Arsenal once again shot themselves in the foot to drop points. After going up 2-0 away to Watford at the weekend, the Gunners endured a horrendous second half to only salvage a draw. While the draw means that they are still level with their main rivals for a top four place, these self-inflicted wounds are becoming a habit for the north London club.
The two goals allowed on Sunday were both easily avoidable. Firstly, defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos quite literally passed the ball directly to an opposing player inside his own penalty area. On the mistake, the veteran center back took full blame for this massive mistake. “I think that I cost the game for the team,” said Sokratis following the match. “It was my mistake for something simple that I don’t have to do.”
“I think this was the problem why we lose the three points. This is all about our responsibility and we have to do better. It was my mistake and today without my mistake, we would take the three points.”
However, the result was not just the Greece international’s fault. Fellow central defender David Luiz clumsily fouled a Watford player inside the box with an outstretched leg. Although the sheer number of total shots that the Gunners faced at the weekend gained plenty of attention across social media, the main issues ultimately came down to these two individual errors. Both of Watford’s goals were scored directly from these two plays.
Removing just one of these two errors on Sunday and Arsenal would be level on points with Manchester City, a team that is currently second in the Premier League. In fact, if Granit Xhaka did not awkwardly foul Heung-min Son on the team’s previous match, one of the strangest attempted tackles in the box in recent memory, the Gunners would be even further up the table.
These individual mistakes are killing a team that is scoring enough goals to be successful. Adjustments and improvements in other areas can surely be made as well, but there is no denying how detrimental these very specific blunders are leading to goals for the opposition.
With head coach Unai Emery becoming under fire due to these bad results, there’s a huge question surrounding The Emirates: at what point are perpetual individual errors the coach’s fault? This can be a difficult question to answer, but concentration and focus are both topics that a head coach/manager can certainly work on. Nonetheless, some of these same issues surfaced under the old regime when club legend Arsene Wenger manned the touchline.
Ultimately, there is still a vast majority of the season left to play. Defensive reinforcements are coming later this month, which should also help this porous back line. Fans tend to panic fairly easily, but players can’t afford to do so this early in the campaign. Arsenal have the talent and attacking force to finish inside the top four of the league. If they can manage to eradicate these individual lapses in judgement, then they should have a solid season.