This new Arsenal still lack identity

More disappointing than the defensive frailties on Saturday against Man Utd was the absence of drive, ambition and creative intent shown by Arsene Wenger’s side in the 2-1 defeat at Old Trafford.

This new Arsenal still lack identity

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James Gillespie

November 5th, 2012

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Arsenal were without an outlet, and lacked composure and force in attack. It was always clear that the club would struggle for goals this season, but Giroud has found it difficult to lead the line in an Arsenal shirt.

Though his performance against United was hindered by a lack of real support, Giroud currently looks off the pace in terms of speed, passing and finishing. This may change as Olivier adapts to his new club, but he still doesn’t appear to be of the calibre the team has become used to. At Old Trafford he failed to convert at least two excellent chances; only time will tell if this becomes a regular occurrence.

It was understandable that Wenger opted for Ramsey out wide, to provide some stability and aid the retention of possession; however, all too often he has played a minor role when deployed on the flank. Oxlade-Chamberlain might have provided the perfect combination of attacking intent and technique, but was ruled out by injury. Walcott’s introduction just after half-time was inevitable.

Gibbs’ presence on the left flank is missed. Andre Santos has been criticised heavily over recent matches for his defensive shortcomings. However, these were well known when he joined the club – Santos is not a defender. One point that has been overlooked is his contribution in attack; he fails to provide the impact on the overlap expected of an Arsenal full-back, and this hinders his link-up play with Podolski when on the left.

Defensive frailty continues to haunt the team. Once again the captain Vermaelen made a mistake which led to a goal, which was always going to fall to Van Persie. Mertesacker is emerging as the key central defender this season, though even he was slightly lost in marking for United’s second goal.

In midfield Arteta, Cazorla and Wilshere are sublimely talented and will hopefully combine well, though they have had too few games together to build an understanding. Cazorla’s goal was both wonderful and wonderfully disappointing, in that it came so late.

It was a beautiful strike, and came as a result of his persistence in the box. If only Arsenal had put in that extra 30% for the whole match they might have shaken off the anonymity which hung around their play like a stale fog for most of this game. Even Fergie was underwhelmed.

This team clearly have the talent to form the building blocks of a new side, but where recent Arsenal sides have lacked a certain resilience this one simply lacks a real identity. Wenger has performed a minor miracle in keeping Arsenal running on empty, but this side looked one of his least competitive at Old Trafford this weekend.

Much of the issue lies with the fact that again, this is a team in transition. In the short term Wenger cannot be criticised too heavily, and the team may well perform at least as well as last season. In the long term the club’s strategy requires careful review to avoid falling further into a downward spiral. Arsenal need to rediscover who they are.

James writes about Arsenal on Arsespeak.com where you can find many more in-depth analytical articles on tactics, statistics and players.

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