Friday, August 19, 2022

The Good And The Worrying: Assessing Arsenal’s Season So Far

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Subhayan Dutta
Subhayan used to be the Featured Columnist at The 4th Official. Completely immersed in football and almost all other sports on planet.

When Arsenal went down 3-4 to Liverpool on the opening day of the season at home amidst a lacklustre and frustrating summer transfer window, Wenger was under heavy criticism. The defence looked spineless and the team as devoid of any confidence. It was followed by another draw at Kings Power Stadium against Leicester City which left Arsenal reeling in the second half of the table. Nobody had predicted that the team would go unbeaten to the second international break from there with such a shaky start, though.

Since the opening Blues, the Gunners have found the balance in the team and the inclusion of Shkodran Mustafi at the back with Laurent Koscielny is responsible for that. With all the top teams giving unfaltering performance against smaller teams, the table is pretty much tight at the top with just 2 points separating the top four teams.

Arsenal are currently fourth behind Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City with 24 points and the although the initial months have seen some inspiring performances from the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Theo Walcott and lately Olivier Giroud, the team has to improve a lot in the pivotal midfield area.

Weaknesses

After Arsenal’s brilliant 6-goal attacking display against Ludogorets in the Champions League where four Arsenal players had scored with the team beaming with confidence, the Gunners were stopped by a rock solid performance by Middlesbrough.

It was then realised that Arsenal had no real replacement for Santi Cazorla. With Granit Xhaka still working on his discipline, Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny were perfectly good for interceptions and ball recovery, but Arsenal missed the defence ripping passes from the deep midfield that caught opponent’s defence by surprise. Boro were able to get back and organise every time before Arsenal recovered the ball and went for the counter. The match remained goalless.

Another glaring crack in the team is the still nascent partnership between Koscielny and Mustafi. It had almost put Arsenal on the back foot after leading for more than an hour against Sunderland. Bellerin, Monreal and Gibbs have started brightly though.

Strengths

The different thing Arsenal are doing this season is that they are attacking with intent. With Sanchez in the false number 9 position, Wenger has liberated Ozil, Walcott and Iwobi. They can express themselves to the fullest, which has led to their rejuvenated form. Between Sanchez, Walcott and Ozil they have 14 goals.

Giroud’s unusually good form and Xhaka’s ability to find the back of the net from 30 yards are two of the new attacking dimensions Arsenal are gifted this season. Alex Iwobi has shown tremendous composure on the ball and it is a matter of time before he breaks the shackle in front of goal.

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