Arsenal were on a dubious run of form in the Premier league, three matches without a win mounted some serious pressure on Arsene Wenger’s side to respond against a struggling Sunderland outfit. The Gunners managed to beat the resilient visitors and claimed all three points in Saturday’s 3-1 win at Emirates that restored some much needed confidence.
Here are 10 key points to take from the victory.
1.Petr Čech should have a word with his team-mates – the amount of own goals are bordering on ridiculous.
It’s one thing when your opponents keep shooting at your own goal – it’s what they are supposed to do after all. However, when you have to be keep an eye on your team-mates as well, that’s an entirely different story. Mikel Arteta scored an own goal against West Brom, Gabriel forced a spectacular save from Čech against Norwich, Olivier Giroud scored a clumsy own goal against Sunderland and if Čech hadn’t spared Flamini and Monreal from blushes either side of Giroud’s unlucky attempted clearance we could have spilled at least two points against Sunderland. Let’s not forget that Calum Chambers has already scored two own goals this term while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s own goal against Dinamo Zagreb and David Ospina’s blunder against Olympiacos are standing between us and the Champions League Round of 16 right now.
I don’t know if it’s down to a lack of communication, lack of positional awareness or due to the clumsiness of our players in our third of the pitch but it is something we should iron out in the forthcoming period.
Thank God we have Petr Čech, one of the best goalkeepers ever between the sticks to prevent own goals from killing our season.
2.Something is wrong with our offside traps.
If a caveman had hunted animals using our offside traps, he would have never tasted meat. We have had serious problems with that side of our defending because of a lack of pressure on the ball. As a result, Robert Lewandowski, Harry Kane, Bafetimbi Gomis and Duncan Watmore have all been granted one-on-one with Petr Čech in the last month-and-a-half with mixed results. That sort of defending won’t win us the league, never mind the Champions League. Čech, with all his brilliance, can’t save every single shot.
3.Our set-piece defending has been awful.
It has been one of our biggest, most obvious problems since the opening league match against West Ham. We have lost three games in the league this season, in each one of those we have conceded twice and in each one of those the first conceded goal came after a free-kick (Cheick Kouyate, Kurt Zouma, James Morrison). Olivier Giroud didn’t have the best day in terms of set-piece defending against Sunderland – he scored an own goal after Yann M’Vila’s free-kick and was beaten at the near post after a corner but Čech made a crucial save to deny Steven Fletcher.
It’s been a huge problem that has to be addressed as soon as possible.
4.Mathieu Flamini and Aaron Ramsey are yet to click together.
It’s always a huge blow to lose your established midfield to long-term injuries, especially when you don’t have ready-made replacements. Even when you do, it’s difficult to make them click immediately.
It seems that is exactly what is happening with the Flamini-Ramsey axis. Whilst Ramsey has already surpassed Santi Cazorla’s record of goals from an open play in the last eighteen months (2), he left Flamini to cover huge parts of the pitch on his own too often. Ramsey’s desire to go forward might leave us with a soft center as Flamini doesn’t have the pace to emulate Francis Coquelin. It went unpunished against Sunderland but Yaya Toure, David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne won’t be so forgiving in two weeks time.
On a positive note, it’s good to have Rambo back in a central midfield role because that’s where he is best. He knows where the goal is and with so many attacking-minded players injured (Alexis Sánchez, Santi Cazorla, Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky), someone needs to relieve the burden from Mesut Özil and Olivier Giroud.
5.Joel Campbell might be at least a very useful flat track bully.
The Costa Rican forward has scored his first goal at the Emirates and doubled his overall tally in an Arsenal shirt. He ran onto Özil’s pass and fired the ball into the net to give us the lead. In the absence of Alexis, we need goals from Campbell as well as his work-rate in defence.
So far Campbell has scored two goals in the league (Swansea, Sunderland) and created a goal in the Champions League (Dinamo Zagreb). A brief look at our opponents suggest that Campbell is good enough to produce goals in games against lesser teams even if that miss against West Brom turned out to be pretty expensive. If Wenger decides to give him a chance to shine against Manchester City, we will find out whether Campbell is just a flat track bully or he can be relied upon in the big games as well. There is nothing wrong in Campbell only contributing against opponents of Sunderland’s stature – after all, Wayne Rooney has scored the same number of league goals as Campbell this term and one of those was against Sunderland with an important footnote: Rooney is paid £300,000 per week (via Daily Mail) and needs 524 minutes per goal compared to Campbell’s 145 minute per goal (via Squawka).
6.Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain needs to man up quickly.
If Joel Campbell’s performance was a positive, The Ox didn’t take his chance against Sunderland. He didn’t produce enough to prove he should be a starter. One might say he is still rusty following the injury against Sheffield Wednesday in the Capital One Cup but then again, Theo Walcott had a longer lay-off than The Ox and looked more lively after his introduction than The Ox had been in an hour.
Oxlade-Chamberlain is extremely talented and should have a career at least as good as Rooney’s based solely on his physical and technical skills but on the basis of his performances this season he is less reliable than Campbell. Whilst acknowledging that injuries have been slowing his progress down for a long time, I have to admit I don’t see Ox setting the world alight this season either. A forward that has been involved in more goals of the opponents (West Ham, Dinamo, Olympiacos, Everton) than of his own team (Chelsea, Newcastle) should make him put a finger on his forehead and analyze where things have gone wrong for him so far.
7.Mesut Özil is…Mesut Özil.
Mesut is the best No. 1Ö…sorry, No. 10 in the world. The German was the best player on the pitch by a mile as his passing skills and movement were enchanting the spectators once again. He has created 65 chances so far so his tally of 12 assists should have been better if his team-mates had been doing their part of the job like Mesut does his (via Squawka). Which leads us to the next point…
8.We have to improve our conversion rate.
Leicester are the only team above Arsenal in the league. They are also the most prolific team in the league with 32 goals but what is even more impressive that it took just 163 chances to reach that tally or 5.1 per goal (via Squawka). Manchester City have scored 30 goals from 197 chances – 6.57 per goal. Leicester and Manchester City have been the only two teams to average two or more goals per game.
Arsenal have been top of the league in terms of chances created (208) but we are only joint third with Everton in terms of goals scored (27) and The Toffees have a game in hand. We need 7.70 chances per goal which is basically the reason why we are not top of the table.
9.Olivier Giroud should be happy with Theo Walcott’s return.
The Big Handsome Frenchman made amends for the own goal by scoring his eighth league goal with a well-taken header but the biggest positive for him should be the return of Theo Walcott. During Walcott’s absence Giroud had to carry all the burden in attack which was visible by his performances. With Walcott’s return Arsene Wenger gets another option for the No. 9 role and a chance to give Giroud a bit of a rest. Giroud still has an excellent minute-per-goal ratio – 110 minutes for a goal is not bad at all (via Squawka) but I believe it will get even better when Giroud starts sharing minutes and the burden with Theo.
10.Calum Chambers picked an assist.
The youngster replaced Giroud and played as a right winger in the final minutes of the game when Wenger decided to tighten things up. Chambers took his chance to pick an assist after his cross-cum-shot found Ramsey in the six-yard-area. It should be a positive moment for Chambers who hasn’t had the best campaign so far.
So, three points are in the pocket and we are second only to Leicester City. This month will be massive for us even if I think January and February are perhaps the most crucial months of our campaign. If we manage to qualify for the Champions League Round of 16 with a victory against Olympiacos, we would get a massive boost before the game against Aston Villa. We owe one to the Greeks so we should settle the score on Wednesday night.