Yet another year of ‘what could have been’ for The Gunners has left many fans (and neutrals) with that familiar bitter taste searing their tonsils. Despite finishing within the top four, the season had so much more potential for the North London giants. A sixteen game unbeaten run and a Carling Cup Final against Birmingham provided Arsene Wenger with the perfect chance to end his club’s long wait for another trophy. But, once again, The Gunner’s boss was left frustrated and bemused by his young squad as they finished only fourth and more importantly…trophyless.
We keep hearing about this Arsenal squad as ‘promising youngsters’ and that one day they will deliver. The group has now been together for a good five years and there is still no end product. There is no doubt that Arsene Wenger’s men have supreme talent and play arguably the most entertaining football in the league, but they simply do not have the mettle to go that extra step. The lack of English backbone within the team has hindered them. Gone are the days of Tony Adams and his drinking issues, or London-zoo escapee Martin Keown attacking Dutch superstars. The recent greats like Patrick Vieira and Kolo Toure both contained that never-say-die attitude that made the Arsenal a team to be feared in past years. I look around their team and I just don’t see that sheer grit and desire they need. For example, I can’t see Andrey Arshavin grabbing someone’s crotch in the box and then pummelling the ball off the park, barking orders away at The Britannia.
Take injuries and supposed ‘awful luck’ out of the equation and you are left with the fact that even if they had a fully fit squad of Fabregas, Van Persie and Vermaelen, Arsenal still don’t have that winning mentality that is epitomised oh so often by their Mancunian superiors.
Wenger’s determination, come-ignorance has cost the Gunners dear this season. His refusal to invest in a top quality goalkeeper and centre backs has lead to his team leaking goals at the most inopportune times. The lack of character and leadership is also another major issue. Cesc Fabregas may be the one of the best young players of his generation but on the pitch he carries a distinct lack of charisma and fight. Add the fact he’s probably wondering what his favourite paella place in Cataluña is and Wenger is looking in hot water for next year. The pressure is on to deliver, but he deserves time and I’m glad to see that the board haven’t followed the popular trend and sacked the beloved French Professor. He is an institution and without him, Arsenal would fall to pieces. Still, a trophy would ease a lot of the tension building on him.
All in all, it’s been a typical season for Arsenal, but with a few even more nightmarish moments. Losing to Birmingham in the Carling Cup was a real blow to the system and affected their title chances. The emergence of Jack Wilshire and Robin Van Persie’s blistering form are little consolation for what has become a repetitive horror show for all Gunner’s fans. The summer will be key for Arsene and his men. It is imperative they hold on to Fabregas for one more season, as in spite of the potential of both Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey, they are not experienced enough to win a title. And that is the aim for next season. Many bodies will have to be brought in if they are to have a chance of winning next year. Bringing in a quality goalkeeper and centre-back to partner Vermaelen is essential and they are in need of another striker. The signing of Marouanne Chamakh has been what can only be described as pointless and the ‘not-so-quietly’ confident Nicklas Bendtner can’t seem to get a chance in the first team. Add the need for some midfield steel (Scott Parker anyone?) and Wenger’s team may finally be able to lift the glory famine that is keeping all the fans hungry at the Emirates Stadium.