Arsene Wenger is hailed as the manager who has an eye for talent and who can foresee class in a youngster. He is also said to have a knack for finding quality in bargains. However, what is often overlooked is the fact that the deadwood often accumulated at Arsenal is also Wenger’s doing.
Talented players who have been brought to the Emirates with the hopes of regular first-team chances if not for guaranteed glory, are more often than not, left on the bench. They await their chances only to spend their time catching rust like trophies in a dust-accumulated display.
Many players leave while they can still get regular chances at an adequate club in first division league of any European country, but most have trusted Wenger too much and lost their chances of becoming one of football greats. Not all blame is for Wenger to burden obviously. Such is the way of football. An injury spell can change the entire course of a player’s career. One major error in a crucial match can get him a sentence of being benched for most of the remaining season. A huge signing can demote him to being second-choice for the starting line-up. All of these factors play an equally influential role in shaping a player’s career. There are times when a static career is nothing but a player’s own doing but like every profession, football also is not always fair.
In the past five seasons, Arsene Wenger has failed to apply the potential he saw in the strikers he signed. This may not be true of Olivier Giroud, but players like Andrey Arshavin, Maroune Chamakh, and Lukas Podolski are three forwards that possessed qualities to become top strikers at Arsenal, but much to everyone’s dismay, were not given enough right opportunities.
Andrey Arshavin; who signed for the Gunners in the year 2009, immediately sparked a revolution at Arsenal. Adding pace, stealth, and intelligence to Arsenal’s play, the striker made his mark by scoring all four goals in Arsenal’s 4-4 draw with Liverpool. It was known then that Arshavin carried the qualities to carry Arsenal to glory all on his own. The Russian continued to impress in his second year at the Emirates, giving Arsenal their first win against Barcelona. However, the player went out of favour in the season 2012/13 and was sent to Zenit on loan. Arshavin did return to Arsenal but could never rekindle the same spark and struggled to find preference over Gervinho, Podolski and Walcott. The forward ran out of his contract in 2013 and went on to return to Zenit.
Similar to him is the case of Marouane Chamakh, but it is much more heart-breaking. Having signed for Arsenal in 2010, the Morocco international was expected to become one of Arsenal’s greats, seeing his potential and significant contribution in such short time. Chamakh soon became the answer to Gunners’ striker woes, scoring 10 goals in his first 21 appearances for the Gunners. However, the return of Van Persie from injury changed the entire course of Chamakh’s career at Arsenal. Arsene Wenger transferred Chamakh to the bench, giving him less and less first-team opportunities. With fewer matches to play, Chamakh’s quality started to get rough around the edges and his confidence hit a huge a low. The Moroccan international never quite recovered and left Arsenal in 2013/14, joining Crystal Palace.
Lukas Podolski is another name on the list of strikers Arsene Wenger did not use to their full potential. The German forward brought with himself much-need positive energy both on and off the field. However, Podolski never really received consistency in terms of appearances, to really solidify his place in the team. Used as a substitute for most of the later half of his career and rarely given the opportunity to play the entire 90 minutes, Wenger, yet again failed to fully use the striker. Podolski joined Galatasary after a disappointing loan season at Inter Milan.
There is no doubt the above players possessed the quality Wenger originally identified in them. However, with a strict and rigid use of tactics and failure to use rotation, he slowly left their talent and skills to rot. Lack of regular team action and inconsistency in game time caused these players to struggle, when they were indeed given a chance. They may not have been world-class players, but they possessed enough skills to end Arsenal’s struggles in attack, had they been used by Wenger wisely. Perhaps Arsenal’s problems in offence is not because of lack of quality strikers at the right price, but it is the inability to efficiently apply the quality Wenger initially foresees in a striker he signs.
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