Monday, April 25, 2011

A New Era for Arsenal?

6 years. It's been 6 years since Arsenal has won a meaningful trophy, the 2005 FA Cup. Now, in recent times, all that the Gunners have won is the insignificant Emirates Cup. This season, that looked to change, as they entered the League Cup Final against Birmingham City, full of confidence after beating Barcelona with a comeback. Then, disappointingly, frustratingly, and humiliatingly, Arsenal lost to the Blues, with an absolutely horrible mix-up between Wojciech Szczesny and Laurent Koscielny being the catalyst for another trophy-less season. After that day, Arsenal dropped out of the Champions' League, the FA Cup, and on April 24th, all but guaranteed that they were out of the title race with a 2-1 loss to Bolton.

Since February 23rd, their 1-0 home victory against Stoke City, Arsenal have had only one league win, and that came against a relegation battling Blackpool. They passed up numerous chances to close the gap to Manchester United, only to draw against the likes of Sunderland, West Brom, and Blackburn. Not exactly teams that would frighten a team who is supposedly one of the world's best. But, with Arsenal, now every game is one where the supporters grow frightened, thanks to the fragility of Arsenal's defense. Yes, many will point to referee's mistakes, or just bad luck, but it's really only the squad to blame. So, this makes many ask the question, is Arsene Wenger really still capable of winning the league with his current side?

Will the stubborn Frenchman change his frugal ways? I can only hope so. Yes, he has been great at spotting and raising young talent, with the likes of Jack Wilshere, Cesc Fabregas, and Aaron Ramsey regularly being important parts of the Gunners' squad. But, what the team lacks is a leader on the field. Ever since the "Invincibles" era, there hasn't been anyone who will get up and shout into someone's face after they make an Almunia-like mistake. The quiet Cesc Fabregas has been the captain of the club since the 2008-2009 season, and he hasn't been the best driving force behind the club. Even Robin Van Persie has been more vocal, criticizing the way that other clubs play and act, and, along with Jack Wilshere, has openly supported and pledged his allegiance to Arsene Wenger and his club.

Despite being captain, even Fabregas has commented on Wenger's tactics and philosophy. Like many supporters and pundits, he believed that Arsenal can't win trophies with just kids out on the field, and that they need experienced and committed players. So, what will Wenger do this summer? The players that I believe  the Gunners need to purchase are obviously a central defender or two, an experienced 30-something midfielder, and a clinical striker who can provide great cover when Robin Van Persie is injured. Per Mertesacker, Gary Cahill, Phillipe Mexes, Diego Milito, Eden Hazard, and Karim Benzema have all been linked to Arsenal constantly. Will the adamant Arsenal manager change his ways and buy a few players with the 40 million pounds now at his disposal?

Finally, I just have one more thought on my mind about Wenger's managerial ways. He absolutely needs to sell the under-performing players. Diaby and Denilson started their Arsenal careers strongly, but recently, have been totally ineffective. Along with those two, Tomas Rosicky, Manuel Almunia, and Sebastien Squillaci should be put on the transfer market in the summer. Along with being ineffective, they constantly make mistakes that continually cost Arsenal important points in the title race.

So, that's all that I have to say about the current Arsenal "crisis". After six years of trophy-less, but wonderful football, it seems that Arsene Wenger has been thinking about purchasing a few experienced players who should help the Gunners finally win a title again. In a recent interview with the Guardian, Wenger said, "We have to strengthen the squad where it needs and make the right decision on that front (transfers)." So, the outlook looks good. This will be an interesting summer for Arsenal fans. But, if next year Arsenal comes out empty-handed, then it will surely be time for Wenger to leave his post.

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