One win in 12 matches across all competitions says it all. Arsenal are mired in a sticky mud of incompetence, ineptitude and crippling insecurity. The Gunners lack any kind of identity in their performances at the moment, and the ‘new manager bounce’ has not materialised under interim boss Freddie Ljungberg. Doom and gloom pervade throughout the Emirates Stadium at a time of year when jolly good cheer should be the order of the day.
After such a bad run, there is at least solace to be had in the fact that the top half of the Premier League table remains extremely tight. Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur have proved in recent weeks that a sudden upturn of form, and a few successive victories, can see a team return to top-four contention. Although Arsenal are outsiders for a top-four finish in the Premier League latest odds, if they can pull a few results together in quick succession, fortunes may change.
At the moment, however, that seems unlikely. Ljungberg is struggling with the pressure of the job, and resources are stretched at the club. Per Mertesacker is assisting the Swede with first-team duties whilst simultaneously working his full-time role as the club’s academy manager. When Unai Emery was sacked, several coaches left along with him, and no replacements have been brought in. With confidence low and demands high, it’s easy to see how the Gunners are failing to hit the right notes.
It was hoped that the 3-1 win over West Ham United would reignite the spark in the team, and provide the belief that has been lacking this season. But after the subsequent draw with Standard Liège in the Europa League, and a 3-0 home humbling at the hands of Manchester City, spirits are low once more.
It’s clear for all to see that a decision needs to be made on who the new manager will be. It’s understandable that the club’s hierarchy are being thorough in their search for the right man, but time is of the essence if Arsenal are to avoid being left behind in mid-table obscurity. With Chelsea losing at home to Bournemouth recently, the gap between Arsenal in ninth and the Blues in fourth is still only seven points – a margin not insurmountable with more than half the season still to play.
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The close nature of this current season benefits Arsenal, but gradually the gaps will widen. Ljungberg is evidently not the man to take the club forward on a permanent basis, and whoever does come in will need some time to assert his influence and restore the confidence that has been dampened at the club.
A lot can change in a short time in football. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer proved that at Manchester United last season, instantly breathing life into the club after the stale latter days under José Mourinho. If Arsenal’s new manager can instil a similar spring in the club’s collective step, then a charge towards the top four in the second half of the season is not an unrealistic target.
There are plenty of quality players at Arsenal capable of putting together a winning run. In Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, the Gunners possess a rip-roaring forward duo. In Mesut Özil, they have an attacking midfielder capable of inspiring moments of magic. In Matteo Guendouzi, they have one of the most promising defensive midfielders in the league. Sadly, these talents were unable to truly flourish under the tepid Emery reign, and Ljungberg has not been able to reverse the slide.
The club need an experienced head to take the reins, someone who knows what it takes to effect positive change at a big club. Otherwise, Arsenal can kiss goodbye to any hopes of a return to the Champions League this season, and embrace the dark abyss of the Premier League’s middle reaches.
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