Arsenal supporters have been somewhat quieter in recent times after seeing their team’s excellent 11-match winning streak come to an end on Sunday.
Unai Emery’s men went into their meeting with Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park having won each of their preceding seven Premier League matches, alongside three wins in the Europa League and a 3-1 success over Brentford in the Carabao Cup. Yet the Gunners weren’t able to make it 12 on the spin at the weekend in drawing 2-2 with Roy Hodgson’s Eagles, with two Luka Milivojevic penalties cancelling out efforts from Granit Xhaka and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to earn the hosts a deserved point.
As such, there have been many quiet Arsenal fans up and down the country in recent times, several of whom are likely to be interested in recent comments from Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson, who has made the worrying prediction that he doesn’t see the Gunners ‘beating the big’ teams.
And while the North London giants are certainly embarking on a phenomenal run of form, those two defeats at the start of the campaign at the hands of Manchester City and Chelsea, alongside clear defensive vulnerabilities, suggest that it’s hard to disagree with his claim.
Ultimately, it was always going to be a tall order for Emery to hit the ground running at the Emirates Stadium given he faced City and Chelsea in his first two games, but the manner in which they were brushed aside by the former suggested that they were still a very long way off challenging for the title.
Yes, they were better the week after against Maurizio Sarri’s Blues, but their defensive woes reared their head again in conceding late on to Marcos Alonso in a 3-2 defeat at Stamford Bridge – those two games were certainly an eye-opener for those Gunners fans hoping for an immediate change in fortunes.
That has since happened in their 11-game winning streak, which has included some very good performances in wins over Everton and Fulham, but on the whole the calibre of opposition isn’t what Arsenal will be measured on – Saturday’s clash with Liverpool will give us all a clear indication as to where the Gunners are at.
In fact, one could argue that they got slightly fortunate during that winning run, as Petr Cech certainly did his bit in the 2-0 success over Everton, while Watford played extremely well before conceding an own goal 11 minutes from time to then go down 2-0 to the Gunners – add in a Leicester City side that could easily have been three goals up before Mesut Ozil equalised last week, and things could have been so different.
Yes, the North London giants deserve great credit for the run they have been on in winning 11 straight matches and remaining unbeaten in their last 12, but bigger and much more tougher tests are to come, and there remains some question marks, certainly defensively, as to whether they can come through those tests.
Thus, while Merson did indeed praise Emery for the start he has made at the Emirates Stadium, the evidence we have seen so far suggests that it’s hard to disagree with his predication that they won’t beat the top teams in the country.
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