One has to wonder what goes on at shooting practice behind the sacred doors at London Colney. Despite racking up a more than healthy number of goals in the club’s last handful of games, I have become more and more frustrated at the amount of simple chances that appear to evade the team all too easily. Rather than winning 4-0, we could be winning 8-0 without breaking a sweat, and the psychological messages that those types of results send out are priceless.
Looking at the stats from each of Arsenal’s Premier League games will paint a picture of team who, I feel, are under-achieving in the shooting department.
Starting off with the first match against West Brom. Sitting in the stands at the Emirates I could not contain my nervousness as Arsenal had failed to capitalise on any of their chances, bar the one in the 4th minute, and had therefore left the door ajar for West Brom to snatch a point. During the match Arsenal had 18 shots on goal and could only manage to convert one. At the start of the season a team is always going to be slighting lacking in terms of sharpness, but guilt-edged chances that were handed to Adebayor and Bendtner on that day did not go unnoticed.
Next up, the dark day at Craven Cottage. Arsenal’s final shot tally came in at twelve in comparison to Fulham’s six. If there was further evidence as to why Arsenal lost three points that day, look no further than the lack of edge possessed by the Gunners front-men. Van Persie missed a simple opportunity, Adebayor hit the post when he should have headed home, it’s these moments that can shift the momentum of games, and it was clearly the case against Fulham.
Back to the Emirates and a polished performance dismissed a solid Newcastle side by 3 goals to nil. A fantastic result, but fans were left to question, why wasn’t it more? Over the 90 minutes Arsenal had 19 shots on goal with a majority of them (12) on target. Step up, Emmanuel Adebayor, as once again you must receive your award for best chance missed for yet another match. Gallas skied a tap in as well, but forgiveness for him is easier to find as he didn’t score 24 goals last season like a certain Togolese striker I’ve heard of.
Ewood Park, and yet another classy demolition of a well-organised and consistent team in Blackburn. Adebayor atoned himself for his howlers in earlier Premier League games with a hat-trick, however, this time it was the passing decisions that cost us cheap and easy goals that were there for the taking. Walcott, Adebayor and Eboue stormed away on the break from a corner, all Walcott had to do was pull it back to Eboue and it was a tap in. Alas, Eboue was denied a rare Premier League goal by Walcott’s high and wide shot. Another tap-in went begging a matter of minutes later, as Van Persie opted for beating Robinson at his near-post rather than cutting it back for the unmarked Adebayor on the edge of the six-yard box. This apparent selfishness was even cottoned onto by Wenger, who stated “I am after my players to make the right decision and many times you see when a player shoots, someone could be in a better position. So I want my team to be capable of making the right decision without being greedy.? Maybe it was a lapse in concentration that saw Kolo Toure choose to take the more appealing option of trying to karate kick the ball into the net, forgoing the easier and more efficient methods with included heading or the conventional kick. Either way Toure somehow turned a glorious chance into yet another miss. At the end of the day Arsenal had had 15 shots on goal.
This theory is also applicable to the team’s European outing on Thursday and yesterday’s victory at Bolton. Both matches should have been over at half-time with Adebayor seemingly incapable of finding the net in both and the post becoming Bolton’s second best player on the pitch (Jasseklainan being the best). Nails were bitten until the 87th minute when a slick Denilson goal injected a much needed dose of relief straight into Arsenal fans’ bloodstream.
But am I just being brutally harsh and unforgiving? Should I just shut-up and settle for 4-0s and 3-0s like a Man United fan would? The simple answer is no. While I am more than pleased with the recent results that have provided more than enough eye candy in the form of goals, I want more. Football is not just a physical sport, many of football’s greatest battles are fought in the mind, and mentally, Arsenal need to toughen up. The way in which Arsenal can mentally rattle their fellow Big Four members may sound far too obvious but it is simple: take more of their chances.
It doesn’t sound like anything new, in fact even when I read it back it looks a little stupid, but it will make much more sense in due course. If Arsenal could take just two more of there abundant chances their scores would read around 5-0 or 6-0 nearly every week. Psychologically these two extra goals are massive, when the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and Man United look across to Arsenal’s results they will see a monumental amount of goals the team is capable of scoring, and regularly too. In turn, this will put far more pressure of the rest of the Big Four to score as much as Arsenal and win as easily.
But isn’t that the case now? Partially. The rest of the Big Four will no doubt recognise the threat posed by Arsenal this season, but they, like all of us, will also see the skip-load of chances that have passed the team by. If these teams can construct a sturdy defensive performance, that they are all capable of doing, they could feel confident that Arsenal will not take any of their chances, the numbers of which will be reduced due to the rest of the Big Four’s defensive quality. However, If Arsenal are more clinical with their finishing and score the majority of their opportunities, then the rest of the Big Four will be quaking in their boots, as they would know that any chance given to Arsenal is one that they would take.
It may sound both callous and greedy to ask for more goals from the Gunners considering that they have scored 11 in their last 3 Premier League games. But as pundits and mangers alike repeatedly state, to win the Premier League you need that little bit extra. Looking back to last season, if Arsenal had been more opportunistic at Old Trafford then the trophy may have been at the Emirates, and the same applies for the painful amount of games that the team drew. When it comes to games that decide the winners and the runners-up Arsenal may be left to rue taking none of their usually guilt-edged chances. Arsenal may be top of the table now (maybe not even that depending on when you are reading this) but in order to stay there, clear-cut chances like ones the team has missed in every Premier League game this season, need to be taken with aplomb.