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Ozil & Arsenal's home form both impressive and frustrating

4:45 am AEDT 17/12/17
Mesut Ozil Arsenal Newcastle
The Gunners secured an all-important 1-0 win over Newcastle at the Emirates but the wonder is why they can't produce the same results on the road

Arsene Wenger must have gone into the season thinking his team had a decent shot at challenging for the Premier League title.

He had managed to keep hold of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez – despite both failing to sign new contracts with the club – and secured the signing of Alexandre Lacazette from Lyon for a club record fee of £52 million.

In addition, Sead Kolasinac’s arrival on a free transfer a few months after being named in the Bundesliga Team of the Year looked like an absolute steal.

Consequently, improving upon last season's disappointing fifth-placed finish, which saw Wenger fail to qualify for the Champions League for the first time since 1997, looked entirely possible.

However, five months on from a summer of minimal transfer movement, there appears to be a case of déjà vu at Emirates Stadium. Exciting attacking patterns in the final third? Check. Players failing to fulfil their potential? Check. Inconsistent results away from home and an almost imperious record at the Emirates? Check.

Arsenal’s recent draws against Southampton and West Ham underlined the difficulty of Premier League football yet also reminded those who thought Wenger’s side could be title challengers that they have too many weaknesses to entertain the idea of finishing top of the table.

Their frustrating inconsistency, coupled with Manchester City’s astounding form, mean that Arsenal once again have a major fight on their hands to secure a return to the Champions League.

The 1-0 win over Newcastle at the Emirates on Saturday included many of the metrics by which we have come to measure the Gunners by over the years: domination of possession, numerous shots on goal and chances created and one talismanic No.10 saving their bacon once more.

German international Ozil has yet to make a decision on his future and, from the 29-year-old’s perspective, he doesn’t need to make one any time soon, as he’s able to either sign a pre-contract agreement with a foreign club in January or, alternatively, assess his options at the end of the season.

Regardless of the speculation, Ozil delivered a typically astute performance against Newcastle which culminated in him scoring the winner in the first half: a beautiful volleyed effort that left Rob Elliott with no chance.

Ozil created a whopping eight chances and he has been directly involved in six goals in his last five Premier League games at the Emirates (two goals, four assists), which only adds to the confusion over why Arsenal’s 2017 form away from home is so disappointing.

The Gunners have conceded 32 goals on the road this year, while in the current campaign they have only conceded seven goals at home. If they can cut out the mistakes when they’re playing away, then the top four remains a distinct possibility – but that's a big ‘if’.

Despite all the attacking chances created – 8 combined in the first half from Arsenal’s front four – those defensive vulnerabilities remain. A second consecutive clean sheet looks good on paper but the Gunners are still guilty of failing to finish their own chances in front of goal.

Wenger set Alex Iwobi a target to score 10 goals this season but, as it stands, he doesn’t look like coming close to that projected tally. The Nigerian flourishes for his national team but perhaps the tendency of Wenger to rotate his young prodigy is behind Iwobi's inconsistency.

For Wenger and Arsenal, the most important thing right now is producing results and the Frenchman will take encouragment from the fact that his side have won 13 of their last 14 home matches.

However, he will also be acutely aware that Ozil and Alexis Sanchez are likely to become even more unsettled in the coming weeks, as January transfer window rumours ramp up and talks with other clubs go from gossip to reality.

Arsenal's anticipated title challenge looks set to descend into a fight just to keep their best players, and that is most definitely not what Wenger had in mind when the season began.