to be involved in the title race, feel as though there may be a chance, no matter how small that come the end of the season, the title could be hoisted at the Emirates Stadium. But alas, that is nothing but a fantasy at this current point so maybe two trophies might actually make the season a success.

 

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Wilshere is one of many first-team stars in need of a new contract

 

However, after all that being said, there are much larger issues that need to be addressed at the end of the season, and Wenger needs to be held accountable. How is it that after continuously watching our best players get sold to rival teams over the last decade, does Wenger allow so many key players to run down their contract with a scary lack of urgency to get the process done as quickly as possible. A club of this magnitude shouldn’t have dark clouds hovering over its head as to whether their star players will be resigning with the club. A slew of rival clubs have had their stars sign new long-term contracts securing the long-term stability of the club while we as Arsenal fans have to scramble for news to find out whether we will be retaining our players.

All in all, maybe I’m just upset that the team isn’t showing urgency to compete at the highest level and win the biggest trophies. Maybe I’m angry that I’ve seen multiple teams dominate the league and bring home the trophy while my team takes pictures in the dressing room after securing 4th place in the league. So even if we do make a run and have somewhat of a successful season, what’s really going to change in the long-run. It seems like Arsenal are just in a maze right now and we have no idea where we are going.

By _TimPD

Should Arsenal Have Sold Alexis In The Summer?

10th July 2014, a day that the Arsenal fans were absolutely elated. Arsenal had signed Barcelona forward Alexis Sanchez to come and play at the Emirates Stadium. The potential partnership with Mesut Ozil was the stuff of dreams after the Gunners faithful had to suffer through years of Denilson and Chamakh expected to lead us to glory. But after two FA Cups and a Community Shield together, it seems the partnership is coming to an end as speculation has increased that Sanchez is on his way to Manchester City. After a long summer transfer saga where Arsenal failed to cut bait with the Chilean, should they have let him leave rather than hanging on to futile hope that he would sign a contract?

Over the course of the summer transfer window, Manchester City aggressively went after Alexis Sanchez offering Arsenal £60M in the process. Wenger remained dogged in his approach maintaining that Alexis will be at Arsenal come the end of his contract. After having suffered through years of seeing his best players sold after entering the final two years of their contract, it’s criminal to think that Wenger would allow it to happen again. Yet here he was, grovelling at the feet of players, attempting to accommodate them into the team thereby stroking their egos and inflating their thoughts on how important they were.

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Jack Wilshere was reported to have had a bust-up with Sanchez over his attitude

It was clear for everyone to see that from the middle of last season up until now, Sanchez’s frustrations have been clear to see. He has upstaged his teammates on numerous occasions when he doesn’t get the ball, throwing multiple temper tantrums and grinding the gears of not only the fans, but reportedly the players aswell. Reports had surfaced that some of the players had grown tired of his antics on the pitch and were bothered by his poor attitude on the pitch. What we have discovered over the years is Wenger is very hesitant to change things unless blatantly obvious and this was another one of those occasions. Sanchez should have been moved to the bench and forced to show an attitude that was conducive to the success of the team but alas, it never happened.

However, to put my Wenger agenda aside and be somewhat sympathetic to the position that he was in, I highly doubt he saw these kinds of performances coming from Sanchez. After acquiring Alexandre Lacazette, the opportunity to partner him with Ozil and Sanchez was too great to resist and the hope that the trio could park some chemistry that could sway Sanchez to stay might have been the dream. But it’s clear that the Chilean has decided that Arsenal aren’t in his long-term plans and he seems determined to reignite his relationship with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.

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Sanchez has been a shell of the performer he was last season

Now, should Wenger have sold Sanchez in the summer based on his performances from this season, yes. But do I blame for holding on to Sanchez due to not having found a clear successor, no. I strongly believe that if the offer had come in earlier in the window, the Gunners would have been forced to sell and would have had ample time to find someone to come in. But due to the timing of the bid from City, the scramble was on and the Arsenal board couldn’t get it done.

But the bigger problem here is the fact that Wenger and the staff on the board allow numerous first-team players to enter the last year of their contracts before they start negotiating new deals. It screams of arrogance and negligence and puts the long-term success of the club at serious fault. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is madness and yet, this is the state of Arsenal Football Club at this particular moment.

Aaron Ramsey: Why the upturn in form?

Aaron Ramsey, the marmite of all Arsenal fans, you love him or hate him. Often maligned for seeking individual success over the benefit of the team, Ramsey has come in for much criticism over the course of the last few years due to him being closer to the opposition goal than defending our own. His tendency to stroll away from his actual position has often left Arsenal ripe for the counter-attack and left Arsenal fans asking the question ‘Where is Ramsey’ far too often. But this season, there seems to be more balance to his game, and thus better end product.

This season, a case can be made for Ramsey being Arsenal’s player of the year. He is playing at a standard that Arsenal fans have been clamouring for but is also playing it a level of consistency that has been sorely missing from his game. Far too often when Ramsey is in his richest vein of form, a muscle injury would strike him down for months leaving him back at square 1 again. However, this season, the Welshman is playing at a phenomenal level already scoring three goals and providing a further six assists all while featuring in 14 of the 15 Premier League games. Such output is reminiscent of the 2013/14 season in which Ramsey scored 10 goals and managed eight assists in only 23 appearances. But what is the reason for this upturn in form?

 

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Ramsey had featured in all but one Premier League game

 

First and foremost, the most important thing for Ramsey this year has been his positioning and understanding of his role. Far too often last season much to mine and many Gunners fans annoyance, Ramsey thought he was playing central striker rather than centre midfield. Too often you would find himself closer to the striker rather than his centre midfield partner which negates one of his best aspects, his third man runs. It’s no coincidence that Ramsey is finding pockets of space in the opposition final third and this is because he is coming into space rather than already standing in it so his runs into the box are much harder to track. For instance, in the loss to Man United, Ramsey ran into the space to knock the ball back for the Lacazette goal, but last season, you would easily find him already in the box trying to find the goal.

Another key change to Arsenal that has helped Ramsey tremendously is the change in formation. In scenarios where Arsenal were caught out on the counter-attack, they would play a 4-2-3-1 in which the full backs would bomb forward along with Ramsey leaving only the centre-backs and holding midfielder in the defensive half. However, with the change in formation to 3-4-2-1, the added centre-back option along with one of the wing backs playing deeper than the other gives Ramsey more of a licence to move forward without the threat of the counter-attack. With the two wide players now playing inside forward and wing backs providing the width, Ramsey has the centre midfield to himself and can make the runs he is very good at.

 

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The Welshman leads the team with 6 Premier League assists.

 

The last reason I feel this upturn in form has happened is consistency. Ramsey only managed 23 appearances in the league last term and is already up to 14 this year. In times that Ramsey was entering a purple patch of form he would get injured and would try and force things when he got back in the team. On the other hand, this season, he isn’t getting injured as much helped by the fact that he is only playing once a week, he is able to give 100% for every league game because he is freed from the responsibility of playing in the Europa League. His overall midfield play overall has increased dramatically with Ramsey having a 77% tackle success accompanied with 14 interceptions and 77 recoveries in the league alone.

Ramsey has already bettered his tally for goals and assists from last season in which he registered just one and four respectively. If the Welshman carries on in this rich vein of form carries on through the entirety of the season, there is no doubt the Welshman will be one of the main catalysts for any success the Gunners have.

By @_TimPD

DANNY WELBECK: CAN HE FIND A WAY BACK INTO THE STARTING XI?

So, here we are again with Danny Welbeck. It appears that the same narrative persists with the Englishman since he made his move to the Emirates. He manages to break into the starting line-up and put together a string of fine performances, slowly changing minds that he can become a permanent part of the attacking unit and then disaster strikes in the form of injury. For Welbeck, he doesn’t get those injuries that only limit him for weeks, he will be gone for such a length of time that his existence on the squad can sometimes be forgotten.

Welbeck is now faced with the seemingly impossible task of forcing his way back into a starting three that boasts stellar names like Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Alexandre Lacazette. Since the signing of Lacazette was announced, Arsenal fans have been clamouring for the trio to start together and they have been granted their wish in recent weeks. In the three games that they have started together, Arsenal have recorded victories in all of the games including the impressive win in the North London derby where they each made a contribution with Ozil and Lacazette registering an assists and Alexis scoring the second goal.

 

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Ozil, Lacazette and Alexis have formed a fluid partnership in their time together

 

However, Welbeck’s form at the beginning of the season shouldn’t be so easily discounted when discussing his role in the squad. Early in the season, he was forming a nice understanding down the left with Kolasinac and his fellow strike partner that yielded some positive results with him scoring four goals before his untimely injury. Now, to be brutally honest, when talking about the aforementioned trio, Welbeck doesn’t come close to them in terms of quality but his unpredictability and his uncanny nature to find himself in scoring positions keeps him in Wenger’s favour.

One thing that the Englishman can never be accused of is lacking effort. But that criticism has been levelled towards Ozil and Sanchez and recent months and deservingly so. With their contract situation still remaining unresolved and both of them being prone to having emotional mood swings on the pitch, Welbeck could easily find his name back in the starting line-up if their form and subsequently their play begins to dip.

 

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Welbeck started the season in fine form before his injury

 

 

There is no doubt that Wenger has put trust in Welbeck and won’t hesitate to put him in the line-up when we will inevitably need a spark from the bench. Welbeck’s past does indicate that he will never be a 20+ a season player because he can’t stay fit enough for the whole campaign and quite frankly, he hasn’t shown the finishing ability. But there is no doubt that he can contribute 10-15 goals across all competitions and still be a valuable asset to the Arsenal squad.

Finally, Welbeck falls under the same bracket as his fellow Englishman, Jack Wilshere. Naturally, you would want them on the team because they have the ability to make a difference but there are only so many times that Wenger can play them before an injury occurs. Both will be looking to get back into the starting XI as soon as possible and with a World Cup coming up in June, both need to grab any opportunity they are given with both hands.

By _TimPD

WHO ELSE CAN CONTRIBUTE TO GOALS TO EASE BURDEN ON LACAZETTE?

Arsenal have had a relatively decent start to the season. Six wins from our opening 10 games and currently sitting in 5th position. However, one area that we haven’t set alight is scoring. Now, although 19 goals in 10 games may seem like a decent return, context must be added to the situation for further understanding. The two table-topping teams Manchester United and Manchester City have scored 23 goals and 35 goals respectively. Their goal differences are at +19 and +29 while the Gunners are at a lowly +6. Summer signing Alexandre Lacazette was brought in to shoulder most of the scoring responsibility but who else can chip in with the goals when he’s not firing on all cylinders. Here are my top 5 candidates:

ALEXIS SANCHEZ

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Premier League Record:

  • Games: 110
  • Goals: 54
  • Assists: 24

The Chilean hasn’t been in his superhuman form of last season. With a long summer and niggling injuries, Sanchez didn’t start the season with the sharpness of his other teammates. He has only managed to score once in the league so far but make no mistake about it, Alexis is still a worldly talent and on his best day, is one of the best strikers in the league. In his 110 Premier League games for the Gunners, he has 54 goals and 24 assists. For someone that doesn’t play as the central striker regularly, those numbers are incredible and Arsenal will be hoping he rediscovers that form as soon as possible.

MESUT OZIL

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Premier League Record:

  • Games: 124
  • Goals: 24
  • Assists: 44

The much maligned German magician showed his goalscoring prowess last season. Playing in a more advanced role behind Alexis, he was able to utilise his knowledge of the game and make the runs in behind to get into more threatening positions. However, like Alexis, he hasn’t had a flying start to the season with a number of muscular injuries hampering his availability to the team. With the amount of goalscoring positions that Ozil finds himself in, he should most definitely be adding to his goal tally and possibly looking towards double figures. The trio of Alexis – Lacazette – Ozil has only started two games together but in that time, the team has managed seven goals. With the fluidity and creativity of that front 3, Ozil should be expecting to beat last season’s goal tally of 8.

AARON RAMSEY

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Premier League Record:

  • Games: 219
  • Goals: 32
  • Assists: 34

The Welshman has proved that he has the quality to have a productive scoring season as in the 2013/14 season, he managed to grab 10 goals. However, since then, he has failed to reach those heights again as the subsequent three seasons combined only yielded 12 goals. Since that breakthrough year, Ramsey could be accused of seeking out goals too much rather than letting them find their way to him. He starts as the box-to-box midfielder but often finds himself closer to the striker than to the defence. Ramsey makes excellent 3rd man runs which means he can be left untracked making runs from deep, and when he gets in the position to score, he can put them away.

DANNY WELBECK

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Premier League Record:

  • Games: 176
  • Goals: 39
  • Assists: 18

Welbeck started off the season in fine form scoring three goals from the opening six games. But what seems to be a reoccurring narrative, he got injured when he was in his best form. Welbeck will never be the striker to get you 20+ goals in a season because he isn’t that clinical, however playing alongside Alexis or Lacazette means he doesn’t have to be because they will be expected to do so. I fully believe Welbeck is capable of chipping in with 10 goals to due to his innocuous playing style. He somehow manages through sheer determination to find himself in positions to thrive and with a bit of added composure and improved finishing, he could be a real asset to the team. Whether he can make it onto the pitch and stay there is a whole other matter.

OLIVIER GIROUD

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Premier League Record:

  • Games: 173
  • Goals: 70
  • Assists: 23

Since Lacazette has arrived at the Emirates, Giroud has been demoted to the bench indefinitely. The Frenchman can count himself unlucky as he has always given a decent account of himself. However, when looking at his goal tallies, they don’t scream world class. Since his arrival, his highest goal tally in the league for one season is 16 which he accomplished in 2013/14 and 2015/16. However with his new role coming off the bench, he has flourished and scored a number of important goals, most recently the header against Leicester in the opening fixture. Having him coming off the bench when defences are tiring is a luxury that not many teams can boast and there is no doubt that Giroud will be an important asset as the season progresses.

All in all, Arsenal have an embarrassment of riches that can match up to any in the league. It will be up to Wenger to utilise them in the best way possible to secure the best outcome. The aforementioned players boast a number of different traits that will be needed at various times in the season such as pace, height and physicality. All will be needed to produce at various stages of the season and will be expected to be the difference when they are put on the pitch.

 

 

SHOULD WILSHERE AND COQUELIN COME BACK IN?

Arsenal have made an indifferent start to the 2017/18 season. Currently sitting in sixth place on 13 points, they are only two points off the top 4 but are already nine points behind table-toppers Manchester City. It already looks like the title is out of reach for the very few that thought Arsenal had a chance at winning it. It seems like the same problems continue to show their ugly head. No midfield balance, not tracking back, and a lack of steel. But for the two midfielders that this piece is centred around, you would be hard-pressed to find people that attach those qualities to these academy graduates.

The centre midfield position in football is fundamental for any success. The engine room of the entire team has to function as a cohesive unit as the focal point of the team. In recent games however, the Arsenal defence has been lacking the creativity in that area that is needed to push the team forward. To highlight the lack of creativity coming from that area of the Gunners, the only two players with more than one assist this season are Granit Xhaka and summer signing Sead Kolasinac. To put that into perspective, table toppers Manchester City have six players who have multiple assists this season with David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne combing for 11 themselves. Granted that chief playmaker Mesut Ozil has been in and out of the side due to injury, but it’s evident that Arsenal are in desperate need of more creativity.

 

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Wilshere has been phenomenal in the limited minutes he has been afforded

 

That’s where Jack Wilshere comes in. His performances in the Europa League this season have had an extremely nostalgic yet upsetting feel about it. He has marshalled the games and been the driving force behind everything good that has happened with the team. In his most recent performance against Red Star Belgrade, it was clear to see why the Gunners faithful were clamouring for Wilshere to return to first-team football. In the lead up to the winning goal, he and Walcott played a beautiful 1-2 pass and Wilshere returned the pass with an outrageous outside of the boot spinning pass that highlighted the guile and unorthodox thinking this Arsenal attack has been lacking. But with a severe injury record, Wenger’s tentative approach to Wilshere is understandable. In a season where he is playing for a new contract, allowing him to play the game at 100% is imperative rather than risking a further injury setback.

With the current personnel that the Gunners currently have at their disposal, a change in formation to a 3 man midfield with 4 at the back could suit them best, and this could mean the reintroduction of Francis Coquelin. The man nicknamed ‘The Policeman’ by club legend Thierry Henry has steadily fallen down the pecking order due to the form of others and injuries. Brought back from Charlton to feature in a starring role in the 2014/15 that culminated in a starting role in the FA Cup final, Coquelin was instrumental in the middle of the park. The partnership he formed with Santi Cazorla was instrumental to the success that Arsenal found but with the acquisition of Granit Xhaka, he was demoted to the bench. However, the Frenchman does have a unique skillset that nobody else in the team does. Not the prettiest on the ball, his rugged approach to the game and ability to snuff out opposition attacks has been missed in the middle of the park as Ramsey and Xhaka have been frequently exposed to the counter-attack.

 

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Coquelin has found playing time difficult to come by this season

 

The Xhaka-Ramsey pivot in the middle of the park offers the back 3 very little protection with Ramsey often finding himself closer to the opposition goal rather than our own. A switch in formation to bring in Wilshere and Coquelin could prove fruitful adding steel but also creativity. However, it is highly doubtful that Wenger utilises this formation because it would force Ozil into a wider position unless Wenger was to run a diamond formation and put two strikers up front. The two Arsenal graduates could easily find their way back into the team as their qualities are few and far between in the rest of the squad, but whether this will happen remains to be seen.

ARSENAL’S ‘EASY RUN’ OF UPCOMING FIXTURES

After a rocky start to the Premier League season, Arsenal have found a little patch of form and have moved towards the right end of the table. After an exhilarating home opener with Leicester, Arsenal suffered defeats to Stoke and Liverpool. The performances were dire and the players looked completely disinterested. The #WengerOut brigade was in full voice, calling for Wenger to leave the club and let someone with a fresh outlook on management assume the reins at the Emirates.

However, all that seems to be in the distant past now as Arsenal have registered three clean sheets on the spin. The Gunners bounced back from their embarrassing defeat against Liverpool with a comfortable 3-0 win against Bournemouth. This was followed up by a morale boosting 0-0 draw against Chelsea where the Arsenal side was reminiscent of the team that went to the Etihad Stadium and picked up the 2-0 victory in 2015. Finally, in the past weekend, Arsenal ran out easy winners against West Brom as Lacazette bagged a brace to secure a 2-0 victory.

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Lacazette scored in his third straight Premier League home game against West Brom

Despite a tumultuous start to the league, Arsenal are only six points behind the brilliant Manchester City. With favourable fixtures on the horizon, it is imperative that Arsenal build and maintain momentum before their back-to-back clashes with Manchester City and Tottenham in November.

What this Arsenal side has exhibited in the past is, once they have momentum on their side, they can quickly establish themselves as an elite team capable of some sumptuous football. With the next four Premier League games reading: Brighton (H), Watford (A), Everton (A) and Swansea (A), this period of the season is paramount for Arsenal to pick up points and move their way up the table to the positions that they need to be in.

With Arsenal facing Manchester City, Tottenham and Manchester United in the space of one month, the security blanket of picking up points is essential to the success of Arsenal’s season. Failure to do so could result in the teams higher up the table moving so far out of sight that Arsenal are forced to evaluate their season objectives. The juggernauts that are the Manchester clubs will prove where Arsenal are as a squad and club and whether the performance at Stamford Bridge was a fluke. Losses in these games could send the season spiralling as the murmurs of Arsenal having an inferiority complex against bigger teams will arise again.

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Ozil should be in contention to start after missing the Chelsea game through injury.

Arsenal fans are still salivating at the thought of Ozil, Sanchez and Lacazette stating together. Due to injuries and the form of other players, the attacking trio haven’t started a game together. The fixtures approaching will prove the perfect platform to test whether this attacking tandem can bare fruitful results and provide the foundation for our attacking unit in the future.

Wenger has done a very good job already this season of utilising the large squad size to keep all the players fresh. With the first team well rested and injury free, Arsenal will be looking to take advantage of their favourable fixtures and pick up maximum points from these coming fixtures and turning their attention to mammoth fixtures they have coming in November and December.

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