So far Arsenal have failed to score in only two thirds of our Premier League games this season.
That would be wrist-slitting form if it was now late November – but it’s less alarming when you take into account that we have played only three games and that we remain unbeaten.
Nevertheless, after scoreless draws against Sunderland and Stoke the media weren’t the only ones asking whether finding the back of the net would be our biggest challenge this year.
Nerves were soothed somewhat by the two-nil win at Scamfield, but I believe there is cause for optimism that’s even more recent than that.
Looking around the international games that have taken place in the last few days, Arsenal players have been prominent on the score sheets.
Santi Cazorla nabbed a tidy goal and also had an assist in Spain’s 5-0 ‘friendly’ thrashing of Saudi Arabia.
And Abou Diaby got the only goal of the game as France clinched victory in Finland.
Meanwhile for England against Moldova, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain provided an assist during England’s comfortable win. Given that the assist was for Jermaine Defoe – who’s about as lethal in front of goal as a dead sheep – it should really count as two assists.
So what conclusions can we draw from this?
For me it’s that New Arsenal have the potential for goals from all over the midfield and attack.
Last season we were over reliant on Brave Sir Robin* for finding the back of the net but this year I expect the goals to be shared more widely.
Podolski showed at Liverpool a wonderful combination of determination and skill to open the scoring (that powering run, that single touch to control the ball at high speed and that clinical finish). I would expect him to run close to 20 goals this year. (He featured as a substitute in Germany’s 3-0 over the Faroe Islands, but will probably start against Austria on Tuesday).
Cazorla – class act that he is – is well known to be a decisive finisher as well as a provider. Close to double figures for him too.
And then there’s Diaby. Like many, I have had my doubts about him in the past (and I don’t mean over his injury record). At times he seemed to dwell on the ball too long and make poor decisions. However, he always showed a keen eye for goal and his winner for France just hints at what there is to come from him.
And what about Gervinho? He’s a bit of a divider among fans at the moment (some relish his dribbling skills, others feel he runs into blind alleys or fails to use the ball well when he breaks through).
I remember the goals he scored in pre-season last summer (2011) in his first games in an Arsenal shirt. His composure and finishing skills led me to believe we might have Thierry Henry Mark Two on our hands. Suffice to say he didn’t live up to that promise throughout last season. But his fine finish for Ivory Coast will boost his confidence and I expect him to start chipping in with his share of goals. Again, nudging double figures is not an unrealistic ask.
Of course there is also Giroud. I see that in some reporting it now a “fact” that he has missed two open goals in his short Arsenal career. Two good chances, certainly – but open goals? Come off it. Let’s put the hysteria away and assume that Olivier has a “steady” first year with the world’s best football team, giving us 12 goals.
Last year in the EPL we scored 74 goals, shared as follows:
Van Persie 30
No-one else got more than 2.
It’s a really unbalanced picture.
When we tot up the statistics at the end of the current season I would hope things will look more like this (and I am trying to be conservative: I assume fewer goals for Arteta because of his deeper-lying role and I have not assumed any defender getting above two):
With the usual array of people – including defenders and less frequent starters – scoring one or two goals, we can expect a total haul that is considerably higher than last year – perhaps closer to the high 80s. You will notice I have not included Wilshere, Rosicky or Ramsey – any or all of whom could also chip in with important goals.
Events may prove me to be over-optimistic; injuries might throw some almighty spanners in the works, but I genuinely believe that we have a broader range of goal scorers this year than last and that we will do better as a consequence.
What do you think?
*I’m not praising our errant knight with that comment. It refers to the “Brave Sir Robin” from Monty Python and the Holy Grail who is anything but brave:
Brave Sir Robin ran away.
Bravely ran away away.
When danger reared it’s ugly head,
He bravely turned his tail and fled.
Yes, brave Sir Robin turned about
And gallantly he chickened out.
****Bravely**** taking (“I never did!”) to his feet,
He beat a very brave retreat.
Bravest of the braaaave, Sir Robin!