Written by Mr Arsenal
Arsenal’s fans have endured another disappointing conclusion to a long season- the defeat to Bolton firmly put to bed any dwindling hopes of silverware. The inevitability of the capitulation, however, has been the most painful part of the demise, prompting many fans to question Wenger and the direction in which the club is moving.
It’s difficult to overstate the enormous contribution Arsene Wenger has made to Arsenal. He’s revolutionised the club with his visionary managerial approach and is lauded by neutrals for his scintillating style of play. But, another trophy-less campaign has led a great number of frustrated Arsenal fans to call this philosophy into question. His emphasis on developing young talent is a big part of his managerial ideals but is also, to a certain extent, a consequence of the club’s financial constraints following the move to the Emirates in 2006.
Wenger has clearly built a technically gifted side that plays an attractive brand of football. But this approach can only take you so far and desperately needs some revision. It is time to spend some money on bringing more established players to the club rather than relying solely on the youth team in conjunction with cheap speculative signings. It’s a remarkable achievement that Arsenal has managed to qualify for the Champions League consistently since 2006, given the limited amount of money spent on player acquisitions compared to many of the club’s rivals. It’s even further testament to Wenger’s talents that he’s been able to compete for major honours in this period with the squad available.
I would suggest that a change of philosophy is required if Arsenal is to end its barren run without a trophy. Wenger needs to sacrifice his emphasis on technical quality for a greater degree of power, pace and experience. A look back to his early days at Arsenal should provide him with the perfect template for success. The double winning side of the ‘98 season boasted a great balance of strength/physicality (Viera, Petit, Keown), craft (Bergkamp), pace (Overmars, Anelka) and leadership (Adams, Wright).
Unfortunately, Arsenal has been overpowered in recent seasons and although Wenger has attempted to address this problem by bringing in players like Song, I think, we need 2 or 3 more physically imposing players to meet the demands of the more combative teams in the league. A centre-back, a full back and a central midfield player of stature would really benefit the squad in this respect. Gary Cahill is a popular name amongst many Arsenal supporters but I’m a big fan of Chris Samba at Blackburn and Cheik Tiote at Newcastle.
The other major problem is the lack of leadership at the club. Fabregas, in my view, is not a natural leader and seems to undermine the great faith Wenger has shown in him by criticising the manager publicly and evading questions about his future. Arsenal fans want their captain to be someone who appreciates the huge honour of leading out the side- and not someone who has one eye on a move to Barcelona in the summer. Jack Wilshere, a player whose great talent is matched by his dogged fight and desire to win, has my vote for a future Arsenal captain.
Even more noticeable has been Cesc’s poor form this season- it’s a common occurrence to see him give the ball away in key areas of the pitch and his lack of pace or strength means that he struggles to win it back again for the team. There’s no doubt he is an extremely gifted player with a classy eye for a pass but I think he’s been found missing in key games this season. If he wants to leave the club, then I would happily take 30-40m for the player and move on.
A greater threat upfront is also required for Arsenal to be a winning force once again. Arsene needs to learn from the successful strikers he has brought to the club in the past, namely Anelka and Henry. The team needs a front man with pace and an appetite to score goals. Someone who revels playing on the last man and can profit from the creative vision of Nasri and Van Persie. Arsenal’s lack of a cutting edge has been evident throughout the season, despite some promising form earlier on in the campaign from Chamakh, and Wenger really needs to address this issue in the summer.
There’s no doubt that Wenger has had his fair share of bad luck this season. The ongoing injury to Vermaelen, who looked to be the antidote to Arsenal’s defensive troubles and key moments in crucial matches (the Carling Cup final mix-up between Koscielny and Szczesny as well as Van Persie’s sending off against Barca) have clearly not gone our way. But these difficult moments cannot mask the much deeper problem at the club-the inability to win ‘ugly’, to be ruthless both in front of goal and at the back, to beat teams with both flair and gritty resistance. Wenger needs a greater degree of pragmatism- more physicality and experience in the squad would help engender a winning mentality – something clearly missing from this current Arsenal side. Many would say that it’s not in Wenger’s make-up to adopt this approach – but why not? He’s done it before, why can’t he do it again?