English Premier League: Inconsistent Arsenal Held by Aston Villa
So often with this Arsenal team this season, taking stock turns into an exercise in enough. Saturday's trip to Aston Villa, which ended in the Gunners' third scoreless draw of the season in 13 matches, was little different.
It's not that Arsenal played poorly. The Gunners simply were not incisive enough in turning their 63 percent of possession into meaningful attacks.
That decisive advantage yielded 12 shots, but only one of the dozen hit the target. Villa, with only 37 percent of possession, managed four on-target attempts and hit the crossbar once more in the second half.
A week ago, on home soil against Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal pushed five goals past their fiercest rivals. In doing so, the Gunners reasserted superiority in the North London rivalry and, coupled with a midweek triumph over Montpellier in the Champions League, gave weary fans a morsel of success to savor.
Saturday, by contrast, wasn't an awful result, an away draw on a rain-soaked pitch against a tightly organized Villa. But as a missed chance to reenter the top five, it was certainly worrisome enough to bring back some of the anxiety of the past few weeks.
And more distressingly, it underlined again problems that have plagued Arsene Wenger's side this season.
Beyond the first dozen to 15 players in Wenger's first-choice rotation, Arsenal lack the quality needed to create a winning spark in the decisive moments of tight matches.
Jack Wilshere, only recently restored to Arsenal's midfield after his prolonged injury layoff, dropped to the bench Saturday. With Arsenal missing the decisive spark in the second half, Wenger introduced Andrey Arsahvin and Gervinho.
The results were as predictable as they were ineffective. They were also illustrative: Time and again this season, when the 11 men on the pitch haven't produced the goods, Wenger's ability to effect change has been limited.
Wenger, in his post-match interview with BBC Sport, lamented Arsenal's lack of fluency in attack. Conspicuously missing were solutions to the problem.
Fatigue, as Wenger said, must have been a factor, with Wilshere, captain Thomas Vermaelen and full-back Bacary Sagna all sitting out. But it should not be an acceptable excuse for a club of Arsenal's stature.
Last week, Arsenal slammed five goals past Tottenham Hotspur and came somewhat close to resembling the free-flowing sides of Wenger's triumphant past. This week, they looked nothing of the sort. Midweek match or not, Arsenal could and should have done better.
The story is hardly new, of course. Such consistent inconsistency shows why Arsenal do not have enough to keep up with the title challengers for a full season.
On their day, Wenger's side can play with any team in England. Saturday was not their day, though fortunately, the result wasn't disastrous.
The problem is, no one—not even Wenger or his players—seem to know which team will show up on which day.
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