Arsenal may have won 2-1 but Saturday night’s match was an awful watch for their fans. Despite having 78% possession, Arsenal struggled to find the breakthrough and their striker was anonymous.
Same old Arsenal, same old 0-0 draw. Not quite. For a change, Arsenal did get the three points; two goals (Laurent Koscielny, 47 & Aaron Ramsey, 93) from set pieces after Brede Hangeland’s debut goal had put Crystal Palace ahead secured a 2-1 victory for The Gunners. They have Besiktas tonight and then Everton on Saturday, two massive games early in the season. Jack Cairns takes a look at what Arsene Wenger and the Arsenal fans can learn from Saturday’s match.
Wenger must get out his chequebook, again
Arsenal have two weeks left in the transfer window and although Özil & Mertesacker have still to return they looked painfully exposed against a below-par Palace team. On paper Crystal Palace have one of the worst squads in the league and yet they pushed Arsenal all the way.
Mertesacker’s return should shore up their shaky defence and Özil will offer them another creative option but the Gunners need more. Yaya Sanogo looked off the pace and, honestly, not good enough. His touch let him down on numerous occasions and Giroud barely had a look in after he replaced the young French striker.
A striker seems like an obvious move for all the spectators but Wenger seems reluctant to bring one in. Options in this position do seem thin on the ground though with Balotelli judged as too temperamental and pretty much everyone else being too expensive.
This may be Wenger’s headache for the next couple of weeks unless Sanogo can bury a hat-trick tonight and appease the fans. Arsenal are also crying out for some midfield steel to replace the rather weak Arteta, Sami Khedira seems ideal and he’s available. Arsenal fans can dream.
Aaron Ramsey may not be a one season wonder
Ramsey’s late winner summed up what the Welsh midfielder has become for Arsenal fans. When all around him were panicking the 23-year-old kept his head and bundled the ball home. The fans were crying out for someone and step up and Ramsey did, like he has time and time again (let’s ignore the fact the shot was almost unmissable).
He wasn’t imperious throughout, to be honest the whole of Arsenal’s midfield was uncharacteristically poor. Jack Wilshere was nowhere near match sharpness and Santi Cazorla gave the ball away more times in 90 minutes than he has in the last three years and while he was misplacing passes Ramsey slipped under the radar and constantly plugged away at Palace’s excellent defensive shape.
He wasn’t perfect by any means but no footballer is on top form every single week. He’s come on leaps and bounds since his horrific leg break in 2010 and his very slow road to recovery, it’s took Aaron three years but after a year of playing at this level it seems like he may finally have arrived.
With 18 goals and 10 assists in his last 36 games the stats certainly make for pleasant reading. Sky’s Adam Bate sees him as Arsenal’s best player and Jamie Redknapp suggested that the Welshman could fulfill Frank Lampard’s role as the Premier League’s number one goalscoring midfielder. Combine his performance on Saturday with his form last season and they may just be right.
It wouldn’t be an Arsenal game if someone didn’t get injured. Gibbs had to be withdrawn after 53 minutes and was replaced by Nacho Monreal and in his post-match interview, Arsene Wenger revealed he was unsure if the injury was to his achilles, his hamstring or both.
Knowing Gibbs’ track record it will probably be both and rule him out for Tuesday’s trip to Istanbul. Jack Wilshere is also a doubt after Wenger revealed the midfielder was sick in the last few days and that were still concerns over his troublesome ankle.
Yaya Sanogo has also missed out on the squad to face Besiktas and although Laurent Koscielny is in the squad there are doubts over his fitness. Jack Wilshere should take part. Apart from those three or four, it’s a clean bill of health for Arsenal and the Gunners who should welcome back Olivier Giroud as he nears full fitness.
It better be a lack of sharpness
No matter how good Palace set themselves up, you would have expected Arsenal to beat them before the match began. As the ninety minutes played out though, The Gunners struggled to get to grips with the match and their passing was disjointed. Early season lack of sharpness could just be an easy excuse but Arsenal fans will be hoping it’s definitely true.
Without their trademark passing, Arsenal’s expected title challenge won’t even get off of the ground. When Özil & Walcott return they will surely bring some pace back with them and Wenger will be looking forward to that day. Debuchy was the only one with any defensive awareness, probably due to his busy summer in Brazil, and Wenger will be hoping that his other defenders follow suit quickly or Arsenal could be leaking goals quicker than Ramsey can score them.
Arsenal are a couple of players and a couple of weeks short of being at full strength. It’s these sort of matches that Arsenal have to win though, too often the Gunners leave their fans disappointed after being frustrated by an overly defensive side and it may be a cliche but these are the sort of matches you need to win if you’re going to win titles. Although, I think we knew that already. So… what did we REALLY learn on Saturday? Chamakh still needs a haircut?
Jack Cairns, Pundit Arena.