Saturday, February 6, 2010

From Hero to Zero

"When you are fighting with Manchester City, Tottenham, Liverpool and Aston Villa you cannot say that because you finished third it is a disaster. It is very important to win trophies but if you do not, you do not go from being fantastic to zero."

- Arsene Wenger, alarmed at being thought of as zero

I can see where Wenger's coming from. With the squad at his disposal, 3rd is a pretty good achievement. I'd have accepted 3rd place with this squad at the start of the season. And if we consider this season's performance against last year's, we can see definite improvement. Song, Ramsey and Diaby have all made considerable improvement. The 4-3-3 has been a qualified success. And for a brief moment in January, we were even top of the league.

The problem is that we've kind of fell into 3rd place. Wenger's comparing us to Man City, Tottenham, Liverpool and Aston Villa. Tottenham and Aston Villa can't compete with us financially and don't have Champions League calibre players. Man City are a circus and need time to gel. Liverpool are a financial basket-case and their only two players are hobbled by injury. All we need to do to get to 3rd place is win the games we're winning, lose the games we're losing, and wait until the other sides fall apart.

However to get beyond 3rd place, we need a bit more action. We haven't seen much from Wenger to suggest that he's serious about correcting our glaring deficiencies. We're still thin in defence and thin in central midfield. van Persie's out for the season, Bendtner's still unfit, and Arshavin's cracking the shits at having to play as a centre-forward. We're still vulnerable to the counter-attack down the flanks, and our defence is still a joke. Almunia shouldn't be our first-team goalkeeper. Players such as Nasri have trouble motivating themselves. These issues have been apparent for some time (up to 5 years, in the case of some), and they still haven't been addressed. If we're going to make the step from 3rd to 1st, we're going to have to address these problems.

I don't understand why some fans are blind to it. We are wallowing in mediocrity. And unlike Spurs, this isn't acceptable. Unlike Spurs, we are not a small club with large ambitions. In fact, we have become the opposite - we are a large club with small ambitions.

A club of Arsenal's stature should be competing for trophies. We have the 3rd highest wage bill in the Premiership. We have money. I'm sick of making excuses for the board for not spending, because clearly we have the money. There's a clause in the Emirates loan that stipulates that 75% of transfer income should be spent on wages or transfers. After Toure and Adebayor went to Man City, we could've, and should've, spunked a few million on players who could've improved us. Instead, we extended the contracts of players who hadn't done anything to deserve it. There's something wrong with handing Theo a 60k a week contract, Denilson a 40k a week contract, and giving Rosicky anything other than a pay-as-you-play contract. Especially if we then claim that we can't attract super, super players because they'd break the wage structure.

We have the personnel to make a better fist of it. Maybe not good enough to win the league, but at least to put up a fight. Consider our CL Final defence (Flamini, Toure, Senderos, Eboue) against our defence against Man Utd (Clichy, Gallas, Vermaelen, Sagna). Man for man, our current defence is miles better. But tactically? I'd rather the make-shift defence that knew its limitations and took pride in keeping clean-sheets. I wouldn't bet much on thinking our current back four could go through to a Champions League final without conceding a goal. And it makes me angry because if we only paid attention to defence, we have the players to make an outstanding back four.

In the above quote, Wenger's saying that we don't go from "fantastic to zero" if we don't win the league. And yes, 3rd is better than what I thought we'd come. But is that any cause of celebration? Bouncing between "not bad" and "not good" isn't something we should be aiming for. As things stand, we're not good enough to win the league. We're not bad enough to drop out of the Top 4. I can't see anything that will change that. That might be fine for the Arsenal board and Arsene Wenger, but for an increasing number of gooners, it's not. I think we deserve a bit more ambition from the men in charge.

We're the Arsenal, and we're better than that.


Anonymous said...

CL Final defence was Eboue, Campbell, Toure, Cole according to the BBC match review.

The main problem with the current defence is they can be too attack minded and get caught out of position. They are also not organised very well, and have no commanding leader.

Wenger should bring in Mannone for Almunia, at least in the short term.

I agree about him extending contracts for just above average players like Denilson. Why? If they're not good enough for Arsenal sell them on. They can still do a job for lesser clubs and have a long career. Wenger should be ruthless like Ferguson - if yr not good enough, yr out.

He also needs to instil in his players a fighting spirit, which is the main area they fall down when compared to Man U and Chelsea. Nasri and Walcott in particular are guilty of jogging leisurely around instead of busting a gut to close down the opposition and win that ball back.

Now I love Wenger, and can't imagine loving Arsenal as much when he finally leaves, but he's so stubborn. BUY. SOME. PLAYERS. Not 15 yr old prospects for the future. Established players who are good enough ALREADY. Especially a striker. Bendtner will never be a world beater, Eduardo the same and Van Persie even when fit and in form is merely a spindly-legged 'pretty good', rather than a ruthless gladiatorial predator like Rooney or Drogba.

It's getting to the point now where although Wenger is responsible for producing another good Arsenal side, and really is over-succeeding with the personnel he has, it is his own stubbornness in not buying real talent in vital areas AND his lack of tactical nous/refusal to play any other way which is stopping Arsenal being a genuine Premier/Champions League challenger.

I don't think I want him to go, but it might benefit Arsenal if they dropped out of the Top 4, crashed out of the Champs League v Porto then maybe MAYBE he would have a little re-think.

weg said...

Hey man, thanks for the comment. I completely agree with that. Yeah, I know Campbell and Cole played in the CL Final, but the lineup that got us there (and kept the clean-sheet record) was FlimFlam, Sendross, Kolo and Eboue. They're no great shakes, but they did it through guts, concentration and effort. Cheers.