Nothing to do with the recent spate of bombings/shootings happening in Malta, mind you.
I had predicted this very early on this season, only to be silenced by a thundering debut from Arsenal and the acquisition of Sebastien Squillaci in the last hours of the transfer market. However, at the time of writing my nightmares were provoked by different departments of Arsenal’s first XI, mainly goalkeeping and defence, followed by another huge concern, the purported age of the squad and the lack of experience throughout.
Arsenal might be second (or third) in the league but the glass is not half full and not expected to clink at any time. Weren’t it for Chelsea’s catastrophic angst since Ray Wilkins was shown the door, or for United’s carelessness in October, Arsenal would be fourth, or even behind Tottenham.
Coming to think of it, the derby debacle was oh-so-indicative of the way things are inside the Arsenal camp. Losing the derby in front of your home crowd after leading 2-0 for the first half is unacceptable by anyone’s standards. So how can the not-so-young Sagna, Clichy, Fabregas, Squillaci et al lose their heads like that? What was said during, or left out of, the half-time team talk?
The Tottenham derby defeat looks pale in comparison to the home defeats against West Brom (!) and Newcastle. The Emirates is no longer the impregnable fortress it was meant to be. The Invincibles who ran a whole league undefeated are now a fathom, a legend, and everyone feels like this lot will never make a decent shadow of that team. The solidity of Lauren, Cole, Campbell, Adams (Toure) is nowhere to be seen these days, especially since the centre-back partnership has changed yearly with people like Koscielny, Gallas, Senderos, Djourou covering roles that were built for people bigger than them.
Former pub crawler and sometime Arsenal footballer Paul Merson is right in saying that Wenger lacks a defensive gameplan. While his transfer activity has been erratic on a few occasions, the back four are as reassuring as a pensioner trying to stave off an armored tank with a pointed stick.
Moreover, the striking force of Rosicky-Nasri-Chamakh-Arshavin and reserves seems toothless when things go belly up against worthy opposition. The game against Chelsea was the perfect example: try as they might, shoot from everywhere, Cech remained unbeaten, on the same day when Alex bagged himself a wondergoal in Fabianski’s onion bag.
A fifth season without a trophy approaches. Or is it the sixth? I lost count now, and you can’t really blame me. Nor can you blame Wenger’s youth policy. All of a sudden, the team who faces Man Utd with a goalie called Wojciech Szczesny is knocked off its undeserved perch in the Premier League, without the comfort of the statistics: defeats to Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham, and a draw at Liverpool. All in all, it looks like another fourth placing to me this year: and they’d better be careful: Fabregas will not be the only one to moan for a move to sunnier lands with greener pastures in summer.
Arsenal had better buckle up this year. Injuries are starting to hit hard and, more than the people who are actually missing (Diaby and Vermaelen) it’s those that came back who are disappointing (van Persie, Fabregas is in and out, Walcott…)
And you know what? To win trophies you need a world team class. But don’t tell Wenger: Koscielny and Szczesny, with funny names that must be Polish for Laurel and Hardy, are as good as Cech and Terry or Van der Sar and Vidic.
And of course, I could replace Walcott at any minute.
written for footballxs.com