Much has been made of Arsenal giving Arsene Wenger a new two-year contract at the Emirates following their FA Cup final win over Chelsea at the end of May, despite a fifth-place finish in the Premier League and missing out on Champions League football this season.
The ‘Wenger out’ campaigns have been running for years and it seems that more and more fans are jumping on the bandwagon with every passing month.
A frustrating start to the season hasn’t helped the French manager who saw his side humiliated 4-0 at Liverpool before the international break, a week after losing 1-0 at Stoke.
Six points from a possible 12 leaves the Gunners two points outside of the top four before they head to Stamford Bridge on Sunday for a key derby which may give us some insight into how competitive Arsenal are going to be this season.
The Premier League champions bounced back from their shock opening day defeat at home to Burnley to win three straight, including victories at both Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City.
Arsenal have been flaccid in the majority of their away games versus the top clubs in recent years and only their performances against Chelsea in the FA Cup and Community Shield over the past few months give their fans any hope for this weekend.
Wenger’s defence has shipped eight goals in their opening four games – only West Ham have conceded more so far. Playing with a back three of which record defensive signing Shkodran Mustafi has only started half of their league games so far, and summer signing Sead Kolasinac has looked much better going forward than he has defensively, only raises further fears ahead of facing Chelsea.
Alvaro Morata has looked excellent in his early days in England, whilst Eden Hazard has got some game time in recently following his injury over the summer. Both Willian and Pedro have proved a hit out wide for the Blues.
Hector Bellerin hasn’t shown much defensively for several months now whilst the left wingback role is often played by an attacking player this season – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had started the season there before joining Liverpool, and young central midfielder Ainsley Maitland-Niles started there on Thursday versus FC Koln in the Europa League.
Holding midfield has been a position of weakness for Arsene Wenger since the days of Patrick Vieira and Gilberto Silva. Neither Francis Coquelin, Mohamed Elneny or Granit Xhaka give fans much confidence in protecting their defence but don’t be surprised if any of these two are named in the starting lineup on Sunday. Aaron Ramsey has started the past few games there in the 3-4-2-1 formation but that would be a bold move by the Gunners boss away to the champions.
Good news for Arsenal is that their arch-rivals Tottenham are struggling at their temporary home, Wembley. Spurs have been beaten at home by Chelsea and held by Burnley in England’s national team stadium to start the season but an impressive 3-0 victory at Everton was followed up by beating Borussia Dortmund 3-1 at Wembley in the Champions League on Wednesday to kickstart their season.
Tottenham will be pushing for the top four this season but 888sport expect them to fall short to the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United. You’d expect Pep Guardiola to guide Manchester City to a title challenge with the money spent in the summer and the attacking wealth of talent at his disposal. But so far there’s no guarantee of that being the case as they too look very leaky at the back.
Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool are another side that have issues in defence, but like Manchester City they’ll be able to pick up several points with their attack alone. Whilst Arsenal have a shaky defence they don’t have an attack that can match the Reds nor City.
Not being in the Champions League could benefit Arsene Wenger in the league, provided he manages the Europa League campaign correctly. Or, winning the Europa League could be his side’s way back into the Champions League, which is the ultimate goal.
Right now, a top four finish looks like a tough challenge for Arsenal but a result at Chelsea this weekend could certainly go a long way to putting things right. Immediate fixtures afterwards are at home to West Brom, Brighton and at Watford which are all winnable on paper.
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