5-1 the scoreline read, another year, another RO16 exit for the Gunners unless they pull off something extraordinary. To put matters into perspective, only 2 clubs have qualified for the UEFA champions league every season for the last 20 years & Arsenal’s one of them(Real Madrid). 20 odd years & 0 winners medals to show for it, not the type of consistency you want to see from a club of Arsenal’s stature. Fans are split & so is the club board. Is it finally curtains for Arsene Wenger?
Why The Mediocrity?
Arsenal’s last league title came in 2003/04 when they were “invincible” in the league, having won 26 & drawing the rest. But things have only gone downhill since. 3 F.A cups, 1 community shield and one champions league runners-up medal in 13 years isn’t very flattering. If you connect the dots, the pattern’s been quite glaring. They start the season off brilliantly, play beautiful football & get the results. By January, they hit a slump & secure a UCL spot at the end of the season. Let’s look at how they fare against the top sides in the league.
Arsenal against the top-7:
Manchester United(A) 1-1
Manchester City(A) 2-1
5 points out of a possible 21 just aren’t enough for a side looking to end their premier league drought.
Arsene Wenger is still very positive about the “mentality” of his Arsenal side. He’s certain that the team has all it takes to turn any tie around & that was partially proven as they came from a goal down to snatch a 3-1 win against Stoke. But the next two games saw them surrender two 1 goal leads at the Goodison Park & the Etihad. So maybe it’s all about the mentality, not having enough aggression & going for the kill.
Physicality has been another thorn in Arsenal’s side. In his early days, Arsene introduced a dietary chart that improved the squad’s fitness considerably. As the game evolved, that seems pretty ineffective right now & the side’s been struggling ever since. In the second half of the season, the intensity drops rapidly as the tiring legs can’t keep up the pressure to see crunch matches through. The reason being not enough rotations & not strengthening the bench in the transfer windows. Revisiting the transfer policy is a top priority, in my opinion.
“Attack wins you games, defence wins you titles.” Sir Ferguson knew the essence of having a solid back line like any great manager should. I am not doubting Wenger’s greatness but a frail defence means your strikers must be at their 100% every game which is too much to ask for. Arsenal leaking goals aren’t something new & even after putting everybody on the ball, they still leave gaping holes in the middle for the opposition to exploit. In the game against Bayern, we saw something similar, as Arsenal looked a little more defensive after conceding the 3rd but the Bavarians were finding spaces at will.
Arsene has been synonymous with Arsenal for the last 20 years but maybe it’s time to freshen things up. Maybe with someone who is passionate on the outside as well. Diego Simeone has recently shortened his contract with Atletico & wants to move on from the Spanish capital. It’s speculated that Arsenal are monitoring him closely. After Zinedine Zidane’s astounding success with Madrid, Thierry Henry seems like a pretty viable option for the gunners. The Frenchman already has his coaching A license & has been impressive as Martinez’s assistant for the Belgium national side.
This season could be the end of the Arsene-Arsenal connection but Arsene says he’ll coach for another 4 years at the very least. Football needs people like Arsene, a firm believer, who loves & stands by his ideals. His possession overflowing football has been pretty effective for the most part of his career & is certainly very appealing. But the same beautiful brand of football doesn’t seem to crack open resilient teams like it used to. He wants to win but on his own terms. But reality beats beauty every time & football is no exception. Still, plenty of football left this season & Arsenal are competing on all fronts, at least on paper. Maybe we’ll see beauty & magic triumph over reality at the Emirates when they face Bayern 3 weeks from now.