Opinion: Wither Arsenal? No It’s Prosper Arsenal!

Opinion: Wither Arsenal? No It’s Prosper Arsenal!
March 16 22:31 2019 Print This Article

A about a week a ago, I wrote an article questioning Arsenal’s preparedness to achieve their set objectives for the season- qualify for Champions League by finishing at least fourth on the EPL log, and win the Europa Cup.

They came back with a resounding answer that shook Old Trafford. Now they are firmly in control of their fate. Unai Emery seems to have toughened the spine of Arsenal players, March which in Wenger era, was usually a month for spiraling collapse has become the month for consolidation. 

What changed in Arsenal? How did Unai Emery and his Arsenal side come this far in his first season? Can they go all the way and achieve their goals? In the last years of Wenger era, Arsenal were largely predictable, they played their game without adapting to neutralize the tactical game plan of their opponents.

They suffered heavy defeats against the top teams in the EPL and Europe. The 5-1 & 1-5 (2-10 aggregate) score line against Bayern Munich in the 2015/16 UCL round of 16 is a classic example. Many players retained their places in the team despite poor performances in consecutive matches. Jack Wilshere, Mesut Ozil, Mustafi, Cech kept their places in the team without putting in the required shift.

There was a level of complacency tolerated by Wenger which is not found in any top team. In Wenger’s last home outing in Europe, Arsene’s team played against a 10 man Diego Simone’s Atlético Madrid in the first leg of the Europa Cup semifinals for nearly the entire duration of the match, yet contrived to ‘gift’ Antoine Griezmann an equalizer that proved to be their undoing in the return leg.

Fast forward to the present Arsenal team under Unai Emery, players are required to “work” for the team, attacking players are required to defend from the front. Ozil lost his place because of his fragile frame and low work ethics. Ozil remains Arsenal’s top earner and unquestionably the most creative player, yet he has a way of “disappearing” in big matches.

Wenger tolerated him but not Unai Emery. There has also been a switching of tactical formation and players to counter the game plan of opponents. Where Wenger remained rigid even in the face of a massacre, Emery has been flexible. 3-5-2, 3-4-3, 4-3-3, 3-5-1-1 are some of the formations adopted this season. Each formation is usually fluid and collapsible, 3-5-2 seamlessly becomes 5-3-2 or 5-4-1 as the case maybe .

Unai Emery has also made more changes, for tactical reasons at halftime during matches this season than Wenger did for many years combined. There’s also the Lucas Torreira factor. The diminutive Uruguayan, took to the EPL like a fish to water, providing the defensive cover that had been missing for many years. A box to box player in the mould of N’Golo Kante, Torreira added a few goals to crown his all round display, non more delight than his goal against Tottenham FC at the Emirates Stadium. 

Unai Emery’s demand for increased work ethics with or without the ball from his players, impacted positively on many Arsenal players as they stepped up their games. Rob Holding, Alex Iwobi, Ainsley Maitland-Niles , Granit Xhaka, Mkhitaryan have all found better form under the Spaniard.

A long list of injuries to first team defenders- Rob Holding, Sokratis Papastathopolous, Hector Bellerin, Nacho Monreal was responsible for Arsenal’s first loss away at Southampton, after a 22 match unbeaten run.

There was a brief spell of loss of form by the team, at Anfield against Liverpool and at the London Stadium against WestHam, the team has since regrouped, putting aside the Unai Emery vs Mesut Ozil feud that affected team cohesion and bonding.

In recent weeks, Unai Emery has shown a commendable knowledge of players at his disposal, Mustafi who was responsible for the loss to Man United at the Emirates last season was an unused substitute this time around! Also, Matteo Guendouzi who earlier on in the season was a regular feature in the Arsenal starting eleven, recently has not featured in the last two crucial matches- against Man United and FC Rennes of France. Guendouzi though possesses a high work ethics but often dilly dally on the ball, losing possession in crucial areas and putting the team on the edge.

Stephan Lichtsteiner during the season has shown that he has since past his A game which endeared him to many in Turin- Juventus, he has rightly been out of the team and will likely be off loaded along with the likes of Mohamed Elneny, Carl Jerkinson, Mustafi and a few others.

Arsenal will not be involved again in any competitive match in March, so the team is heading to Dubai for warm weather training in preparation for the final push for honour. They will return to action in April to take on their remaining eight matches in the EPL against tricky, dangerous opponents like Wolves at the Molineux Stadium, Watford at Vicarage Road, Everton at Goodison Park, Leicester at King Power and Burnley at Turf Moor!

These teams are below Arsenal on the EPL log but on their home turf, they are about the most difficult to beat. Liverpool, Man City, Tottenham, Man United and Chelsea can attest to this! Arsenal’s home form has been impressive this season, with Man City accounting for the only loss at the Emirates but Crystal Palace has dared to dent Man City’s title aspirations at the Ehtihad this season, posting a famous 2-3 victory.

Arsenal will do well to take heed during their visit.In the Europa Cup, Arsenal will take on FC Napoli in the quarter finals, with first leg at home at the Emirates ( fixture schedule reversed by EUFA to accommodate former cup holders, Chelsea.) Both legs promise to be tricky affair.

A look at the remaining teams in the competition indicates that Arsenal can punch their way to the title as the contenders are well within their weight category. Arsenal will do well to avoid baiting the referees with their new found physical football as shown by their recent harvest of red cards.

A win with comfortable margin at the Emirates will lay foundation for advancement into the semifinals. Arsenal has improved on many fronts, especially their work rate, and the harder you work the luckier you get maxim might smugly suit their armor, keeping them safe from bizarre referee’s game changing decisions.

A European Cup at the Emirates, something that eluded Wenger in over 2 decades, will surely lift the spirits of long suffering Arsenal fan and set the mood for something special next season. Prosper Arsenal! We wait!!
Soni Gold is a football enthusiast and Arsenal fan

  Article "tagged" as:
view more articles

About Article Author

The Ajasa News
The Ajasa News

View More Articles
write a comment


No Comments Yet!

You can be the one to start a conversation.

Add a Comment