Arsenal’s season feels as if it is balanced on a blade’s edge. The Gunners enter Sunday’s match at the Emirates against Crystal Palace on the back of two unconvincing performances — the loss away to Sheffield United last Monday and the home win against Vitoria SC only secured by a late Nicolas Pépé free kick brace. A few more bad results and that blade could turn into the axe for Unai Emery.
Arsenal have issues on both sides of the ball. The defense is on pace to concede 51 goals, the same total as each of the last two seasons. Goals conceded from simple, rudimentary defending mistakes seem to be an every-match occurrence. There’s some hope that the defending will improve with the return of Héctor Bellerín and Kieran Tierney, but the pair played on Thursday and are unlikely to feature on short rest.
The attack is anemic. The Gunners lack creativity on offense and seem unable to consistently generate chances for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The club is on pace to score a meager 55 goals; they’ve surpassed 70 each of the last three seasons. The attacking struggles make Mesut Özil’s continued inability to make the matchday squad perplexing. He seems like exactly what the floundering Gunners need to jump-start the scoring. Perhaps Nicolas Pépé’s brace on Thursday was a breakthrough and he will provide the much-needed attacking spark.
Maybe it’s the tired, beaten-down Arsenal fan in me, but I don’t have a good feeling about this one. Crystal Palace have had a strong start to the season and have won two of four away from home, including at Old Trafford. They sit just a point behind the Gunners in the table and have managed that with Wilfried Zaha on a quiet start to the season. He has yet to score this season but leads the Premier League with 4.9 successful take-ons per match.
Does anyone feel comfortable with the thought of Zaha running at Sead Kolašinac, David Luiz, and Sokratis for an entire match? He’s going to get around them. If Crystal Palace convert two of the chances he creates, how confident are you in Arsenal’s ability to score two of their own?
I hope I’m wrong. The not tired and beaten down part of me lives with perpetual hope that the next match will be the one in which the Gunners put it all together. They have the talent. They just need to turn it into successful performances. Why not tomorrow?
WHAT: Arsenal vs. Crystal Palace
WHERE: The Emirates
WHEN: Sunday, October 27th 9:30 AM PT | 12:30 PM PT | 4:30 PM BT
US TV: Not broadcast. Streaming on NBC Sports Gold.
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Given the title and subhead, it felt wrong not to throw this in for y’all. Enjoy some Stevie Ray Vaughan.