Arsenal

What Mikel Arteta did after Gabriel Jesus’ West Ham miss speaks volumes on Arsenal transfer plan

The Gunners boss witnessed another wasteful display from his side as they lost 2-0 to West Ham at the Emirates Stadium

 

It’s been the elephant in the room all season. The one thing Arsenal haven’t wanted to talk about.

Ask any Arsenal fan and they’ll tell you this season has been different. Whereas last year felt like the Gunners were hurtling at top speed toward an inevitable crash, this season they haven’t really hit top gear.

Mikel Arteta has been able to spin this positively. He would argue that his side have the control over games that he has craved so drastically. With a year’s more experience in the title race, they have largely navigated the chicanes and sharp turns with the kind of cruise control required to last the course.

But there is a fundamental difference from last season. This is not a title built on full-throttle attacking football. Instead, it’s the Gunners defence that led them to top the league at Christmas. Only Liverpool have conceded less than their solid back line. When it comes to goals scored, though, Arsenal do not even rank in the top six.

Defences win you titles is what the old wisdom says. But there’s only so long you can get away with failing to convert your chances. The 2-0 defeat to West Ham finally proved to be the game where this profligacy caught up with them.

“When you look at how much we generated in the game, to see the result is very disappointing,” Arteta said of the match. “But they were better than us in both boxes. They had two shots, – with the penalty three. We had 30, I don’t know how many touches in the box, how many situations, how many opportunities to score and we haven’t done it. In football you have to do that better if you want to win.”

This was a display that has felt like it has been coming for some time. In recent matches against Brighton and Wolves, Arsenal have had to suffer nervy finishes due to a lack of cutting edge, and at Anfield on Saturday they could even have got the three points that their outstanding display deserved if they had shown more ruthlessness in the final third.

As Arsenal dominated possession in the early exchanges it was familiar story for much of this festive clash at the Emirates. Up against one of the Premier League’s best counter punchers, though, the Gunners were finally the victims of a knockout blow. The first came in controversial fashion as Tomas Soucek turned in Jarrod Bowen’s cutback that appeared to be out of play. VAR though, much to Arteta’s chagrin, could not find a definitive angle to overturn the onfield decision. An equally well-known plight for those of an Arsenal persuasion.

When Declan Rice grazed the roof of the net just after the break, it felt like a moment of time before Arsenal would eventually wrestle back the momentum. Moments later, though, Dinos Mavropanos came back to haunt his old side from a corner.

Even after that, Arsenal arguably had enough chances to at least draw level. Two of the best fell to Gabriel Jesus, the second of which in particular was the kind of gilt-edged opportunity that, for all the Brazilian’s incomparable ability in the build-up phase, is the kind of miss on which his game will continue to be judged.

It’s hard not to sympathise with Arteta here. When a team has a record number of touches in the opposition box and 30 shots across the course of the night, it’s probably safe to say that the coach has fulfilled his side of the bargain.

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