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Before the 2015/16 season had begun, several football writers tipped Arsenal to be genuine title contenders. Four games in and I bet they now wish they had taken the realistic approach and predicted that Manchester City would win the league, just like I did. Obviously one month is not enough to make any proper conclusions, but Manchester City have come out of the blocks with one thing on their mind – the Premier League title. In their first four games, Manchester City have scored 10 goals and kept four clean sheets. Arsenal on the other hand have only scored one goal themselves, with the other two being own goals and they have kept two clean sheets.
Arrogance and complacency
This was apparent in Arsenal’s very first game of the new season. Clearly feeling encouraged by their pre-season success, Arsenal just thought that they were going to beat West Ham. Well it turned out that West Ham had other ideas. Arsenal were beaten 2-0 by an organised and tactical West Ham United. They looked lethargic and out of their depth and West Ham took advantage of that. This attitude is nothing new for Arsenal. Last season Arsenal lost 2-1 to Swansea after being 1-0 up. Wenger was about to bring on Walcott and Wilshere before Sanchez scored in the 63rd minute. After this, they were not brought on until the 79th minute. By this time the game had been turned on its head and Swansea were 2-1 up. This is an example of Wenger’s arrogance, because he clearly believed once Arsenal had scored, they would be able to retain their lead until the end. The decision to delay the substitutions was ignorant and ultimately cost Arsenal the three points. There are many examples to support this point and I’m sure Arsenal will provide more this season.
Lack of natural leaders
Arsenal don’t have many leaders on the pitch. If Laurent Koscielny or Per Mertesacker are injured or unavailable for selection, who do the players listen and look up to? Mikel Arteta, who in my opinion should be on his way out, never mind club captain, spends more time on the treatment table than he does on the pitch. Like him or loathe him, John Terry is Chelsea’s leader. He is the man in charge at the back and he is a dependable figure in the team. Whilst Mikel Arteta spent much of last season injured, John Terry didn’t miss a game for Chelsea as they successfully claimed the title.
Injuries, injuries and more injuries
Arsenal always have players out injured. Last season, they had 14 players injured. These included Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott, Laurent Koscielny and Aaron Ramsey. Even though there have only been four games played so far this season, Arsenal are missing two key players. Jack Wilshere suffered a hairline fracture of the right ankle, in training, the day before this season’s Community Shield and Danny Welbeck, who was only expected to miss a few games, has been struggling with a knee injury since the 26th April.
Not enough strike options
The 19-year-old striker Chuba Akpom scored a pre-season hatrick for the Gunners and despite Wenger saying he wouldn’t send him out on loan again, he did just that. Wenger is a manager who believes in youth, but for some reason he sent Chuba back out on loan to Championship side Hull. This leaves Arsenal with Giroud, who is the only out-and-out striker at the club. While he scored 19 goals in 36 games for the Gunners, there is room for improvement. I am a big fan of Giroud but he cannot lead Arsenal’s attack on his own and he shouldn’t have to. Arsene Wenger did not signing any attacking players in the transfer window this summer and Arsenal will suffer as a result.
The only thing Arsenal are motivated to retain is the FA Cup because that’s the only trophy they have won in recent years. Looking at the other clubs who made the top four last year, Arsenal are the team with the least motivation. Chelsea won the league last season so they will be motivated to retain it. Manchester City had a bad season and are determined to regain the form that propelled them to the title two seasons ago. Manchester United have been below par ever since Sir Alex Ferguson left and Louis Van Gaal wants to launch a successful title charge. All of these teams have things to prove – except Arsenal. The Gunners have been in the Champions League for 17 consecutive seasons and they are yet to win the coveted trophy. In fact, they have been eliminated at the last 16 stage for the last five years. There is no point in being there if you cannot compete. Arsenal just make sure they secure a place in the top four so they can receive the Champions League money.
I am an Arsenal fan, but I cannot ignore the facts. Arsenal are lacking in a number of departments and this is exposed when their key players become injured. They have only signed Petr Cech in the summer transfer window and whilst this was a brilliant acquisition, I am among millions of Arsenal fans who expected more. I never envisaged Arsenal as title contenders for the 2015/16 season. What the Gunners fail to realise is that the Premier League is a marathon, not a sprint. You have to be consistent throughout rather than having a good period at the beginning or the end.
Featured image: all rights reserved by Ronnie McDonald.
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