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.
What have we done to deserve so many injuries? Is there a curse at The Emirates? Since moving to the Emirates we have lost too many players for too long, Henry and van Persie ins season one, Rosicky and Eduardo in our second year and last year’s injury list would have been too many to fit into either ER or Casualty.
This season started with Nasri out injured before pre-season, Vela soon followed him and Walcott, who is becoming Arsenal’s Mr Sicknote, joined the list. Eduardo has not been able to stay fit for more than two games, whilst Rosicky cannot last 90 minutes yet. This was not enough for the injury jinx, because Almunia has been out for several weeks with a chest infection but to make matters worse our second goalkeeper was also out injured.
Add to these injuries are the perennial one or two week injuries and you can imagine the headaches that Arsene has had to contend with.
Just as players start to come back, Walcott gets clattered by Ridgewell and is out for three or four weeks!
There is some good news as both Nasri and Fabianski are due to play for the Reserves tonight against Wolves.
All teams suffer injuries and that is why we have large squads, but how many teams can cope with their number one and two goalkeepers out as well as a host of attacking talent.
That is why what we have done so far is a great achievement and no doubt once Wenger has Nasri, Walcott, Eduardo, Bendtner and Vela all back and fit, it will give him a great problem.
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.
Through an accident we have embarked upon a 4-2-3-1 formation. This is not a problem, except when you are using players out of position to accommodate the formation.
If we look at the team that played Manchester United and the substitutes used we see the folly of Arsene’s formation and the players used.
The team sheet read Song, Diaby, Nasri, Fabregas and Walcott. On paper this meant that Song and Diaby would hold the centre of midfield whilst Nasri, Walcott and Fabregas should have formed a three pronged attack to support Adebayor.
When the team took the field Diaby was playing on the left side of midfield whilst Nasri was deployed in the centre. Diaby, as far as everyone is concerned, is best suited to playing as a central midfielder, alongside Song they could command and dominate any game. Nasri is more constructive but is too easily outmuscled, whilst on the wing he has the guile and ability to create whilst Diaby lacks those attributes.
When Wenger sent Bendtner, a six foot plus centre forward on to replace Walcott, we all expected him to play alongside Adebayor with Nasri playing on the wing and Fabregas returning to his preferred role in the centre of midfield. Wenger, however, decided that Bendtner should play out wide. Bendtner is not and never will be a winger. His strengths lie in his ability to win aerial balls, shield the ball and bring other players into the game. He does not have the ability to run past players and send in threatening crosses.
When Eduardo entered the fray he was deployed as the sole striker. His role was the target man, whilst a natural target man was playing on the wing.
We escaped with a one nil defeat, but the questions need to be asked as to why we played so many players out of position to accommodate a system that does not allow us to put pressure on top teams. Look at the games against Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United; we hardly dominated any large swathes of these games.
Fabregas’ best position is playing in central midfield alongside either Song or Diaby, not behind the main striker. Nasri will be more effective playing behind the striker, from this position he can probe the opposition and look for gaps in their defence. Bendtner can only play as a centre forward, he will never be converted to a winger, and we have enough players to perform on the wing without trying to convert Bendtner into a winger.
This is the second semi-final in which we have sent out a team that has failed to play or compete. Luckily we have one more bite at the Champions League. For the return leg we need to play players in their correct positions