The first half of the season is over and it’s time to have a review. We should be doing far better and the fact we are already thirteen points behind the leaders Chelsea and more or less out of the title race is unacceptable.
Here are some key points to take from the campaign so far:
1.We have already won a trophy this term.
When you say “a trophy”, the Community Shield is not exactly the first to come to mind. Nevertheless, we won it with a convincing victory over Manchester City (3:0).
2.Our defending has been below par ever since preseason.
Ever since preseason we have had plenty of problems defending, especially set-pieces. It was like watching a pre-Mertesacker Arsenal conceding goals from corners and indirect free-kicks on a regular basis.
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Most of us had hoped that with the BFG’s return from a World Cup hangover would help solve our defensive issues it didn’t happen. Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny’s long-term injuries didn’t help either as we lost the presence of two important jumpers in our box for three months, so most of our opponents used their aerial prowess to punish us during that period.
3.We have failed to win a game against other clubs from the Top 7.
Everton 2:2, Tottenham 1:1, Chelsea 0:2, Manchester City 2:2, Manchester United 1:2, Liverpool 2:2. Six games, zero victories, four draws, two defeats. Not good enough. Here is another shocker: we have failed to score first in each of the aforementioned games.
4.Alexis Sánchez is a world-class player.
With all due respect to Mesut Özil’s performances in the first half of the last season, the Chilean has been arguably the best player Arsenal have had since Thierry Henry signed for Barcelona. It may sound as an exaggeration but it’s true, if you ask me. Incredible work-rate, ability to score, ability to create a goal, never-die attitude…makes the Chilean a true champion.
5.Danny Welbeck needs to score more goals.
The Englishman should have scored from his first chance for Arsenal – against Manchester City – but hit the post. It’s not like he is not a good player – he has been impressive in some games and has already scored his first hat-trick for Arsenal – but his finishing needs improvement. He has missed too many chances so far and that’s something he has to change in order to avoid the fate of Gervinho.
6.Injuries have been our biggest enemy.
Wilshere, Ramsey, Özil, Walcott, Arteta, Diaby…six midfielders are out. Prior to that, we also had all three French internationals on the sidelines (Debuchy, Koscielny, Giroud), both left full-backs Gibbs and Monreal were out due to injury at some point while the Colombian keeper David Ospina has hardly had a chance to put Wojciech Szczesny under serious pressure due to injuries. Something is happening with our players and the answer is still unknown.
7.The referees haven’t been helpful either.
We have had a lot of issues with referees last season and it has been a similar story this term as well. Gary Cahill should have been sent off when we visited Chelsea at 0:0, Cesc Fabregas’ handball should have been punished with a penalty at 1:0 for Chelsea, Mo Diame scored an equalizer for Hull after using his hands to get Flamini off balance, Marouane Fellaini was offside and fouled Kieran Gibbs just a few seconds before Gibbs scored an own goal to give United the lead… These are just some of the few examples of referees doing a poor job against us this term.
8.We haven’t been able to kill off the game…
Leicester 1:1, Manchester City 2:2, Hull 2:2, Swansea 1:2, Liverpool 2:2… In all these games we had a lead at some point but failed to keep it as our defending was poor.
Our match against Anderlecht in the Big Cup is another example and if we add our defeat in Capital One Cup against Southampton after taking a lead, it makes seven games in which we couldn’t keep hold of our lead. Too much for any team in the world. Our recent two victories were nail-biting despite being two goals up in the second half.
9….but we also refuse to die.
We came back to beat Crystal Palace in the opening league match, we came back from being two goals down against Everton, we came back from conceding the first goal of the game against Manchester City, Spuds and Liverpool respectively, we got our equalizer against Hull in the last minute of the game and the victory over Southampton was secured in the last minutes of the match. We also won the game against Anderlecht away after being a goal down in the 89th minute while with a little bit of luck we could have made a come-back against Stoke after being three goals down.
10. 4-1-4-1 and Özil on the flank don’t work.
We have struggled to adapt to 4-1-4-1, especially when Özil was sent to the left wing. He is a natural central attacking midfielder and when he starts on the wing it doesn’t work.
11.Santi Cazorla is alive!
The Spaniard has been impressive lately and one of our best players. He didn’t have the best opening few months but since the match against Stoke, Santi has been immense.
12. Everything is still open.
Or almost everything. Being 13 points behind Chelsea means our title challenge is probably over but we can still compete with Manchester United for third place (just three points ahead of us) and maybe even Manchester City for second.
The Citizens will have to play without Yaya Toure when the African Cup of Nations starts and Sergio Agüero won’t be back before the middle of January. If they lose a few matches – including the one against us that will take place when Yaya Toure goes with his national team – and we find some winning form, their second place won’t be that safe.
The second half kicks off tomorrow. Happy New Year & the second half of the season to all of you, Gooners!