Boring Arsenal is no longer a chant attached to the team George Graham led to win two Premier League titles over 20 years ago. It’s alive and well, even under the hands of the Arsene Wenger, who’s no longer the magician he used to be. Theo Walcott may have broken the club’s Premier League record for quickest ever goal, but there was nothing too impressive in the 89 minutes that followed.
It took 20 seconds for a football match to be over. Walcott scored his 13th goal of the season, proving once again that despite the money spent on Giroud and Podolski, he is the team’s best finisher and potential striker. The rest was just Arsenal with deliberate, transparent and too slow passing football against a QPR team that wasn’t really interested in doing too much damage, but couldn’t help themselves against an Arsenal side that keeps lacking confidence in the most surprising ways.
If Santi Cazorla doesn’t do anything special, the general feeling is that no one will. Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey have never been players that try to enforce a certain pace on a match, or at least not a quick. Without Cazrola having a dominant day, Arsenal just play too slowly in order to make the most of quick players like Walcott and Podolski.
But this is the team Arsene Wenger has built, or what’s left of it after Manchester City, Barcelona and Manchester United tore it limb from limb. A defense that varies in its quality and confidence on match day much too often for the mental health of Arsenal fans, while not having a defensive midfielder for who knows how long. Patrick Vieira’s name keeps being mentioned as the last time Arsenal had a formidable DM, but it’s quite insane to think it’s been nearly a decade since he last played for the team, and a player who’s a natural at the position has yet to have been found or even developed from that academy Wenger is so proud of.
And with two matches left, Arsenal can win out and stay in the top 4. Theoretically both Chelsea and Spurs can finish above Arsenal if they win their remaining matches, but one of the two is going to lose some points when they meet at Stamford Bridge. Having to play Wigan at home and Newcastle away, the gunners couldn’t have asked for too many easier finishes than the one they’ve been introduced with.
The danger of messing that up is nullifying and scaring the team from trying to play well, play open, play bravely. Wojciech Szczesny doesn’t need to be this busy, but Arsenal give up possession and territory too easily against any fake pressure or impression of power. Per Mertesacked and Laurent Koscielny have been playing well of late, but they are always one silly mistake from bringing up the old voices of criticism once again.
Arsenal aren’t on the right path, short-term or long, but may still come out with the Champions League ticket in their hand, even though they don’t deserve to.