Arsenal came away with a 2-0 victory over Brighton this past weekend at the Emirates. However, it was not without frustration.
Arsenal dominated the first half of play but left with nothing on the score sheet. It wasn't until the 55th minute from a corner when the Gunners took the lead. However, there were chances after that Arsenal could not convert. Thankfully, Pascal Gross missed a golden opportunity to draw Brighton level in the 83rd minute. Arsenal then countered in the closing stages and Kai Havertz rounded off a swift move to send Mikel Arteta's side to the top of the Premier League table.
December is a rough stretch for the Gunners and about halfway through, one can be happy with the results. The Gunners are atop the table and safely into the round of 16 of the Champions League next year. Thomas Partey and Takehiro Tomayasu should also be back in January. However, the holiday fixtures are upon us and Arsenal have a tough run with a trip to Anfield and a pair of London derbies imminent.
Will Arsenal's poor finishing eventually catch up with them?
You could hear the frustrations at the Emirates as the first half drew to a close. It was the same against Aston Villa. Arsenal dominated both matches. In Birmingham, the Gunners paid for their lack of finishing against the Villans because Villa took advantage of their opportunity and put the ball in the net even though the Gunners had an xG of 1.4 compared to Villa’s 0.6.
It would have been criminal if Pascal Gross levelled the match on Sunday. Arsenal were the superior side even limiting the Seagulls to no shots in the first half. Arsenal’s xG was 2.3 compared to Brighton's 0.7. Thankfully, the lack of clinical finishing did not hurt the Gunners in the match.
Granted, when you play the more elite teams, chances are harder to come by and therefore the chances missed are criticised even more. In the Brighton match, Kai Havertz made up for his missed header by scoring late. Gabriel Jesus made up for his chances missed in the first half by heading in the first goal to start the second half.
Going to Anfield is no easy task, especially with Liverpool’s 2.175 xG average. Liverpool’s attack is fast, clinical, and may cause nightmares for the Gunners, especially with Mohamed Salah facing up against Oleksandr Zinchenko. The one positive here is that Liverpool’s defence is not as stout as Arsenal’s. Arsenal’s xGA average is 0.92 compared to Liverpool’s 1.30. So Arsenal will have their chances.
While not boasting an average xG like Liverpool, West Ham (1.48) and Fulham (1.33) are still tough matches to close the year. Arsenal have already suffered defeat to West Ham in the EFL Cup and a London derby on the road at Fulham isn’t always an easy task.
Perhaps we are being too critical but Arsenal need to add a number nine in the transfer window if they have title aspirations and want to go deep in the Champions League. Be it Ivan Toney or someone else, the Gunners need to finish the chances that they are creating to raise silverware this season.
Whether they spend the money for a finisher, the one thing that will keep Arsenal in these matches is their defence as they have the lowest xGA in the league. Perhaps we should glorify that more instead of being critical of the finishing.