With Arsene Wenger welcoming the distraction of a return to Champions League competition this week with a trip to the Dragao stadium in Portugal to play Porto, Arsenal will be looking to silence their critics with smooth passage into the quarter final stage. It promises to be tough tie, especially in Oporto with the free flowing football Porto also subscribe too. Arsenal will have to watch young Columbian striker Falcao and his partner the Brazilian international Hulk. Falcao has 14 league goals to his name already this season and is being tipped for a move to Spain in the summer.
Yet whilst Arsenal should progress, their poor Premier League form against the established top teams has been heavily jumped on by the media and press. Suggestions have been made that Wenger is maybe too head strong about his side and that the need to purchase a striker in January was paramount considering the injury to Robin Van Persie. Most of the reaction by the media has been over the top, but Wenger did let his players down by not signing a striker in the transfer window. Hailed as their most important games of the season, the trips to Villa Park and Stamford Bridge mixed amongst home ties against Manchester United and Liverpool were going to test the mental strength of the Arsenal side. Yet Wenger didn’t have a fit striker, instead Arshavin was expected to hold the line, whilst I am a keen admirer of the Russian, he is not an out and out striker and he was particularly poor against Manchester United. During the four most important games of the season for Arsenal’s title challenge Wenger had let his players down by not having a striker in place, his headstrong attitude over his side cost them in those games. The worst kept secret in football is Bordeaux’s Marouane Chamakh will be joining Arsenal in the summer, yet was it not worth the £5 million to get him now, to have a chance at pushing all the way for the title? Clearly not to Wenger. The biggest fear for Arsenal fans is the knock on effect of such a decision. Fair enough Wenger didn’t want to waste money on a player he was going to get for free next season, but after Chelsea and Manchester United utterly dominated their matches with Arsenal where does this leave Cesc Fabregas? It’s looking more and more likely he is going to be leaving.
That would be my only criticism of Wenger, the brand of football he plays is second to none, his philosophy of bringing young players though with an academy set up much akin to Barcelona is fantastic and when he does eventually leave Arsenal he will have left them in much better state than when he joined them. Considering the financial hardships many clubs are going through, Portsmouth for example who may not even be in existence within a month, the winding up orders issued against Cardiff City is another. Arsenal are one of the best run clubs in world football, their stadium is one of the most profitable anywhere with its sold out capacity and the high prices they charge.
Arsenal may be getting grief for a crumbling title challenge but just look at Liverpool, struggling for 4th and not even in the Champions League anymore. Arsenal are 3rd with what can be described as easier run in than any of the established top four and still in the Champions League. The knockers of Wenger need to calm down, yes he’s made mistakes and I think not purchasing a striker in January is going to cost him any title chance, but Arsenal are doing OK and I think some perspective needs to be taken which clearly some people have lost.