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Where Did It All Go Wrong – Arsenal in Decline

Angry, frustrated, disappointed.  Once again Arsenal fans are left let-down, once again we are promised things will change and once again it is groundhog season for Arsenal, and we haven’t even entered the annual departures of the close season.

Where do we start?  It is obvious that things went wrong in the summer with Wenger anticipating that both Nasri and Fabregas will not leave these were the hopes of a man living in a dream land.  The summer also saw not focus on any transfers other than Gervinho and Oxlade-Chamberlain, despite the fact we needed at least one central defender and another striker.

We have seen in recent weeks the paucity of our squad.  We have played Song, Arteta and Ramsey in nearly every game.  Wenger has alternatives, Frimpong, Coquelin, Rosicky and Benayoun, but he does not trust the first two and neither Benayoun nor Rosicky are up to the task.  Creativity is lacking in central midfield and Ramsey appears completely lost playing the attacking midfield role.  We have Wilshere and Diaby coming back from injury, but will that solve the problem?  Wilshere will have an impact, but isn’t it too much to have to rely on this young man, when all around him lack that certain edge required of Arsenal midfielders?

On the wings, Wenger has had three options, Walcott, Gervinho and Arshavin.  Walcott does not realise he needs to play to his strength, and he only has one – speed.  Theo is a speed merchant but is reluctant to run at defenders, to play the ball past the full-back and challenge him for pace.  Walcott’s finishing has been woeful, for someone who wishes to play as a central striker his shooting is pathetic.  What has the coaching staff been working on with Theo in the last 5 years?  Has he really improved since joining Arsenal, and if the answer is no, then why not, has anybody spoken to him about wing play?

Arshavin gave up playing for Arsenal some time ago, the only surprise is that Wenger hasn’t sold him.  What has happened to Arshavin, why does not take players on anymore, where are the little tricks gone or the on-target shots?  The answer lies partly in our formation.  Arshavin plays off the striker, he likes to attack the goal directly not via the wings.  Look at his first half-season, he played behind van Persie or Adebayor and he ran at players go left or right, now he does not have that variation.

Our forwards consist of one person, van Persie, end of story.  Chamakh started of really last season, then stopped, he does not even look like a player who score an open goal, why is a mystery.  One suggestion is that he does not get enough playing time, but when we only play one striker, he never will, so unless we change to 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1, Chamakh will go the same way as Bendtner. Our third striker is a mystery to everyone, Park.  Why did Wenger buy Park so late in the window?  He knew Bendtner was leaving so another striker was always required, why not show an intent and go for Remy, Hunterlaar or Benzema, instead we opt for a Ligue 2 striker Park.  But then Wenger proceeds not to play him and asks the fans to give him a chance, but Wenger does not trust him! Is Park one of these mystery Wenger purchases like Kaba Diawarra or Tomas Danilevicius?  Whatever the reason, I doubt Park will be with next season.

Arsenal have struggled this season, narrow home victories over Stoke, Sunderland, Everton, QPR, draws with Fulham, Wolves and away defeats at Blackburn, Fulham and Swansea just emphasise in which direction we are heading this season.  This Arsenal squad must be the worse squad of players assembled by Wenger in his time at the club.  Wenger has stated that finishing in the top four is more important than winning a trophy, well I doubt we will finish in the top four or win a trophy this season.  The squad needed a major overhaul in the summer, quality players were required and that has not changed.  It is going to be a long and painful second half of the season for Arsenal fans, let’s hope that there is radical change in the summer, but I doubt it.

 

 

Next 3 Days Will Define our Season

After yesterday’s debacle, it is time to take a step back and see where we are, how did we get he and what the future holds. There is no point in analysing yesterday’s match, it is certified XXX in the minds of all Arsenal fans.

We all knew it was not going to be an easy match but the roots of the result go back, probably two or three seasons ago. Namely in our continued transfer policy of selling top players and not replacing them or when we do bring players in we offer them a four year contract which means we either offer a new contract after one year or we are left on tenderhooks as to whether they will stay or not.

Four years ago we had Gilberto, Flamini and Diarra all competing to play alongside Fabregas, things looked promising, then we managed to lose all three players in the same season.  The replacement was a young Welsh midfielder, Ramsey who was not ready at the time for first team football.

The scenario was to continue the two season when we sold Adebayor and Toure for a combined fee of £40M, and we brought in Veramelen.

Last summer Arsenal were active, no players left but bough Koscielny, Squillaci and Chamakh joined on a free transfer.

This summer saw a summer exodus, though no Arsenal fans were surprised, the squad had gone stale, the same errors were happening, the same inability to compete for trophies were re-occuring.  Out went Eboue, Clichy, Denilson (loan), Vela (loan), Fabregas, Nasri, with Almunia, Bendtner and Squillaci all expected to follow.

This summer window was one I was looking forward to, because the noises coming out of Arsenal was that it would be an active window, Wenger “knew” what went wrong and was determined to put it right, the dead wood was going to be cleared and new faces were going to arrive.

All Arsenal fans expected Cesc to leave this summer, the only person in denial was Arsene Wenger, why?  When it also emerged that both Clichy and Nasri were not going to sign new contracts, the Arsenal board and Wenger should have planned for life without them straight away.  These three departures, were big players leaving Arsenal and we need to ask the question who was responsible for allowing Nasri and Clichy to reach the final year of their contracts?  Someone in the Arsenal hierarchy needs to answer some questions to ensure that we are not faced with the same situation next summer with van Persie and Walcott.

With so many players leaving what were Arsenal doing in the transfer market?  We secured Carl Jenkinsson, but was he an able replacement for Eboue, was he ready step into the first team so early?   Wenger insisted, when Clichy left, that Gibbs, Traore and Vermaelen were all capable of playing left-back.  Whilst Gibbs is an able left-back, his tendancy to get injured meant we needed a second left-back and Traore was not that player.  Jose Enrique was available for £6M from Newcastle, but Arsene dithered and Dalglish stepped in and we are now left scouring Ligue 1 for a replacement as we could be selling Traore!

Wenger knew we were short of strikers.  Bendtner is going to leave and Wenger has decided that Vela is not ready and probably will never be ready for Premier League football, this left us with van Persie whom we know will play 50% of the games at best and Chamakh who has disappeared as a striker.  So the club waits until the last moment to bring in a striker, expected to be Park the South Korea captain, not Benzema that all Arsenal fans wanted.  Once again we shopo at Lidl whilst others shop at Harrods!

Our search for midfielders has been a farce.  Ricardo Alvarez was to be our first signing, yet we lost out because of a £1.7M  difference in valuation, this is pathetic, Arsenal made around £5M from the Asia Tour.  Juan Mata a quality player was available for around £13M due to a clause in his contract that expired on 31 July, so the incompetence and dithering of Arsenal meant we made a bid for him on 1 August!  These two signings, plus Gervinho would have compensated for the loss of Nasri and probably allowed Arshavin and Rosicky to leave the club.

Our search for a centre back continues, with four candidate, Samba, Dann, Cahill and Jagielka all the prime candidates, but once again Arsenal are arguing over £3m-£4m.  We do not need one centre-half, but two and Samba or Dann should be bought in addition to Cahill.

Our summer transfer window has been a disaster, a non-starter.  Everyone knew we needed players, yet we dithered, we were incompetent.  We were faced with our hardest start to a season, a tough Champions League qualifier, yet as a club we were prepared to wait until the last minute to buy players. The end result has been the worse start, players suspended and injured and squad so decimated that our bench yesterday was made up entirely of kids.

The situation is not reversible.  We have three days to bring in not 3 players, but 5 players and we need to pay the money to ensure this happens.  If we bring in the right players, Wenger can turn things around, but he needs to buy.  Failure to bring in the right players, failure to bolster the squad and turn things around will result in the worse season in Arsenal’s EPL history.  We will fail to qualify for Europe next season, we will be humiliated in the Champions League, we will lose more vital players next season and Wenger will leave Arsenal and be remembered as the stubborn, intransigent manager who led Arsenal to their worse season in the EPL.

The next three days will define our season and our immediate future, the sake of the club Arsene spend the money to bring in the right players.

 

 

Another Inactive Week on the Transfer Front

Following Saturday’s performance, we were slightly buoyed yesterday to be linked with Arteta, Kaka and M’Vila.  Wenger has also gone on record that we are looking bringing in experience and we are looking at a couple of buys, this was however qualified with the usual, we are not near bringing in any players yet.

Today, Monday we read that Rennes are not looking at selling M’Vila, Mertesacker wants to see out his contract at Werder Bremen and it appears as if the Kaka story was all pie in the sky.  So where are we at the start of a vital week for Arsenal FC?

Arsenal fans all over the world are worried about this season and the general direction the team is heading towards, the displays so far this season have not been promising so unless there is a influx of 3-4 players the season looks doomed.

There will be no transfer activity, in terms of players coming in before Thursday.  The squad flies out to Italy tomorrow, so it will be amazing if we sign anybody today.  If we fail to qualify for the Champions League, then the board will probably tell Arsene that he will have a reduced transfer budget.  Failure to qualify will cost us £25M, the amount Chelsea are spending on Juan Mata a player who was due to sign for us at the end of July.

This means that our transfers, if any will happen after the Manchester United game. Wenger is playing a high risk game, wait until the transfer deadline and then try to tempt clubs like Everton, Bolton and Blackburn to sell their players.  If it comes off and Wenger gets good deals for players like Samba, Cahill and Arteta, then well done Arsene, but is saving £10M in the transfer market worth risking a Champions League place?

Arsene made an impassioned defence of his transfer activities over the last 15 years and to be fair his bad buys have been very few, but what is worrying the fans is the inactivity at the moment. We expected more than Gervinho and the noises coming out of Arsenal was that we were going to get some experienced players in this summer.

Arsene has said we have focused a lot of time negotiating the outs, but the transfer of Fabregas and Nasri were known to all of us in June, why did we not have the replacements lined up?

On the outbound trail, further stories today have Arshavin linked with a move away to either Juventus or Galatasaray.  The Russian will be a free agent next summer, so here we have another player that the club failed to secure his future.    Neither Arshavin nor Bendtner played in the first leg against Udinese and I doubt either will play on Wednesday.

Nasri is expected to finalise his deal within the next 24 hours, it appears that his agent is holding out for £3M from Manchester City for delivering Nasri to them, so there we have the reason why Nasri is leaving his agent wants £3 M.

Two other players who will probably leave by the end of the month, but there have been no takers are Almunia and Squillaci.  Wenger says that Squillaci is injured, but this the type of injury that kept Cesc from taking part in our pre-season and the type of injury that plagued Almunia all of last season.

As an aide memoire, here are the players that have gone or likely to leave this season:

Alminua, Eboue, Clichy, Squillaci, Fabregas, Denilson, Arshavin, Nasri and Bendtner.

 

 

Arsenal In Dire Straits

It’s now or never for Wenger.  The squad is the weakest since Arsene’s reign started that there is no doubt.  Suspensions and injuries are mounting and we have only played three games.  Our squad for today included two players who are outward bound and contained 8 youngsters.

Whilst we could see the potential in both Frimpong and Miguel today, trophies are not won with potential, but as Wenger told us in May with experience.

Our attack was blunt today with the only Nasri showing any inventiveness.  The defence was on the whole solid but Jenkinson looked exposed on several occasions.

Arsene has insisted that the players he has brought in Gervinho, Jenkinson, Ryo and Oxlade-Chamberlain are good quality players and by implication adequate replacements for Febregas, Nasri, Denilson, Vela, Eboue and Clichy.  I think Wenger is either deluded or lying to the fans. Defence is the main area to strengthen, yet Arsene has refused to move for any of our “targets”, why?  Is it that he thinks they are not good enough for Arsenal or does he think they are too expensive?  We have had bids turned down for both Samba and Jagielka within the last 12 months, so they must be good enough, but Wenger appears to refuse to spend.  Arsene needs to spend money and strengthen our defence there is no other option.

Midfield is devoid of players with invention.  We were missing Gervinho and Wilshere, but that is no excuse.  Wenger is culpable allowing this situation to develop.  Everyone know that Cesc was leaving, Denilson wanted out and Nasri was not prepared to sign a new contract, so why were so indecisive in the transfer market?  If we go back to Ricardo Alvarez, how did we let this one slip away over a reported £1.5M difference in valuation?  At the end of July we were about to sign Mata for £13M, but failed to lodge the bid before his buyout clause expired and now Chelsea are favourites to sign him for £28M.

In attack we have let Carlos Vela go out on loan and Niklas Bendtner is due to leave, this leaves us with van Persie who only plays 50% of our games and Marouane Chamakh who looks like he’ll never score again.

Frankly our squad is too weak to compete this season, not to challenge for the title but too weak to even try and make a fourth place finish.

Why has this happened?  The board needs to accept some of the responsibility.  They have, since David Dein’s departure allowed Wenger to dictate and conduct transfer negotiations.  This adds pressure on Wenger in terms of spending, he is fearful of spending say £17M on Cahill and then the player not producing the goods.  The situation at Arsenal is calling for a Director of Football who is responsible for transfer and contract negotiations. Wenger hands this person a list of players in priority order and he then goes out and buys the player within the transfer budget.

Arsenal now have two vital games, away to Udinese and Manchester United.  Defeat in these games will be disaster; we will have Europa League football at Arsenal and potentially out of the title race by the end of August.

Unless Arsene brings in a minimum of three players this week, Arsenal fans are going to have a very long and frustrating season.

Today saw swarms of fans leave the ground once Liverpool took the lead, there was dissent from fans calling for Arsene to spend the money and for the second game in a row there were hundreds of empty seats.  The latter has prompted the club to stop announcing the attendance during the games.