EPL

No joys of spring for faltering Arsenal

By Sports Desk April 18, 2024

Arsenal’s form in April looks like costing them dearly again this season after they exited the Champions League and fell behind in the title race.

After costly defeats to Aston Villa and Bayern Munich, the PA news agency looks at the Gunners’ recurring failings at this time of year.

Same old story

Manager Mikel Arteta backed his side to “write our story very differently” against Bayern and had previously called on them to recreate the aura of the 2003-04 “Invincibles”, who won the league without losing a game.

They may instead be following the pattern of Arsenal teams since then who have narrowly missed out on success, particularly last season when they began April eight points clear.

They maintained that margin by beating Leeds on April 1 but drew their next three games and then lost to eventual champions Manchester City as they finished five points behind.

Consecutive league defeats to Crystal Palace, Brighton and Southampton in April 2022 contributed to Arsenal missing out on the Champions League.

This season, they were top after beating the Seagulls but defeat to Villa left them two points behind City. That was sandwiched between the two legs of the Bayern tie, a 2-2 draw at home and Wednesday night’s 1-0 defeat in Germany, leaving them needing to end a three-game winless run when they face Wolves on Saturday.

It is not a new phenomenon either – as far back as 2007-08, Arsenal finished four points off the top after winning only one of eight games from February 23 to April 13.

They took one point from four games in the run-in to end their 2009-10 title challenge and five from the final six games in 2010-11 to finish down in fourth, and winning their final five games in 2013-14 was not enough after they took two points from the previous four. They were top of the league for more days that season than any other team, as was the case last year with a record 248.

Same old faces

The PA news agency understands there are some concerns within Arsenal over tiredness and fatigue taking their toll on the players, and their playing time paints a stark picture.

Eight of Wednesday night’s starting XI – David Raya, Ben White, Gabriel, William Saliba, Declan Rice, captain Martin Odegaard, Bukayo Saka and Kai Havertz – have played over 3,000 minutes in all competitions this season.

Those figures exclude stoppage-time and are already more than for either of the previous two campaigns, with six league games still to play.

White, Gabriel, Odegaard and Saka have all hit that threshold in each of the last three seasons for totals in excess of 10,000, with Gabriel leading the way at 11,220. His emergence with Brazil means all bar White are now also regulars for their respective countries.

Gabriel Martinelli could yet add a ninth name to this season’s list and Arteta must work out a way to keep his star men fresh and avoid their now traditional springtime slump.

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