Are Arsenal really that bad? I don't think so!

It’s easy to criticise Arsenal, especially after results like the one at Stamford Bridge last Sunday. Critics of the Gunners say while they play football prettier than Charlize Theron at dawn, they don’t have the cutting edge or toughness required to win the important games against their title rivals. That defeat means that in the last 8 games against Chelsea and Man United, Arsenal have drawn one and lost seven. Conceding 18 goals in those games with only 5 in reply.
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Critics also say that Wenger is too cautious in the transfer market because of his unshakable belief in his young players. Despite reportedly having money to spend Arsenal only brought in Sol Campbell in the January transfer window.
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They also say that Wenger is too stubborn, too inflexible, believing that not only is his way the right way; it’s the only way. He can be guilty of a bit of football snobbery, he recently dismissed Aston Villa as ‘a long ball team’, but sometimes the direct route is the right way to go.
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I think they’re all wrong. It’s pretty obvious that Arsenal are a bit deficient in a few areas but it is minor surgery this Arsenal team needs rather than a complete makeover.
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Goalkeeper is a problem area for Arsenal. Manuel Almunia is generally a good goalkeeper but is not a great goalkeeper, certainly not in the same league as Reina, Cech or van der Sar. He seems to fail to inspire confidence in the defence in front of him. He is prone to some terrible errors. His replacements, Lukasz Fabianski, hasn’t looked that impressive in the few games in which he has played either. This is definitely an area where Arsenal needs to improve. There were rumours that Arsenal were trying to sign Stoke’s Thomas Sorensen on deadline day after Almunia’s error against Man United but that ultimately came to nothing. I like Sorensen but that move would have surely been a short-term measure rather than a long-term fix. This is an area Arsene Wenger really needs to concentrate n in the summer.
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As for the defence; it’s really not that bad. Vermaelen looks to be a fantastic player, Gallas hasn’t been at his best recently, but is said to be playing with a back injury. Sagna is a solid right-back. Clichy is excellent going forward but not so good when he has a genuinely quick, skilful winger running at him. The replacements for these players are not so good however, and that is when Arsenal can get exposed.
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A lot of critics think Arsenal have a soft centre. They say their midfield is not tough enough. I disagree. I think that this season Song has developed into the midfielder Arsenal always hoped he’d become. Diaby is certainly not afraid to put a tackle in either. I do think they are a bit weak down the flanks. Samir Nasri never really seems to make much of an impact in a game and I still think Rosicky is too lightweight for the Premier League.
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One area where Arsenal should have strengthened in January was attack. With Robin van Persie, Eduardo and Nicklas Bendtner all injured, Arsenal has been lightweight up front. Arsenal fans are wondering why Wenger didn’t sign a striker with Aerial ability and strength in the January transfer window. In fairness to Wenger though, there weren’t many strikers available that would have fit the bill. Kenwyne Jones was a possibility but is he really good enough to fit into Arsenals style? I don’t think so. I think they will rely on Bendtner to be the target man they need and hope he can carry them until the end of the season when they can strengthen, bringing in a striker that would compliment Bendtner and van Persie.
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Much has been made over Arsenal conceding goals on the counter attack, like they did against Everton and Man United. That’s the price you pay for having such an attacking mentality. Both full backs like to push forward and Vermaelen gets forward a lot. Simply stopping these players going forward as much and allowing them to concentrate their energies on defending will reduce the likelihood of them getting caught on the break, but Wenger will have to decide if he’s willing to sacrifice some attack for defence.
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It’s no secret that Arsenal passes the ball better than any other team. It is a joy to watch at times. There are times however, when they pass it about too much, meaning their attacks are meandering and slow burning, allowing the opposition to get behind the ball, meaning many attacks come to nothing. Against Chelsea this happened time and time again, Arsenal moved the ball around beautifully but there was just no end product to their play. They need to find the proper balance between creativity, unpredictability and strength.
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Also, for all of those writing Arsenals title challenge off, although they are 9 points off top, they have a pretty easy run-in to the end of the season. The only tough games they have are against Liverpool (home), Spurs (away), Man City (home) and a tricky away game at Stoke. All the rest you’d fancy Arsenal to win with ease. If they can string a good run together, they could easily force their way back into the title picture.