3 Keys to Arsenal Not Dropping Points in Season's Final Matches
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Arsenal are just two wins away from securing a well-deserved top four finish. The only thing that can deny them is failing to address the balance of their attack.
Fixing the forward line is what Arsene Wenger must get right in order to avoid dropping points in the season's final matches. The first step is sending one of his summer signings back to the bench.
Drop Lukas Podolski
This has to be priority one for Wenger. Lukas Podolski has snubbed the considerable faith that the Arsenal boss has shown in him as a central striker.
Even with a few days to allow his recent performances to settle in, it's still easy to be angry about the way Podolski has sauntered around the pitch, giving minimal effort.
If you were to say something like that he was 65,000 miles off the pace against QPR, that would still be a conservative estimate. Arsenal have virtually been playing with ten men while the ultra-casual Germany international has operated in the middle.
And this shouldn't be the case. Podolski has intelligent movement skills and a powerful and accurate left-foot shot. At least he does when he's motivated.
So it's a fair bet "1-0 to the Arsenal" might not suffice against teams playing for English Premier League survival. Wenger must alter the balance of his forward line and the key will be adding greater pace.
Play Theo Walcott through the middle
Arsenal needs greater pace from their main striker and that should mean playing Theo Walcott through the middle. He's recently proved that he can get goals from anywhere along the forward line.
That was known already, but the real encouragement from Walcott's recent performances has been his effort. Arsenal's 20-goal man is playing with real desire, sadly something of a rarity for Walcott.
He's making varied and consistent run,s and the appetite for goals doesn't look like it can be satisfied any time soon. In fact, Walcott's ferocious intent to score is leading him to neglect offering support in defensive areas to right-back Bacary Sagna.
Granted, that's never been a Walcott strong-suit. However, the issue did leave Sagan exposed too often in the 1-1 draw against Manchester United.
It's another reason to endorse putting Arsenal's most likely goal-getter through the middle against Wigan. Last season's 2-1 home defeat to the Latics also reveals the need to give Walcott a new role.
Wigan succeeded in pinning Walcott to the right flank in that game. They double and triple-teamed him, denying him the space to run in behind the back line.
However, they won't be able to commit those numbers to Walcott in central areas. If they do, it will let Arsenal's wide attackers, preferably Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gervinho, drift into dangerous areas from the flanks.
Olivier Giroud may return to the starting 11 for the season finale, however, Walcott has frankly earned another chance through the middle against Wigan.
Put Santi Cazorla back in the middle
It's easy to flip-flop on the decision to play Santi Cazorla on the left. In one sense, this author is a big fan of the idea.
It gives Arsenal four true midfielders. Cazorla's penchant to wander off the flank encourages greater movement between the midfield and forward lines.
The only problem with the idea is that the classy and sly playmaker is Arsenal's best central attacking midfielder. Tomas Rosicky produced a fine performance away against West Bromwich Albion, but has struggled to add creativity and goals in the five games that have followed.
Wenger is clearly reluctant to risk Jack Wilshere's fitness at the moment. In truth, the English youth still isn't quite ready for the Fabregas-role just yet.
That makes Cazorla the smart option. It's not just the improved supply he would offer to the forwards, although that would be a major boost.
The Spaniard simply has a knack for scoring from central areas. Putting him in those areas more often can only help Arsenal in their search for more goals.
As with all of the suggestions on this list, Wenger would have to make sure it didn't disturb defensive solidity. It could be as simple as swapping Cazorla and Rosicky around.
Keeping defensive balance is great, but Arsenal can't forget about attacking prowess
Arsenal's recent defensive solidity has been great. Everybody, including two of this author's most frequent targets, Wojciech Szczesny and Laurent Koscielny, deserve immense credit.
However, there's no doubt that maintaining a stout defensive shape is stunting Arsenal's forward threat. The protective midfield structure created by putting Cazorla out wide and deploying two deeper players has naturally reduced creativity.
These decisions are at once smart and risky from Wenger. He appears content to play it safe and trust that setting up to snatch results, rather than seize them, will prove enough.
It's worked well in a recent run against teams lacking extra motivation. However, it's a risky approach for two games against teams with easily as much to play for as Arsenal.
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