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Game of two halves? Same old Arsenal.....

Under the existing FA rules, Arsenal should have won last night's game 1-0, Aaron Ramsey's goal, from a delightful through ball from Santi Cazorla, was onside. However, when you take a step back and consider the match in the colder light of day, then a draw was a fair result. Ironically, the late replacement centre halves managed to keep a clean sheet.

I never actually heard an Arsenal supporter pre-season, claim that the team were genuine title challengers, in their heart of hearts, they didn't share the certainty that Chelsea or Manchester City fans did at the start of a campaign. However, there is the unspoken voice, the one you hide from supporters of other teams, that was hinting that having won back to back FA Cups and after one of the most exhilarating performances at the new Wembley, that this season would be the closest Arsenal have been for over ten years.

That voice that has dropped to an even lower register after the first three games. Arsenal were very poor against West Ham, good in patches against Crystal Palace, and very disappointing in the first half against Liverpool and in the second half, played in the exact manner that has been frustrating Arsenal supporters for ages. More of the same...

After a bright start (and a perfectly good goal being disallowed), Arsenal chose to stage a perplexing meltdown, caused by players making difficult passes at tight angles and therefore ceding possession to a Liverpool team, pretty weak and very beatable to be honest, that grew in confidence. Liverpool actually felt sufficiently emboldened to discard their manager's "space management" theory and attack an Arsenal team, whose performance by the half hour mark was littered with mistakes. 

I felt for young Chambers, who had a shocker and in the first half, and the only Arsenal outfield players that could hold their heads up were Coquelin and Monreal. Thank heavens, Petr Cech loves living in London because without his experience, Arsenal would have been 2-0 down at the break.

The second half was an improvement, Gabriel in particular stepped up to the mark and Chambers calmed down sufficiently to concentrate on being a stock centre half. Arsenal remembered that an integral part of passing is ensuring that the ball ends up at the feet of a team-mate and began to threaten. Both Sanchez and Giroud came close, and as he does, Ozil began to flourish in space and actually ask for the ball. Ramsey looked dangerous cutting in from a wide position and Giroud started to lead the line with a modicum of aggression.

However, the result was a stalemate, only Sanchez came close, grazing the post and Mignolet was able to make two comfortable saves. With the exception of 2011-2012, this is the worst start to the season, for six years. There is just over a week left in the transfer window and although I' be very surprised if Arsenal sign anyone of real note or value, the manager needs to listen to his "inner voice" and his supporters, we need a top striker and soon. Anyone for Cavani?

By Ian Byrne

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Are Arsenal perennial slow starters?

There was much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth last Sunday, Ed Chamberlain had it right on Sky at half time when he said "same old Arsenal". In essence, Arsenal made two (very bad) defensive errors and were punished for both, and how many times have we seen that in the past? Of more concern to me however, was Arsenal's usual paucity in attack, combine the two, and it leads to the question, why do we usually start the league campaign so poorly?

Last season we had ceded the Chavs eleven points by November, we finished twelve points behind them at season end. I have seen several posts on twitter espousing how well Arsenal would fare if the season ran from January as opposed to it's natural start in August. This is errant nonsense of course, but it does highlight that Arsenal do finish the season well, but despite this, are unable to reclaim the ground they have lost in the months before Christmas. 

If you consider Arsenal's first three games in each of the previous six seasons, they have averaged five points in the first three games. Not a disaster, but if that form were to be replicated throughout the season, Arsenal would finish with 62 points. In every year, bar one, in the last six years, that puts us in the dreaded Europa League spot. In only one season (2010-2011), did Arsenal achieve the requisite two wins and a draw which defines a title winning team.

These are the statistics:

2014 - 2015     5 points
2013 - 2014     6 points
2012 - 2013     5 points
2011 - 2012     1 points (including 8-2 away at the Theatre of Muppets)
2010 - 2011     7 points
2009 - 2010     6 points

As I've said, hardly a disaster, but neither a platform for the self-belief that builds in a championship winning team. What made the West Ham defeat worse was threefold: Firstly, it was West Ham, secondly, it was at home, thirdly (and critically for the supporter), Arsenal fans were believing the hype that Arsenal are genuine title contenders.

West Ham had travelled to Romania just three days before, so we would wipe the floor with the Hammers three or four nil. However, we hadn't reckoned on the crafty Croatian Bilic. Don't forget that he had frustrated Arsenal with a canny, defensive performance with Besiktas a year before and West Ham deserved those three points, that was an excellent effort by their back six.

Of more concern was Arsenal's willful motivation to repeat the same attacking shape repeatedly, when it was obvious it wasn't working. West Ham had a two goal lead away at a team they hadn't beaten in 16 previous matches. Therefore, they had every right to put men behind the ball, what did we do to engineer the same score at City last season?

I was abroad when we played in that daft Singapore trophy. I saw the Everton game, and yes, it's a meaningless pre-season match. However, Arsenal were playing with real width, with a three behind Giroud. It looked interesting and Arsenal were getting the ball wide as a tactic and it worked. It allowed Ozil and Cazorla to swap roles depending on the flow of the game. Arsenal used the same philosophy against Lyon and that worked too.

Against West Ham, the first real match of the season, we reverted to type - why?

The next two fixtures are away at Palace and home to Liverpool, the results take care of themselves, based on the imponderables of how well we/they play, luck and refereeing, but it would nice to see Arsenal learn a lesson every now and then.

By Ian Byrne

Follow me @RightAtTheEnd

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