For Arsenal, the difference between midweek and weekend form is too noticeable to write off.
This is to say, to try to rationalize one while not properly holding the other side as accountable; of course Arsenal are winning with young players in Europe, it’s not the same level of competition. A refrain of this nature doesn’t take into account the quality of other teams, leagues or footballing cultures.
The Premier League of England is a top tier league, and so to struggle there, with top tier players, is not entirely unheard of. Arsenal have also suffered injuries, as well as dips in form. But then, since the Gunners have one side that isn’t firing properly when they play on the weekend, and another that fires properly during the week, why not simply flip them for a match to see what, if any, difference is noticeable.
In a game like Tottenham this week, that may not be the best strategy, especially fresh off of a energetic and positive match at the Emirates against Rapid Vienna. But should results not improve against the current top team of the table, it is something that I believe Mikel Arteta should firmly consider, to varying degrees perhaps.
At Arsenal, Youth is Pushing the Envelope
There are many great players at Arsenal, players that other clubs would dearly love to have. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Willian, Granit Xhaka and even Mesut Ozil. Nicolas Pepe, Dani Ceballos, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Gabriel Magalhaes and Kieran Tierney are all younger names, and apart from Ceballos, look to be a part of the club moving forward in the longer term. They’re young and talented enough to pair with other Arsenal homegrown names that continue to rise through the club depth.
Those names include Eddie Nketiah, Reiss Nelson, Bakayo Saka, Joe Willock, Gabriel Martinelli and Folarin Balogun. Alex Runarsson even makes the list for his play this season, one hopes he will stay longer than just a year or so. But what we are seeing flatly, is that when these young names are more properly mixed in with the older hats, that they invigorate the team with a drive, a passion or an enthusiasm that appears missing without more of their faces present.
And so, why not continue to integrate these players together more often? Arsenal can’t take too many more disappointments from players who are matured, bigger names. They on the other hand would be understanding, if not thrilled, to see similar games played by players who still have so much room for growth and improvement. They might not even have to suffer that, however, as players have a tendency to step up to responsibility when handed it, and this is certainly a close knit group – veterans and youth.
Running Out of Time: Some Decisions Must be Made
Against Tottenham, the road will be no easier than it was against either Leeds United or Wolves. Yet Arsenal will have to win somehow for three points is beyond crucial for both their table standings, as well as their ambition and morale. The schedule remains daunting thereafter, and so points must be acquired even in unlikely matches, but especially in the North London Derby.
While Europe and the Carabao Cup appear fine and within reach at current pace, the Premier League is not full of teams blowing others out of the water currently. It is essentially Tottenham and Chelsea who appear the lead dogs as it currently stands, but that is subject to change; certainly in the early parts of such a long campaign they have not stretched any leads to unattainable margins, and the rest of the top five lies open for the ambitious as well.
But Arsenal must then be ambitious, instead of timid, goal shy and lacking in volition during Premier league competition. The burden of scoring cannot be on only one or two players, but it must also include the best at each position. And while it is not an easy line to toe, it is what will simultaneously get the best out of the wonderful talent we have presently, as well as that which lies in waiting.
With a bright future, Gooners and Gunners alike must show patience with the club, despite the high demands. As we saw last year, it simply takes a couple wins, some confidence and a missing piece before real progress can be made and felt.