Why Do Arsenal Struggle Against The Top EPL clubs?


Arsenal have long been one of the top clubs to beat in the Premier League, as shown by their wonderfully consistent record of finishing in the top 4 and qualifying for the Champions League on such a regular basis. But they have also been lacking a true challenge on the EPL title for at least the past 5 years, and a lot of that seems to come from their dire record against top 4 teams.

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The graph above highlights how long it has been since Arsenal managed to outperform their top 4 opponents in terms of goals scored and conceded in their matches. Back in the 2010-11 season Arsenal managed to match Chelsea, Liverpool and United in their clashes as well as keeping City at bay to outscore them as well. Since then Arsenal have only won 2 out of the 12 head to head clashes by this scoring system.

Arsenal have struggled to outscore their top four opponents in matches over the season, and despite some fans claims that we don’t score enough against the big teams, for me the biggest worry has to be the goals conceded column. Yes last year we scored the fewest number of goals against the top 4 than we had since 2009-10, but we also conceded more than in any other season we have just looked at. Arsenal are leaky at the back.

In fact most of these goals are not spread out over the matches, remember (if you have not erased it from your memory) the Liverpool game last year at Anfield, and the away game at Stamford bridge. We collapsed so dramatically that we looked like we could have conceded more, and it is these lapses that have given us such a poor record and reputation against the big teams. Think what could have happened in the Anderlecht or Swansea matches if Arsenal had shut down against truly first class opposition.

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I do think that Arsenal’s biggest problem at the moment is that we have no-one to bully talented midfielders off of the ball, and when teams have such freedom to pass the ball and run at us without fear of it being any worse odds than 50-50 to lose the ball it presents them with chances to draw more fouls and get the ball into more dangerous areas without much hassle.

Let’s take West Ham’s recent signing Kouyate for instance. He is not a player that would get into the Arsenal side on his passing or skill based game, however he adds a physical presence in the middle of the park that people do not want to attack. Who would you rather be tackled by, 5ft 10 Flamini or 6ft 4 Kouyate? I know I’d rather have a go against Flamini, Ozil, Ramsey, Arteta or Cazorla before I fancied my chances coming out better than Kouyate in a 50-50 challenge. That’s not to say I think Arsenal need to sign Kouyate, they just need to sign a midfield enforcer to force people to adjust and take a slightly harder route to goal.

Yaya Toure has been Manchester City’s midfield tank for the past few years, and he’s also contributed going forward. A player of this mould would add so much to Arsenal in the place of Flamini and I think would have a massive effect regarding the style of play that opponents take up against us, both in offence and defence.

It might seem simplistic, but can you think of a great EPL side that didn’t have a strong enforcing midfielder? Matic for Chelsea this year, Toure for City, Keane for United, Viera for Arsenal…even Alonso for Liverpool?

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