For the second weekend running The Arsenal drew away from home, this time a 1-1 draw at Leicester City. But while the draw against Everton felt more like a victory this was very much a case of disappointment and two points dropped. Put simply, if you’re serious about contending for the title then you have to be beating newly promoted and relegation candidate sides.
What was equally worrying was the poor performance. Whilst we’ve been far from perfect in our previous fixtures this season I at least felt like there was a sense of progression; players getting fitter, new signings starting to adapt and gel, and so forth. But on the weekend it felt like two steps forward, three steps back.
It seems to me that the performances aren’t being helped by the unsettled nature of the side, but also what appears to be a change in formation. In terms of the unsettled nature I’m primarily referring to centre back, where we’ve had a different pairing at the start of all three league games, but also in midfield where the manager has seemed to continually rotate his many options. It also appears that our midfield and forward formation has changed from a 2-3-1 to a 1-4-1 and I’m not convinced it’s working, mostly because I prefer to see Özil central and not stuck on the left-wing.
Another aspect of our play on Sunday seemed to be a desire to over complicate things, with Arsene stating that “our game was not quick enough, not sharp enough, not simple enough”. Aaron Ramsey was probably one of the guiltiest in the simplicity stakes, or lack of. As his confidence has risen so has, on occasion, the return of looking for complex passes and additional touches, something Wilshere can also be guilty of. When both stick to basics, keep things simple, and move the ball more quickly they look much better players and we look a much better team for it.
We now head into an international break, returning to action on Saturday 13th September with the visit of reigning champions Man City. Their result this weekend was far from ideal either (a 1-0 defeat at home to Stoke) so both teams will be looking to get back to winning ways when the Premier League resumes.
Away from the field and yesterday was of course transfer deadline day, quite possibly the most vulgar day of the football calendar. That some people seem more excited by such a day, and signings on a whole, than what actually happens on the pitch continues to bewilder me.
That said, it was an important day for us and one that has ultimately left me feeling underwhelmed. There was only one signing made, that of Danny Welbeck from Manchester United. If you’d asked me to list my top five candidates for a new striker he wouldn’t have been on the list. He probably wouldn’t have been there if it was my top ten, fifteen, or even twenty. However, he was on Arsene’s list and he is now a Gooner so he’ll get nothing but my full support from here on in.
At the age of 23 he has plenty of experience (142 appearance for United and 26 caps for England), but also plenty of time to improve. And whilst he may not have been on my list he is arguably better than both Sanogo and Campbell, so offers some additional quality and depth to our forward line. Welcome, Danny, and here’s to many Arsenal goals!
The other area of the field in critical need of reinforcements was defence and I’m staggered that Arsene didn’t strengthen his back line options. It means that between now and the window re-opening in January we have to survive with just six defenders…six! And of those six one had no pre-season (Mertesacker), two had a very short pre-season (Koscielny, Debuchy), one has a habit of getting injured (Gibbs), and one is a rookie (Chambers). It appears that Bellerin and Hayden will be options seven and eight in Arsene’s mind, but that they don’t even make the first team page on arsenal.com tells its own story. I can’t wait to see how Arsene shuffles his defensive pack when looking to rest first team players in the League Cup!
So we got a new striker, but not a defender. If there was a third deadline day signing to target I would have liked it to be a holding midfield player. Reports indicate Arsene shared this view, with an offer made for William Carvalho of Sporting Lisbon. However, the offer didn’t meet the Portuguese clubs asking price so Arteta and Flamini remain our options. I’m not overly concerned by this; after all it was my third priority at the start of deadline day and to have made three signings was always going to be a long shot.
The summer started so promisingly, but I now feel like my bubble has been burst. Early replacements were positive, but much-needed enhancements have not followed. As such, I’m not convinced Arsene has found the desired balance in our squad; in defence we have quality, but not quantity and in attack we have the quantity, but do we have title challenge quality? Only time will tell. Until January what we have we hold, so all we can do now is our own job – to support the Arsenal. Come on you Gunners. Up The Arsenal.