Arsenal have scored a number of late goals this season and have come from behind on several occasions this season
The Gunners did it once again after a needless challenge from Francis Coquelin gifted Burnley a penalty in stoppage time – and Arsene Wenger’s remonstrations at the time may still have consequences for the Gunners. Andre Gray promptly converted from the spot and it looked like Arsenal would do the all too familiar thing of dropping points late into a game.
However, Laurent Koscielny then won Arsenal a penalty – although it was wrongly given as the Frenchman was offside when the ball was played into the box – which Alexis Sanchez brilliantly converted with a panenka under immense pressure.
That all too familiar feeling of Arsenal dropping points late into games is a result of years gone by, and in fact has not been the case this season. The Gunners have constantly rescued points from the jaws of defeat this term and the statistics look quite impressive.
Arsenal were all set to drop points against Burnley in the reverse fixture earlier this season as Sean Dyche’s side had put in an impressive defensive display to shut the Gunners out. However, another controversial goal from Laurent Koscielny in the 93rd minute – when the Frenchman appeared to have handled the ball – gifted Arsenal another late victory.
A month before that, Olivier Giroud tangled with Southampton’s Jose Fonte and won Arsenal a penalty in stoppage time. Santi Cazorla stepped up to the spot and duly converted. Laurent Koscielny was the man who equalised for Arsenal on that occasion with a spectacular overhead kick.
Although that was very early into the season, late comebacks from Arsenal have become a trend since then. Although dropping points against Bournemouth will no doubt be considered a disappointment for many Arsenal fans, their comeback against the Cherries was nonetheless impressive.
Arsenal were trailing by 3 goals before Alexis Sanchez scored in the 70th minute. Lucas Perez then added a second 5 minutes later before Bournemouth went down to 10 men after Simon Francis was sent off.
Olivier Giroud, who assisted both of Arsenal’s goals before that, then scored a dramatic equaliser in the 92nd minute and once again Arsenal had rescued points in stoppage time. It was a galvanising performance for Arsene Wenger’s side who would have been eviscerated by the public had they lost the game.
Going back further, there was the performance against Manchester United at Old Trafford. Arsenal always looked second best and it looked like Wenger would lose yet again in Manchester, and once more to Jose Mourinho.
Once again, Olivier Giroud scored in the 89th minute to steal a point for the Gunners and the result was one that Arsenal fans could be happy with.
Arsenal have routinely scored goals late into games. The Gunners have scored a total of 12 goals after the 80th minute, and have scored a whopping 6 goals after the 90th minute of matches. No other team matches those figures, with only Manchester City coming close with 5 injury time goals.
There is no doubt that there has been an element of luck to a few of these goals, but there is the old adage that one “makes their own luck” and Arsenal’s unwillingness to give up in the face of adversity this season is refreshing.
In seasons gone by and indeed in this season as well, many have criticised Arsenal’s players for having a weak mentality and crumbling under pressure. But there are big characters in the team, as the results and performances show.
Olivier Giroud – for all his limitations – never seems to give up on a lost cause although his body language frustrates many a Arsenal fan. Wenger has repeatedly said Giroud is a strong character and always fights in games and he has proven that his season – especially with his goals off the bench.
Laurent Koscielny has a reputation for scoring important goals for Arsenal and he has been involved in everything good they have done this season. Koscielny’s goal against Hull City in the FA Cup final of the 2013-14 season will forever be etched in Arsenal fans’ memories, although he has scored several other important goals as well.
Alexis Sanchez has been Arsenal’s talisman this season and his character is on display for everyone, and his quality combined with his mentality means Arsenal can always rely on the Chilean in any situation.
His gall and confidence to take the penalty against Burnley the way he did was something that no other Arsenal player – bar Santi Cazorla – is likely to attempt.
All of Wenger’s comments about his team’s mental strength finally have some hint of truth to them this season. The Gunners simply refuse to give up on a lost cause and this is in stark contrast to the disappointing, inexplicable defeats and draws they have succumbed to over the years.
Gone are the days of results where Arsenal take the lead and then concede goals in embarrassing fashion – the Newcastle game where Arsenal threw away a 4-0 lead is a perfect example of that. There is definitely more steel to this Arsenal side, who are nearly on the cusp of a team good enough for a title challenge.
However, for all their character one still has to consider the fact that Arsenal routinely put themselves in tough situations. The manner of their first half collapse to Bournemouth was nothing short of shocking for Arsenal fans, who were no doubt getting painful flashbacks to seasons gone by.
Arsenal do not seem to start games the way a team fighting for the title should and are often scared into switching on. Against the bigger teams, they have been utterly disappointing once again this season – bar the game against Chelsea where Antonio Conte hadn’t switched to his hugely successful 3-4-3 yet.
Arsenal collapsed on the opening day against Liverpool – albeit with a defence of Rob Holding, who had signed from the Championship, and Calum Chambers who eventually left on loan. Against United, and in the loss to City they were abject once again.
It often seems as though the pressure of the big games gets to certain players in the team and Arsenal look disjointed as a result of it. This needs to change if they want any chance of winning the Premier League this season.
Arsenal’s recent history in the knockout stages of the Champions League doesn’t make for good reading either. The Gunners constantly collapse in the first leg and leave themselves an insurmountable task going into the second leg. With the spectre of Bayern Munich looming, Arsene Wenger needs to make sure they buck that trend as well.
Despite this, there are encouraging signs for Arsenal fans. There is definitely a growing sense that this Arsenal side are a different beast from the sides of years gone by, and with the characters they have in the team they could yet do something special.
However, Arsenal fans would do well to temper their optimism. If there’s one thing that Arsenal have been consistent with over the last few years, it is their inconsistency.