This week could have easily felt a lot worse for Arsenal supporters having watched their side get four points in their last two games, with neither result looking likely for most of Wednesday night and Saturday afternoon.
Coming from two goals down to get a draw at home against Liverpool and scraping a win against Stoke thanks to a deflected free kick, Arsenal’s performances did not exude confidence or class which is sure to worry ‘Le Professeur’.
Whilst many fans were apparently hoping for a new striker to bolster the attack in the transfer window, Wenger only brought in the tidy Spanish left back Monreal in January, seeming to show support for his current squad. This public support may hide the fact he was perhaps priced out of players he wanted to get in due to the financial restrictions he imposes on the running of the club.
This support is also fairly surprising considering the last two performances this week. On Wednesday night against Liverpool the Arsenal midfield did not have the right balance with Ramsey dropping deep, filling in for the injured vice-captain, Arteta. Whilst Ramsey reportedly enjoys getting on the ball more in a deeper role and he is a very competent passer, he cannot compete with a tenacious midfielder such as Lucas Leiva, even though Lucas is nowhere near back to his 2010-11 best. Wilshere and Carzola had little to build on against Liverpool as they struggled to maintain a firm grip on the game in the middle of the park.
Saturday’s showing was better with Arteta returning and a rather lethargic looking Diaby supporting leaving Wilshere to be freer to roam. Diaby and Arteta were perhaps more influential against a comparatively weaker Stoke midfield but still only had 47% possession, a stat no-one would consider good when playing at home.
Defensive nervousness and naivety were the most common traits that Arsenal had on display in North London this week. Neither sets of defences looked strong. Mertesacker was joined by captain Vermaelen for Liverpool and Koscielny against Stoke and the oft-reported ‘incompetent’ German did well against the ball juggling Peter Crouch especially. As a unit however, there is clearly a lot more work to be done, especially with Szczesny’s young confidence deteriorating into cockiness and performances riddled with small but sometimes telling mistakes. If it is indeed Steve Bould’s job to get the defence sorted out, he seems to have a huge job on his hands. The only positive is Arsenal’s current goal difference; both Merseyside clubs have conceded more goals whilst they have not scored as many, leaving them both at least 8 goals off the Arsenal pace.
Fans will always want a new striker as they are traditionally employed to get the goals for their team. Arsenal could count themselves lucky to have Giroud, Podolski and Walcott at their disposal, especially when compared to some of their rivals for fourth spot.
Everton mainly make do with their prolific poacher Jelavic, Liverpool have Suarez to depend on with Sturridge having recently joined and Tottenham have been limited to just Defoe up front and Clint Dempsey trying to rekindle his former Fulham Tim Cahill-esque heyday whilst Adebayor is at the African Cup of Nations.
Whilst all three Arsenal strikers got on the scoresheet over the last few days, they need to find consistency to really challenge for 4th spot. With Podolski and Walcott filling the flanks, Giroud will need to run across the defences, dragging the centre-backs with him much more often, opening up space for Walcott and Podolski to exploit.
Wenger must be pleased he managed to get 4 points from the last two games considering Arsenal’s performances but will know his side much challenge much earlier in games and not depend on his sides apparent ability to always score after conceding to get any chance of claiming the final Champions League spot.