IT WAS no 5-1, but in its own way yesterday’s draw at Anfield was another reminder of just how far Arsenal are from being capable of mounting a concerted Premier League title challenge.
For all the money spent during the summer – £80m on Alexis Sanchez, Danny Welbeck and others – the Gunners’ level of play appears to have deteriorated.
Yet the squad is undeniably stronger than last season, when there was little question as to Arsene Wenger’s best XI. Now there are options aplenty in some positions, but a scarcity in others.
It is that imbalance that is holding them back. They suffer disproportionately without Laurent Koscielny, Aaron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta, because there are no adequate deputies.
By contrast, they have a surfeit of attacking players, so much so that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – a winger or attacking midfielder but not a dictator of play – is expected to exert midfield control.
Wenger has used a front three of Olivier Giroud, Welbeck and Sanchez in successive games. Places still have to be found for Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil, though it is anyone’s guess how.
And therein lies issue: we don’t know what Arsenal’s best team looks like. Perhaps Wenger does, but he hasn’t been able to road-test it yet and ensure it has the balance his side has lacked this term.
Up the road Mauricio Pochettino has finally struck on a winning Tottenham formula. Wenger too needs to find that balance. It’s hard to escape the feeling that this Arsenal squad has great potential, but their manager is not close to finding the system to unlock it.