After the fallout over yesterday’s game with Chelsea, and the realisation that our title challenge is all but over in early February, accusations of bringing in 5 or 6 players have come up and Arsenal fans who defend the Arsenal manager keep saying that we have to look long term and success will come.
Who mentioned bringing in 5 or 6 players? I don’t want 5 or 6 players.
At a time when the majority of Arsenal fans want a new goalkeeper, new left back and new striker, I only wanted one new player.
And that was a striker.
The fact is that for all the injuries we’ve had to Eduardo, Bendtner, Clichy, Diaby, Rosicky, Nasri and Denilson throughout the 2009/2010 campaign, the only person we’ve truly missed is Robin Van Persie. You might laugh considering our defensive frailties that have been exposed recently but the Dutchman is much more than a goalscorer. He made a fantastic number of assists, made the team play better on the whole and possibly more importantly he gave the team that drive and desire we’ve been missing over the last few months.
There have been accusations that the team is ‘too French’ and you can see why. Van Persie and Fabregas drive the team forward and give the side more urgency but without them we’ve strolled through games. Look at the Aston Villa match at The Emirates earlier in the season. We were woeful until Fabregas came on a completely changed the game. But we can’t keep relying on Cesc to drive the team forward. Without a more complete squad we’re comparable to Steven Gerrard’s influence on the Liverpool side.
I honestly believe that if Van Persie was still playing now we’d be right in there. Even with Almunia, Clichy and our shocking defending. Our title challenge ended a couple of season ago when Eduardo got injured for the rest of the season, and the same thing has happened with Van Persie. In the first 10 games with Van Persie we were on fire. We weren’t unbeatable by any means but with a central striker we had purpose. We could score against anyone – Van Persie would hold the ball up and play in the creative players like Arshavin, Fabregas, Diaby, Nasri and Rosicky. The proof that our creativity has been stifled without a target man is there for all to see.
We’ve know for a while that Robin Van Persie would be out for the season, so why didn’t we bring someone in? And I don’t mean spend Â£25 million on a world class forward, but someone who could do the job. Even someone who already played in the Premier League, could hold the ball up and put the pressure off the likes of Arshavin and Fabregas. In an Arsenal side who have so much possession and usually create a number of chances someone like Carew would do the job and wouldn’t break the bank. There was even Louis Saha who would have been peanuts as his contract is up this summer.
You might laugh at those suggestions, but I’m not a highly paid professional football manager with a professional scouting network. It’s not my job to find the solution, it’s Arsene Wenger’s. And I find it hard to believe that there was absolutely no-one available who filled the criteria.
And we’re in a recession, so players would be cheaper than usual. How many big teams spent big in the January Transfer Window? With virtually no competition for purchasing players then you couldn’t use the ‘inflated’ prices excuse. Liverpool brought in Maxi from Athletico Madrid on a free, and Manchester United brought in Smalling from Fulham. Hardly high-profile or expensive signings.
And along with the lack of striker coming in over the January Transfer Window the only other problem I have is Arsene Wenger’s stubbornness.
Even without replacing Van Persie, the situation in the league wasn’t completely lost.
But Arsene Wenger was too stubborn to change things.
If you’re not going to replace Robin Van Persie then change the way we play. We’ve lost a massive influence on the team and a target man, Nicklas Bendtner is also out so why persist in playing the 4-3-3 formation? It clearly works great with Van Persie (and would probably be fine with Bendtner looking at his 20 minute cameo yesterday) but without either of those in the side it’s counter-productive and as it’s been proven, it has cost us dear. 4-3-3 or 4-5-1 works great with a target man such as Van Persie or Adebayor to bring others into play but is useless with Arshavin and midfielders like Rosicky, Nasri and Walcott. Recently we’ve been playing with Arshavin as the lone central striker and it’s agonising watching Arsenal pump long balls up to him – it’s crazy.
Why not revert to a 4-4-2 formation? We’ve used it when Thierry Henry played alongside Sylvain Wiltord and Dennis Bergkamp, none of which were target men who used to win the ball in the air. All three of those players played a short passing game to feet and Thierry and Wiltord could be released over the top.
The other problem with Wenger is his seemingly inept tactical knowledge.
We know he rarely worries about how the other team will play but not working on defence is something I don’t understand. He had Martin Keown in doing some coaching a few season ago and look what he did to Senderos, Flamini and Toure in that Champions League run to the final. Hardly the most feared defence in Europe but with some basic coaching and drilling Keown obviously taught them how to defend as a unit – something we’re severely lacking at the moment.
I don’t know exactly why Keown isn’t there anymore, but Wenger’s ego means we’re being punished. Maybe he doesn’t want anyone else to take the credit for Arsenal’s success? The fact is in Tony Adams, Steve Bould, Lee Dixon, Martin Keown and Nigel Winterburn we have some of the finest defensive minds in the game available to us. They all fondly speak of Arsenal and you know that we would benefit hugely from their influence if they had a chance. They were all taught by the master of defence, George Graham.
Arsene can’t ignore the importance of defending anymore. Is it a co-incidence that we haven’t won a trophy since Adams, Keown, Campbell, Dixon and Winterburn left the club? Keown was at the club in The Invincibles 2003/2004 season and it obvious he helped out Lauren, Toure, Campbell and Cole during that campaign. Since that season we’ve struggled in the league and conceded far too many goals.
As everyone keeps saying, we’re not a million miles away but because of someone’s stubbornness we’re not looking any closer to bridging that gap. It’s the same story season after season.