Arsenal are the same as last year. And the year before. They have their good moments and bad moments, but the good ones don’t come consistently enough and the bad ones always seem to happen at the worst possible time. Arsenal are the ‘nearly-men’. When Wilshere or Ramsey begin to show their quality, Özil comes undone, or vice versa. When it looks like Arsenal can mount a challenge for the league title, they stumble.
It’s possible that they lack character. That would explain their horrendous away form. Arsenal have won fewer points on the road than Leicester or Burnley, and they’re at their worst in this respect since the formation of the Premier League. The Gunners secured a draw against CSKA Moscow in the Europa League quarter-final, but that result didn’t reflect the difficulties that Arsene Wenger’s side faced.
Gunners wilt in defence
What Arsenal do with the ball is the least of their concerns. Defensive problems are their main limitation. They concede almost every game, and Petr Cech has picked the ball out of his own net more in 2017-18 than in any other season. Shkodran Mustafi has not been the solution that many hoped he would be. Nacho Monreal and Laurent Koscielny don’t guarantee solidity at the back, and that is partly because the central midfielders do not perform their defensive duties. Granit Xhaka, Mohamed Elneny, Wilshere, and Ramsey don’t protect the team, and that has contributed to Arsenal having the worst defensive unit of the ‘top six’.
The doubts that circulate regarding the future of Wenger – who has one year left on his contract – weigh heavy on the players. The attractive football of the past has disappeared. Just two years ago, Arsenal created more clear chances than any other Premier League side. Last season they created the third most, and this season fourth.
Domestic cup competitions have provided the only happy memories in the last few years, and Wenger hopes to achieve the success in Europe that will guarantee his position in the dugout.
Mesut Özil: Arsenal’s star man
If Henrikh Mkhitaryan is not fit, Özil’s left foot will be Atlético’s main problem. He may be a little inconsistent, but few can match him on his day, when he’s drifting between the lines. He has 15 assists this season, including five in the Europa League.