During the international break, Arsene Wenger would have surely been dreaming of a completely different outcome to the 2-1 defeat his side suffered against Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
Wenger would have been happy with his side in the first-half. Despite missing a few chances here and there, Arsenal dominated Manchester United, but failed to find the back of the net on many occasions.
Arsenal were wasteful in front of goal and it cost them. Although, I don’t believe that is Arsenal’s problem, neither do I believe that is why they went on to lose the game. For me, the game changing moment came in the second-half when Jack Wilshere was forced off with an injury, after a nasty tackle from young centre-back Paddy McNair.
Wilshere was replaced by Santi Calorza and Arsenal were chasing the game. Any Arsenal fan, or any football fan for that matter, knows what Jack Wilshere brings; a player that shows his true determination and passion on the pitch. While Wilshere is not the Arsenal captain, he shows all the characteristics and knows exactly what it means to be an Arsenal player.
Wilshere could definitely go on to become a future captain, both for club and country, however, I don’t see this happening until he is able to add maturity to his game. As seen against United, he has the tendency to let himself down occasionally.
His absence highlighted a key issue for me – the lack of leaders within the Arsenal squad. Too many of the ‘steady Eddies’, if you will. I feel the Gunners did not have enough players that were looking to stand up and take responsibility for the team, or take the game to Manchester United, too many players who would prefer to take the easy sideways pass.
So far this season, Arsenal have been heavily reliant on the goals of Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean has scored nine of Arsenal’s 20 league goals, and many fans and pundits have stated that Sanchez has been carrying this Arsenal side alone this season.
Many are aware of the injuries that the Arsenal squad have suffered, however, all this shows is that Arsenal have players that are simply ageing and diminishing. I also think the team has too many players who are there for their work rate. For instance, Mikel Arteta, who has been under scrutiny recently. I personally believe he played well against United. However, he never looked like being able to win the game for Arsenal.
Aaron Ramsey has been a shadow of the player he was last season and, like many others within the Arsenal team, has failed to find any kind of consistency this season. Cazorla is in a similar position. He created a couple of half chances, but is another that can shy away from responsibility now and then.
This is no doubt a result of Arsene’s transfer policy, with players like Cesc Fabregas allowed to slip away from the club. With Chelsea looking like run-away leaders, Arsenal will need to focus on improving on last season’s fourth placed finish, but I feel they need another one or two major signings in order to do so.
Saturday’s game was definitely one that Arsenal could and should have won, but they ultimately come up short.
I believe that are a number of players that might just be past their best in the Arsenal ranks, and definitely too many players that look to pass on the responsibility to their team-mates. This may be a result of nerves or a lack of confidence, but things will surely need to change if Arsenal want to start challenging for the Premier League title.