Top at the turn of the year to now being in the position where whether they finish in the top four or not is out of their own hands. Something has certainly gone wrong at Arsenal in the last three months.
The Gunners now require Everton to slip up in the race for fourth, but given Arsenal have the easier run-in, 8/15 is a fair price that they do finish in the top four.
It is no coincidence that the Gunners’ dip in form has overlapped with the long-term injuries of Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott, who have only made one first-team substitute appearance between them since January 4th.
The key with this pair is that they regularly made the runs to get in advance of Olivier Giroud, who is most adept at dropping deep to leave space in behind, laying the ball off and then a teammate releasing one of the midfield breakers.
Without Ramsey and Walcott, Arsenal are limited in this department. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been left to shoulder the majority of the burden and he is exceptionally inexperienced at playing in a full central midfield role.
Therefore, it is a reasonable surprise to see Arsenal targeting another ball-playing midfielder in the summer, when they already have Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil to shoehorn into the team.
Against the top opposition who press high up the pitch, Arsenal have been found out this season, with Arteta particularly troubled by a lack of time on the ball recently against Chelsea.
Paris Saint-Germain’s Marco Verratti would arguably be a small upgrade on Arteta, but the pair are fairly similar in the way they play, preferring to maintain possession and dictate play from deep positions, albeit the 21-year-old is more ambitious with his distribution.
No doubt Verratti would improve Arsenal, but the big question has to be that if Arsene Wenger is in the market for a new central midfielder, should a deep-lying playmaker be top of his list?
PSG don’t really have a central midfielder that makes a habit of regularly busting a gut to get into the opposing penalty box, but if any should be on Arsenal’s radar, Blaise Matuidi makes the most sense.
The French international performs the shuttler role at PSG to link midfield and attack and if comparable to another Premier League player, he is somewhat similar to Chelsea’s Ramires.
Some busyness and energy wouldn’t go amiss among Arsenal’s squad of midfielders and this is something Matuidi can add to, while he would also make more tackles to win back possession.