I cannot believe it. Back in early December I was asserting that the Gunners needed to win everything in December in order to keep pace with the leaders … and they didn’t. Draws with Middlesboro, Liverpool, and Villa were amongst the results that also included wins against Chelsea and Portsmouth. But wouldn’t you know it, we’re still in with a chance to win the title. Our saving grace has been the poor form of Liverpool and Chelsea, both of whom will rue the opportunities they had to put some space between themselves and Arsenal (as well as ManU). The big question is whether we’re going to take advantage of this opportunity or whether we’re going to stub our toes against one of the leagues minnows.
Our last two PL victories have been ugly wins, but they’ve been wins. However, there was a serious lack of creativity against Bolton, a team which never really tried to pressure our midfielders the way a better side would’ve. We were allowed to set up camp in their half and push the ball around outside of the box and only challenged when we attempted to come inside. Diaby, Denilson, Eboue, and Nasri appeared unable to pry the defence open and few chances were created. Once Wenger removed Diaby and Eboue and brought on two extra strikers were we able to create a few more chances and the winning goal. It was the second time we scored late to grab the three points, but they really need to raise their game if they hope to take the title. Watching Manchester United hammer Chelsea one could see that the Gunners have a long way to go in order to become a champion. Manchester played with a confidence and directness that the Gunners lack right now. We really should’ve pummelled Bolton and scored three or four goals, which is why we still need to buy someone who can give the midfield a boost.
For me Diaby has been the biggest disappointment. Cesc Fabregas’s injury is the biggest opportunity he’s had to show Wenger just how good he can be in running the midfield. I always felt he had the potential to play Cesc’s position … and I was wrong. Diaby’s passing is not precise enough, he lingers too long on the ball, and he likes to make cute moves which seldom come off. I really think Wenger will sell him at the end of the season if he doesn’t turn things around.
As for the rest, Almunia does not inspire me with confidence. Sagna is starting to find his form and he’s playing a lot better as of late. Clichy is still pretty solid. Djourou is becoming more and more confident. Gallas appears to make at least one error a game (sort of like Senderos!), Toure’s miraculous recovery might also see him turn his season around. Denilson works hard but is still too lightweight. Song has improved, but his passing needs to improve. Eboue is starting to get back to form, but his form was problematic as of last year. Nasri shows flashes of potential, but I still think he’s not that comfortable out on the left wing. Adebayor has yet to reach the form he had last season and doesn’t work as hard as he did either. Van Persie is starting to come around and has been playing well as of late. If he could just get his shots on target more often. Bendtner gets involved and has scored a couple just recently. Maybe the imminent return of Eduardo is spurring him on to preserve his playing time.
I still believe Wenger will buy a holding midfielder. Battaglia of Boca Juniors is the latest name to be linked to Arsenal. I haven’t seen him play so I have no opinion on him other than it’s the position we need to fill most of all. Whether we buy him or M’bia, or Defour, or Matuidi, or Annan, or whomever, I hope the deal happens soon. As for a more creative midfielder like Arshavin, our recent performances show us to be in need of someone who can break down a defence. Unfortunately we cannot seem to conclude a deal quickly and cleanly. The Arshavin saga appears to be set to drag out another couple of weeks, leaving Arsenal fans to die a thousand deaths as they follow the story blow by blow.