Will Arsenal win three consecutive league games this season?
We haven’t managed it yet. Arsene Wenger is quick to point out that consistency will be the key to making the top four, but it’s precisely that which evades us at present.
Every time we seem to be building some momentum, that nefarious handbrake slams down to foil us once again.
Nevertheless, six points from nine is more than I expected from our festive fixture list. Watching our defending at St. Mary’s, the victory at Upton Park began to look ever more miraculous.
I still think we’ll make the top four, but I think that case more about an absence of quality elsewhere in this league than any positive attributes of our own.
Is Francis Coquelin the answer to our defensive midfield problem?
Not for me. Coquelin’s tenacious displays don’t make me think we ought to anoint him as the long-awaited “DM” — rather, they convince me of how much better we’d be with a top class player performing in that role. However, Coquelin does look as if he will give Mathieu Flamini a run for his money until a superior player arrives.
At present, Coquelin’s certainly a better option in that role than Calum Chambers. According to Squawka, Chambers didn’t make a single tackle during his return to his former club.
That stat doesn’t necessarily mean quite as much as you might imagine — interceptions are just as important, and tackles can be a desperate last resort prompted by poor positioning. However, it was clear watching the game that the Englishman is a long way from ready to play regularly in central midfield.
Is Wojciech Szczesny good enough to be our number one?
I think so. He has the talent. Is it being properly harnessed? That’s another question (but, crucially, not one in bold. Got to stick to the five. #SEO)
Look at where David de Gea was two years ago and where he is now. That’s surely down to coaching. Has Szczesny made the same strides forward? Probably not. He relies on his instincts and his preternatural self-confidence. Technically and tactically there are still flaws in his game.
The identical errors made by Almunia, Fabianski and Szczesny can’t be mere coincidence. The problem must lie on the training ground.
What’s up with Laurent Koscielny?
Although Szczesny was painted as the villain of the piece, Koscielny also endured something of a personal nightmare against Southampton. Aside from misjudging the run of Saido Mane on the opener, he also played a weak back-pass that ought to have resulted in a third for the Saints.
You know, it’s almost as if he’s being forced to play through a debilitating chronic injury. Tendinitis doesn’t just disappear. His is a condition that requires careful management. It’s been said many times, but Wenger has to buy a central defender with the ability to cover a prolonged absence for Koscielny. Relying on him is a risk we can not afford.
On the subject of the back four, much will understandably be made of how shoddy we looked with our first choice defensive unit in place. However, in their defence it was the first time those five players have played together this season. All change — even position change — can be disruptive. It will take time for that unit to click.
What sort of team will we see in the FA Cup?
Ideally, I think Arsene Wenger would like to field a rotated side after a demanding Christmas period. However, a glance at our subs bench at Southampton suggests he has very few options at his disposal. Theo Walcott should start his first game in a year, while David Ospina is guaranteed a game in goal. Other than that I expect it to be fairly similar team.
One man who may get a run-out, most likely from the bench, is Chuba Akpom. It seems clear Wenger is launching a charm offensive to convince the young striker to extend his deal beyond the summer. The development of Joel Campbell does not seem to be quite such a priority for our manager.