Tamworth are a provincial membership, who’ve by no means skilled league soccer and play in a stadium that holds fewer than 5,000 folks. Earlier than this weekend, the one tenuous hyperlink they needed to Arsenal was an ill-fated enjoying stint from Paul Merson that noticed him make one look earlier than promptly retiring from soccer in 2006. Nevertheless it seems the 2 golf equipment have one thing in widespread this season.
After Arsenal’s disappointing however completely foreseeable 2-1 defeat to Newcastle on Sunday, it was revealed that the subsequent membership down England’s huge soccer pyramid but to win a single level on their travels in 2018 was the group at present combating relegation from the sixth tier.
Consider all of the worst groups throughout the nation within the high 5 tiers. All of the terrible gamers and clueless managers. All of them have carried out one thing that Arsenal haven’t: taken a degree from at the very least one away sport because the New Yr.
The sheer incompetence embodied on this streak is difficult to overestimate. Earlier than Newcastle there have been Brighton, Tottenham, Swansea and Bournemouth: one sport from 5 which in regular circumstances you’d anticipate to wrestle in. And but these will not be regular circumstances. It’s now way more possible that Arsenal will lose an away sport than win it.
The numbers are damning. That is Arsenal’s worst away run since 1984. After going 20 years with out dropping 4 away video games on the bounce, Arsene Wenger has now achieved that feat two years in succession. A paltry tally of 13 factors away from dwelling this season within the Premier League is fewer than Watford, Bournemouth, Newcastle and Leicester. It’s only another than Southampton, Swansea, West Ham, Everton and Huddersfield. Simply three greater than West Brom for goodness sake. Manchester Metropolis are a one-off case with 44, however Tottenham have 33 — a differential of 20 factors.
The manifestations of Arsenal’s rot and decline within the late-Wenger period are many, however nothing fairly sums up their shortcomings as powerfully, and the hole that has opened up between them and their ostensible rivals as visibly, as their outcomes on their travels. In much less forgiving environments, the place extra astute plans are required and extra character wanted, Arsenal wilt. And this from a membership that managed to go unbeaten away in two of three seasons between 2001-02 and 2003-04.
Arsenal’s away type is the one cause they’re scrapping with Burnley for sixth place. Solely Manchester Metropolis, with 43 factors, have greater than Arsenal’s 41 factors at dwelling. Wenger’s group have been crippled by their performances on the highway and he nonetheless appears clueless about how you can appropriate it. After dropping to Newcastle, the Arsenal boss supplied the worrying remark that, “I have to be realistic enough to say that maybe our balance offensively and defensively doesn’t work.”
All of which raises the query: Why are Arsenal so dangerous away from dwelling? There’s clearly nobody single cause and the answer isn’t so easy to find, in any other case Wenger absolutely would have carried out so by now. Probably the most obtrusive issue, although, is a poor defence, embodied by one participant particularly who’s going by a really troublesome patch.
Shkodran Mustafi was at fault once more on the weekend as his behavior of standing and watching at essential moments harm Arsenal as soon as extra. Whereas final weekend in opposition to Southampton it was Shane Lengthy nipping in entrance of him to fit dwelling on the close to publish, this weekend it was Ayoze Perez. An virtually an identical mistake.
At dwelling, such lapses may be absorbed, and certainly Arsenal went on to beat Southampton. However on the highway the margins are a lot tighter. As Martin Keown put it succinctly on Sunday: “It’s the away form that is the worst. It’s really quite appalling. It comes down to focus defensively. They have to be better.”
A foul defence may be protected by a midfield constructed to defend them, however right here is one other situation for Arsenal. The profile of midfielder Wenger makes use of, even within the three-man formulation that he has favored lately, doesn’t lend itself to this type of position. Granit Xhaka is nobody’s concept of a holding midfielder. And if Mohamed Elneny is quite extra defensively minded, his strengths nonetheless lie in what he does with the ball, quite than how adept he’s at successful it again or stopping runners going previous him. The difficulty is, Arsenal haven’t got a participant of this kind within the squad since Francis Coquelin was offered.
These are hardly revelatory components with regards to discussing Arsenal’s issues however they develop into significantly pronounced away from dwelling, the place Arsenal’s depressing decline as a Premier League power is most evident.
Tom is certainly one of ESPN FC’s Arsenal bloggers. You may observe him on Twitter @tomEurosport