Does Wenger still know best?
Let’s face it. Arsene Wenger has lost the touch he wielded back in the day. He single-handedly took the ‘Highbury Library’ to the ‘Invincibles’. Still sparingly called Barcelona Lite by fans who recognize the distinctly similar way either team operates, Arsenal struggle to score even half as much as Lionel Messi, let alone the entire Catalonian outfit.
If there was ever an award for a free-flowing, free-scoring side, Arsenal would certainly be in the short-list. Teams across leagues used to park the bus as soon as a decent lead was achieved, but the Gunners never really took their feet off the accelerator. From the top of my mind, I still remember the 7-0 annihilation of Middlesbrough and the thrashing Everton received the year they managed to hold on to fourth. That was then. Of late, we have to make do with drab draws with Aston Villa, who would have been easily dismissed as another three points in 2003.
Talent drain has been a key question raised by many fans. From the outside, the Arsenal Football Club has become more of a business. The flair has been limited to just the balance sheet and the flamboyance is handled by Piers Morgan. The number of players who have left Ashburton Grove has startled even the teams who are bidding for the talent. When Jose Antonio Reyes, Mathieu Flamini and Alexander Hleb left for apparently better teams, at least we had the satisfaction of them being left on the bench or worse still, the reserves. Cynicism apart, these players were worse off than the players they were with the London team. Then there are players like Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and more recently, Robin van Persie, who went on to continue playing as if nothing had changed, and if it had, it was probably better. We might have earned a lot and the net amount adds to the treasure trove, but where is the football team which spellbound us?
Another point is the never-ending project that we are in the middle of. A certain number of youngsters are usually brought in through the system to compensate for the outgoing players who may be moving or retiring. But at the Arsenal, the youngsters easily outnumber the veterans, and that is clearly reflected in the average age of the side which fluctuates around 23, depending on Alex Oxlade Chamberlain’s inclusion. The project to create a team out of awfully thin air has been on since we last lifted the FA Cup in 2005. No doubt, the professor has managed to create some impressive talent but most of them have matured only to make it big in another shirt. It is surprising that Wenger, who found Walcott, has decided to hold his own and not give in to demands. Same was the case for Robin van Persie and we know how that ended.
That leaves us with the question of how long you reckon Wenger will stay. Hopefully, until a season after Sir Alex Ferguson retires, because he needs to. Since 1996, Wenger has been nothing short of legendary. Rumours of him leaving are already rife and that might not actually be the case. If Wenger decides to leave, he will. And he will be open about it. At least, the Japanese League will know what I mean.