Arsenal FC 1, Liverpool FC 4. Enough said. Let’s move onto the immediate future.
Eight difficult English Premier League games are what stands between an Arsenal team in disarray and a Champions League spot that absolutely must be attained.
It is hard to argue against the fact that – results-wise and, perhaps more importantly, football-wise – this has been the Arsenal Football Club’s least impressive season since Arsene Wenger took charge over ten years ago.
Injuries and luck have definitely played a part but the sad fact is that the spark has gone out of the style of play since they lost to PSV in the Champions League. The big question is – are they going to get it back by the time an in-form West Ham visit Emirates next weekend?
The answer is, unfortunately, ‘no’. The reality is that Arsenal’s chances of grabbing third or fourth spot in the Premiership will be down to their defensive performances as opposed to their attacking prowess.
Wenger’s team against Liverpool, on paper, was not as awful as the result suggests – just as Liverpool’s was not when Arsenal thrashed them 3-0 and 6-3 in the Premier League and Carling Cup respectively. For the first time this season Wenger Arsenal’s first-choice back four on the park against Liverpool. That they conceded four goals does not represent the potential dominance that a backline consisting of Eboue, Gallas, Toure and Clichy possesses.
It is generally accepted that a good defence is based primarily on two things – individual ability and consistency as a unit. Put four talented defenders in the same defensive positions for ten games in a row and the reality is that their cohesion and unity will lead to an improvement by game ten. For this back-line the ability is there, but the consistency is not.
Taking this into account, if Arsenal’s back four remained uninjured I would put my house on the club getting that all-important Champions League spot. Perhaps more importantly, though, it forces Arsenal’s first-choice defence to perform together, under pressure, in the lead-up to next season.
Such an opportunity will give a strong indication of whether or not Arsenal’s defence will be strong enough for the team to challenge for the title next season or whether Arsene Wenger will need to look into the transfer market for alternatives.