What Now For Arsenal?

Posted by Sonuvagun

With the dust finally settled on the 2010/11 season (but sadly not in such a thick layer as to be able to entirely obscure it from view) and the interminable nonsense and fabrications of the summer transfer season winding up through the gears, maybe now is a good time for reflection. A licking of the wounds and sound appraisal of the situation.

Obviously, given the extension of our much talked about trophy drought, pretty much any Arse-related emotions are doomed to be negative and a couple of weeks distance haven’t changed that as far as I’m concerned. As disasters go that second half of the season would take some beating… even with Manure shipping a generous amount of points in the closing stages of the season we still ended up 12 points behind them, winning an absolutely pathetic 3 games in 3 months (and two of those were against Leyton Orient and Blackpool), and deservedly slipping into 4th place. It was truly torturous stuff and a finale that would have seen any other manager sacked without reprieve, that did have fans laying into everyone from the gaffer, to the players, to each other, and will almost certainly see the breaking up of this group of players… who promised so much for so long but never delivered.

For me the season really was a crying shame. At the half way point it seemed Wenger and his boys were finally going to stuff it to the critics and lay the foundation of several successive years of domestic and possibly European dominance – and they were going to do it their way, with players that had been growing up and playing together for 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 years. Instead a cruel error, a ridiculous yellow card, a stupid penalty (I’m thinking of Eboue’s push in the 109th minute against Liverpool) all turned out to be key turning points in our season… they all seemed to reinforce the belief within the team that Arsenal was a losing side. Trophies? Not us Sir!

The truth is more complex of course. In recent years, but especially this season, the team has just seemed too frail. Take out just a couple of big names for a game or two and there’s been consistent under-performing. This year the problem seemed particularly acute, and for one reason or another supposedly decent squad players turned into hamfooted liabilities and our best players – Nasri, Fabregas, Arshavin weren’t able to supply the goods often enough either. Factor in our usual injury woes and maybe the writing was on the wall all along… certainly that’s what our critics, and even a large number of Arsenal fans, said all along. The smug twats.

I love Wenger. He’s the whole reason I support Arsenal, but he’s really made a rod for his own back in this case. I believe that all of his principles are, generally speaking, correct, but his inability to bend them to the occasion, the reality of the situation, have cost us dearly. Look at how much more successful Ferguson has been in overhauling his teams and still challenging every year for titles: there’s two things he does very differently to Wenger. 1) Keep his veterans at the club for as long as possible and 2) spend big where he has too. We know why Arsene hasn’t done so, but at what point does saving a few quid become a false economy? How much more money would we have received if we’d only won a few trophies and got a few points in the PL every year in the last few years? How many more shirts would we sell? How much more would sponsorship be worth?

If you could have had one more player at the club this year who would it have been? How about an outstanding centre back, a die-hard tough-tackling no nonsense winner, plenty of Premiership experience, excellent in the air and capable of scoring crucial goals? And available on a free transfer! Ladies and gentleman, I give you William Gallas. And yet we let him go over a crappy fucking pay dispute. If we genuinely couldn’t afford him that would be one thing, but we replace him with someone significantly less successful nearing the same age, who we have to cough up 3-6 million quid for (depending who you believe). Whatever you think about Gallas he was our best defender for pretty much every season he played with us, we missed him badly whenever he was gone, and whereas he may have an ego the size of an elephant, with elephantiasis, he was exactly what we needed this season.

The season before, what did we really really need? A proven goalscorer to deputize for our beloved sicknote RVP. It was of course the same season Wenger sold Adebayor, failed to replace him, and then – even when our need was so desperate and apparent – refused to cough up a paltry 2 million to get Chamakh to North London early. Yes we saved 2 million pounds in transfer fees, but how much did we lose financially indirectly, not to mention trophically (look it up, it’s there) because our squad was underequipped?

I’m not surprised people are calling for Wenger’s resignation/dismissal. If those were two of his bigger mistakes there’s been plenty more, and now the failures these mistakes have led to may see us lose the likes of Nasri and Fabregas… which will obviously be an enormous double body blow to the team. Whatever you think of Nasri’s behaviour of late (and I think he’s being a complete cuntface!) and Fabregas’ increasingly frequent homeward glances, the fact remains that they are two world class players that are both likely to be wearing different coloured shirts next season. If success breeds success then equally failure breeds failure and there’s a real danger Wenger has done some irreparable damage taking, what from the outside at least, look like unnecessary or downright stupid gambles.

Wenger needs to stop planning for the future, which I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed never arrives – that is after all the nature of the future – and think about what he needs right now to win the title. Hopefully he won’t see all his best players fuck off before he has the chance to rectify his mistakes…

But anyway, before we get too doom-and-gloomy there have been some positives to dwell on this season as well. Firstly our goalkeeping crisis seems to have solved itself. No one has mentioned Fabianski since the Bronze age ended but he was doing at least as well as Szczesny did subsequently and that’s a huge positive for the club. The emergence of Jack Wilshere as the best thing since sliced bread, covered with a 2mm thick layer of chocolate spread, right up the very edges of the crusts, is of course the biggest positive of all and I don’t think I really need to go on at this point about why that is (esp. if you read SmartArse’s recent excellent post). Personally I’m a big fan of Koscielny’s too, and Robin Van P’s late season form would have been enough to cement a title in any other Arsenal team except the one that turned up between February to May 2011. Let’s not forget that we also won huge games against Barcelona, Man U and Chelsea, which I feel were important psychologically (it had been a while!) and also of course hugely enjoyable at the time, even if they seem a bit hollow now.

So, I guess all of this was a preamble to the question “what now for Arsenal?”.We know Bendtner and Denilson are set to leave (not many tears there, although I have a feeling Big Nick will go on to do well), Nasri and Fabregas are walking on a tightrope (I am hoping Fab holidaying with Van Persie is a good sign), meanwhile Eboue, Clichy and Arshavin are all being linked with moves away from the Emirates, and you hope that Rosicky and Almunia are on their way out too. That means a busy summer indeed, as the vast majority of those – you hope Wenger realises – need replacing from the outside. Promising as the likes of Gibbs, Frimpong and Lansbury are they are not ready. Gibbs in particular looked like a liability at times at left back.

Wenger may be infuriating at times, and some of his penny-pinching, rose-tinted squad selection and obstinate refusal to court anything so base as tactics (he’s all about a football philosophy, man) undoubtedly cost the team, but he is a manager of great strengths too. One of those is his skill in the transfer market and fabled ability to pluck world class players from everywhere from African shanty towns to Belgian sunday leagues, or wherever else they might be hiding. There’s really nothing else to do this summer for Arsenal fans except put our faith in La Prof and hope that for every French-avaricious-egotistical-wannabe-Zidane-twat-sized problem there’s one of Wenger’s magical solutions. That and remember, that whatever else happens, we’ve got Jack Wilshere.

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