It All Falls Down…
Following Arsenal‘s departure from The Champions League, defeat in The Carling Cup Final and now The F.A. Cup there has been a large amount of discussion about where Arsene Wenger’s team fall short. The idea of Arsenal’s season ending trophy less for the sixth consecutive year is now looming larger, when an unprecedented quadruple was possible. In just the space of a fortnight Arsene Wenger has let three trophies slip from Arsenal’s grasp, now they seem to be just about hanging in for contention of the Premier League title race.
As I watched Arsenal crash out of the F.A. Cup at the hands of bitter rivals Manchester United, one phrase came to mind ‘it all falls down’. This phrase summed up how I felt at the fact that Arsenal, who were at the top of the world just two weeks ago, had now fallen in their challenge of winning silverware and completing a possible historic quadruple. In the space of these two weeks it seems that they didn’t take hold of any of the chances they seemed to have had.
Usually Arsene Wenger uses the Carling Cup as a stepping stone for some of his younger players to gain first team football, but with increasing pressure from fans to win trophies it was clear that his intent this year was to win everything possible. When Manchester United were knocked out of the Carling Cup by West Ham nearly everyone thought that Arsenal had their best chance at winning their first cup in six years. Yet they failed to capitalize on this BIG opportunity against arguably easier competition.
Another big opportunity arose and Arsenal crumbled, they let chances go begging in the Premiership. When Manchester United dropped points in their two fixtures with the other members of the ‘Big Four’, Liverpool and Chelsea, Arsenal had the chance to capitalize on yet another glorious opportunity to get ahead of league leaders Manchester United but they failed.
One of the only accomplishments in club football that Arsene Wenger hasn’t yet achieved is the Champions League. With Arsenal claiming they are good enough to beat anyone and Theo Walcott shouting “Bring on Barcelona!” they were drawn unluckily against the hardest opponents possible, the best team in the world… Barcelona. Having come out of the first leg with a good 2 – 1 victory things were looking promising for the Gunners but there was a different outcome at the Nou Camp.
There has been a lot of debate amongst Arsenal fans for a long time centred around all sorts of issues from the need for a new goalkeeper, more experience in the team, a commanding centre back, etc. Although these points are valid, I think there is another issue that has been overlooked, the fact that Arsenal lack attacking penetration. It is clear to see that replacements are needed in all departments on-field, from the form of a goalkeeper all the way through to the services of a top striker.
Many critics hail Arsenal’s play as ‘beautiful football’, but even with this great accolade they still simply cannot compete on the top stage with the likes of football giants Barcelona, who booted them out of the Champions League last Tuesday. This problem could be down to Arsenal’s lack of finishing off their goal scoring chances in games. In comparison with a team like Barcelona, who have plenty of deadly finishers in front of goal like Lionel Messi and David Villa, Arsenal fall short in this department with only Robin Van Persie who seems to be constantly injured. Arsenal is in no shortage of playmakers though as they have many like minded playmaker players such as Samir Nasri, Andrei Arshavin and captain Cesc Fabregas but playmaking means nothing if there is no end product.
After six barren years hunting for trophies, you would expect that Arsenal would dig into their wallet to fund at least one of these requirements. Since David Seaman left there hasn’t been a consistent goalkeeper in Arsenal’s team. In this 2010/2011 season Arsenal have swapped goalkeepers three times and have had to try to lure Jens Lehmann out of retirement. Arsenal has been without defender Thomas Vermaelen for this whole season and has had to make do with the new partnership of Johan Djourou and Laurent Koscielny. This new partnership started off rocky but they both grew into each others company and started to play well together but they always seem vulnerable against top opposition.
In my opinion, Arsenal has lacked leadership since the exit of former captain Thierry Henry in 2007. In losing Thierry Henry, they lost a huge amount of experience. Henry has won the World Cup, he won Euro 2000, he’s played in numerous major Champions League matches and he’s won the double with Arsenal. Since his departure no one has been able to take his place as a true captain who commands the team. ‘The Invincibles’ who were able to hold an unbeaten run for a whole Premiership season is now just a distant memory from the Arsenal archives.
With pressure increasingly piling on manager, Arsene Wenger, would it seem that now is the time for him to adopt different tactics? Arsene Wenger never seems willing to stray away from his set philosophy of nurturing then utilizing players from his youth academy. Questions will now be asked about Arsene Wenger’s players’ mental fortitude but will they be up for the task like he claims they are?
Lakeem Greaves (@iamLAKZ)