You dominate a game for more than 80 minutes, not letting the opposition have a sniff of the ball and building attacks after attacks and yet end up drawing 1-1 against a team totally reluctant to even come out of their own half. Sounds a bit too familiar, doesn’t it? That’s exactly how Arsenal have blown more than a handful of chances to make the title their own in this season alone. The consequences thereof are there for everyone to see.
They’ve gone from being the title favourites earlier in February to a side clinging desperately to their fourth spot that could yet be snatched away from them by whom? Manchester United, a side that has hardly even got going this season; and that does seem a possibility given how clueless are the Gunners starting to look with every game passing by. Don’t be surprised if they end up dropping points against West Bromwich Albion too, just as they did back in November at The Hawthorns Stadium.
What was notable in their 2-1 victory was they used their physical prowess to a great extent and were excellent even with just 25% possession which is what they’ll look to do on Thursday night too. A possible solution to tackle it may be starting Olivier Giroud in place of Danny Welbeck to be able to have a better chance of winning the ball in set-piece situations in either half. Mind, that’s not to suggest that Welbeck isn’t good enough, it’s just that Giroud’s ability in the air will help the Gunners do as much damage as it’ll help them prevent.
Another similar tactical change should see Per Mertesacker being picked in place of Gabriel. We all know what the big German is up to when it starts to get more physical. That said, the changes will only help if Arsenal show the keenness that’s been missing for some time. They look like an uninterested lot (even though they’ve scored a few goals of late) that’s being forced to play against the will.
They’ve been more about half-measures rather than whole-hearted performances which is understandable having seen how toxic the atmosphere is at The Emirates Stadium, but this is where professionalism comes in. Being professional Football players, you’ve got to give your all even if the stadium is half-empty (watch out for the attendance in this fixture).
They might not be competing for silverware, but there’s a lot that’s still left to play for. Arsenal certainly can’t afford another defeat.
“It is important, of course,” Arsene Wenger said. “We want to win our games, instead of focusing the table I think it is very important to focus on the process and quality of what we do.
“At the moment that is frustrating as there is a lot of quality in our game, but we have not exactly got the wins that we wanted. We have to focus on that.
“We want to finish as high as we can. It is not a consolation, it is about getting the best out of the team and focusing and giving everything in every single game. We need to show we have the mental level to compete until the end.
“Our job is to give absolutely the maximum until the last day of the season. You expect that from ambitious, professional football players.
“We have values at this club that we respect and that we have to respect until the last minute of the season.”