Arsenal: Invincible or despicable?
Newton has proved it with the famous apple falling on his head a few centuries ago and Arsenal have rediscovered it again for the twenty first centurions to witness it right in front of their eyes. We have all watched the drama unfold meticulously from the appointment of Arsene Wenger in 1996 to the rise of Arsenal to the top of the premier league, heralded as “The Invincibles” by both fans and critics alike for their unprecedented feat of conquering the Premier League without as much as a taste of defeat in the 03-04 season to fumbling at the very precipice of European glory with an agonizing defeat in the hands of Barcelona in 2006. But when we look back now, that was only the first phase at work which lead to the inevitable fall.
A glance into the status quo of Arsenal will tell us the dire position they are in yet again. They are precariously hanging at the fourth position with the imminent threat of Chelsea looming over their heads. Like every year Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool are battling out till the end but ironically this time around it is for the final Champions League spot rather than the top spot. They have already succeeded in burying even the faintest chances of securing silverware with their most recent exit from the Champions League. A 2-0 defeat in the hands of Sunderland and a 1-0 loss against Manchester City saw their exits from the FA Cup and the League Cup respectively. The only speckle of light still shining for them is qualification for the Champions League.
The question of the hour is who is responsible for Arsenal’s worst nightmare? (Wait … is there a word for bad dreams you have during the day) Is it the 6 foot 4 inch long I-am-very-obstinate and I-don’t-need-any-experienced-players Wenger or the young Gunners seething not only with zest but puerility and naivety?
“The Professor’s” philosophy of promoting young players rather than investing in experienced players did do him a whole lot of good but that was way back 6 years ago. He has successfully failed to understand for the sixth consecutive time that there is an apparent and imperative need for a philosophical revolution and all we can do is hope that the epiphany strikes him sooner than later before it gets any more worse. Déjà-vu after déjà-vu, it seems like Arsenal has been frozen in time going through the same cycle incessantly. Apparently nobody in the management has the guts to talk some sense into him, which one can understand after all that he has done at Arsenal and I don’t think they can even muster the thought of sacking him.
The Arsenal squad has been left with fissures and chasms after the departure of the likes of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri to greener pastures and the failure to replace them is one of the prime reasons of their jeopardy. There are discrepancies in every aspect of the Arsenal squad, be it defense, offense, midfield and even goalkeeping. One cannot fathom how Wenger does not see it or is it that he has superfluous “faith and belief” in his players?
Szczesny and Koscielny have been having problems from the beginning of the season and they don’t seem to be doing anything about it. With just 8 clean sheets of the 28 matches in the league, the stats speak for themselves. Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott have badly floundered in stepping in to fill up the voids with only sporadic performances and a lack of consistency. The complete onus of scoring goals now reposes on the shoulders of one man, Robin Van Persie and though he lived up to the task scoring 26 goals and is currently the top goal scorer in the Premier League behind Wayne Rooney and Sergio Aguero, there is nobody else to support him amidst the fray. Their squad is deplete of any renowned strikers and the likes of Gervinho, Chamakh and Park have been disastrous this season. The first thing on Wenger’s to-do list should be signing at least one world class forward this summer and also to hold on to Van Persie, who is most likely to leave the club if they do not qualify for the Champions League this season.
They finally seem to be rising to the occasion at the very precipice of the season given their recent run of form but it might all be too little too late for them to create much of an impact on the turn of events. They have managed to win their last four matches on the trot, including beating Spurs and the Reds in the Premier League with Van Persie scoring in every singe match. The biggest boost in morale should have been the trouncing of AC Milan 3-0 at home but it all went in vain as they were weeded out of the Champions League on an aggregate of 3-4 after an ignominious defeat at the San Siro. Their most recent win came against a determined Newcastle side in the Premier League , with the Black Cats taking an early lead in the 14th minute but Arsenal slapped a reply within the same minute. Though Van Persie, Gervinho and Rosicky all squandered sumptuous chances in front of goal, it was the Belgian international Thomas Vermaelen who smashed the ball into the net in the fifth and the final minute of injury time to seal a famous victory.
That leaves them just a point behind third placed Spurs and recent reports have hinted that Lukas Podolski has completed a medical and is set to join the Gunners come next season. So this brings us back to the question “Is the tide turning again ?” Well we cannot be very certain right now but I guess there is light at the end of the tunnel. It is crystal clear that there is an imperative need for a transmogrification at the Emirates if they are to break their barren spell of seven years without a glint of shimmering silverware. For all the relentless trust that the fans and the management have poured into him, now it is his duty to give them back what they want…