Arsenal a Top European Club?
Arsenal are considered one of Europe’s top clubs, mainly because we have had some of Europe’s top players at the club. Our reputation has created an air of falsehood. Scratch the surface and a completely different picture emerges.
Since Arsene’s first season in 1997/98 we have reached two European Finals, losing to Galatasaray on penalties in the UEFA Cup and in 2006 we lost to Barcelona in the Champions League final. This year we reached only our third semi-final in this period.
It took us several years to qualify from the group stages of the Champions League, only to lose out to Valencia on the away goals rule in the quarter finals.
In eleven seasons we have failed to overturn a first leg deficit on four occasions. In 1997/98 we trailed to PAOK 1-0, and drew the return leg at Highbury 1-1. In 2004/05 Bayern Munich beat us 3-1 away and managed to win 1-0 at home, but that was not enough. In 2006/07 having lost to PSV 1-0 away, we could only manage a 1-1 draw at the Emirates and finally we have this season.
People say we need experienced players to become successful, and nobody disagrees with this statement. Look at the UEFA Cup final, our team had Bergkamp, Henry, Overmars, Petit, Vieira, Adams and Keown, you can’t ask for more experienced players than that group. Despite having so many top quality players we still failed to reach finals or semi-finals on a regular basis. In fact our best Champions League seasons have invariably coincided with poor domestic seasons.
So why do we fail to produce the goods in Europe?
I believe its down to attitude and tactics.
The Arsenal players have over the years, and even more so recently, believed their own hype. Yes we are big club, but that winds you nothing. There is too much arrogance around the players and not enough fight on the pitch. All too often they talk a good game and then fail to deliver. When we fail the same excuses come out. We need to buy more experienced players, which is a back-handed criticism of your team-mates yet the authors Adebayor and Almunia were amongst two of the culprits the other night. The club has not met my ambitions, well Robin van Persie if you started playing then your ambitions might have been realised this season. Our players are as quick to trot out excuses after games as they are to boast what they are going to do before the game. The players need to do the talking on the pitch not in newspaper columns.
We must then look at our tactic in Europe. We are not novices in Europe, but we play European football as if it is our first ever European encounter. We go into every game in a gung-ho attitude, a massive cavalry charge, leaving the defence totally exposed. Even in the dying minutes of a game, where we are trailing 1-0, we charge forward in the hope of getting a goal but quite happy to concede a goal. Look at the way Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United set out their stall away from home. Their priority is not to concede a goal anything else is a bonus. Then at home you ensure you do not concede by playing a tight defence, and then try to wear the opponents down.
Unless we change tactics on the pitch and take European games more cautiously and the players start to apply themselves in a positive manner, we will always be looking at others competing for the big European prizes. We cannot be considered a top European team until we make appearing in semi-finals a regular occurrence and not an exception.