After seeing Arsenal only just about emerge victorious against Burnley, I can’t help but think that the London club still need to strengthen central midfield.
Although Granit Xhaka has an awful lot of talent, in that he can spray long-range passes with a fair bit of accuracy as well as supply well-weighted short passes and break up play, I am still concerned about his temperament. Obviously, Patrick Vieira had similar problems yet still became an Arsenal legend. However, I’m not quite sure Xhaka will attain Vieira’s heights, mainly because I’m not sure he has the Frenchman’s work ethic.
Of course, it’s too early to judge Xhaka right now, but central midfield remains an area of concern for Arsenal, given that the other so-called defensive midfielders are reasonably solid, but are not top quality. Elneny and Coquelin may be upgrades on Denilson and Diaby of yesteryear, but neither would get anywhere near the old ‘Invincible’ squad. And let’s face it, if Arsenal want to be the best team in the land, they need to be aiming to bring in players of that quality.
As usual, the transfer window has been uneventful for the Gunners. With all due respect, very few of us had heard of Hednesford’s Cohen Bramall until Arsenal signed the left back for £40,000, so the deal raised little to no excitement amongst the underwhelmed fans. Time will tell whether he will be another Jamie Vardy or not, but let’s not forget Ian Wright played for Greenwich Borough before turning professional. Sometimes, you’re better off buying the late developers from the non-league, as the so-called top football scouts don’t know it all. For example, teenage Sid Sollis at Tonbridge Angels (who scored on his full debut) is an up and coming youngster who, on his day, can do the ‘impossible’. I’ve seen it on a number of occasions when he was playing for his school. How this teenager was not picked up by a bigger club than Tonbridge Angels (no disrespect to them) is beyond me. Sid and his former school team-mates, like goalkeeper Cameron Hall and midfielder Callum Taylor to name but a few, are living proof that scouts do not cast the net out wide enough. Rant over!
Going back to Arsenal, if the club cannot recruit a top quality defensive midfielder, they risk missing out on winning the title. Looking through the rest of the team, it appears equipped to mount a serious challenge, especially now Mustafi is back. The Germany international looks incredibly solid and deservedly won the man-of-the-match award against Burnley. Mustafi adds so much confidence to the backline that he has quickly become indispensible, especially now he has opened his Arsenal goal account.
Meanwhile, although I didn’t agree with Gabriel’s selection in front of Bellerin at right back, the Brazilian performed adequately. I personally think the Spaniard is by far the superior player, but Bellerin lacks the height to deal with aerial bombardment, a tactic Burnley used a bit after Vokes’ introduction. Nevertheless, once Bellerin came on, Arsenal upped the tempo to the level they should have started with. Therefore, I think the Spaniard must start every game if he’s fit, as he keeps the opposition on the backfoot.
Apart from starting Gabriel, another selection I am no longer sure about is that of Ramsey. The midfielder is flattering to deceive recently. When he had a chance to score, he tried a scorpion kick, which went over much to the frustration of many. Earlier, Rambo successfully executed a ‘rambona’, when a left-foot cross would normally be the better option. To me, many players that try this kick are simply not two-footed enough and it reflects badly on their coaching. I think this because you cannot put the same amount of power in a ‘rambona’ as you can into a cross or shot with your weaker foot. Anyway, I can’t complain as Rambo’s cross hit its intended target. I am, however, worried about Rambo in general since his return from injury. To me, he still doesn’t seem the same player, despite occasional flashes of brilliance.
Unlike Iwobi, Rambo doesn’t seem reliable anymore. I still feel for Iwobi after he wasn’t credited with two goals in the previous match. It is ridiculous to put Iwobi’s goals down as ‘own goals’, as if he didn’t hit the ball towards goal then, of course, they wouldn’t have gone in. It is incredibly mean-spirited for the dubious goals panel to take those strikes away from Iwobi. I’m sure some of you have heard about how Malcolm MacDonald used to claim own goals, according to Nick Hornby’s ‘Fever Pitch’, and I think any self-respecting attacker should do the same. What’s more, they should be allowed to do it!
Luckily, Sanchez doesn’t need to add own goals to his goal tally to make it look decent. Another cheeky Sanchez goal to add to his collection wrapped up the narrow victory over Burnley. The Chilean’s coolness under pressure, to seal Arsenal’s win from the penalty spot in the closing seconds to take the club up to second in the league, was a joy to behold.
Now Arsenal will see themselves as Chelsea’s main rivals for the title. If they can tighten central midfield, they might just have a chance.