180 minutes of soccer.
So far this season this is how many minutes the Arsenal squad have played in the EPL, and how long they’ve been held scoreless.
Completely leaving aside the fact that these scoreless results have come at the hands of Sunderland and Stoke, not exactly top-of-the-table competition, there is no denying that these results are uncomfortable for those of us that follow the Gunners. But is it panic time? Here are a few thoughts I had while watching the game…
1) The trio of Podolski, Cazorla and Giroud all looked more settled today. Perhaps it is a matter of giving the new signings time to really gell after all. While all the talk centers around who will be the one to replace the goals of a single player from last year, the weight of that is being placed on a trio of summer signings. Last week Podolski looked out of sorts, and Giroud looked off his game. Today they both looked better, and Santi Cazorla had another fine game. Given that the largest chunk of the Arsenal attacking contingent are brand new to both the team and the league, and on top of that they all came from separate leagues (German, Spanish, French), I’m optimistic that it will just take some time for them to settle in. Goals will come from this group. I have no doubt of that. I don’t think one player will replace the production of “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named”, but goals will come.
2) Is Mikel Arteta the right man for the deep midfielder’s role? I’m not totally sold on him there. I love his tenacious play, his ability to pick out a pass, and his ability to help control the game from that deep role, but nothing has jumped out at me watching him these last two weeks. And I don’t fault him for that. I just don’t know that he’s best utilized there. Arsenal’s biggest trouble has been slowing down too much as they approach the attacking third. I almost wonder if he doesn’t contribute to that a little more than needed by sitting in that deep role. I have no complaints about his play, mind you, I’m just still undecided about how I feel about having him be the one-to-one replacement to Alex Song.
3) Somebody shoot the freakin’ ball. Quite simply, I’m convinced that a large chunk of the Arsenal scoring drought is simply an unwillingness to shoot the ball. One credit to ol’ H-W-M-N-B-N (Dutch affinity for initials) was that he would take responsibility for scoring on his shoulders and shoot the ball. Cazorla does take the odd strike from distance, and Giroud took a really nice crack at goal from the left flank today, but there just weren’t enough shots taken in general for my liking. The final ball into the box, be it a simple pass or a cross, was often lacking in real threat or accuracy. It looked a lot like some of those passes were taken just because that was the last idea left to whoever had the ball. They’d played themselves out of other options, and a speculative ball was all they had left. Shots earlier in the progression, or even an earlier ball into the box before it becomes the absolute last option left, could prove more dangerous. Hopefully this will come with the time I talked about before.
I don’t think this represents the big set back that I’ve read some others think it is or thought it would be pre-match. I think there’s still time. Yes, the Gunners have a tough September ahead of them, but that tough September may prove to come at just the right time…far enough into the season that the new signings are settling, and early enough to help expedite the process with just the right amount of pressure. Only time will tell.