Tuesday, April 26, 2011
It must be all too familiar for Arsenal fans. Starting off the season flourishing and scoring goals for fun, playing the most attractive football in the Premier League, challenging on all fronts and looking confident, being tipped as potential Champions in more than one competition, reaching January with fans pleading for new signings to bolster the squad, getting a few injuries that dampen the squad, blaming the refs and lady luck and then finally ending the season trophy-less. It sounds like it has been Groundhog Day every season for the past 5 or 6 years for Arsenal, and their fans must be frustrated about it.
I, for obvious reasons, enjoy watching Arsenal’s demise every season. It brings me great joy in seeing their team being billed up as potential this and potential that but then shooting themselves in the foot every season. Some of their supporters say it is lady luck and what not; but it isn’t. I believe it is simple stubbornness and naivety from Arsene Wenger in refusing to acknowledge that some of his players are simply not good enough and that he needs a bigger squad. The same mistakes every season is not being unlucky: it’s simply a refusal to learn.
Regarding their usual injuries which have become a trademark of theirs, I strongly believe that their training regime must be pretty mediocre as 3 months into every season (for the past 4 or 5 years) they always get a load of weak injuries (calf, hamstring, etc..) at such an early stage of the season. Their players just seem frail and very injury prone because of the fact that they are weak physically. Whenever major injuries have occurred (ex: Diaby, Eduardo, Ramsey) they have all been, in my opinion, incited by the fact that Arsenal love keeping the ball on the ground and this aspect in the Premier League, more than any other league, entices tackles to come in flying. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some statistic that proves that Arsenal are, probably, the most fouled team in the Premier league.
Arsene Wenger set a standard so high of Arsenal Football Club when he first joined them that success became mandatory for the club; the past few seasons, despite finishing in the top 4 every season since he's joined, have been regarded as failures. If football was won on aesthetics, then Arsenal would be the Premier league champions every single season; but it’s not. They play some of the most attractive football in Europe and are able to keep possession of the ball so well that they are almost (I said almost) a match for Barcelona in that feature of their game. I’ve done some research and found that Arsenal are the team who have the most completed passes in the Premier League this season with an astounding 14204 passes. With that in mind, you’ve got to ask yourself what is the point of passing the ball to death if your players can’t shoot? I can’t recall the last time Arsenal players were recognized for taking shots from outside the box. They seem to want to pass it into the net.
Over the weekend Arsenal lost 2-1 away to Bolton and this effectively ruled them out of the title race this season...again. Having been knocked out of every other competition, you couldn’t blame Arsenal fans for believing they would mount a more serious title challenge. But it proved not to be the case (thankfully). This weekend they face Manchester United at the Emirates stadium and could be playing for pride by beating their old rivals. But I don’t think that's good enough for Arsenal fans or Arsene Wenger.
Don’t get me wrong, I think Arsene Wenger is a top-class manager, but he really needs to have a look at his team and ask himself if his current squad is good enough. His refusal to buy top players over the past few years and his refusal to acknowledge when his players are wrong (“I didn’t see it” – I quote) is pitiful and must be infuriating for their supporters. I remember a time when everyone feared Arsenal, a time when players like Pires, Henry, Ljunberg, Bergkamp ran teams ragged for 90 minutes and when Vieira, Edu, Toure, Keown, Lauren and Cole scared teams to death. Their physical presence alone was scary. What has happened to that Arsenal? They don’t have any commanding figures that strike fear into opponents anymore. You look at Arsenal now and you see boys, not men. It has been quite a few years that people have been saying that this is a young team and their time will come. But what I’ve found is that in comparing the average age of the Arsenal squad and that of the Barcelona squad that beat them earlier this season you’ll find that Arsenal’s average age is 25.36 and Barcelona’s is 25.33. So you must wonder, when will their time come? Or is this it? It seems the analogy I recently read to describe this current Arsenal team is perfect: they are exactly like the Eiffel Tower, bloody gorgeous to look at but pretty pointless.