Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Arsenal - another wasted season

Sigh, so any glimmer of hope that Arsenal would find a way to truly challenge Manchester United for the Premiership title all but evaporated today after another heart-breaker....once again versus North London rival Tottenham. Oh and did I mention that our other London rival, Chelsea, have now gone ahead of Arsenal in the table to the second spot.



Barclays Premier League : Table
Wednesday, 20 April 2011 21:45 UK

| Home | Away
Team P W D L F A W D L F A GD PTS
1 Man Utd 33 15 1 0 42 9 5 9 3 28 23 38 70
2 Chelsea 33 12 2 2 32 10 7 5 5 29 17 34 64
3 Arsenal 33 10 4 3 31 13 8 6 2 35 21 32 64
4 Man City 32 10 4 2 28 11 6 4 6 22 19 20 56

5 Tottenham 32 8 7 1 25 15 6 5 5 22 24 8 54

6 Liverpool 33 10 4 2 29 12 4 3 10 17 27 7 49
7 Everton 33 7 7 3 28 22 4 7 5 19 19 6 47
8 Bolton 32 9 5 2 31 19 2 5 9 15 24 3 43
9 Newcastle 33 5 7 5 36 23 5 3 8 12 24 1 40
10 Aston Villa 33 7 5 4 23 17 3 5 9 19 37 -12 40
11 West Brom 33 6 6 5 27 29 4 3 9 20 33 -15 39
12 Fulham 32 7 6 3 23 16 1 8 7 13 19 1 38
13 Stoke 32 8 4 4 25 16 3 1 12 14 26 -3 38
14 Sunderland 33 6 5 5 20 19 3 6 8 15 28 -12 38
15 Birmingham 33 6 7 4 18 19 2 7 7 16 27 -12 38
16 Blackburn 33 6 6 4 20 14 3 2 12 20 40 -14 35
17 Wigan 33 4 7 6 18 31 3 6 7 14 22 -21 34

18 Blackpool 33 4 3 9 25 33 5 3 9 22 36 -22 33
19 West Ham 33 5 4 8 23 27 2 7 7 16 31 -19 32
20 Wolverhampton 32 7 3 6 24 25 2 2 12 12 31 -20 32

Sigh.

So what to make of what is clearly another season without silverware? I will not harp on the quadruple talk, as my fellow Gunner and podcaster (it has been a while), Sam pointed out, what was Wenger to say when his club was still in contention in 4 chases? However after a historic crashing out in the Carling Cup (see video to relive that debacle)



an embarrassing showing in the Champions League and a whimper in the FA Cup, Arsenal are clinging to a last gasp effort to somehow convince themselves they can still catch and surpass the Red Devils...what is the first sign of insanity? Doing the same thing and expecting a different result? 

So where to start dissecting yet another failure of a season? A couple of thoughts:

  • Transfer season - I am not saying that Given or Schwarzer would have solved all that ills Arsenal, but it was a clear indication that Wenger was not willing to go the extra mile for the season. Putting your faith in Almunia and a collection of Polish kids did not instill a high level of confidence in me. Add to this that Wenger did not address other areas of need - midfield metal anyone? The likes of Chamakh and Koscielny were nice additions but again still needed to bring in more fresh blood.
  • Relying on the likes of Diaby, Rosicky, Cesc, Bendtner, Van Persie and the likes. All very talented all injury prone, add to that list Nasri and you have a MASH unit. Again if you are serious about competing for 4 trophies you better have players that can stay on the pitch.
  • Losing Vermaelen was a major set back, no doubt, but not being able to secure the proper replacement was the kiss of death. I realize that Wenger did explore some options and had to settle for French international Squillaci, who has shown some decent performances but overall too many howlers. Again this goes back to the lack of depth, lose a key player such as the Belgian international and your ability to compete evaporates. Last I checked it appears that Manchester United also suffered some injuries to the likes of Vidic and Ferdinand....just saying.
  • Being soft...I realize this is a running theme for my Arsenal rants, but it was never more apparent than this season. Up 4-0 against Newcastle, 2-0 versus Tottenham, 3-1 against Tottenham, 1-0 against Liverpool....see a theme? I realize the game versus Liverpool was an anomaly, but still. Oh how about losing at home to WBA and Newcastle? What is maddening in the games where they held a 2 goal or better lead is the fact there was no Vieira or Keown or Parlour or Berghamp players who would will their teams through toughness and desire. Arsenal do not have these players...and need some....now.
So once again we will qualify for the Champions League, have a team that is "talented" and on the verge of winning, head into the off season with hopes of big signings but instead see a bunch of kids Wenger signs with the labels of potential and future stars. Meanwhile clubs like Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City will go out and sign big name established players. My advice to Wenger - sell the following players:
  • Clichy - his stock will not get any higher and I fear has dropped. Move the French back, Serie A has shown interest, move him.
  • Clean out the midfield - sell Diaby, Rosicky and Cesc....yes Cesc. Get the maximum you can for the Spaniard. His talent is unquestionable, but I am not convinced he is the captain and leader of this squad. While you are at, get rid of Arshavin, if you can.
  • See if anyone will take Van Persie, again not questioning his ability, just cannot count on him being healthy for an entire season.
  • Target a keeper, it will be tough since Manchester United are also looking for a long term #1, but Wenger must stop the merry go round that is goalkeeper at Arsenal. 
  • Find your midfield holding player - De Rossi? Schweinsteiger? Diarra from Bordeaux? Do what it takes to get a player that you can rely on to play that box to box role. While you are at it, why not go after another such player - Matuidi or Toulalan? The latter is probably inexpensive and eager for a change of scenery right now.
  • Lean on Nasri and Wilshere as your midfield anchors, hope that the likes of Ramsey come back to form as well. 
  • Get some depth at central defense - Sakho or Mertesacker would fit the bill.
  • Find some depth up front - Sow from Lille? How about Remy at Marseille? Niang at Fenerbahce? I am not expecting any of these options to be the next Titi Henry, but additional depth at striker.
  • Make a bold move, aka don't get outbid - and get a player such as Hazard or Muller.
I realize many of these are pipe dreams and Arsenal will be cautious in their approach and once again feed us the story of being fiscally responsible and counting on the players they have. And once again the only silverware we have much hope of winning is the Emirates Cup...One day we will once again add something to our trophy case, meanwhile I will just count the days until the youngsters become adults.

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