Are Arsenal’s troubles over?
A fairly disastrous start of the season saw the Gunners drop out of the title race early before dropping behind their other top six rivals in the race for a Champions League spot. Then, after losing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and keeping hold of a stroppy Alexis Sanchez, the Gunners simply floundered for the first half of the season, especially away from home.
They are, however, still in two competitions, and perhaps that’s why a transfer reshuffle seems to have placated the doubters.
It’s been framed as a massive success: not only have the Gunners replaced a stroppy star with two world class players, but they’ve also kept hold of their other top star in Mesut Ozil, whose signature has been seen as an endorsement of some sort of new Arsenal, a sign that things are changing.
But there’s very little to back that up. A win over Everton, maybe, but given the Toffees’ performance, it may well be the case that any team in the league would have won that match.
What there is, however, is what there always was: a big gaping hole in front of a back four which lacks a leader. Arsenal have had a problem for years and have simply failed to address it. And in January, despite splashing cash for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and bringing in Henrikh Mkhitaryan, the Gunners simply shuffled the pack, swapping some of their best players for other players of a similar level.
In terms of net talent, that leaves them little better off than they were before. But there seems to be a buzz around the club in a way that there wasn’t before.
There should be optimism, though. They are in a League Cup final and although Manchester City will come into the game as favourites, we now know they are not invincible. Arsenal should be quietly confident of landing a trophy Arsene Wenger has never won. They are also still in European competition, in a tournament they should be one of the favourites to win. And if they do so, not only would it be a different piece silverware to what they’re used to, but it would also be a ticket into the Champions League. There’s still a lot to be cheerful for.
But what seems to have happened is that Arsenal have bounced from one extreme to another. From despair around Christmas to a high right now which really isn’t backed up by any real evidence.
Perhaps this will be a different Arsenal. Having players who want to play for the club is certainly a step forward, whilst a change in mentality is always a good thing. But at the same time, you get the feeling that not a whole lot has changed materially.
Good performances in the transfer window aren’t the same as good performances on the pitch. And this weekend at Wembley, perhaps actual football could bring Arsenal down to earth with a bump.
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