Arsenal fans, like me and my colleague Rayed, this season have experienced a series of emotions. From the highs of smashing Fenerbache, Sheffield United, Blackburn and Porto, to the lows of playing poorly against weaker teams such as Fulham, Hull and now Stoke.
This is an emotional rollercoaster that does not do justice to the Arsenal fan, who got so close last season. It simply doesn't make sense to be doing extremely well against decent teams, but faltering against arguably much weaker opposition. There must be some fundamental problems and I think I know what they are.
These boys can't defend a set piece or long ball if it meant their life. I mean for Pete's sake, can you make your weakness any more obvious to your rivals? This is the exact technique Stoke used at the weekend, employing Delap to make long throws into the box consistently and no surprises, Arsenal conceded two scrappy off his throw ins. Against Fulham, they concede from the corner, as with games against Hull and Bolton.
Sure, I might sound a little bit harsh, every team is susceptible during set-pieces, its usually the way a smaller team is able to beat a bigger team, but let's face it, there is a disturbing pattern developing at Arsenal and its happening more often than not. We often have our hearts skipping a beat or two when the opposition team gets a set piece, unfortunately for the Arsenal fan, set pieces are enough to cause a heart attack these days.
The second problem is that there is too much overconfidence, letting players shoot from outside the box. Too much space is being given and Arsenal are being punished. Look at the Sunderland and Hull games, wonderful shots from outside the box. Sure, on a good day they would have gone over the bar and Arsenal would be blameless right now, but they should have been closed down by the defenders, regardless.
The thing that should make an Arsenal fan sick, is the Spurs match. Many argue that Spurs deserved the point, which is true, but look at all four goals closely. Arsenal let Spurs shoot from long range for each of the four goals. I am being a little bit harsh, but think about it, four long range goals conceded in one night. Either they were unlucky, the other team was very good, or Arsenal's defending was bad. I think it was a combination of all those factors.
So there you have it, each of the games Arsenal has dropped points and it nearly always comes down to those two weaknesses. What are Gallas, Toure and Silvestre doing? What is wrong with the centre backs?
When Arsene Wenger didn't go out and spend big on experienced players in the transfer window, he was criticised. However, he continually stated that his young squad were good enough. I believe him, but he needs to have a serious think about these defensive issues. The attack is fine, we've seen goals galore in some games, but in the games they are losing, I think they're losing confidence and so the attackers aren't scoring goals.
A defensive midfielder like Flamini is needed to fill in the void in front of the back four and stop those long range shots. The centre backs need to get their act together or Wenger needs to buy new ones. They simply cannot afford to let in these silly goals.
A tough week is ahead. Fenerbache on Wednesday and Manchester United on Saturday. United will probably be the litmus test for this Arsenal side. These inconsistent results are inconclusive. Are Arsenal true title contenders or are they just going for a Champions League spot? We will find out on Saturday if they are the real deal.