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Arsenal Are Just Never Good Enough
Despite getting off to a start that has gone beyond all expectations, the football pundits continue to dig around for any reason to stick to their idiotic pre-season predictions of Arsenal’s impending doom and gloom. The club is 15-2-2 overall having scored 55 goals, 10-0 at home having scored 33 goals at the Emirates. In the premier league, the club is averaging 3.27 goals per match, a higher amount than any other club in Premier League history at this point in this season. However, the criticism continues… Let’s take a look at the two main criticisms coming from the punditocracy:
Okay, Arsenal have conceded 20 goals in 19 matches. But, in this case, the numbers are a bit misleading. A more important number to look at is goal different
ial, which overall stands at +35 overall, +22 in the league. Yes, Arsenal have conceded goals but how many of those goals have come when Arsenal have had multi-goal leads. How many of those goals came late in a match that was already effectively over? While, it is disconcerting to not be keeping clean sheets, a goal in the last 5 minutes of a match in which you lead 3 or 4-nil is just not the same as an equalizer.
The late goals to West Ham and Alkmaar were quite a different story. These are concessions that matter, but it looks as though we have learned from those mistakes with the first team winning their next 3 matches 3-0, 4-1, and 4-1.
Perhaps our biggest defensive frailty this season has been the keeper. Mannone deputized well but could not avoid some youthful mistakes and Almunia doesn’t seem to be the same keeper he was back in early 2008, when it looked like he could be the long-term number one. This is the one position which differentiates us from Chelsea and United. I believe Fabianski is the long-term solution but his recurring injuries this season have proved frustrating and forced him to miss a prime opportunity to lay his claim to the spot.
Of all the criticisms, this one gets me the most. As the old saying goes, “You can only beat the team that’s in front of you.” Pundits point to the two losses in Manchester, but even they must admit that both were unlucky results and Arsenal were the better side on the day. Certainly there is no shame in losing either of those tough away matches, but the fact that the fixture gods deigned to put them on successive weekends made Arsenal appear, to the pundits at least, as a club in crisis.
However, I would submit that Arsenal’s results even over these smaller teams show much improvement and maturity. Last year, we ignominiously lost at Craven Cottage but this season we came away with a hard-fought 1-nil victory. We also beat Everton away on the opening day, whether they showed up or not, it was a tough away fixture in which Arsenal secured all three points. And, while traveling up north and getting results may have proved problematic before, it really hasn’t been much of a problem in the last 2 years. The only people that think so are lazy pundits who can’t be bothered to check the results and so spew 3 year-old criticisms.
The league is not won in the Big Four mini-tournament. It is won in all the other matches against lesser sides and Arsenal have struggled a bit to get up for these matches in the past. That seems to be behind us as we continually dispatch smaller clubs by multi-goal margins, unlike United who continue to get by by the skin of their teeth.
So Arsenal have only lost to United and City, but have beat the clubs they should have done. What about United and Chelsea? Well, Chelsea lost away to Villa, certainly that has to be more problematic than Arsenal’s loss at City, earlier on when Hughes’s side was actually playing well. But they also lost away to Stoke City. Meanwhile, United have lost to Burnley and Liverpool. What I am saying is that any criticism made of Arsenal at this point surely applies, if not more so, to Chelsea and United.
Arsenal will face its sternest test at the end of January when we play United at home on the 31st and then Chelsea away a week later. The ACN is scheduled to run from January 10th to the 31st. So unless Cameroon go out early, we are likely to be without Song for the United match. More troubling, if Cameroon get to the semifinal or final, he will also miss the Chelsea match. Depending on how their respective players’ international sides fare, Chelsea could have some of their African players back by then. Both of these matches are proverbial six-pointers and they will set the stage for the last 3 months of the season and the run-in.