As an Arsenal fan, there is much to love. But this year, it all seems too deja vu. What needs to change?
One of the hardest jobs in the world has to be being an Arsenal fan. You get constantly ridiculed by your buddies, there is a frustrating amount of beautiful passing sequences which end with “WHY DON’T WE JUST SHOOT?!”, and then there’s the enigma of Mikel Arteta’s unmoving hair. No matter which you way you look at it, there are questions looming over this Arsenal team, and some of these questions have been around for too long.
Watching the end of the season play out, it seems like it has happened one too many times in the past few years. The season starts off with high expectations and Wengers cry of a “title challenge”. It begins generally well, there’s a dip in the middle of the season (January, February) caused by a serious of unfortunate injuries/ suspensions / lack of signings, and then the late season spurge is on as we chase the coveted “trophy” of fourth place. Because we were able to mastermind the comeback, from X amount of points down from Spurs, suddenly the season is a success. The argument come the final day of the season is we lost Nasri/Fabregas/Song/ V Persie, while Spurs added Dempsey/Dembele/ Holtby, and we were STILL able to finish ahead of them. We should always be finishing ahead of them. The fact that the comparison can be made to Spurs now is a sign of the lack of ambition shown by the board to push on and challenge for the title and the champions league. There always seem to be a missing piece, which is known at the beginning of the season, yet is ignored, and it always comes back to haunt us.
August 2012. My optimism was fairly high. Despite losing V Persie to a load of cash, we had signed 3 legitimately top class players in Cazorla, Podolski, and the emerging Giroud. All three were upgrades to the squad, good squad competition, and potentially starting players. However, there were still some question marks in the squad. Szcenszy was no doubt a talented goalkeeper, but could he truly hold himself together for an entire season, especially after some uninspiring performances the season before? Then came the question of the central midfield. Ramsey had yet to catch form, Wilshire was out long term with an injury, and Diaby was always a footstep away from a 6-8 month layoff. Yet, there was no strong combative defensive midfielder signed as a replacement for the outgoing Song. Up top, Giroud was untested, and Chamakh had been unable to find his pre-Van Persie form for the club. Despite all this, I headed into the season with optimism and was pleasantly surprised by the defensive work Steve Bould seemed to have done over the summer for the team.
January 2013. The faults are suddenly there for all to see. Giroud was not the answer up top. Sure, he was a good rotation option, but certainly not first choice striker quality. Despite Santos playing decently well his first season and scoring some vital goals (West Brom away) , he played terribly in the chances he got as Gibbs was injured, and it was clear he was not suited for the English game. At the back, Koscielny and Vermaelen were struggling to regain their top form, and there was always the scare that 2 of the 3 center back options ( Mertesacker as well) would be injured/suspended, and suddenly Djourou or the much maligned Squillaci would be at the back. Szcenszy was far from convincing between the sticks, and reinforcements were clearly needed.
This is not saying there were not any positives. Walcott had finally emerged as a potential center forward, with a significant number of goals and assists. Cazorla proved himself a top class playmaker, able to play through the middle or down the left flank, and Wilshire’s return provided new inspiration and fight to the midfield.
However, a few things were, and still are needed. A top class forward should be top of the list, and the rumours in January had us in for Huntelaar (before contract signed) , Jovetic (still possible?), and Cavani (dream). Instead, what we got in January was a solution to one problem, probably one of the least pressing as well, with Monreal coming in for Santos, who made his way back to Brazil.
The transfer window came and went, and unsurprisingly, the team crashed out of the FA Cup and Champions League, as the squad was up to its limits. Now we are left to chase 4th/3rd, and hope we secure the spot so that we can still recruit talent in the coming year.
The story has gotten old however, and this summer is a must for change. Unlike other seasons, where issues seemed to be new, such as players leaving, this team has gotten past that, and should be up there with the best. This team should be challenging for a title, and there’s a sense that it is only a few singings away. With Wenger’s future still up in the air, if this is truly his last season coming up, he should go all out in terms of spending. The stadium debt has reportedly been taken care of, and the 70+ pound war chest should be unleashed. The fans got a taste of what quality can be bought this past summer, but now it is time to tackle all the squad issues, and return Arsenal where they should be, challenging for the title and all domestic trophies, while giving a real go for the champions league. I love Wenger and what he has done for the club, but he must have learned his mistakes by now, and this season should be his last without silverware. It’s the least the fans deserve after 8 years of agony and unfulfilled potential.
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