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PRESS PREVIEW: ARSENAL

3 March 2018

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Mark Mann-Bryans of the Press Association gives her verdict on Arsenal ahead of Sunday's game.

What’s been your overall assessment of the season so far?

It’s not been the season they would have wanted, they’ve seen off some of the league’s lower sides at home without much fuss, but the same problems have haunted them again this campaign.

They struggle for both consistency and results against big sides. They spent big in the summer and brought in Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – they broke the transfer record twice in six months – but both players were in an area where they don’t tend to struggle – they always seem to score goals.

It’s at the other end of the field where the problems still haven’t been addressed and fans still feel there’s another summer of spending needed to get them back up to the top level.

They’re problems that have been around for a while?

It’s been the same for a number of seasons – and it’s down to a number of factors. I think the manager likes certain types of defenders and that’s one of the main issues, and he likes to bring in young players.

He’s got the likes of Rob Holding and Callum Chambers – they’re not developing because they’re either playing too irregularly or when they do play, they lose badly and their confidence is knocked, and the defensive midfield area still needs strengthening too.

The future of the manager – Arsene Wenger?

I’ve been covering the side for three years now – last season the manager would be quite jovial and joke about questions about his future but that does seem to be subsiding now and it’s now far more serious.

His body language has changed and maybe you can read too much into those things – but there might now be a doubt about his future.

How much pressure is there on the side to win the Europa League, with AC Milan up next?

It’s a sort of ‘how’s your luck?’ scenario with the draw – Manchester United got to the final last year with a fairly comfortable draw throughout the tournament and the final was relatively easy.

For a while now, Arsenal have been staring at the fact that they’re no longer the best team in the league and Wenger insists he wants to finish in the top four and win the tournament, but the squad just isn’t deep or strong enough to be able to do both.

One to watch?

I would have to say Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. He impressed on his debut against Everton and scored a nice goal, but he hasn’t kicked on this then. He was shunted out onto the wing in the north London derby because he had been ineffective. He didn’t get a chance to play in Europe, but played in the cup final where he was bullied by Vincent Kompany, who has only just got back to fitness. He needs a good game and a couple of goals, and when good strikers need goals, they tend to get them.

What would represent a successful season now?

You look at Jose Mourinho last year, who won the League Cup and Europa League and was happy with that. I know Arsenal lost the League Cup Final, but they still got to the final and a lot of people forget that. If they can win the Europa League and at least finish positively in the Premier League and maybe claim fifth spot, then that’s the best they can hope for. The issue with Arsenal is consistency. They could come to the Amex, win 3-0 and then play Watford next week and lose. Arsenal haven’t addressed that issue, and no-one knows who Arsenal are at the minute.


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