This Premier League season has been filled with inconsistencies, mixed performances, injuries, absences, and missed opportunities for Arsenal. Frustrated fans have seen points lost in key games, the 1-1 draw with Burnley being the latest and although I agree that Arsenal were victims of the officials, football’s inept technology, and the foggy interpretation of its regulations, you have to blame the players for failing to do their jobs.
There were enough chances to kill off a dogged Burnley and perhaps a score of 2-6 would have been just, but squandered chances meant another two points lost. Quite what Mikel Arteta can do with this eclectic mix of skills as they clatter through the fixture list is a mystery. If possession isn’t made to count and the ball doesn’t end up in the net, a mid-table finish this season is, perhaps, all Arsenal deserves.
There may still be worse to come depending on the result of the NLD which is purely academic at the moment, but fans will feel that Arteta must win this battle just to save face or to reassure fans that the side still has some semblance of purpose or pride left.
Of course, the players aren’t doing it on purpose and they haven’t always had their share of luck, but there are still many major flaws in the Arteta prototype and its ability to play out from the back with confidence and purpose continues to haunt Arsenal frequently this season.
Leno’s decision to pass to Xhaka was suicidal given his position with Burnley players in advanced positions and Xhaka’s botched pass can only be the result of him not looking up when he tried to pass to David Luiz. As is so often with Xhaka, he occasionally has the attention of a four-year-old child noticing a sweet shop on the other side of the road, failing to notice the traffic in between but this draw wasn’t his alone, some performances simply weren’t good enough.
The players that Arteta has relied on for so long just couldn’t deliver including Tierney and Saka who were both fairly quiet. Saka had a chance which was of his own making but it narrowly went wide. Had it gone in, Arsenal may not have laboured so against a Burnley side’s intent on grabbing whatever points were available.
Aubameyang still struggles to make his presence count against stubborn defences and some think that he is “a left-wing, cut in, one-trick pony” and his goals tend to support the theory, even if it’s a tad harsh and reactionary. Odegaard is like an artist at his easel, his talent is obvious but he toils over his work and only occasionally convinces himself that he has any ability at all. Ceballos and Odegaard share a bench at Real Madrid and at times, it’s abundantly clear why.
This is the problem with the loan deal for me, it’s the players or their club’s ability to cash in their chips regardless of where the roulette wheel stops. At the end of the season, Arsenal will have assisted Madrid to re-evaluate the pair and ensure that their club employ them by adding them to their already bulging ranks or selling them in for an unrealistic sum.
The players themselves can choose to turn their backs on Arteta knowing that their stay was the equivalent of a gap year or in the case of Ceballos, two. Really, what is the point of sense of the loan player if it weren’t due to depleted finances?
Arsenal’s engine also isn’t up to scratch and the components either don’t fit well or are completely at odds with each other, which tends to make Arsenal look incredibly poor or average in several fixtures. Four managers (Wenger, Emery, Ljungberg, and Arteta) have been unable to resolve the well-worn blueprint of the high press and space suffocation which sees Arsenal capitulate and roll over to much weaker opposition.
The tactics change, the faces alternate but the problem remains the same and at the heart of the problem is the pairing in central defence that is constantly changing. Cite injuries if you like to make yourself feel better, but Arteta doesn’t appear to know his best pair because they all have their flaws from lack of pace, awareness, and cohesion.
One can easily compare this Arsenal side to Frankenstein’s monster, at times functional, cumbersome and awkward, with the potential to do good things but desperately confused by the assorted parts and what it should or wants to be.
Yes, it’s early days, I get that, and time is required, probably three or four more seasons of this but I’m just pointing out what we all see every week and try to gloss over as loyal fans. It’s a collective failure of its parts and there is no quick fix.