The weekends result was no doubt painful, losing to your nearest rivals always is, but there is a sense from some quarters that we should be concerned at how the rest of the season will pan out.
From my perspective there’s no reason to panic as we have been on a good run with impressive wins, particularly against champions Manchester City. In our final 14 games we face nine teams who are currently in the bottom half of the table; this represents a great opportunity to move up the league significantly in the final three months.
These are the teams that we have had little trouble beating in the past few years, as the above graphic clearly illustrates, as opposed to our struggles against the top teams. All six of our defeats this season have come against teams currently in the top 10 in the Premier League, although this is a problem we have to solve if we want to be challenging for the league title again, it’s not something that will be crucial for a good finish to this season.
Playing Leicester at home so soon after the Tottenham loss is a big benefit for the squad because we can get back to winning ways and start to put the weekend’s result in the past. The momentum built during the five match-winning run has taken a big knock but the team has shown it is capable of bouncing back from losses with positive results this season.
What seemed to be lacking at the weekend was the presence of Alexis Sanchez in the side. He has been such a catalyst for our team this season with his work rate causing problems for opponents. Welbeck provided some of this but only just returning from injury didn’t allow him keep the intensity up for the entire match, he was substituted in the 78th minute.
Welbeck will certainly be a welcome addition back into the squad after injury. He is a very versatile player who seems to feel comfortable playing anywhere across the front, his role in Mesut Ozil’s opener at the weekend was very impressive as he carried the ball from halfway past a number of Spurs defenders before finding Giroud who inadvertently found Ozil for the opener.
Carrying the ball is vital against teams who employ a high pressing game, as it relieves pressure and causes opponents defenses problems; no defender likes a player running at him with pace.
Arsene Wenger will have some big decisions to make once everybody is back and fully fit, especially in midfield where there will be many options to choose from and it will be key to strike the right balance in an area where games can be won and lost. It will be very interesting to see how Wenger uses Wilshere when he is back because he can be such a difference maker in the middle of the park but tends to be quite wasteful in the final third, his lack of goals is always something that has to be added to his game if he wants to make the next step in his career.
That said it will be a lovely problem to have for Arsene Wenger as he has the likes of Cazorla, Rosicky, Ramsey, Ozil, Coquelin to choose from. Rotation will be vital and this will keep players fresh and avoid them becoming over played and subsequently risking injury; which nearly derailed our run in last season before key players returned to get back on track.
With a favourable run of fixtures there is no doubt that Arsenal will be looking to make up the ground they lost on Saturday afternoon, the loss to Tottenham will still linger but a strong finish to the season will no doubt soften the blow.