Arsenal ended 2017 with a frustrating 1-1 draw at the Hawthorns as Arsene Wenger’s men dropped points on the road yet again. Fingers may have been pointed towards the officials, with particular focus on referee Mike Dean, who awarded the controversial late penalty to West Brom, but the Gunners should have been out of sight against their struggling opponents. Their poor record away from the Emirates has seen them fail to break into the top four and any further underwhelming performances on their travels could see them fall further behind.
Heading into 2018, Arsenal have the ninth-best away form in the top flight and although this has improved noticeably since the end of November, they still lack a killer touch on their travels. Even Watford, who have lost four consecutive matches on the road, have accumulated the same amount of points away from home and have netted more goals than the Gunners. They’ve lost four times away from home this season, including defeats at Anfield and the Etihad Stadium, but losses to Watford and Stoke are more likely to have irked those travelling fans who made the long journey home with little to cheer. The latter have fallen into the relegation zone and the Potters could slip into the Championship if performances don’t improve considerably. Despite this, they still managed to pick up three points against Arsenal, with a Jese strike enough to seal an unlikely victory. Stoke’s struggles in front of goal have been well-documented this season and they have netted just 23 times but still found a way past the Arsenal defence. Under 2.5 goals has regularly landed for Mark Hughes’ side this season including in their 1-1 draw with Huddersfield on December 21, which was correctly predicted by Oddschecker, who also tipped the game to end all square.
Wenger’s side were also disappointing against an out-of-form Southampton side, where they could only draw 1-1 courtesy of a last-minute Olivier Giroud goal and a goalless draw at the London Stadium was yet another underwhelming performance, but the French coach took plenty of positives from the game and acknowledged his side were improving on their travels. Having taken just nine points from a possible 27, many Arsenal fans were quick to disagree.
There are some positive signs, however, and Arsenal enter 2018 unbeaten in five away matches. Alexis Sanchez netted twice against Crystal Palace to take a vital three points, although James Tomkins’ late header set up a typically nervy finish at Selhurst Park. That was just the second time this campaign that they’ve netted more than a single goal in an away match and if they are to re-establish themselves as a top-four side, they must improve upon a paltry 13 goals in 11 games on their travels. Many sides will sit deep and absorb Arsenal pressure but Arsene Wenger desperately needs to formulate a ‘Plan B’ or alternative game plan in order to combat this approach from lower-ranked opposition.
Upcoming trips to the Liberty Stadium and the AMEX could prove to be a real test for the Gunners with both sides likely to take a damage limitation approach and it remains to be seen whether the visitors can break them down. Arsenal fans are desperate to see their side challenge for the Champions League positions once again but until they sort out their travel sickness, they are unlikely to oust Liverpool, Chelsea or Manchester United from those precious top four spots.