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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.



Luck and Decisions Desert Arsenal

Another defeat and its doom and gloom from all circles.  Every time we concede a goal, there is an inquisition as to our ability to defend. If we look a little bit closer we can see that luck has deserted us and we have a tendency to self-destruct.

Game one against Newcastle saw both Gervinho and Song pick up three match bans which affected us for the next three games. Against Liverpool, the game was heading for 0-0 when Frimpong got sent-off and Liverpool capitalised with a goal that should have been flagged for offside.  The Manchester United game was an nightmare which we have all forgotten.  Against Blackburn, a game that we dominated, we lost due to two own goals and an offside goal.  Moving on to the Tottenham game, a match that Spurs fans were rubbing the hands with glee, looking forward to a 4 or 5 goal hammering, Arsenal controlled the game but fell behind to a handball goal from van der Vaart.  We lost through a wonder goal from Walker, a goal that he will never score again.

This is the difference between a good start and a poor start to the season.  If the officials had spotted the offside and handball, we could be sitting with a completely different picture now.

Our luck has run out with injuries.  Out of 6 centre-backs, five are injured, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Djourou, Squillaci and Miguel, no other team in the league can suffer the same fate and carry on and still look solid.  Yes I say solid, because our weakness yesterday was with Sagna not tracking back, Song and Mertesacker played well.  Having announced that Wilshere will be out until February, we can now add Sagna to that list of long-term.

It is not all down to bad officially and poor luck, but success hinges on decisions being correct, it makes such a difference.

The media love to hit Arsenal at all times.  Look at last week’s Champions League matches.  Manchester United throw away a two goal lead and snatch a draw at the end and United are lauded for resilience! Chelsea lose a lead in the last minutes and nothing is said. Arsenal win a game, yet the emphasis is on the chances created by Olympiakos!

Arsenal are for a rough ride this season, even when we win the media will find a story to hit us with, look at last weekend, we beat Bolton 3-0, the headlines?  Van Persie will leave Arsenal for Manchester City!

Things have not been great, but we have the resolve to fight back and challenge for a Champions League spot, that I am certain.  Wenger will bring in two or three players in January, that is a guarantee, and we will kick on in the second half of the season.



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.



Strikers for Next Season

Now that we have seen the back of Emmanuel Adebayor, Arsene has £25 million to recruit a replacement, but do we need another striker?

Arsene Wenger has plenty of attacking options at his disposal before he even has to look elsewhere.

Robin van Persie showed us what he was capable of doing last season, when during our dark months of December and January he either created or scored every goal.  That period demonstrated that the Dutchman has the potential to emulate the great Dennis Bergkamp.

At Arsene’s disposal this season will be Eduardo, who is a lethal striker.  Give him half a chance and the ball will be in the back of the net.  We need Eduardo to be fit and to play as he was before he was injured.  Eduardo, given a run will score plenty of runs next season.

Nicklas Bendtner has made tremendous progress last season.  He scored only one goal less than Adebayor and proved that he is a battler.  He has a terrible spell in terms of scoring, but carried on fighting.  He always gave 100%, and linked up well with the midfield.  The departure of Adebayor will allow Bendtner to play more often and he will progress in the same way that Fabregas did once Vieira left.

Carlos Vela is still an enigma.  What is his best position and will Arsene give him a chance this season.  He was given very few starting opportunities in the league last season which made it difficult for the Mexican wizard to impress.  If Wenger buys another striker, Vela will go out on loan, otherwise Vela get his chance.

Wenger has two more players who can and wish to play in more advanced central positions.

The first is Theo Walcott who ultimately will be a central striker, whether it is time for Arsene to move him forward just yet remains to be seen.  He did not have successful under-21 championships, but that was down to the treatment he received from Stuart Pearce.

In Andriy Arshavin Wenger has a playmaker and goal scorer who will score goals and give Arsene a genuine option if needed to play a central striker.  It is the Russian’s preferred position and if successful in pre-season, Arsene will seriously consider using Arshavin as a striker next season.

Arsene has stated that he will look at things over the next couple of weeks before making any move for a replacement for the Togolese striker. If he decides we have plenty of options up front, Chamakh will not be joining us, but I trust Wenger will look at things realistically and sign the Moroccan striker next week.