By Tony Attwood
In its ratings of Arsenal players last night the Daily Telegraph generally gave Arsenal players ratings of six out of ten apart from Ramsdale, Gabriel and Martinelli who all got seven.
Which is another way of saying that we didn’t have a standout player who could turn the match and remotivate the rest of the team, or produce a shot or a move so extraordinary that it not only gave us another goal, but again also remotivated the team.
That is always the danger of a summer process that brings in five new players and gives us the team with the youngest average age in the Premier League. And it is likely to be a problem we are going to have to live with for some time, unless Aubameyang really can take his form back to previous levels – or unless one of the youngsters becomes the motivator in his own right.
Saka is of course a possible for that role, as is Smith Rowe. And maybe someone else could emerge as that remorseless motivator on the pitch.
This conclusion is enhanced, I feel, by that fact that while we are having difficulties against the top six clubs, we are generally seeing off the lesser clubs further down the league. Which is an attribute that tends to coincide with not having the leader on the pitch who will step up and show the way against the big teams.
Of course finding a Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira or Tony Adams isn’t that easy, but it may be that is what is needed. And of course it is possible that we already have one such player in the club. For although Vieiria and Adams impressed from the start Henry was considered by many to be a failure in the earliest games of his Arsenal career. Leaders can take a way to evolve.
Fortunately our forthcoming fixtures of Everton, Southampton, Sunderland, Norwich, and Wolverhampton should give us a chance to get the act together before the next prime game – against Manchester City on New Year’s Day.
Kick off for that one is at the ludicrous time of 1230, so quite how I am supposed to get back from the New Years Eve party (ticket already booked) in time to drive from the East Midlands to north London, I am not quite sure. Maybe I’ll just drive straight from the party to the match. Or maybe sleep through it.
What it does show yet again is that football is now organised for the television and not for those of us who go and watch. And yet, they need us – as the pandemic showed. Of course they could show games in front of empty stadia, but it wasn’t the same (although it did reduce the level of referee bias, as we have shown before.
And it must be remembered we have had a long climb back, for although we are not back to our position in 2018 we are improving – something worth remembering despite last night’s defeat.
Here is the table of where we were after 14 games in recent years.
The big difference between 2018 and now is the attack – 32 goals in 2018 and 17 this season. I am never one to say we should go and buy this or that player, but rather the figures speak for themselves – we need more goals. Maybe we have the player in the team who can generate them. Maybe in Smith Rowe we have the second player in the team who can generate them alongside the centre forward. Maybe even with Martinelli in the team we can make defences think about us in a different way and so find goals because of that.
But in essence that’s the issue. There’s not too much wrong with the defence that won’t improve as the young players mature and become ever more familiar with each other’s style and approach. But we do need more goals.
All we can say is, it is a lot better than last year after 14 games.
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