With two defeats in back-to-back high profile games it does not take even the most avid Arsenal fan to admit that the club has reached another low this season, their eighth so far without any silverware. Arsene Wenger’s men have managed only 4 wins in their previous 10 league games, with 3 of them coming against teams that are languishing in the bottom 5. The previous Sunday staged Arsenal’s lacklustre display at home to current champions Manchester City, where Laurent Koscielny’s early dismissal for what can only be described as a try saving tackle set the tone for a very one sided affair. Even when the visitors had skipper Vincent Kompany wrongly sent off, Joe Hart’s clean sheet never looked like it was in doubt. Despite Theo Walcott’s consolation at Stamford Bridge today, Arsenal never looked capable of producing the slick passing football that their reputation has been based on. These two defeats post a prominent question to Arsenal football club, can they still challenge the big teams?
Whilst it is fairly obvious that Arsenal do not possess the quality of players that they once had, it also becomes apparent that neither the transfer window or youth academy have produced players capable of replacing Bergkamp, Henry, Adams, Pires and Ljungberg. However, Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott all provide Arsenal fans with hope that the Emirates Stadium staff can finally fill in the blank spaces that were specifically designed to display the club’s impending achievements of silverware. Jack Wilshere is starting to produce some commanding displays from midfield after returning from injury with the hunger and composure on the ball that has seen him rightly labelled as one of England’s future hopes for a national team lacking in positive ball retention. Theo Walcott has recently signed a new deal reported to be worth around £100,000 a week, raising questions over whether his apparent inconsistency deserves to be so heavily rewarded. What may have finally become obvious to Wenger is that Walcott possesses the pace and composure to play in his preferred forward position, one that he occupied effectively before moving to Arsenal from his hometown club Southampton.
Although he has recently been derided by some fans, summer signing Olivier Giroud is still settling in to life in the Premier League having arrived from current Ligue 1 surprise champions Montpellier. Giroud may be lacking the final product that saw him score 33 times in 73 games for the French club, but his movement between defenders has at times been outstanding. Full of unselfish running, he has often created space for Santi Cazorla or Jack Wilshere to penetrate and tried to stay onside in the process to offer the ball carrier another productive option. Given another couple of months, the 26-year-old may show his full potential at the start of the 2013/14 season once he has gauged the pace of the English game, and the speed at which he has to take his chances. Santi Cazorla had a more fruitful start to his Arsenal career, with the Spaniard providing Arsenal with a creative threat as well as possessing a lethal strike with either foot. The diminutive attacker’s task has been even harder than most fans have given him credit for, with Arsenal paying a reported £18,000,000 to place him in a midfield that lost its fulcrum, Cesc Fabregas, to Barcelona, and another creative force, Samir Nasri, to Manchester City in recent years.
The want-away midfielders are not the only ones to have left the Emirates Stadium for pastures new, with last season’s club top scorer Robin Van Persie striking a cruel blow to the title aspirations of Arsenal by leaving for Manchester United. With Faregas having picked up multiple trophies in his second stint at the Nou Camp, Nasri now the proud owner of a Premier League winner’s medal and Van Persie looking capable of kick-starting his collection with a winner’s medal, it provides little incentive for Arsenal’s better players to stay and stop the rot when a move to another club has proven to produce instant rewards. These players were all sold for healthy sums, but the question that plagues Arsenal fans is why hasn’t this prompted Arsene Wenger into replacing them with quality proven players. Arsenal is a financially sound club, constantly reporting profits that defy the notion of modern football clubs being plagued by multi-million pound debts. With the team lacking leadership and the ability to hold a lead, surely it is time for Arsene Wenger to put the quality of his first team above his favoured policy of nurturing youth. New signings could hold the key to banishing Arsenal’s reputation as a production line, where players showcase their talents prior to moving onto a club that is more capable of providing them with the silverware that their ambition craves.
By Fraser Crump @f_crump7