A Look at Arsenal, Wenger, and a Split Fanbase From an Unbiased POV
Well after watching Arsenal FC suffer another poor result in the Champions League, I would like to discuss how bad this team has been. I must mention ahead of time, I admittedly have no vested interest in Arsenal, and am looking at this situation from an outsider’s point of view. I believe, and God hope I’m right or I’ll have a boat load of PO’d North Londoners calling for my head, that an outsider’s opinion may be more valid than usual given this very hot topic.
Arsenal fans are completely divided, and if Michael Kovacs (self proclaimed “Canada’s biggest gooner”) is right, than even the fan base are turning on each other through social media like Twitter. On one hand are the die-hard supporters of Wenger, who believe his knowledge and experience make him “still” the right man for the job. And in the opposite corner are those fans who believe his time has come, calling for everything but his head on a platter. There is very little gray area from where I sit. Like him or hate him.
So how to sort out this mess? For me it’s quite simple because I am not fueled by passion in this case. Since the 2003-2004 season of utter dominance, they have failed to collect a single trophy in all 8 seasons and I am sure you can chalk up number 9. During these past seasons they have only finished 2nd in the EPL once, and other then that it has been a mixture of 3rd and 4th place finishes. Out of all these finishes they have only came within 10 points of Crown position once. Basically they are not even challenging or threatening for an EPL Championship. The problem is that I have sinking suspicion that it’s not a big deal to Mr. Wenger. Sure, he’d like to win, but he wants to prove he can stay competitive despite having the money to spend.
Even in weaker competition such as the Capital One Cup (formerly the Carling Cup), they have been known to field some stronger line-ups, desperately trying for a trophy. Two seasons ago they made it to the Carling Cup final and played a much weaker Birmingham City side, but still failed to reach glory – ugh, Koscielny/Szczeny mix-up. Talk about Embarrassing! In the current FA Cup tournament we saw the Gunners eliminated last week by a lower division Blackburn side. Teams still remaining in the tournament are the likes of Chelsea, United, City, and Everton. I believe this shows that Arsenal really don’t stand much chance in an English tournament where most teams field solid line-ups. This season, losing to a few lower league squads makes the sting only worse.
AS for Champions League, They haven’t been terrible, reaching the finals in 2005-2006 competition, but mostly round of 16 and quarter final exits other then that. Which really isn’t all to well either. Some will note how great an accomplishment it has been in reaching the round of 16 so many years in a row. While that may be true, can we say they have seriously challenged in any of those years outside the early-mid 2000′s? No. This year’s team was never going to challenge seriously. There are way too many holes. That leads me to another point…
I have always admired the way they play the transfer market – they have a way of buying great players for lower fees. Recent stand-out purchases to me include: Podolski 11m BP, Cazorla for 20m BP and Mertesacker for 10m BP (he played horribly against Bayern though…). They also added Oliver Giroud to the equation, showing they sort of base their team on a European-style club full of internationals. Is that smart? I feel you should build your team more towards the league you play in, but definitely keep some assests that can help out in Europe as well. We all know it takes tremendous depth to have European glory.
The problem here is that any serious Arsenal supporter could see a mile away where the team lacks going into last summer’s transfer period, followed by the one that ended a few weeks ago. Arsenal’s Board have stated they had money to spend – a LOT of money – yet they failed miserably in spending it in very necessary places. Weaknesses on the back end of the line-up are a well known problem – re-signing Gibbs, while a nice player, is not good enough to compete at the highest level. Questions abound about the central defender tandem of captain Thomas Vermaellen, Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker (whichever two are healthy at the time), and the game against Bayern just cemented the problem. Mertesacker was awful in failing to track players, and Vermaellen was certainly not up to the challenge either. Sagna is a nice player at times, but fans have questioned him as of late, not to mention rumours abounding about his imminent departure. Clearly this was a back line that needed help in a bad, bad way, yet the only solution was Nacho Monreal from Malaga. A nice player, but not for a team who is trying to make a serious run.
And while I’m on a role, someone, anyone, tell me why Gervinho gets any playing time at all? Really, please tell me what he brings to a “top four” side? It’s laughable.
My assumptions for Arsenal FC’s lack of trophies has a lot to do with Arsene Wenger. Although I think he is a transfer market genius as well as fantastic at finding and developing a tremendous youth academy, maybe he is a poor manager? Maybe his pride for having the reputation I noted above is getting in the way of Arsenal’s “end game” of finally winning something?
As said earlier, I don’t agree with the European style of squad he has formed because playing in the EPL is much different then any other league. Yes, he has many British players, but he also keeps adding players with no Premier League experience. The EPL is NOT La Liga, Serie A, or Bundesliga. It’s different. Not better necessarily, just different.
I’d also like to note that the proof is in the numbers. I always hate when a coach is handed a bottom-ranked team and is only given two seasons to turn the team into contenders or else he is terminated. For Wenger it’s the opposite. The squad he has had for the past nine seasons is tremendously lacking on the pitch. Many great players have came and gone because of it too – Nasri, Van Persie, Song, and the one that still really burns AFC fans, Cesc Fabregas.
Arsenal FC are ranked 3rd on forbes list of richest football clubs in the world. They make major profits each year and have the highest ticket price in the EPL. These are all factors that should definately lead to trophies! Pack your bags, Wenger! You had your time to actually spend the money everyone has acknowledged for two seasons is sitting in the account collecting dust. Your ego has surpassed your ability to put together a squad truly capable of glory.
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