The commonly thrown accusation at Arsene Wenger is that he doesn’t do tactics and his team always play the same way irrespective of the opposition, it’s the same against City away as West Ham home. Wenger has also acknowledged this by revealing that he focuses on his own team rather than the opposition.
Tactical naivety against the big sides away from the Emirates was cited as one of the reasons behind Arsenal’s futile title charge. The drubbings at Chelsea, Liverpool and City were far too much to take and ultimately derailed Arsenal. But was it those away games that really halted the Gunners?
Arsenal’s fantastic first half of the season was built on the results against the lesser sides in the league. Apart from the freakish Villa game, they swept aside the other sides. A point at West Brom in early October might be a little less glamourous but Liverpool, Chelsea,Tottenham all managed just a point at the Hawthorns. Our run until the start of December was fantastic, the Everton game started the rut and it wasn’t until the boxing day fixture against West Ham that we managed a win. We should have actually won the Everton game. Also I believe whenever we met the big sides we weren’t in our top physical and mental levels. We travelled to Naples on Wednesday and played at Manchester on Saturdaylunchtime.
Was that the ideal preparation? The result was so damaging that we weren’t at our best against Chelsea and it was the same scenario against United at home, that time around Liverpool did the damage.
So the team that beats the fellow top sides must run away with the title, unfortunately that isn’t the case. Chelsea haven’t lost to Man City, Liverpool or Arsenal, in fact they have won 5 of those fixtures but they are virtually out of the title race now. You can’t be Champions if you lose out to Sunderland and Palace.
I remember Manchester United won the title in 08-09 having beaten only one of the then top 4 sides. (Chelsea at home) They lost to their nearest challengers Liverpool both home and away, lost to Arsenal at Emirates, drew with us at home but romped to the title with a game to spare.
It’s not always the games against the big sides that decide the titles. Sure it helps the team’s confidence and announces a statement of intent, but at the end of the day you get only three points. Three for edging Liverpool and the same for thrashing Cardiff.
Arsenal are the best at beating a side that ought to be beaten. Just to make a case for this opinion, what if Arsenal managed to beat Stoke away and secure all three points against Swansea at home. I am definitely not stating that Arsenal would have won the title had they won those two games, but we would have at least mathematically stayed in the race.
Bang in the title race!