Three lessons Arsenal and Arsene Wenger have learnt so far
Dipak Patel analyses Arsenal's season so far
That Wenger’s squad still needs strengthening
Over the summer, Arsenal brought in Mathieu Debuchy, Calum Chambers, David Ospina, Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck. On the face it, they seem decent additions. But the squad has been stretched to its limits as the injuries have piled up. Particularly in regards to the defence as Laurent Koscielny and Debuchy are still a few weeks away from first-team action. In their absence, young players have been thrust into action earlier than expected. Chambers has been asked to fill in at centre-half and has also played a number of games at full-back. He is a very talented player but in an ideal world, Arsene Wenger would have liked to ease him in rather than throwing him in at the deep end. Circumstances have dictated otherwise, and even academy product Hector Bellerin has made two appearances this season. It makes you wonder why Wenger didn’t invest further in defensive reinforcements. What is even more surprising is that he sold Thomas Vermaelen to Barcelona, only leaving two senior centre-halves in the squad. This has culminated in Nacho Monreal (normally a left-back) playing alongside Per Mertesacker. However, it isn’t just in defence were Arsenal look short, they are still lacking a top-class defensive midfielder. Mathieu Flamini is often given the role but not only does he lack the technical ability, he also lacks the physical presence. He also seems to lack the required discipline and often vacates his position leaving a big gap in the centre of the field. Problems such as these have left the Gunners 11 points behind league leaders Chelsea. Managers are normally reluctant to buy players during January but Wenger will have no choice if they are to close the gap and challenge for the title.
The mental fragility has not gone away
Arsenal are lacking leaders. Well, according to Paul Scholes who spoke in reference to Wenger’s ‘Invincibles’ team. He said: “When I look at the team that played on that day, there were plenty of leaders, especially Patrick Vieira. In those days, Arsenal wouldn’t be bullied. The absence of those kind of players is one of the reasons they don’t win league titles any more and won’t win it this season”. Scathing remarks, but ones that have become more evident in recent weeks. They lost to Anderlecht in the Champions League, blowing a three-goal lead. They also allowed Swansea to come from behind and beat them after initially scoring the opening goal. This is something that would never have happened when Arsenal had players like Tony Adams, Martin Keown, Vieira and Dennis Bergkamp. It seems that discipline and leadership are non-existent in the current squad. There is a particularly striking image from the recent game against the Swans where Arsenal had seven players running back to try and stop the counter-attack. The middle of the pitch was completed vacated and a red shirt was nowhere to be seen. Wenger recently said that the ‘balance between attack and defence was improving’. It seems a strange statement in light of recent events. This is also not a new problem that has arisen. Fans and pundits have been criticising them for the past few years and it has been one of the main reasons they have failed to win the Premier League title.
But at least they still have Sanchez
It has been a difficult season for Arsenal fans thus far. But they can take some solace from the performance of their Chilean superstar Sanchez. The £35m summer signing always seems to have the answer and even when he is relatively ineffectual, he still gets on the score-sheet. He has proved particularly valuable as Olivier Giroud has been injured for the majority of the campaign. Sanchez has been the main source of goals having scored 11 in all competitions and seems to be forming a good understanding with fellow attacker Danny Welbeck. Having a consistent goal scorer in the team has been a problem ever since Thierry Henry left, but Sanchez is making a good case to score more than 20 goals this season.
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