Take a look at the Arsenal team of 2011 and their record over the last 6 years. Not too bad for an average Premier League club – pretty good in fact, yet for a team who were dubbed the ‘unbeatables’ in their 2004-2005 campaign, failure to win a trophy in the last six seasons is quite simply not good enough.
Whilst Arsenal can point to a lack of funds in comparison with Chelsea, United and now Manchester City, along with a completely different ethos and transfer policy, the time for excuses about being in ‘transition’ have to stop. Wenger, at Arsenals AGM, called for more time, and passionately declared that despite the summer departures, the current team at Arsenal can fulfil their potential, if given the time to do so.
The problem however is that Wenger has been asking for more ‘time’ for several trophyless years now, and it must be asked if that question will soon become too familiar with fans who have ardently believed in Wenger and his team for so long, placing playing attractive football with flair above winning games 1 – 0 and a scrappy result. Obviously this has cost them multiple games in the past and although at times they are memorising to watch, the tag of a poor man’s Barcelona is not an unfair one.
Yes Arsenal can attack and play with style, but they have been lacking in grit and determination – a backbone to their team has been missing and although Fabregas cannot be called anything less than a brilliant player, a captain he is not. A major lack of leadership on the field has been something that has blighted Arsenal for several seasons now and whether Robin Van Persie is the man to fill this void remains to be seen.
Anyone with a footballing brain can make the statement that should Van Persie have been fit for the majority of his time at Arsenal things could have been very different for the Gunners. This season Van Persie has been their talisman and nothing short of world class, rescuing the team on numerous occasions and having a phenomenal goal to game ration of 2.38. However should Arsenal fail to make it into the top four and thus the Champions League this season, they may well have to add the Dutchman to their list of high profile departures.
Another point Arsenal supporters will make when looking back at last season in particular is that if they had beaten Birmingham in the Carling Cup final, their season could have turned out vastly different. Again whilst a valid point, much like pointing to departures, injuries and suspensions, football cannot be a game of what if’s. Arsenal’s main issue is that they have not got a good enough defence and Song does not look to be a massively convincing holding midfielder.
It cannot be ignored that losing Fabregas, Nasri and Clichy was a huge blow, as is the fact Van Persie and Vermaelen struggle to stay fit for an entire season. Players such as Jenkinson who got mauled at Old Trafford do display some quality, but to throw them in at the deep end and expose them so harshly is not what Wenger would ideally like to do.
Arsenal clearly have quality within the ranks, not just in experienced players like Van Persie but also the young guns such as Ramsey and Wilshire. The supporters are right in sticking by both the manager and the club, with Wenger bringing through some serious talent during his lengthy tenure at the helm, and is right in saying that the team have masses of potential to fulfil.
Yet Arsenal sit third in the goals conceded chart with 18 goals shipped in from 9 games, and for a team that feels they belong in the top four, this is simply not good enough. Yes they have scored 15 goals in the same amount of games, but Arsenal’s problem has never been failure to attack. Wenger needs to stop with the excuses and finally instil some defensive stability into the team – otherwise a top four finish may well be beyond them and ‘in Arsene we trust’ may well not be the case anymore.