Defensive solidity is this guy's specialty.
So here we are, two games into the 2012-13 season. Two games, two points, zero goals. There has been not-insignificant hand-wringing and garment-rending, on these digital pages and others, about What The Problem Is, and apart from the obvious (no goals), the problem seems to be a dearth of quality chances being created, and a lack of sharpness around the finishing of the chances that are created.
Is this a problem? Yep, it is. Goals are neat, and I'd like to see a few be scored soon. But is it a crisis? Is it time to panic? I don't think so, and after the jump I'll share my reasons why.
Arsenal have brought in three new players, around which they are building a whole new attack, and any time you do that, those players will take some time to gel together. Add in the fact that Cazorla, Podolski, and Giroud have never played in England before and (presumably) don't speak much English, and you have a pretty stout learning curve for a large portion of Arsenal's buildup and attack.
"But wait!" you are probably not saying to yourself right now. "Isn't that what the preseason is for, to get these guys used to playing together, playing in England, and ready to go?" Well yes, careful reader, it kinda is, but:
- There are a very limited number of preseason games. This year Arsenal played, what, five? six?
- Those games are rarely if ever played at full Premier League speed
- Those games are definitely not played against Premier League-quality opposition, particularly the Asian games
Training does help that, but there's a limit to what you can replicate in a training session. It's almost inevitable that a team who adds that many players to an attack, and thus re-forms its entire attack, will take a little bit of time to get together as a unit and play the way Arsene wants them to play. It would be nice to get these kinks worked out and get the team playing as one prior to the first game of the season, sure, but the way the league is set up that's probably not realistic.
"But wait!" you're probably again not saying to yourself right now. "Manchester City added some players, and they're off to a pretty good start; Chelsea also added some players - in fact they reinvented their midfield - and they've not dropped a point!" These are good points, and I'm not sure how to refute them except to say that different players acclimatize to different systems at different rates? That's not a very satisfying answer, sure, but the one that keeps gnawing at the back of my head (maybe the quality of those players is a bit better) doesn't really make me happy either.
So in short, for me, I'm not ready to push the panic button just yet. After two games, Arsenal haven't shown much in attack, but the reassuring thing is that, unlike last year, they've shown a whole hell of a lot in defense - Arsenal are much more solid at the back now than they were this time last year, and I'm willing to be a bit patient in attack as long as that solidity remains. I've missed defensive Arsenal, and I'm glad it's coming back.
So in short, I'm not ready to push the panic button just yet - in addition to all the above, there's still a few days left in Ye Olde Transferre Windowe, so there is still time for cash to be splashed, as it were. Is there a point at which I will start to panic? Probably, but that point isn't now. A goal or two against Liverpool this weekend will go a long way towards reassuring me that Arsenal are moving in the right direction.