I watched the game against Manchester United on Sunday and Arsenal were atrocious. There is no point in beating around the bush like Arsene Wenger does time and time again. Arsenal are heading for 4th spot, as usual, unless their top players start improving and fighting for the team and the fans. Here are three players that need to find their form in order for Arsenal to get their title challenge back on track.
Since Arsene Wenger insists that his club have the players that they need, Arsenal’s main striker is Olivier Giroud. Now that Danny Welbeck has returned from injury, he provides Wenger with another option but he still needs time to find his rhythm again and get back to full match fitness. Giroud has dug Arsenal out of some deep holes this season, namely the Champions League group match against Olympiakos in December when he scored his first hat-trick for Arsenal. The Gunners needed to win by two clear goals and Giroud made sure that they did that.
The problem with Giroud is his inconsistency. He hasn’t scored since his brace against Liverpool at the start of January. He is still our top scorer with 18 goals in all competitions, 12 in the league, but his performances of late have been rather poor. In my opinion this began when he was substituted in the 22nd minute for Gabriel when Mertesacker was sent off against Chelsea. Wenger made the wrong choice by substituting Giroud and he hasn’t been the same since. Even on Sunday when Arsenal were 2-1 down at Old Trafford and Theo Walcott was not playing very well at all, Wenger did not bring Giroud on until the 63rd minute. Giroud has had many chances of late but he has not been able to convert them and this has not helped his confidence. As our top scorer I hope that Giroud can get among the goals again and help Arsenal rediscover their form.
A hamstring injury at Norwich on the 29th November kept Alexis out until the game against Chelsea at the end of January. When he replaced Joel Campbell in the 57th minute, the roar from the crowd showed just how important he is to the side. It was a huge blow when Arsenal lost Alexis and they were relieved to have him back.
He scored in Arsenal’s next game, the 2-1 win against Burnley in the FA Cup fourth round and was named man of the match but since then he has been off the boil. He has the passion and determination to help Arsenal succeed, but he has not scored since that game and Arsenal are struggling without the Alexis Sanchez that set the Premier League alight last season. If he is involved in the North London Derby on Saturday, Alexis will play a pivotal role in the match. With Spurs flying high, Arsenal also need Alexis and the rest of their big stars on top form.
After being recalled from a loan spell at Charlton halfway through the 2014/15 season, Francis Coquelin has become a vital player in Arsenal’s starting 11. He was brilliant last season and grabbed the chance to break into the first team with both hands. Wenger didn’t buy another defensive midfielder in the summer because he had Francis Coquelin. This wasn’t the most sensible of ideas as Arsenal had become heavily dependent on Coquelin due to his meticulous and dogged performances at the centre of midfield. When he suffered a knee ligament injury in the game against West Brom at the end of November, Arsenal didn’t seem to be affected by it at first. However, it soon became clear just how important Coquelin is to Arsenal’s midfield.
He has been an incredibly effective shield in front of the defence and he was at his best when playing alongside Santi Cazorla who is currently out injured. Coquelin only returned in the game against Burnley at the end of January and just like the rest of the Arsenal players slowly returning from injury, he is going to need some time to get back to the level he was at before. Coquelin played against Man United and gave the ball away for their second goal. But unlike some others, he tried to recover. As former Arsenal centre-back Martin Keown said in his column for the Daily Mail, the Frenchman is fully aware of his defensive responsibilities even when he makes mistakes. Coquelin gives 100% whenever he plays for the North London side and that is what they have been missing in his absence.
There are other players that need to improve for Arsenal from now until the end of the season, but these three are among the most important. Arsenal need to start scoring more goals and Giroud and Sanchez should be involved in that. Francis Coquelin is confident at the heart of midfield and takes some of the pressure of the defence. He is a tough-tackling midfielder who always gives his all and he is exactly the sort of player that Arsenal need as they fight to maintain their title challenge.
Featured image: all rights reserved by Lloyd Morgan.