Tomorrow, Americans elect a new President of the World. If you’re an American, get out and vote. If not? Well, you can check out Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight.com and get some pretty good predictions of who’s going to win this race. Let’s put it this way, Lewis Hamilton and Paul Ince aren’t going to be the only two to break the color barrier in their respective competitions.
It’s not over, but it is a bit of a worrying time, Arsenal are in a three way tie with Villa and Hull for 4th place, are 6 points adrift of Chelsea and Liverpool, and are only 6 points ahead of ‘Boro and Pompey in the middle of the table. That’s not where a title challenger wants to be.
One of my favorite stats to see how well a team truly are is goal differential and Arsenal’s goal differential is third over all. But what is worrying most Arsenal fans right now isn’t the number of goals we’re scoring but the number we’re letting in. We’ve let in more goals than Fulham and the same number as the top two teams combined.
I will admit that this goals allowed (GA) number is a bit problematic. It’s very early in the season for one, Arsenal could tighten up their defense and keep a couple of clean sheets and turn around their GA average. For example, Chelsea are currently on pace to only allow 13 goals which would be a runaway best ever but only allowing 13 goals in a season is not realistic.
The other problem with the GA is that, historically, the team with the stingiest defense doesn’t always win the league, it’s only a pretty good predictor, and it completely falls apart when trying to nail down the top 4 spots.
And really, isn’t it just a wonkish way of saying “Arsenal need to tighten their defense?” Which we all already know. I don’t know a single person who thinks that Arsenal can score their way to the League title, I mean apart from Arsene Wenger.
The club do need to figure out a way to tighten up the defense and some people think bringing Keown in will help. Given that Tony Adams revealed that Arsene has targeted the former Arsenal defender the people and the press might be on to something. Personally, I’m not hopeful. Every three days Arsenal are linked with so and so and such and such and every third day the link is broken. I think the press just like messing with us Arsenal supporters. Of course I think Keown would be a great help — anything has to be better than what Pat Rice is teaching them at the moment — but again I remain skeptical of Keown signing on.
What I do think Arsenal could do is regain some of the fire that they had last year and the year before. I don’t mean that fire that gets you sent off for a simple tease, I mean the kind of fire that sees you close down, tackle hard, win the ball back, and generally frustrate your opponent. That’s going to be difficult since Arsenal have a lot of matches and such a small squad but I think they can do it, right now, with the players they have.
It starts right there in the middle of the park and it starts first with Cesc. I’m not having a go at Cesc, I’m just saying that this season has shown his weaknesses. This isn’t the same kid who fearlessly tackled Patrick Vieira and took the ball off him. This isn’t the same kid who stood up to Fat Frank in the Carling Cup final. He’s looked pretty poor this season but worse, he’s looked disinterested at times and I’m not certain that he strikes fear into our opponents any more. Maybe he’ll never be that type of player, or maybe he’s just in a slump right now. Either way Wenger needs to shake him out of his current condition.
Standing next to him on most days is either Denilson or Song. I happen to believe that both of these young men have the physical ability to play the role that Flamini played last year. Interestingly, on evidence of the games I have seen them play in, they also have the technical ability to play the roles. What these two seem to lack is that intimidation factor that the position really needs. But, again, that’s something that Arsene could bring out of them: show them a video of Patrick Vieira’s greatest moments and say to them “alright, Son, go get em.”
At this point, that’s what I would do. I would have a chat with Cesc and get his head on straight and I would turn Denilson and Song loose. So what if they get a few red cards? Vieira did. So what if they make mistakes? Vieira did. At this point there’s no one to buy, so we need those two young men to play with wanton abandon and drag this team up.
Add in a fresh defensive coaching perspective to the mix of a loosened Denilson and Song and I think we could see that something special that Arsene keeps telling us that we have.
Ok, well, enough Football Manager I’m seriously on verge of turning into a cocksandwich with this post. Up next is Fenerbahce, who are struggling at least as much as we are having just conceded two late goals to give a “lesser” opponent a draw and also losing one of their most influential players to injury. They should make a good foil for Arsenal right now and I’m looking forward to the game on Wednesday. I’m not sure we’ll be able to see the match over here in the states since the only game that I can say for certain is being broadcast right now is the Juve v. Real Madrid match. So, stay tuned for an update on that.
OK, well, that’s that… Turn the boys loose, Arsene, let them run riot over the Turks!