Bobby McMahon has a new article up on Forbes that, unlike most in recent days, attempts to frame Arsenal’s form this season to something other than their transfer activity:
It sounds strange to say that an Arsenal squad that includes Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gervinho lacks pace but it certainly does in key areas of the field. Arsenal has suddenly become a team that struggles to “run away” from the opposition in the midfield and just as importantly, it lacks a player who can consistently play a decisive pass into a packed opposition penalty area.
Arsenal’s ability to maintain possession has actually become a detractor. The opposition knows that if they sit deep and defend passively Arsenal will pass from side to side but rarely threaten.
Earlier in the piece, McMahon speaks of how certain teams have long been associated with a certain ‘brand’ of football. Brazil play something called ‘Samba football,’ (although they haven’t arguably since Spain 1982), Italy use catenaccio (even though they plainly don’t and arguably never did, except when Helenio Herrera coached Inter in away games in the 1960s), and Arsenal ‘pass the ball into the net.’
I think McMahon gets as close as anyone as to why this debate over their form has been limited to the ledger and not to the team’s tactics with their available personnel. First, because their ledger is an obvious outlier among top clubs in the Premier League. But second, because Arsenal’s brand of football is so entrenched in the popular imagination that no one questions whether Wenger has effectively adapted his approach to suit his club’s limited transfer strategy. Could you imagine Arsenal fans singing “You don’t know what you’re doing?” to Arsene Wenger?
It’s a given, like Brazil’s sexiness and Italian defending. Right?