Are Arsenal Now the Worst Team in the Premier League?

December 1, 2020
Arteta’s looking up… at 13 other teams

The answer’s no, by the way. But not by much.

I normally try to avoid hyperbole after a defeat, so the intent behind this headline needs to be understood.

I am not suggesting that we will be relegated. Nor that we will have a terrible season and never get above our current 14th place. I am more optimistic than that and I will explain why later.

My point is that right now – on the form of our last few Premier League games – we are very close to being the worst outfit in the division.

Incidentally, the one team worse than us is not poor Sheffield United, languishing in rock bottom with a single point. Oh no. If you cast your mind back to when we played the Blades earlier in the season, we were dead lucky to come away with three points. They matched us across the park and probably shaded things if we’re honest.

The only team I feel confident in saying we’re better than at the moment is Fulham, West London’s answer to the circus clown car. And even they have scored more goals than us so far this season.

The reason for my damning assessment of Arsenal is that we are currently rubbish at every aspect of the game. Even the relegation position strugglers are all good at something, even if it’s only ‘being hard to break down’ or ‘giving 100 per cent in every game.’

Not us though. We can’t defend. We have no structure. Our midfield is a disaster zone, our confidence is shot and when it comes to creating chances and scoring goals… well, let’s just say that we’re more barren than a bull who’s just had an appointment with the vet’s secateurs.

Our chance creation per minute is below every other team in the league. Our defence was looking pretty solid until the Leicester game. Now we have reverted to type, with all the security of a sieve in a rainstorm.

Even our goalie has taken to parrying every shot that comes his way into the path of the nearest opposition striker like a demented German Father Christmas. Santa Klaus.

If you want to hear some thoughts on how it has all come to this and what can be done about it I suggest you read the outstanding discussion in the comments after yesterday’s post (“Wolves Rip Gunners Apart”).

For now I just want to make the point that whoever we play these days – be it Leicester, Villa, Leeds or Wolves – I find myself watching the opposition and thinking: “I wish we played like that. I wish we could be that direct. I wish we could play simple, effective football.”

Our opponents seem to have a plan, they seem to know where their strengths and weaknesses are and how to work round them and, most importantly of all, they are all capable of making openings.

My view is that blaming our woeful form on the fact that our players are not good enough is silly. They’re who we have and, in any case, those same players were good enough to beat Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea en route to lifting the FA Cup exactly four months ago to the day.

Yes, that’s right. Just FOUR months ago we were on Cloud 10 and feeling full of optimism.

And there’s your silver lining: things can change mighty quick in football. For all the current doubt and despair, we really do have players who are much better than 14th place in the EPL.

They may not be of the standard of Liverpool and Man City, but they are better than they have been showing us and better than those at many of the teams around us.

We have a very young manager learning his trade. They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger (although I’ve always wondered how traumatic amputation fits into that paradigm) and if it’s true, Mikel Arteta will emerge from this current hell to be a much stronger boss in the future.

In the immediate term the answer’s simple. We have to go back to the back five (three centre backs) system that steadied the ship for Arteta in the first place.

Yes, it will blunt our attacking options but it’s not like they’ve exactly been sharp in our recent formations, have they?

And as it’s now December, my letter to Santa is going to ask for one thing: a fast, big, strong, powerful centre forward who can hold up the ball. If we get that kind of player in the team during the January window, everything else will fall into place.

We’ll finish in the top six or seven this year – just wait and see.