Just what is going on in North London? Arsenal are becoming almost the ultimate ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ team, producing week-by-week results and performances that swing uncontrollably between the sublime and the ridiculous.
Over the course of the last two weeks, Arsene Wenger’s men have produced two of the most lifeless displays in recent memory, as AC Milan and then Sunderland taught them two harsh lessons in football, only to follow up with a thrilling 5-2 derby victory over Tottenham. Players who failed to turn up during the Champions League tie became world-beaters and Arsenal suddenly looked like the team we all know they can be.
It’s this frustrating trend, which has soured the relationship between manager and fans to a level that has rarely been witnessed in the red half of North London. However, Wenger is not really the man who should be shouldering all of the blame, with the likes of Tomas Rosicky and Theo Walcott producing vastly differing displays from week to week.
Arsenal fans have been rather spoilt in recent years when it comes to the quality of the football witnessed along with the rewards it has reaped, and this has only served to pressure Wenger’s current crop of talented, yet inconsistent players. The ability is undoubtedly there with the vast majority of the current squad, it’s just the knack of producing these displays each week, which remains the issue. With the fans becoming increasingly frustrated, the air of anxiety around the ground has risen, and even the slightest trigger for abuse often serves as enough for a set of fans who feel they are witnessing an all too frequent set events.
Theo Walcott has been severely abused by many Gunners fans this term, who have become frustrated by his hit-or-miss style. The England international has showed glimpses of his true ability all season linking up well with captain and goal-scoring hero Robin van Persie. But for every goal, assist or incisive run there will almost always be two or three mistakes, which seem to live far longer in the memory.
Yes, Wenger has a key role to play in motivating his players for each tie, but some of his stars look to be beyond motivation, as they drift aimlessly around the pitch, left in the wake of their more committed opponents. However, the next week this changes, as was the case with Rosicky who looked a totally different player against Spurs than he has on many occasions this season, creating space, and dictating many of the Gunners attacks. It’s these players who must be keeping Wenger awake at night, as any contemplating of selling can quickly be rebuffed by one good performance which shows just how talented said stars can really be.
As well as frustrating the manager, their level of displays must surely be effecting each individuals own perception of their abilities. Not many players in the Arsenal camp, who when looking back on the week, can pat themselves on the back, with the exception of van Persie. The inability to turn it on when their manager and team-mates are most in need is something that must surely be playing on their mind, and even if they no longer want to be at the club only performances of a high enough grade will be enough to gather interest for a move away.
It’s getting to the point now where some members of Wenger’s squad must ‘put up or shut up’ to keep their place in the squad. If this trend continues, the Frenchman will have to react severely, as missing out on Champions League football could lead to the likes of van Persie departing for pastures new. For everyone involved at the club this is an unthinkable state of affairs.
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