Wounded Arsenal still in the mix despite rough week

By Hilton Yip Source:Global Times Published: 2015-11-9 23:23:01

On the face of it, Arsenal seem to have been brought back to earth after a tough week.

The Gunners had been riding high after five straight Premiership wins and a stunning victory over Bayern Munich last month, but were crushed 5-1 by Bayern on Wednesday. They then had to come back from a goal down to draw against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.

There was some sense that Arsenal might be able to aim for bigger things beyond a top-four finish in the league this time, but the Munich defeat displayed their defensive problems, while the Spurs draw saw ­Arsenal being outplayed for long periods of time. However, if one looks more closely into the circumstances, Arsenal actually demonstrated some admirable resolve, proving that they cannot be counted out.

First, the Gunners are in the midst of a horrible injury situation, and the squad is very sparse. Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott and Hector Bellerin were all recently injured, while Jack Wilshere and Danny Welbeck have been out since before the season!

The Spurs game showed exactly how extreme the problem was. Backups Mathieu Debuchy and Joel Campbell started against Spurs while the only offensive player on the bench was 19-year-old Alex Iwobi. When Arsene Wenger substituted Santi Cazorla for Mathieu Flamini at halftime, it was a clear sign of the lack of options. Granted, the move helped tactically because it strengthened Arsenal's midfield, but would Wenger have put in Flamini if Ramsey or Oxlade-­Chamberlain had been available?

Second, Arsenal's undermanned squad was just coming off a tiring trip to Munich midweek where they had to deal with one of the best teams in Europe. Spurs also had a European tie Thursday, but it was at home to Anderlecht. Next week's international break could not have come at a better time for Arsenal and it is likely a couple of their injured players will return.

Third, coming from behind in a match against your fiercest rivals, especially when you are being dominated, is not an easy feat. Arsenal actually could have won it if Olivier Giroud had been more clinical with a few headers in the last 15 minutes.

Spurs, for their part, were impressive and looked more likely to win. They harried Arsenal constantly and maintained this for most of the game before tiring in the last 15 minutes. They have a young squad with several promising English players, especially goal scorer Harry Kane, who is just 22. Spurs have not lost since the opening day of the season when they lost narrowly to Manchester United and moved up to fifth place. It would not be surprising if they moved up more as the season progresses.

The author is a Beijing-based writer. hcpyip@gmail.com

Posted in: Extra Time

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