Perhaps as recently as 12 months ago, Arsenal fans had every reason to believe that only one or two major signings were needed to make the club a genuine force in the Premier League once more. The lack of ambition in the transfer market has led many down a path of uncertainty and raised questions as to whether it is the manager who is simply refusing to spend money that is readily available or if the board are withholding any ability to hold a strong hand in the transfer market.
The initial frustration for many Arsenal fans can simply be sourced from the fact that there is not enough information coming out of the club. There continue to be conflicting statements from both the manager and chairman about where the club are looking to go, and yet, there is a resounding feeling among most that a healthy bank balance takes priority over success on the pitch.
Before the disastrous finish in last season’s Carling Cup Final, Arsene Wenger continued to bring to light the fact that Arsenal were the only English club in contention for all four trophies. Yet, despite the notable quality the club had in captain Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie and Samir Nasri, the loss to Birmingham initiated a free fall for the remaining months of the season, only to be capped off by the departure of the two aforementioned midfielders.
While the lack of significant movement in the transfer window is extremely disheartening to fans, there is also the sense that Wenger does not do enough with the resources he has at his disposal. He fails to learn from the many mistakes and failures of the last few seasons and continues to persevere with methods and tactics that simply do not work for the players at the club. It is widely noted that the switch to the 4-3-3 formation was introduced to accommodate Fabregas in the centre of the pitch. However, even without him or any player remotely close to his playing style and ability, the manager decides to remain with the formation that does nothing but expose players who are not suited to this style.
The worst feeling for an Arsenal fan is to show disloyalty to a man who has given so much to the football club. Sadly, the failings at Arsenal are highlighted and sensationalised due to the fact that we’ve seen it all before. It is surely extremely difficult to accept back-to-back defeats as Arsenal have recently experienced against teams they should be beating if they are to remain in contention for a top four place. But the losses to Fulham and Swansea only highlighted the tactical shortcomings of the manager, who saw his side throw away winning positions twice.
I believe the frustration at the Emirates would be eased, if only for a short time, if it seemed like the manager was taking action. Arsene Wenger is widely considered one of the best at his profession, yet there is an overriding sense of the acceptance of mediocrity from him and the playing squad. There is no tactical creativity or an idea of tweaking formations to counter opposition threats; and the lack of urgency we see from Wenger surely filters down to the players. Why not change up the backroom staff? Why not employ former Arsenal players to add a bit of life into the training sessions? Harry Redknapp has a number of former players working under him at Tottenham, and I’m sure Tim Sherwood and Les Ferdinand, among others, are having a positive effect on the players. It’s not only about learning how to be a better footballer, it’s about learning the values of the club.
Again, it’s unclear whether Arsenal fans should show their frustration to a manager who seems to stubbornly stick to his own values, avoid spending lavishly on players and fail make changes where its needed; or if the board at Arsenal have knowingly given Wenger very little to work with. The is a real sense of division among Arsenal fans now, but the real frustration, and I believe the catalyst for much of the divide, is that fans simply do not know what the expectations and targets for this club are. Yes it does appear that the club are regressing, but instead to taking steps to steady the ship, there seems to be a total lack of concern for where this club may be in two or three years from now. And that, I believe, stems solely from the board room.
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