Following on from two trophy winning seasons; in which Arsene Wenger’s side won the FA cup in back-to-back years, many expected his side to mount a serious challenge this time around. Additionally, a third placed finish last season gave some hope to fans over potential improvement to their squad and the side’s fortunes, but they have remained sluggish and once again see themselves falling monumentally off the pace. Every summer seems to be the same for many of the Arsenal faithful: numerous speculation of world class players linked to the club, only to be rejected by their commander-in-chief Arsene Wenger.
1) Lack of squad depth
This has been something that has been leveled at Arsenal for sometime now. You could say it has been forever and a day since Wenger dug deep in the cash reserve and invested at a reasonable level in the squad on a consistent basis. There were brief exceptions in the form of Mesut Özil and Alexis Sanchez, but these have been rare moments of promise in an otherwise frustrating trend.
It has already been reiterated by several media commentators, but the fact that the only significant arrival at The Emirates this summer being Chelsea’s second choice keeper in Petr Cech is mind-boggling to say the least. It is not the first time that Arsene Wenger has flattered to deceive in the transfer market, in fact it would appear to be a continual spiral of disappointment on that front.
It does not take a genius to see what Arsenal have been short of for the past three seasons and still, the problem has not been addressed. In the summer, many were once more crying out for an additional holding midfielder to compliment the youthful exuberance of Francis Coquelin, a “world class” striker to share the load with a misfiring Olivier Giroud, and maybe an additional central defender to add a little more depth to the back four. It was not a surprise to the most loyal fan that none of these much needed additions materialised. So where does this leave the Arsenal squad until January?
Following the deplorable Chelsea defeat on Saturday, they are down to the bare bones and it is not even October. Francis Coquelin suffered a knee injury and is expected to be sidelined up-to a month. Santi Cazorla received two yellow cards so will only serve a one match ban, luckily he can serve this for the League cup tie against Tottenham in which would likely not have featured anyway. The most expensive one could be the straight red to defender Gabriel who will miss three domestic games for his part in the Diego Costa fracas, the lack of depth in the squad now looks like a costly mistake on behalf of Monsieur Wenger and the Arsenal board.
2) Arsenal’s lacklustre transfer policy
Much has been made of Wenger now not being afraid to spend “if a player he likes is available”. This is a phrase that has only perpetuated the frustration many fans have with the club. Every man and his dog were led to believe that Karim Benzema had been wrapped up in a bow for Wenger to bring him to the Emirates. Numerous “reliable” journalists from the twitter-sphere were “revealing” the Benzema medical on social media, another medical story for Arsenal fans to joke about alongside the infamous “is Higuain still having his medical?”. There were also Edinson Cavani rumours doing the rounds over the summer months. Even sources close to PSG claimed he had been offered to Arsenal but due to his age and lack of a sell-on value, Wenger was apparently not keen.
There have been some very bizarre decisions taken at the club this campaign. Following a promising pre-season tour with the first team, Chuba Akpom was expected to be part of Wenger’s plans but a mere couple of weeks later, he was loaned out to Hull City. Arsenal fans could surely then be excused to have hope of a big signing? This is especially the case when your manager rates a player so highly that he would surely have a back-up in place before letting that player go.
Now will be the time; as it has been for the last few years, for Wenger to bite the bullet and put some deals in place for January. Last season, Arsenal had the same problems. Cast your mind back to the summer of 2014 with the Thomas Vermaelen saga. Wenger wasn’t sure whether he would keep the Belgium defender but stated “if he goes we will replace him”. That didn’t happen until the following January, cue the arrival of Gabriel from Villareal.
Gone are the excuses of “money not being available” and “we had to fund the stadium”. It has been revealed recently that The Gunners now have just under £200 million to spend. While Wenger’s principles are admirable and he will bemoan his rivals and their ‘excessive’ spending, you have to play the rest at their own game and until he wises up to this fact, Arsenal will always be behind the curve.
3) Big game mentality
In short they just don’t have it, with the 2-0 loss at Chelsea proving to be the perfect example. Yes, Arsenal were coming off the back of a poor display away in Zagreb, but you could argue Chelsea were in a far worse place overall. You can uses the excuse of Diego Costa “getting away with another one”, but Wenger needs to look at his own players now and again. Arsenal have been without a real leader since ‘The Invincibles’ and what would he give now to have some of the big game players that Jose Mourinho has at his disposal?
The most frustrating player on the day in my opinion was Gabriel. He started very well as he has done for most of his ten appearances in an Arsenal shirt. If there was one player who you would expect not to react to Costa’s theatrics it would be the Brazilian defender, after-all he had previous run-ins with the centre forward, therefore he is surely all too aware of what he is all about. While he will be commended for defending a team-mate in Laurent Koscielny, he in effect cost the North Londoners any hope of taking anything from the game, making it 11 Premier League games that Wenger has failed to get the best of his Portuguese counterpart.
Although Cazorla is a gifted footballer, alarm bells should be ringing if you are making him your captain, especially for a huge game at Stamford Bridge. If you look throughout the entire Arsenal squad, there is only one player that you could say is a captain worthy of the title, namely Petr Cech. It is quite extraordinary that a player who is not first choice and never will be again remains the Arsenal club captain. Mikel Arteta for many is way past his best and has very little; if anything at all, to offer. Following the news that he had signed a one year contract extension, the most favourable comments were “he’s experienced” or ” he is valuable in the dressing room”. You won’t find many praising him for anything he could do on the pitch.
There is a lot that has to change for The Emirates outfit to be regarded as serious title contenders. Many saw them as a serious threat if they had bolstered their squad in the positions mentioned earlier. It is now another season destined to strive for only another top four place, which will undoubtedly be another scramble to the finish line.
Whenever talk arises of replacing any manager let alone one of Arsene Wenger’s calibre, it is often met with derision and shouts of “but who else is there?”. My answer would be plenty. It is not disrespectful as many perceive it to be. He has achieved a great deal in the name of Arsenal football club, but it is important to know when enough is enough. Now is the time for him to walk away, for the club and for his own reputation.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Maria K.
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