Arsenal's thumping away to City was their third game without a win. Goal's Brendon Netto discusses whether the busy winter period could expose their lack of squad rotation.
Arsenal have coasted through their games so far this season and have been one of the most in-form teams in Europe but in light of their 6-3 defeat away to Manchester City, perhaps the dreaded busy winter period could in fact take its toll on a team that’s hardly been rotated.
One of the key aspects of Arsenal’s success in all competitions this term is their consistency with regard to team selection. Arsene Wenger has had complete clarity in choosing his best eleven but that has also had an adverse effect on the squad.
City dished out another trashing at home
Admittedly, the Frenchman hasn’t had much of a choice. After being drawn in the group of death in the Champions League, his side faced a difficult period when they played Chelsea, Liverpool, Borussia Dortmund and Manchester United consecutively, over the span of ten days.
He only fielded a much-changed team in the Capital One Cup game against Chelsea and was beaten 2-0 while his side also fell to a 1-0 defeat at Old Trafford. However, they emerged from that period largely unscathed, beating Liverpool and Dortmund in the process but needed to call on their first-choice players.
Apart from that challenging run though, Arsenal still fielded strong line-ups in nearly every fixture with Olivier Giroud in particular being overworked. The striker’s influence has waned of late, scoring just twice in his last seven outings and failing to provide any assists as well after directly contributing to 12 goals in his previous 16 appearances.
Giroud had another below-par performance
Fatigue seemed to creep into his game at the Etihad Stadium. He lacked sharpness in front of goal and was largely kept quiet by the central defensive partnership of Vincent Kompany and Martin Demichelis. In the first half, he beat the offside trap and was clean through after running onto a delightful ball over the top but he failed to bring it under his control and it skipped away from him.
He had a great chance to square the ball for Theo Walcott in the second half for a tap in but he miscued the pass horribly and it went out for a goal-kick. He also missed a fantastic opportunity from a Bacary Sagna cross as his header went narrowly wide of the far post.
There were several other players who may have been feeling the effects of demanding clashes with Everton and Napoli over the last week. Indeed, their latest result means they have gone three games without a win, hardly a crisis, but they do face Chelsea next weekend before a couple of tricky trips to West Ham United and Newcastle United in quick succession.
Walcott was Arsenal's sharpest player
Incidentally, their best player against City was Walcott who was also the freshest of the lot. He was a consistent threat down the right for Arsenal and he had the energy to keep making clever diagonal runs forward which tormented his former teammate, Gael Clichy.
He scored twice, the second in particular spoke volumes of his sharpness (almost Thierry Henry-esque) while he also forced a fine save from Costel Pantilimon. As a result of their mental and physical fatigue, Arsenal were lured into making errors. Their zonal-marking from the corner that lead to Sergio Aguero’s opener was slack.
For City’s third, Mesut Ozil may have over-hit his pass to Mathieu Flamini but the Frenchman should’ve done better to reach it. Instead, Fernandinho latched on to it and executed a sublime finish past Wojciech Szczesny. Jack Wilshere cut a frustrated figure in the second period and it was his mistake that lead to the fifth goal for the hosts after he was robbed on the halfway line.
Defensive blow to Arsenal
With Laurent Koscielny suffering an injury which may rule him out for weeks, The Gunners aren’t quite as assured at the back anymore while Giroud’s understandable dip in form further supports the notion that they need to sign a striker in the January transfer window to sustain their title charge and challenge in other competitions as well.
With only three points separating Arsenal and City now, the battle at the top of the league table has increased in intensity. The fear for the Londoners is that they may have peaked too early in the campaign while their Manchester counterparts have only just shifted into top gear. However, with 22 games to play, it would be ludicrous to write-off an Arsenal side that still has a two-point advantage over second-placed Chelsea.
|Do YOU think Wenger needs to rotate his side more to keep them fresh? Send in your thoughts in the comments below or discuss with the writer on Twitter @BrendonNetto.|
How do you stay up with football when on the move? With http://m.goal.com –your best source for mobile coverage of the beautiful game.