The thieves take advantage…

An unexpected goal-scoring hero…

Arsenal are beginning to make late comebacks their own, in the same way that Manchester United became renowned for stealing results in injury time when Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge. On one hand, it shows great resolve and character because the team do not know when they’re beaten. However, the fact that it’s nearly November and our performances continue to be so bad that we have to keep relying on late goals to salvage the points is quite alarming. This past week has not been bad in hindsight, as we have come away from three matches without losing, but the manner in which we have played tells a completely different story

The opening 17 minutes of the match against Hull City was very promising. Arsenal had come out of the blocks quickly and were obviously desperate to make a mends for the defeat at Stamford Bridge before the international break. Alexis Sanchez soon put the home side 1-0 up and it surely was only a matter of time until the lead was increased. That wasn’t the case though as Diame equalized (with a rather questionable goal) and the Gunners capitulated from there on in. Soon after the break, the Tigers went 2-1 up and it took the rest of the half for Danny Welbeck to steal the point.

If the Hull game was a light robbery, then what happened last Wednesday evening was a complete smash and grab. It was by far the worst Arsenal performance of the season to date yet we still managed to win. How did that happen? Perhaps it was because I had made the trip to Brussels (lucky European charm)? Or maybe it was a perfectly timed Kieran Gibbs volley and Lukas Podolski’s lethal left foot in a crazy end to the match? Joking aside, we were plain awful and probably should have lost 3-0.

Sunderland on Saturday was another underwhelming and disappointing display but again, somehow we managed to leave the Stadium of Light with all three points. The Black Cats looked like a team who had been beaten 8-0 the previous week and were totally bereft of confidence, especially in defence. If the Arsenal team had put their mind to it, they probably could have ran away with it. Instead of an easy game, we never left first gear and treated it like a training session. Our two goals only came from mistakes so it was more of a mugging this time as opposed to robbery.

It is quite clear that our performances have been below par and I cannot argue that we would have been very lucky to leave Brussels with a point, let alone grabbing a late winner. However, there is at least one obvious positive to be taken from the past two results which perhaps could act as the turning point of our season. For the first time in this campaign, Arsenal have secured back-to-back victories. Hopefully the two away wins can be the start of a streak because our main problem in recent months has been an overall lack of consistency.

Up until now, we have failed to build on positive results. The late win against Crystal Palace on the opening day was followed by an excruciatingly dull 0-0 draw out in Turkey. A week later, Arsenal secured Champions League football for an incredible 17th year in a row but were soon brought down to earth with a bump when new boys Leicester City held them to a draw. The next victory was a comfortable 3-0 up at Villa Park but the euphoria didn’t last long as Southampton soon dumped us out of the Capital One Cup.

Our most impressive win to date was when we demolished Galatasaray 4-1 in a game where Arsenal could’ve and should’ve hit double figures. Again, a disappointing and some might say inevitable 2-0 loss at Chelsea a few days later showed that the triumph in the CL was a one-off. The win out in Anderlecht last week followed by the 2-0 up at Sunderland might be the start of a decent period where we can kick on and continue to grow in confidence. Then again, Burnley could make this whole post irrelevant so I won’t hold my breath. Football is just so unpredictable.

By Glen Shorey

Too many cooks…

The front three that work...

The front three that work…

The past week or so has really been a rollercoaster of emotions for Arsenal fans. It began with the North London Derby, which was immensely frustrating as we dominated proceedings but only managed a draw against an inferior Tottenham team. I remained positive because we played well and on any other day, probably would have taken all three points. My blind (some might call it) optimism was proved right on the Wednesday night when we tore Galatasaray to shreds. That jubilation did not last long as we fell to an inevitable 2-0 loss away at Chelsea.

Derby days against our nearest and dearest from White Hart Lane always fill me with dread because, eventhough Arsenal have always had an impressive record against Spurs during my lifetime, form always goes out the window and you never know what will happen. However, this year felt different. I was extremely confident after the Aston Villa demolition and an XI with Ryan Mason in it does not scare me one bit. I came away from the Emirates feeling confused though. Our performance was decent (69% possession and 16 shots compared to Tottenham’s six) but ultimately we had difficulties finishing off those chances.

As I said, I still remained upbeat what with us still being unbeaten in the Premier League and after the debacle that was Dortmund away I was desperate to start the Champions League properly. I wanted the Arsenal team to send out a clear message to the rest of Europe that they were completely serious about the competition and Gameweek One was a mere hiccup. Danny Welbeck and co certainly proved they have got what it takes to challenge at the top table. While Galatasaray are not the greatest opposition, the 4-1 win showed that we can be an imperious force when we put our minds to it.

Just like after the pleasing result up at Villa Park, we couldn’t follow up a great win with another. Chelsea away is easily the most difficult league game this season but for some reason, I thought we could get something out of the game. I was disappointed we lost obviously but it was a tight game and our display on Sunday was definitely an improvement on the last few years. We could have easily left Stamford Bridge with at least a draw and were not bullied/dominated (as has been the case in previous encounters) so I was satisfied with most of the performance apart from our final product.

Don’t get me wrong; the Galatasaray match was not perfect. For one, it’s no exaggeration to say we should’ve entered double figures (again illustrating our main problem is that we’re not clinical enough as a team) and although Welbeck took his hat trick well, other players need to step up on the finishing front. Secondly, Wojciech Szczesny gave away a penalty and got sent so that’s just another irritating ban for the next game. To be fair to the Polish international, he had no real choice as the attacker was about to score and it was bad news either way. He was simply trying to protect the clean sheet.

Anyway, the reason why we’re so inconsistent is clear to me at the moment. I completely respect Arsene Wenger and would never call for his head (I wear ‘In Arsene We Trust’/’Pro Wenger’ t shirts because I’m fed up of the vile abuse he gets) but that doesn’t mean I cannot criticise him. The issue I have is that we keep changing our system. As usual, injuries are a massive problem so it has been impossible to name the same line-up but that doesn’t mean we can’t play two wingers every match.

It’s no coincidence that our midweek triumph saw Sanchez AND Oxlade-Chamberlain start whereas only one of them started in each of the other two games where we failed to win. Trying to fit in more than two attacking midfielders (i.e. Cazorla, Özil, Ramsey and Wilshere) limits us width wise and makes us predictable. That’s why we didn’t get Fabregas. He’s another central playmaker Wenger would have to shoe horn in so I understand why we rebuffed him. I feel any future success will come about if we play two wingers, with Walcott replacing the Ox when he’s back up to full speed.

By Glen Shorey