Saturday, 29 March 2014

Arsenal's incapability to close out matches:

Frustration: Arsenal have struggled to close out matches this season, costing them points
Unlucky: Arsenal have been punished in matches that they should have won.
Hello again everyone and welcome to my latest blog post, where I look at the demise of an Arsenal side that started the season off well, winning the matches that they needed to with a good run of form - but gradually fell from first place and are currently in a battle to try and keep pace with the other teams in the top 4 (Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool) 

Arsenal's incapability to close out matches, and what it means about their overall performances:

Arsenal have come under some criticism (harsh perhaps?) over the past few weeks after their lacklustre performances of late - which have seen them fall from first place and struggle to keep pace with league leaders Chelsea along with Manchester City and Liverpool.

Their 6-0 thrashing against Chelsea last weekend showed that they were not at the required level to challenge for the league title as of yet - from the start of the match when Eto'o scored in the 4th minute the players' heads dropped and their performances suffered as a result.

Their 2-2 draw against Swansea during midweek highlighted the fact that they are currently unable to close out matches against the weaker teams - conceding in the dying seconds of the match (albeit an unfortunate own goal by Flamini)

Here are the matches that they have failed to close out this season, or should have won to prove that they are title contenders:

Arsenal 1 Aston Villa 3 - opening day of the season
Well perhaps it was a blessing in disguise. Everyone was calling for Wenger to resign after this game, then he silenced his doubters for a few months after a good run of form, with their next loss in the league coming against Manchester United in mid-November.

West Brom 1 Arsenal 1 - October 6th, 2013
Regardless of the fact they were trailing, their 1-1 draw away from home at The Hawthorns was two points lost instead of one point gained for The Gunners, who had Wilshere to save Arsenal's blushes. Started the game slowly and were taken advantage of at the back. Lethargic performance.

Arsenal 0 Chelsea 2 - October 29th, 2013 (Capital One Cup)
Even though this was a cup match, most Arsenal supporters would have appreciated a good domestic cup run to boost their hopes of ending a 8-year trophy wait.

Losing 2-0 to your London rivals at home is never ideal, especially when both goals could have been prevented and the players Wenger decided to use for the game struggled to live up to the billing. It just reiterated the fact that Chelsea's squad is bigger and has more quality than Arsenal's. Disappointing.

Manchester United 1 Arsenal 0 - November 10th, 2013
It may come as a surprise to see this fixture listed as a game that Arsenal should have won, but it's true. The game was open for both sides throughout, and Arsenal failed to take their chances while former striker Robin van Persie took his opportunity to head home past his old club and celebrate like mad. Questions asked whether Arsenal should have sold him, let alone to a RIVAL. Painful.

Arsenal 1 Everton 1 - December 8th, 2013
Everton are a quality team with good players, do not get me wrong here. But after breaking the deadlock late on thanks to a fine strike from record-signing Mesut Ozil with just over 10 minutes to play of the match, surely you would tighten up the defence at the back and hold out for the win?

Not Arsenal. Lost ball possession in a key area of the pitch, failed to track back with pace and were eventually beaten by the fast footwork and good dribbling of Ross Barkley and substitute Gerard Deulofeu who hit a great strike past Szczesny with only a few minutes to play. Everton did what Arsenal should have, and stayed strong at the back for a vital point. Take note Mr.Wenger.   

You can see a pattern emerging here already can't you? What makes it worse is the lingering fact that there is still more to come...

Manchester City 6 Arsenal 3 - December 14, 2013
Another game that Arsenal should have made the most of, but paid the price for some weak defending under pressure from City and conceded 6 goals.

City were 2-1 up at half-time with The Gunners fully in the knowledge that they could still get a good result out of the match, but sloppy passing resulted in Fernandinho making it 3-1 a few minutes after the restart and although Walcott pulled a goal back just over 10 minutes later, City were the team that took their chances in an open game from start to finish.

You can debate whether Arsenal deserved to get something out of the match or not, especially having conceded two late goals from Fernandinho and Yaya Toure, which added gloss to the scoreline in which both teams had equal opportunities to score - with the hosts taking their chances. Frustrating. 

Arsenal 0 Chelsea 0 - December 23, 2013
The second meeting between the London rivals this season ended in a score-draw game on a wet night at The Emirates. Chelsea held tight at the back and forced Arsenal to make errors, with their hosts struggling to beat Cech from close range.

Arsenal should have won this game, not just because the match was at home but because of the importance of the game. Playing against title contenders should give you a boost and make you hungry to beat them regardless of what time of the season the match is. Just before Christmas, Arsenal looked more focushed on Christmas celebrations and eating their turkey than winning pivotal games. Lacklustre. 

Southampton 2 Arsenal 2 - January 28, 2014:
It's similiar to the Everton match in the sense that Southampton are a good side with lots of youth talents and good players in their team, but you would expect Arsenal to beat them comfortably. It was an even match, one that The Saints took their chances in and scored twice against The Gunners (thanks to Fonte and Lallana) with strikes either side of half-time. 

Arsenal found themselves trailing and needing inspiration, with Cazorla and Giroud making it 2-1 in the 52nd minute before Lallana equalised. Southampton held firm and even had a few half-chances to win the game late on, but Arsenal failed to show why they deserved to be classed as real title contenders. Same old story, struggling to find their feet early on in the match and then conceding before waking up dramatically towards the end when they are already losing. 
A point gained for Southampton, two points lost for Arsenal. 

Liverpool 5 Arsenal 1 - February 8, 2014: 
Arguably one of the worst performances of the season from an Arsenal side. Not just the scoreline, but the way the team played and how their heads' dropped as soon as Skrtel broke the deadlock with a header from an inswinging cross from Gerrard in the first minute. Yes the goal was offside but those things happen. 

The worst thing you can do after conceding is turn off. And of course, that's what Arsenal did. Skrtel made it 2-0 in the 10th minute with another power header after some sloppy man-marking from the corner kick before Sterling and Sturridge got in on the rout to make it 4-0 in 20 minutes. Yes. 4-0. After 20 minutes. 

The sad part is that Arsenal improved significantly in the second-half (despite Liverpool keeping themelves comfortably in-front) and showed the kind of dogged performance that they should have performed from the first whistle. Liverpool's counter attacking with pace was too much to handle on the day, but when can you say a top four team loses a game against one of their rivals 5-1. Huge disappointment. 

Arsenal 0 Manchester United 0 - February 12, 2014:
Not good enough. United travelled to London in the hope that they could get a good result out of Arsenal, a side that needed to beat them in order to keep pace with Chelsea and City, who both beat United earlier on in the season. It was a case of not taking their chances for The Gunners, who were denied by a goal-line clearance from Valencia as well as some impressive stops by de Gea who saved shots late on from Cazorla and Giroud. 

Stoke City 1 Arsenal 0 - March 1, 2014:
Well then. Losing away from home against Stoke is one thing, but the fact of the matter is that Arsenal cannot claim to be title contenders and lose to a team that are currently struggling in the league. Whether the penalty was a penalty or not (which in my opinion it was not) - Arsenal should have still taken their chances and not relied on a draw having played simply "meh" throughout the game. Story of the season.

Chelsea 6 Arsenal 0 - March 22, 2014:
The same again. Just if you thought it couldn't get any worse after the 5-1 rout against Liverpool, The Gunners shipped 6 goals against their local title rivals Chelsea at Stamford Bridge LAST WEEKEND. It makes you wonder if they are actually title contenders, or if they just choke under pressure when playing against the bigger clubs. Apart from Tottenham and Liverpool (the 5-1 thrashing was actually a surprise, believe it or not), Arsenal struggle in big games, when it really matters.

Maybe that's why they have not won anything in 8 years. They have improved, do not get me wrong there. Just not good enough, as of yet. Flashes of brilliance, and then disappointment. 

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