The Emirates Stadium probably isn’t the nicest place to be at the moment. After seeing their team conspire to throw away the Carling Cup final, drop points at home to Sunderland in the title race before crashing out of the FA Cup and Champions League, Arsenal fans might be forgiven for wondering if their silverware drought has something to do with their new stadium.
Yet, despite the string of negative results, there remains a genuine chance that one major trophy will adorn the Gunners’ trophy cabinet before the end of May – a first trophy since the FA Cup triumph of six years ago.
The cumulative efforts of the current playing staff at Arsenal over the last few seasons should certainly have been enough to land some cup success during this time, nevertheless, the series of near misses have started to take their toll on many plying their trade at the club.
I know there will be a large section of the Emirates faithful that will feel that capturing the league title this season is absolutely paramount after a campaign where there has been positive elements to build upon yet little to hang their hat on. Failure again, some might argue, would seriously undermine what they have believed in for the best part of seven years.
My argument however, is that, as hard as it may be to watch, that Arsenal fans should hope their pursuit of a first league triumph since 2004 falls by the wayside. Obviously, the idea of coming away from this season without something tangible is difficult to stomach, however I genuinely believe that one more failure will do the club a great deal of benefit in terms of pushing for top prizes next year.
Manager, Arsene Wenger, may have seen enough to appreciate that there is more than one way to skin a cat when it comes to his philosophy surrounding player acquisition and deployment. His faith in youth is admirable but this policy cannot continue indiscriminately at the expense of experienced players in crucial positions – particularly when some of the current recruits have been exposed as being short of the required standard. The approach does not need to be all or nothing.
Of course critics will point at the farce that was Birmingham’s winning goal in the Carling Cup final, as evidence of the benefits of an experienced defensive spine, but there is more to the problem than simply one error or a handful of mix-ups. The team lacks leadership, and whilst this is something that is difficult to simply catapult into a side, Arsenal have to hope that a few summer transfers of proven quality could pave the way for considerable success in coming seasons.
A win in this year’s title race would cloud the issue. With Manchester United chasing glory on three fronts and with a tougher run in than their North London rivals, the concept of a first championship in seven years is impossible to ignore.
Yet, having seen the difference between moments of promise and substantial success at three distinct points this season, not to mention several others over the last few years, Arsenal fans must be starting to realise that one championship success this season would not make the squad’s long-term issues evaporate.
If Wenger needs evidence of this, he only needs to look back at very recent Premier League history. Last year’s domestic double winners, Chelsea, have experienced the perils of believing a Premier League title represents the end of a journey rather than the beginning of one.
The Blues rightly celebrated the capture of their first ever double, however, took the success as an indication that their squad was strong enough to capture further glory on all fronts this time around. Considering the comparative merits of the squads around them, it must be appreciated that last season’s competition was one of the weakest in the Premier League era. As a result, their threadbare squad continues to be exposed this term.
Arsenal’s exits from this season’s cup competitions have highlighted one particularly worrying problem. Whilst of course a number of decent performances against the division’s lesser lights are imperative for domestic glory, and the Achilles heel of Wenger’s sides in the past, there remains only one positive result against any significant foe across the whole campaign – a home win over a horribly out of form Chelsea. Defeats to Barcelona, United (twice), Tottenham, Braga, Shakhtar Donetsk and the return league fixture against the defending champions, hint at a side with major problems in games that will inevitably define their season.
Wenger has long had a reputation for being a stubborn manager when it comes to the way he handles his player evaluations and choices. As things stand, there is an increasing likelihood that he will be compelled to bring in experienced, potentially expensive squad reinforcements in the summer.
However, should the championship trophy hold pride of place in the Emirates’ trophy cabinet come the start of next term, the door would be left open to a very dangerous and potentially damaging status quo if the Frenchman takes potential success this time around as an indication of how he should construct his squad in future years.
Agree? Disagree? Have the keys to the Emirates trophy cabinet? Leave me a comment or find me on Twitter.