November! The month that every Arsenal fan dreads. Arsenal have been historically poor in this month of the year, taking an average of 1.6 points per premier league game in this month under Arsene Wenger. This month in all competitions Arsenal won 3 games out of 6 and 3 out of 4 in the Premier League. Even though they lost and drew the Europa League matches, they topped Group H due to their first 3 matches won in this group and other results going their way.
On the field
Arsenal 0-0 Red Star Belgrade
Arsenal started off the month with a drab goalless draw vs Red Star Belgrade at home in the Europa League. This match saw Arsene Wenger revert to the second string team that has been playing in all competitions outside of the Premier League. The closest Arsenal game to winning the game was in the 64th minute when Wilshere’s chip was cleared off the line. The second string team has been performing well for Arsenal, as they are still in the Carabao Cup and ensuring qualification for the knockout phase of the Europa League with this result. The biggest spark in this second string team though, has been Jack Wilshere. People are finally getting to see what he can do in an Arsenal shirt with regular game time under his belt. Many an Arsenal fan would be praying that he does not have any injury complications in the future.
Manchester City 3-1 Arsenal
Wenger vs Guardiola. A battle of two football purists. Two men who have similar footballing philosophies. This game had to be pleasing to the eye as neither manager can resist setting up their side to win. One can argue that Wenger did set his side up a tad more defensive but who can blame him. After all, Arsenal were going away to the top scorers in the league. The biggest surprise was that Arsenal had left Lacazette on the bench and picked Iwobi over him. This definitely backfired because even though Arsenal were impressive in the opening exchanges, they lacked the finishing touch. It required a moment of brilliance from Kevin De Bruyne in order to break the deadlock. Even though City’s 3rd goal may be offside, on that day, they were the better side and deserved the win. Lacazette’s goal should have served as a message to Wenger to start him more often in the big games.
Arsenal 2-0 Tottenham
The North London Derby. That one sentence enumerates the importance of the match. Man City was important, but this was about bragging rights. One might complain about refereeing decisions, but the truth was that Arsenal played well in a match where they usually go missing. Arsenal had to win to keep up the pace with the rest of the top clubs and Tottenham had to win to prove that they meant business in the title race this year. Arsenal put on their most balanced performance of the year with Shkodran Mustafi putting in a match-winning performance for the team. Lacazette showed why he should start more often than not with his performance tormenting Tottenham’s defence. All in all, a day to remember for Arsenal fans and another feather in Arsene Wenger’s illustrious cap.
FC Koln 1-0 Arsenal
To an onlooker, it must feel like there are two Arsenal teams that play this season. One which plays in the Premier League and one which plays in the other leagues. This Europa League match vs Koln was no different. Arsenal played a second string team with players eager to make themselves known in the eyes of the manager. The defence played well this match. Apart from the penalty conceded, the defence was a positive to be taken from the game. Even though Arsenal lost 1-0, they still win their group. This would help them in getting a favorable opponent in the round of 32.
Burnley 0-1 Arsenal
The question about Arsenal has always been replicating results. They always seem to perform well one match and then negate it the next by losing. Here, they had to build on that impressive display vs Tottenham. The opponent could not be trickier. Burnley. A team equal on points with the Gunners. The toughest defence this year outside the top 6, and a very hard team to defeat at home. It had all the makings of a very interesting game. It was. Arsenal were not as dominating as they were vs Tottenham but in the end, got the result. They defended well vs a Burnley side which ventured forward whenever they got the chance. Shkodran Mustafi again ran the defence and ensured that Ashley Barnes did not manage to get the better of him. Arsenal won deep into stoppage time through a penalty which was scored by Alexis.
Arsenal 5-0 Huddersfield
Well, that was surprisingly easy. This game was a clear depiction of how tired a newly promoted side would be when asked to play Premier League games in Midweek. Arsenal almost walked over Huddersfield in the second half when it was clear that they were tiring. 4 goals went in during that period. In total Arsenal had 21 shots in the match and truly ran over Huddersfield. Lacazette, Alexis, Ozil, and Giroud(2) all got on the scoresheet. The only negative for Arsenal was the injury to Lacazette which will keep him out of the Man Utd game. Giroud scoring goals is a good sign considering that he will be starting now that Lacazette is injured. Ozil grabbed 2 assists, and a goal which is a sweet sight for fans.
The performances on the field are starting to improve. The biggest improvement this month has been caused due to the return of Shkodran Mustafi to the team. He has been a rock in the centre of defense since his return. His partnership with Koscielny and Monreal leads to a tight back 3 at Arsenal. Another bright performance this month was Mesut Ozil’s vs Tottenham. Finally, he was able to meet the fans’ expectations. He tracked back and even won the ball a few times for the team in addition to his contribution going forward.
Off the field
The big news this month off the field coming out from Arsenal is that Arsene Wenger has hinted at having a successor, finally! He has hinted that someone like Giovanni van Bronckhorst or Eddie Howe could take over once he decides to step down. Not the most attractive names in world football, and fans will be happy that unlike Sir Alex Ferguson, this decision rests with the Arsenal Board. van Bronckhorst is currently the manager of Feyenoord. He is also an ex-gunner, having played under Arsene Wenger. Nonetheless, Arsenal fans would be hoping for bigger names such as Max Allegri, Diego Simeone, etc.
The talk of the year for Arsenal fans, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, has eaten into most of the transfer talk surrounding Arsenal. Mesut Ozil has been in the news a lot more than Alexis recently, with reports claiming that a move to Barcelona could be possible. Should this move happen, it would be a very controversial one, considering that Ozil has previously played for Real Madrid. He is viewed as a plan B considering the failures to sign top target Coutinho.
Arsene Wenger himself has spoken on the matter claiming that neither of his stars will leave in January. Their respective situations after this summer though, are unknown. In case they are not sold in January and no new contracts are signed till then, Arsenal could risk losing both their main players for free.
Considering this narrative, Arsenal are looking elsewhere to replace Mesut Ozil and the name that turns up time and time again is Leon Goretzka. The Schalke man is making a name for himself in the past few seasons as a solid attacking midfielder. He is German and could be a good replacement for Ozil if he were to leave.
More Backroom Changes
In accordance with Ivan Gazidis’s message that Arsenal require huge changes behind the doors, they have hired a new head of football relations. The ex Barcelona Sporting director Raul Sanllehi. He has been credited with the deals of Luis Suarez and Neymar to Barcelona. He will join the club in February and replace the outgoing Dick Law, a long standing chief negotiator at Arsenal. Arsenal have also hired a new head scout. Ex-Dortmund scout Sven Mislintat has been hired by Arsenal. This is another appointment in what seems to be one of the biggest shake-ups in Arsene Wenger’s reign. Mislintat has been credited with discovering talents like Lewandowski, Kagawa, and Aubameyang at Dortmund.
An Arsenal fan can only hope that these appointments will only help the team move forward as a whole and improve the team’s recruitment policy for players.
There are still a lot of rumors about the rifts in the backroom regarding these appointments. It is understood that Arsene Wenger was not of the opinion to make such changes although Ivan Gazidis deems them necessary following his ‘Catalyst for Change’ remark towards the end of last season, when Arsenal failed to qualify for the Champions League.
November has been a good month compared to some of the previous ones. Arsenal have won 3 out of the 4 Premier League matches played this month. That is an average of 2.25 points per game in a month where they average only 1.6 points a game. The only issue Arsenal face is that they had an extremely poor start to the season which has led to them playing catch up all along. It seems like this season too could be a question of ‘what if’ for Arsenal fans. Only if they could have unleashed the trio of Sanchez, Ozil and Lacazette earlier in the season.
Read more about last month here
Kevin De Bruyne Image via Mancity.
Mustafi Image via Zimbio
Alexis Image via Egypttoday.
Van Bronckhorst Image via premiernews.
Alexis and Ozil Image via Squwaka.
Raul Sanllehi Image via Tribuna.