Wenger admitted like most Arsenal fans that he felt ‘lost’ after our exit from the Champions League and consequently left Arsenal out of all the cup competitions and all but out of the Premiership race.
And like most Arsenal fans you start to question the future of the club – we have become a top 2 team to a top 4 team in the matter of a couple of seasons.
Last season could have been so much different for Arsenal. Wenger has been long considered a great manager, and a person who changed the face of English football with improved eating habits and new training methods – as well as introducing some of the most attractive football ever seen in the league.
But unlike Mourinho, Benitez and Alex Ferguson – Arsene Wenger has never won the Champions League, the one competition he wants the most. And last season it looked like all his hard work had paid off when Arsenal reached the final of the Champions League – and a 1-0 lead got him even closer to his dream. But poor refereeing and even worse luck took away the trophy and all the accolades Arsene would have received and deservedly so, but it just wasn’t to be…
A Champions League success last season would have put all the ‘transistion season’ talk in the background and our poor league form with it. But along with this season, our last campaign will be regarded as a failure.
A lot of people have called for Wenger’s head which, well – I’m undecided about it all to be honest.
There is no doubt Wenger has pulled Arsenal from mediocrity into one of the biggest teams in England, but is he the man to push on and continue that success?
I guess the biggest question at the moment is whether this is the end of Arsenal pushing for honours? Will we look back at the last couple of seasons in the future and think that this was the moment we slipped back into mediocrity?
Dear god I hope not.
The problem is the face of football is changing, and not just in England. Wenger’s idyllic vision for beautiful football with success brought some of the greatest football I have ever seen but because football is all about business and the money more than ever these days it seems clubs will pay any price for success on the pitch.
And I hate to say it but with our style of football if Arsenal were playing in the Spanish League we would be competing for the title.
We all wonder where the club will be once Wenger has left Arsenal – can anyone else do what he has done for our football club?
And has Arsene had enough?
Next season will be his biggest test since he’s arrived at Arsenal. When he first arrived there was the dominant force of Manchester United who monopolised the Premiership but Arsene managed to win the double in his first full season. Since then, it was Arsenal and United at the Premiership summit but now Chelsea’s millions have raised the bar. After a couple of seasons United have finally mounted a challenge but can Arsenal do the same?
On the plus side, Arsenal should have a full strength squad for the start of next season with Thierry Henry, Robin Van Persie, William Gallas and many others having been out for most of this campaign.
There is no doubt Arsenal have done well in pushing with Liverpool this season without major first team players out for lengthy periods. Our injury problems have been comparable to that of Newcastle and you cannot dismiss the absence of Henry, Van Persie and Gallas in particular. Chelsea fall apart when Cech and Terry are missing and Manchester United have been fortunate this season with their key men being fit for most of the season.
But I am not turning to the injuries as an excuse or having a pop at United (although I would love to) – injuries (or lack of) are part of the game and you have to soldier on.
With Rosicky and Gallas settled into their second seasons Arsenal will be a big force along with fit again regulars such as Henry, Fabregas, Van Persie, Gilberto, Toure, Eboue, Clichy et al.
But questions need to be answered on certain areas of the pitch and certain players in the squad.
Should Arsenal keep Julio Baptista? There’s no doubt he is a decent player but at times his touch has been very poor and despite impressing earlier on in January the fact is that when Arsenal have needed to rely on him he hasn’t performed. He has had a decent run in the team but continues to miss opportunities you really should take at this level. Possibly he needs a year to settle into the pace of the Premiership but with a fully-fit Henry, Van Persie and Adebayor then he will be lucky to make the bench.
The same could be said for Jeremie Aliadiere. After showing signs of promise in the Carling Cup he has shown the jump up to Premiership level is just a bridge too far for him, and if you’re not going to make it after over 7 years with the club then maybe his time is up.
The other players that people have been wondering about are Hleb and Freddie.
I’m a big fan of Freddie and I might be in the minority here but I still believe that he has something of offer the club. There’s no denying that he might have lost a bit of pace but he is one of the few players who when presented with a goalscoring opporunity – he will take it. He is still one of the best finishers at the club and I for one would be sorry to see him leave.
And onto Hleb. People slate him because he doesn’t shoot and it could be said that he isn’t up to the physical nature of the league despite being in his second season at the club. I personally think that his ball rentention is excellent and he is one of the few people in the team who has the ability to play that killer final ball which has been lacking in the couple of months he has been out injured. And I think the criticism over conceding that foul against PSV is unjustified.
So where do Arsenal go from here?