Another year passes, and another where Arsene Wenger comes out with the same old cliches’ about why or how Arsenal didn’t win anything again, why they haven’t spent much money or why they flaked out when it really mattered…
They may have come back strongly on the weekend, but they lost 4-3 to Liverpool, with the burning question being why they have not signed any seriously proven players to compliment what they already have. One minute Ivan Gazidis says they have money in the bank to spend, the next they cannot compete with the likes of Chelsea, Man Utd or Man City…or Tottenham, or even Liverpool. Now you come to think about it, Leicester as well…
Spurs have signed Wanyama and Janssen, with a few more set to come in. Chelsea have signed Batshuyi and Kante. Man Utd – Ibrahimovic, Pogba, Bailly and Mkhitaryan. City have signed Gabriel Jesus, Gundogan and Sane. Liverpool – Mane, Wijnaldum, Klavan and more. Leicester have also improved – Musa, Hernandez and Kapustka all good buys. Arsenal have just signed the odd one or two – Xhaka and Holding from Bolton…
Now when you look at their squad, they have some incredible players in Ozil, Sanchez, Cech and Koscielny…probably add in Xhaka there too now. But the overall feeling for me as a neutral is that despite getting into the Champions League scores of seasons in a row, they are simply going nowhere under Wenger. There are areas of the squad that need some investment – Mertesacker, Kos and Gabriel were all injured, which is unlucky – but bar the Frenchman, I don’t think either of the others are upto scratch.
In the fullback positions – Bellerin is a hot prospect, while Monreal and Gibbs are solid players. Moving into midfield, there is a real lack of a ‘Viera’ type player – too many are flimsy and when it comes to the big time games, usually let them down. Coquelin is decent, but another Wenger prodigy that he is willing to persevere with than go out and spend £30m on a Kante type player who will scare opposition. In Ozil and Sanchez, they have two providing the bullets, but in Giroud/Walcott they don’t have a proven scorer who will nail 20 goals a season.
Speaking of Walcott, both he and Oxlade Chamberlain have stagnated, with injuries helping neither. The same goes for Chambers – another Southampton player who had huge expectations on his shoulders but has been given nowhere near enough game time. They are buying good youngsters no doubt, but never giving them the time to prove themselves as first team players.
For me, the main issue stems from Wenger – he may have done an amazing job over the years, but I think he’s past it. There is no fear factor around them like there was 10 years ago. Teams go to the Emirates with a strong belief they can get something as there is an achilles heal in the Arsenal backline…as if they know if you press hard enough someone will crack.
The defining thing for me is that the likes of Ozil and Sanchez want to win things, and won’t hang around to finish 3rd or 4th every season. Like many have in the past, they will go to the likes of Man Utd or Man City as under Guardiola and Mourinho they will get a manager with a winning mentality and a winning history. The odd cup win won’t tide over their desire to win the Champions League, or a top division title.
Producing the best youth players is a nice theory, and one that Arsenal have practised well for years, but they need to be in contention at the business end of the season to satisfy both the owners and the players. Unfortunately, Wenger’s excuse ridden mentality has sunk into some of the players and it’s very obvious that they lack in vital areas, and unless they address it in the next few weeks it’ll be another season of disappointment for the faithful Gunners’ fans.
If I were in the owners seat – I’d be very keen to get a younger manager with fresh ideas into the hotseat to give the club some impetus going forward. Unfortunately, I don’t think the likes of Gazidis have the gonads to sack Wenger. It feels like, in educational terms, he has tenure and will be there until the day he dies!