Nine wins in a row has a way of exciting supporters about the prospects of their club. For all of us at We Are The Arsenal, it has gotten us thinking about just how far Unai Emery’s team can go in his first season in charge. Is the excitement justified? Or are we simply being set up for a letdown? Our writers give their take on where this Arsenal team can finish the Premier League season.
Muhammad Uways Nisar – The Defence Is Too Weak?
Arsenal as contenders? Let’s be honest, funnier things have happened in the world of sports, so why not? However, if we are being honest with ourselves, there is more chance of Watford winning the UEFA Champions League this season than Arsenal winning the Premier League (no offence). In the current seven-game winning streak alone, Arsenal have struggled to maintain a solid enough defence to break into the top four, let alone compete for the top honour of English football.
Most games in the current seven-game winning streak in the Premier League have shown that Arsenal don’t possess the defence to put up a significant title challenge. Struggles in every game both home and away have seen Arsenal only win due to the inability of their opponents to finish their chances. Both Watford and West Ham could’ve and should’ve left the Emirates Stadium with maximum points, however, fell short due to their inefficiencies up front.
However, Leicester City’s struggles to keep clean sheets in the early part of their title-winning season of 2015-2016 is enough to maybe give the Arsenal defence hope that they too can improve as the season goes on and possibly spring a surprise. Then manager Claudio Ranieri famously said he’d pay his squad with free pizzas if and when they kept their clean sheet, after a run of no clean sheet in the early part of the season
Whilst there remains a question over their defence, there remains no question over Arsenal’s attacking threat, with the both of Arsenal’s strikers on four Premier League goals for the season, Arsenal possess the necessary firepower to win a title in seasons to come.
Overall, I believe Arsenal will fall some way short of challenging for the Premier League this season, with both Liverpool and Manchester City running away with it, due to stronger defences.
Lorihanna Shushkova – Don’t put too much pressure on Unai Emery
Firstly, we shall not forget that Unai Emery is not a magician. Well, almost. Every Arsenal supporter has dreamed about watching Arsenal play beautifully again. And we should admit It kind of happened, so I could give Emery a credit on this. The Spaniard brought a whole of a new emotion at the Emirates and not only the team started to play as one, but they all look happy, hungry for better results and the best out of it – enjoying the game. It looks like he has the last word in the dressing room, a clearer vision on how and where to use every player and last but not least the courage to take control of things and take a risk. Well, that is something we haven’t seen quite a lot in the last few years. For all of that, he may have used some kind of magic, yeah.
But let’s be honest – there is something missing. Whether it’s the solid defence, the faster defensive transition or some midfield issues. Whether it’s Aubameyang’s positioning when he’s playing alongside Lacazette, Ramsey’s expiring contract or Mesut Ozil not playing to his potential – there are issues that will cost the team some points until the end of the season. As Muhammad mentioned, there are better-prepared teams as Manchester City, Liverpool and even Chelsea. The Citizens are driven to get back-to-back titles, Liverpool is flying high following last season’s events and Chelsea has Hazard and should never be underestimated. Arsenal has Aubameyang and Lacazette but still, a lot work to be done.
In my opinion, it’s easier to believe that the Gunners are contenders for the Europa League title, rather than the Premier League one. It’s unrealistic to put so many expectations on Unai Emery who came to a war zone and is trying to save the dignity of the kingdom. Let’s give him some time to win this battle first.
Devante – Dark Horse Contenders?
The Gunners may be looking like the dark horse in the just-begun Premier League campaign, although, most people may disregard my opinion but the signs are vivid – with some group having concerns about the defence of the Arsenal team.
Thus far, Sokratis has been a good buy for the Arsenal team alongside Lucas Torreira who is marvelling in a midfield partnership with Granit Xhaka. Unai Emery slowly integrated Torreira into the first team and is now seen as a key member of the first Xl.
Despite going six points in the first couple of games, behind rivals Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City, the Gunners currently sit in fourth position – two points behind these rivals, who have amassed 20 points thus far but are yet to lose a match.
The real question everyone seems to ask is if the Gunners can be title contenders, seeing them win all of their football matches since their last defeat against Chelsea back in August. Well, my answer is a bold YES, the Gunners are definitely title contenders and here are my reasons.
So far, Arsenal has registered over eleven different goal scorers across the different competition they’re involved in. The team isn’t reliant on a particular player or group of players to score goals.
Although Lacazette, Aubameyang and Welbeck have 15 goals shared amongst themselves thus far in all competition, the team is still not solely dependent on their strikes to produce the needful, as the team looks more than able to produce goal scorers at any time.
The tenacity Emery has brought to these players is wonderful to see and every player now plays for the team and as a unit. With the players still adapting to playing from the back, which has its perks – although, sometimes leaves the team at risk of danger shows the team isn’t fully on the same wavelength with Emery’s tactics but will only get better with the work done on the training ground
Emery is yet to find that spark partnership that could solidify his defence, which has seen a host of their opposition at times walk into their defence easily. With Laurent Koscielny retiring from international football and making his way back from injury could prove a defensive partnership right with Sokratis who has been the Gunners best defender thus far, although Koscielny’s best years are far behind him.
Rob Holding has impressed when called upon and Mustafi has been great in the last couple of games he has featured in for Arsenal, but, maybe the return of “LOLO” could be essential to the Gunners cementing their defensive duo.
Nate Smith – Top 4 Challenge More Realistic Than Title
Are the Arsenal genuine title contenders? Logic says they aren’t. So too does the natural inclination of most Gooners to expect a letdown. Hell, even a moderately attentive viewing of their rivals could reveal enough about the strength of others to cast doubt on the validity of Arsenal’s challenge. However, despite deep flaws and a lack of clarity on the future roles of several integral players in the side, there Arsenal sit, just 2 points off the top of the table, very much in the thick of the battle for Champions League qualification.
The attack is certainly of the requisite quality to compete. Many have already discovered the alarming difference between the Gunners’ expected goals stat and their surprising efficiency in front of goal this season. The discrepancy has many worried that the attack will recede to the mean once the luck in front of goal runs out. I, on the other hand, am not as concerned. While the attack may stop converting such a high ratio as the season progresses, the team has yet to click in their build-up play. Arsenal are winning in spite of a lack of cohesion between the midfield and attack. If they are able to iron out their troubles in transitions and develop a more consistent approach to getting the ball into dangerous areas (and at the feet of its most dangerous players), any drop in their finishing can be more than compensated by an increase in chances created.
The defence, one must admit, has a lot more work to do. The Gunners have conceded more quality chances this season than all but the porous Fulham defence, which is simply not good enough for a team with title hopes. Despite the current run of wins, we have yet to see a notable improvement in the Gunners’ ability to snuff out attacks before they become dangerous. Too often, the midfield and full-backs are caught far up the pitch chasing the play once the ball is lost or their initial press is bypassed. Unai Emery still has not found a stifling centre-back pairing to shut down opponents for 90 minutes. This team may be good enough for a legitimate top-4 challenge, but without significant strides being made on the defensive side of proceedings, a title challenge will remain unlikely.
And yet, there remains hope. The Gunners have shown themselves capable of beating anyone outside the top 6, which is something that had let them down in recent years when chasing the top of the table. The signs of improvement are there, on both sides of the ball. We can talk about the searing attack, the lacklustre defence and the new feeling of optimism until we are blue in the face, but ultimately the Gunners’ title credentials will be settled by one thing: whether or not they can beat their top 6 rivals. The battle for Champions League places, and the title for that matter, will be a war of attrition. Whichever team survives with the best record against the rest of the top 6 should be positioned to take home the trophy. Can that be Arsenal? Honestly, it is a year too soon to be talking title. But top 4? I would be shocked if they don’t.