He may support Spurs, but Boggs apparently enjoys watching Arsenal with regularity for some reason. Masochist?
Despite what agrieved commentators or some sections of Arsenal’s support may think, the problem with the club’s horrific start to the season is not an unwillingness to shoot.
21(11) shots to Aston Villa’s 5(3), followed by 20(6) to Manchester City’s 10(3). Arsene Wenger’s men are averaging the same number of shots on goal as Premiership top scorers Manchester United.
Obviously, the issue is finishing. Watching these matches saw Arsenal take apart their opposition like they have for years, the only difference is that the breathtaking moves have been capped off by a less than clinical effort. It’s especially worrying that the source is not wayward form of established Premiership players but lack of production from new signings on whom the club will need to rely on heavily.
Two key things have been constant during recent years at Arsenal. One, the club has had no striker who can consistenly take on some of Thierry Henry’s goalscoring burden. Two, they have continued to succeed despite this glaring reliance because their midfielders scored shed loads of goals. Henry’s left hand man Robert Pires and Freddie Ljunberg outscored most Premiership strikers for years by cutting in from the wings, combining for over 100 goals for the club in less than 400 matches.
But Pires has gone off and maimed himself at Villarreal while Freddie is on the decline. The former is replaced by Tomas Rosicky whose two stunners against the USA has blinded many to his relatively poor goalscoring record at Dortmund (19 goals in 149 games). Hleb replaces Ljunberg and, while still settling, is still better known for his nifty footwork and shown few glimpses of an eye for goal.
Both players have certainly shown they are more than capable of fitting into Arsenal’s short passing game, but neither the ability to pop up at the end of the move to finish as their predecessors did with regularity. That isn’t to say they won’t develop the skill under Wenger’s guidance, but for those thinking that this season would mark Arsenal’s return to dominance, Thierry Henry included, might need to be a bit more patient.
With the Frenchman himself struggling for form and fitness, this glaring weakness in Wenger’s tactical system is being cruelly exposed. And just as Sir Alex took a couple of years to regroup from the break up of Giggs, Scholes, Keane and Beckham. It will be very interesting to see how Wenger and Arsenal react if they struggle to replace Pires, Ljunberg and Vieira.