The last time Arsenal went in at half time having opened the scoring was against Aston Villa at Villa Park on January 13. Jack Wilshere and Olivier Giroud scored goals just a minute apart in the first half and the Gunners went on to win 2-1 against the home side.
Prior to that, the North Londoners went four games without a first half goal, just over a month since Theo Walcott’s goal at the Etihad against Manchester City to equalize in the match they eventually lost 6-3.
So far this season the Arsene Wenger’s side have scored more goals in the period between 60 minutes and 70 minutes played than at any other point.
19% of their goals have been scored in that period with 51% of their goals scored in the last half hour of games and just 20% scored in the opening half hour. Interestingly, the period between 60 and 70 minutes played is also when they’ve conceded the most goal, 19% of them in that period.
Arsenal were slow to start at Anfield and it cost them four goals in 20 minutes and, by that point, all three points too. They were ‘nervous’ against Manchester United on Wednesday night at the Emirates and didn’t score over 90 minutes. Do they need to be a little quicker out the traps?
I wouldn’t imagine it’s a fatigue thing, given Wenger’s focus on fitness and sharpness in his players but I just wonder whether it’s a motivation thing, whether they are as ‘up for it’ as the opposition or ‘at the races’ as Wenger said following defeat at Anfield in which they certainly weren’t.
Perhaps it’s complacency – the Gunners were top of the league for weeks on end and hadn’t faced that many gruelling tests until this month. They had lost just three games until they went to Anfield and one of those was way back on the opening day of the season before they went on their 10-game unbeaten run so they might well have forgotten about that.
With the business end of the season now upon us, Arsenal must find a way to refresh their focus and remain at the level of performance they have enjoyed superbly for the past five months if not longer.
In fact, counting their run in the Premier League last term from March when they went 10 games unbeaten to clinch fourth place, they have been outstanding and on a consistent basis for the last 11 months.
But they must not lose that energy and that determination to take the game to teams, home or away, to show up and commit to taking all three points and leaving the opposition with nothing but scraps to feed off.
The loss at Anfield was an anomaly as was the loss to City, I think the draws with Manchester United, Chelsea and Everton were more indicative of Arsenal’s overall season – they defended well in those games. I just wonder whether they need to start without that handbrake on that Wenger describes sometimes.
When you play top teams, whether it’s City in the league or Bayern Munich or Barcelona in the Champions League they just bombard you from the first whistle until they get comfortably ahead and then they play on autopilot until the game is seen through.
Arsenal did that against Napoli back in October and a couple of times since in the league but they haven’t done it recently enough or frequently enough, considering the players of quality they have in their squad. T
hey should be aiming to win games in the first half just like they did in that magnificent victory over Napoli early on in the season, especially with the fixture list they’ve got at the moment – they make hard work for themselves when they leave themselves still searching for that late winner week in week out and it’ll drain their energy as the season winds to a close.
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