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Arsenal FC- Same Old Story...Or Worse?

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974   //    01 Jul 2011, 21:05 IST

“Another season, more frustration” – is an apt description of what Arsenal fans have been going through in the last 6 years of being trophyless. With each passing year, the pain of not taking the title challenge to the very end exacerbates into agony and disbelief for the Emirates faithful. The Goons won their last silverware in 2005, with the FA cup triumph over bitter rivals Manchester United.  Since then, a lot has transpired within the Arsenal squad and the departure of some of the key figures like Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Sol Campball, Patrick Vieira, Ashley Cole, Ray Parlour, Fedric Ljunberg and other luminaries who were a part of the ‘Invincibles’ era, having been unbeaten for 49 games in the league, left Arsenal with no leg to stand on which started taking a toll on Arsene Wenger’s almost infallible record as Arsenal manager.

The Glory Days

History aside, Wenger’s reluctance to spend big in the transfer market is considered to be one of the major reasons behind Arsenal’s failure to win silverware.  Arsene Wenger, who was once unquestionable, is now often berated by his own fans and someone who was an inspiration for every rookie manager, is now castigated by experts for his parsimonious ways. Wenger’s ‘Project Youth’ has failed to materialize and it’s getting on the nerves of Arsenal loyalists. Last season, which saw Arsenal who were in the hunt for four titles for most of the season(Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup and Carling Cup) perish into oblivion within one single month, led to the morale of the players and fans hitting rock bottom. This however, was just the beginning.  What could be in store for Arsene Wenger this upcoming season looks much worse.

Nasri, Fabregas and Clichy could look the other way…

In what could be described as a titanic blow to Arsene Wenger’s morals, three of Arsenal’s best players are heavily linked with a move away from the Emirates. French internationals Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy and Spaniard and club skipper Cesc Fabregas look set to walk away after yet another season went awry after a promising start to the campaign, something most affiliated to Arsenal have gotten used to. This news about all three of them heading out at the same time has sent shock waves in the red half of North London and now, even the most-optimistic Gunners are biting their nails.

Who are these players and what they mean to Arsenal…

Frenchman on his way out

Name: Samir Nasri

Age: 24.

Position: Attacking midfielder/Winger.

Clubs linked to: Manchester United, Manchester City.

Expected price: £20 million

Reason to leave: Frustrated with lack of titles, questions Arsenal’s ambitions, lack of spending in the transfer markets to strengthen the squad.

Importance: He was unstoppable in the first half of last season. With the skillful nature of his play coupled with incisive passing and good reading of the situation makes him one of the most prized assets which Arsenal can brag about. Along with these traits, his attacking prowess in making penetrative runs and clinical finishing makes him one of the most dependable weapons in the Gunners’ offensive arsenal. His absence will make the Gunners deprived of that much needed creativity in midfield and his potency in set piece and dead ball situations. With Samir Nasri’s exit, that spunk in midfield will vanish too leaving too much to do for other options like Arshavin, Diaby and others.

The talisman linked to Barcelona

Name: Cesc Fabregas

Age: 24.

Position: Centre Midfielder/Attacking Midfielder.

Clubs linked to: Barcelona.

Reason to leave: Arsenal being trophyless for six years, infatuation with his boyhood club Barcelona who’re touted as the best club in the world and have been winning titles left, right and centre. Also, he wants to join forces with his Spanish teammates he played with in the World cup.

Importance: He is Arsenal’s playmaker and rules the midfield with style. He’s the chief architect of Arsenal’s forays in the enemy strongholds and is one of the biggest contributors in terms of scoring and creating goals. Being the skipper, he leads the side well and has the potential to single-handedly turn the game in his side’s favour. He is the talisman of the side and his presence makes a big difference. His creativity, magical skills, cool head and bagful of experience at the very top makes him stand out in Arsenal’s lineup. He’s shrewd, intelligent and can play accurate passes inside the penalty box with relative ease and confidence. He’s a wonderful technician whose absence will be sorely missed and Arsenal will have to rope in a big name with very good credentials to replace their star man.

The competent left-back linked with City

Name: Gael Clichy

Age: 25.

Position: Left back.

Clubs linked to: Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Roma, PSG.

Reason to leave: Frustrated with life at the Emirates.  Was quoted as saying the club doesn’t love him anymore which means he’s unsure of his place in the scheme of things, wants change, possibly wants a better pay.

Importance: Apart from being an experienced campaigner, he’s a competent defender and has a good reading ability of the game. He has been around for eight years and knows the club inside out. To add to all this, his enormous experience in the Champions league has made him into a more stronger individual mentally and crunch games bring the best out of him. His departure would expose Arsenal’s left back with unproven lads looking to take over the mantle. Arsenal will struggle defensively if Wenger doesn’t bring in a good replacement for Clichy, Jose Enrique comes in mind.

Who are Arsenal linked with?

While three of Arsenal’s versatile, experienced and impact players are heading for the exit, Arsenal are not strongly linked with any of the big names, who are proven performers in competitive leagues. The only notable names which come in mind are Jaun Mata(Valencia), Jose Enrique(Newcastle United), Gary Cahill(Bolton Wanderers). The rest which include some non-entities like midfielder Ricky Alvarez(Velez Sarsfield), forward Lukaku(Anderlecht), keeper Vivano(Inter) and a few others who just don’t fit the bill. If Arsenal want to win titles or even keep their place in the Champions league, they will need to replace top players with equally capable players, if not better.

What is the way out of this mess?

‘Every dark cloud has a silver lining’

Yes, Arsenal are rocked by a massive thunderbolt but it’s impact can be minimized by taking some quick and logical decisions:

1)  While reasons behind the disillusionment of star players are important and to be noted, one can’t keep cribbing about them and one must move on and look ahead.

2)  Instead of clinging onto morals and principles relevant in the past and confining himself to a self-made shell of sorts, Wenger needs to give up on his unrealistic ideology and keep pace with changing times. Instead of bringing in a young, unknown Fresh reject, he should be open to spending big bucks on proven and established players who can ably replace the parting trio.

3)  Revise the salary cap on players. Wenger must not act stingy when it comes to keeping hold of star players. Some amount of flexibility won’t harm the club in any way.

4)  We are not a feeder club: The board should come out and answer some tough questions. They must assure the fans that the interests of the club will never be compromised on and all the media talk about Arsenal being a feeder club are not true. They must back their promises with effective action and win the fans back.

5) Finally, a positive approach to any problem helps a great deal. If the general ambiance in and around the Emirates is filled with hope and optimism, it will go a long way in finding solace in relation to most of the issues.

Plus, Arsenal will earn a lot of money(about 70 million pounds) by the sale of Samir Nasri, Cesc Fabregas and Gael Clichy. This is not a small amount and if utilized in the right manner, Arsenal will only strengthen their side and fill the void left by outbound players. Also, with the likes of Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Keiren Gibbs, Theo Walcott and some other youngsters within the ranks, Arsenal do have quality in their side. Jack Wilshere was their stand out player last season and with time he will only get better.

So to all you disheartened Gunners out there… It’s not the end of the world… just yet!

I'm basically a sports buff and a music aficionado. Football is my passion and Arsenal is my love. I've blogged on Arsenal football club, Indian football and Global Warming. Have been a moderator with ESPN-Star Sports forum and am an active member on some renowned football forums based in the UK.
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