The greatest threat to Arsenal’s title chances, is Arsenal. We seamlessly transition from the stratospheric heights of sublime perfection to the abysmal depths of hopeless ineptitude. When Arsenal fans are knocking on heaven’s doors, they are advised to declare that they support Arsenal. The range of emotions that one experiences as an Arsenal supporter is quite simply inexplicable in words. While this post may seem to be having the looks of a Shakespearean tragedy, I assure you, it is intended to be more of a wake cup call to the team in red and white. January was certainly a month to forget, as old habits returned to haunt the Gunners. Barring two wins in the F.A cup and a scrappy league victory, Arsenal have accumulated 2 out of a possible 9 points from three crucial league fixtures. There is a saying “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”. Needless to say, the going is now quite tough, and Arsenal must get going! Let’s look back at the month that promised much, but delivered little.
Match of the Month : A Delightful Debut
The January transfer window allowed Arsenal to do some much needed business. The Gunners strengthened their midfield ranks thanks to the addition of a tireless Egyptian. Mohammed Elneny joined us from Swiss club FC Basel and the early signs are quite positive. He appears to be humble, hardworking and like his new Arsenal teammate, Alexis Sanchez, have an incredible engine. Elneny made his debut for the Gunners against Burnley in the F.A cup. Arsenal won 2-1 in the end, thanks to an Alexis masterclass. The fact that Elneny’s performance went relatively unnoticed is a credit to him. Starting out nervously, he grew into the game, and quietly passed the ball around, moved into pockets of space and helped Arsenal circulate the ball. He definitely doesn’t seem like a defensive midfielder in Coquelin’s mould. His style resembles Aaron Ramsey a lot more, and this makes me believe that we could have a Coq-neny midfield engine running our games in the future. While Calum Chambers scored an outrageous outside of the boot finish to give Arsenal the lead, it was Alexis who scored the winner thanks to an incisive counter attack. The game also allowed Arsenal fans to drool over the next big thing coming through from the Academy. Alex Iwobi was absolutely delightful to watch. Playing in the hallowed position of Mesut Ozil, he dazzled the home faithful with a display that Tomas Rosicky would have been proud of. What particularly impressed me is his confidence, and his ability to spray passes around reliably. The kid has a cool head on his shoulders, and has a direct style of play which Arsenal could benefit from for years to come.
Moments to Forget : More Blues for the Reds
Our form in the league this past month has definitely been worrying. After scraping past Newcastle thanks to a Koscielny goal (He loves scoring against them, doesn’t he?) and an inspired goalkeeping masterclass from Petr Cech, Arsenal drew Liverpool at Anfield yet again. The game had all the topsy turvy action that would have had most neutrals gaping in awe. However, it was most disappointing to concede in the dying seconds of injury time. Perhaps we should start a petition for the FA to abolish injury time in Arsenal Liverpool encounters. For some reason, it seems guaranteed that Liverpool will score against us in that period. Joe Allen sent a dagger into the hearts of Arsenal fans everywhere as he equalized just before the final whistle. Following this goal fest, Arsenal were held to a goalless draw at the Britannia against a Stoke side which has vanquished several big teams this season. While both these games hurt us, they couldn’t hold a candle to the sorrow and anguish we experienced as Chelsea beat us yet again, thanks to a sending off courtesy of you know who. While Mertesacker was very careless in making that clumsy challenge on Costa as he headed towards goal, Flamini’s failure to close down Willian led to the opportunity in the first place. We gave them too much respect, and let them dictate play, instead of asserting ourselves on them. How long will this hoodoo continue? Surely, the victory in the community shield should have had some kind of impact on the player’s mentality right? From being top of the league, Arsenal stumbled to the familiar surroundings of fourth position. To rub salt on their wounds, the scum from the neighbourhood went above them in the league.
Talking Points : Deja vu too much?
While a lot of fans have bemoaned the return of familiar failings, I’m curious as to why this slump has happened. Is it fatigue? Is it a lack of motivation? Have we become too comfortable finishing fourth that we’ve forgotten how to win tough games? Another thing we must factor into our judgement is the injuries that key players have suffered. We have done admirably well without Santi, Coquelin, Welbeck, Wilshere and Alexis (for a long spell). However, given that we did well with a similar squad in December, why is it that we have slumped in form in January. There are a couple of players whom I think must really think long and hard about what they are bringing to this team. Theo Walcott has been a shadow of himself since returning from injury. In any game, we really don’t know what to expect from him. Who will show up? Will it be Theo Walcott? Or, will it be Theo Walcott. His profligacy in front of goal, and lack of involvement in the games that have elapsed really make me wonder where the Theo who tormented Bayern last year went. For someone who is earning as much as Alexis and Mesut, and has been at the club for 10 years, Theo is yet to show any reason why he is worth his big contract. Another player who has to step up is Alex Oxlade Chamberlain. You’d be hard pressed to find another youngster with more potential, but after four and a half years at the club, he should be a regular starter. Arsene must also figure out a solution to the midfield conundrum. The combination of Ramsey and Flamini does not have the defensive security that we need to attack with freedom. While Flamini has done his best in filling in for Coquelin, he has not been able to shore up our defense and win the ball back as effectively as the Frenchman.
This is our year. We have to believe in ourselves, and really make an earnest effort to win the league. Leicester, a team with far less resources have done the unthinkable and are sitting pretty at the top of the league. Granted, they only have the league to play while we have the Champions league and cup competitions as well. However, we have far more resources than they do and must do better. There was a moment after the Chelsea game when Petr Cech picked up a forlorn Koscielny off the ground encouraging him that better things were to come. That kind of mentality and never say die attitude is what we need. The difference between us and Leicester is that Leicester seem to be enjoying their football, playing without any pressure as they have surpassed all expectations. We on the other hand are carrying the burden of a ten year title drought, and the pressures that come with it. Our key players are coming back now, and the squad is looking healthier. Let’s start enjoying our football. It’s time for us to seize this opportunity with both hands and bring the league title to North London where it rightfully belongs.