Today’s 2-0 loss to Liverpool should have come as a surprise to no one – Liverpool are a side on the up, lead by Kenny Dalglish and backed by John W. Henry. Arsenal, on the other hand, look depleted; their problems are clear but their manager, be it through stubbornness or sheer naivety, refuses to budge from his ideology of paying reasonable fees for footballers – it’s commendable, but it’s just not realistic.
On the pitch, Arsenal look inexperienced, have little known-quality in certain areas and are seriously lacking in added options – there doesn’t appear to be any kind of plan b at present. Even on paper, where even fans of the worst teams manage to muster that little bit of optimism, Arsenal look depleted.
Yes they’ve had a pretty horrific time of injuries of late; but beyond Thomas Vermaelen, Johan Djourou and Laurent Koscielny, who else is there to play at centre-back in case of injury? Sébastien Squillaci should be barely seen as the last resort in a Carling Cup match, never mind a back-up first-team member and, while Ignasi Miquel has impressed, the Arsenal defence is far too thin on the ground for Arsenal fans to feel at all comfortable with their squad.
Samir Nasri could, it seems, be set to stay with the club and that would be a monumental boost – but the fact that the club is forced to rely on one player so heavily must be worrying. Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey are fantastic central midfielders but, beyond them? Nothing.
This is nothing new, of course. Arsenal have been linked with a whole host of players this summer: Joey Barton, Thiago Motta, Mathieu Valbuena, Arturo Vidal, Scott Dann, Juan Mata, Jose Enrique, Keisuke Honda, Bojan Krkic, Chris Samba, Charles N’Zogbia, Romelu Lukaku, Falcao, Karim Benzema, Phil Jones, Gary Cahill, Eden Hazard, Scott Parker, Peter Odemwingie, Axel Witsel… the list goes on. And what do all of these players have in common? None of them are Arsenal players.
It’s all well and good Arsene Wenger saying that he has a price for every player and that he will not pay over the odds – in fact, it should be rewarded – but, with every other title-challenger quite comfortably spending money and paying inflated prices, it’s just not going to work, Mr Wenger. If you want to win the title – which I presume you do – you’re going to have to conform to this system that you hate so much. If you don’t, with your current squad, you won’t even make the top four.
Arsenal fans have defended Wenger time and time again over the past few years, clearly very thankful for everything that he has done for the football club, and that should not be forgotten. However, that does not mean that it is perfectly acceptable for him to fail this summer – which he has done, time and time again. Mata, Jones, Lukaku, Witsel – they’ve all slipped Arsenal by because fees could not be matched.
Why? The money-men at Arsenal clearly aren’t that reluctant to spend given that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been signed for £15 million, as well as Gervinho (£10 million). It’s Wenger who is the reluctant one, sometimes coming across as almost delusional. At the start of the summer he clearly stated that changes were afoot, that players would be brought in and that next season would be different. Now that his failures this summer have become apparent, he’s backtracked quite significantly.
One of the most frequently used (and weakest) defences of Wenger is that his method of buying rough diamonds and making them into world beaters clearly works, as shown with Viera, Henry et al. Fine, it worked in the past, but that’s not to say it will work in the future. Plus, it’s perfectly fine to have a system, but when the system is failing, what’s the point?
If Wenger’s system is working – as some Arsenal fans suggest – then why, with just over ten days of the transfer window to go, have Arsenal still not signed an experienced centre-back or a ‘destroyer’ for the midfield? These are two key problem areas for Arsenal – there are more – yet Wenger hasn’t done anything about them. There’s been a lot of talk, but no concrete action.
To have a system is fine but that system has to work and, currently, Arsene Wenger’s system is not working. These clear failures create unrest and sheer dismay amongst the support which then leads to agitation and, rightly or wrongly, booing inside the stadium. You want the booing to stop? Then spend less time bemoaning the current state of football and more time improving your squad.
Welcome to football in 2011 – it’s ruthless but there is no time to feel sorry for yourself. The clock is ticking, Mr Arsene.