Arsenal have sealed another season of European football – and Champions League football at that, which is no mean feat considering the fact that this will be 18 seasons on the bounce as the Gunners dine at the same table with Europe’s elite clubs.
However, by Arsenal standards, finishing fourth and consequently qualifying for Champions League football is by no means enough. Arsenal should be looking much higher than that. Truth be told, the club should be fighting for and winning the Premier League title! It is extremely painful to watch other teams win the league while my very own Arsenal are celebrating finishing fourth!
This season promised a lot with Arsenal sitting comfortably on top of the table for 113 days (the most of any other side in the league), only to crumble in March, disappear into oblivion and threatening to drop out of the top four altogether as Everton surged in. One may argue that we suffered injuries to key players at the most critical stage of the season. Yes, injuries to Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil, Jack Wilshere, Laurent Koscielny among others had a telling impact on Arsenal’s season, but this was expected given the same happened over the past 5-6 years, so an experienced manager like Arsene Wenger should have prepared much better for the run-in. Unfortunately, he didn’t – even when he was presented with an opportunity of the winter transfer window! All he could do was to sign Kim Kallstrom on loan, a crocked veteran from Spartak Moscow, a player who could not help his new employers until after up to two months, and a player even when fit, was deemed not good enough to start games. That was very poor of the Arsenal manager, really poor! Where Jose Mourinho paid highly for Nemanja Matic, Wenger paid nothing to get the veteran Swede!!! Chelsea did not win the title last season, but at least Mourinho showed the seriousness needed when chasing a championship as Matic is a hell of a midfielder, isn’t he? Wenger should borrow a leaf from such managers when it comes to chasing titles.
To the main reason for this article though. It is categorically clear that tactically Wenger is lacking. Let’s face it, conceding 20 goals in four games is not ‘an accident’ as the Arsenal manager put it as he struggled to explain the mauling his team received in the games against City, Liverpool and Chelsea. Those deflating results were a result of his tactical naivety. Taking the Chelsea game as an example, what explanation could justify the fielding of Mikel Arteta and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as a midfield partnership? By doing that, Wenger condemned his team to a brutal demolition, as there was no way such a midfield would compete with the energy, the power and expertise of Mourinho’s men that included David Luiz, Ramires and Matic etc. No way! The same can be said of his team selection at Anfield, where he fielded Lukas Podolski instead of Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Arteta instead of Mathieu Flamini. It is obvious that Arteta has run out of legs and Podolski doesn’t possess the industry of Chamberlain that was needed in a game where hard work and tireless running were an absolute necessity. As a result, Arsenal were outpaced, out-competed for every aspect of the game and consequently battered! Mr. Wenger could not even get off the bench to yell out instructions and encourage the team. It was as if he had told himself, ‘Let these boys get an embarrassment of their lives!’ Don’t get me wrong here, my friends. Of course Arsene can never do that and I’m sure no manager can wish that their team is battered, but the sight of him seated with folded arms when his team was being annihilated was disgusting, wasn’t it? For me, much as the Arteta/Flamini partnership has not worked that much, it is the one he should have used in all the big games away from home because it gives more solidity to the team. It would make the team play not to lose first, frustrate the opponents and then go for the kill when the opportunity arose. Instead he opened up, left holes in midfield that were exploited by opposing teams to whitewash us! His tactics let his team down.
What should he do then? Well he needs to do what Alex Ferguson did when he recruited Carlos Quieroz as his assistant and let him handle the tactical part of the side – an area he realised he was not strong enough in. Then again, Wenger must stop asking his team to go out on the pitch and enjoy themselves. He should ask his team much more than that and that should include great work-rate and high pressing so as to not allow opponents time on the ball. This is because sometimes the Arsenal players have looked disinterested, not pressing the opponent and sluggish. If you look at the way we lost at Goodison Park, it was not because Everton had so much quality compared to the Arsenal team the manager selected, but we were only overwhelmed by The Toffees’ pressing game and work ethic, and it was the same story at Southampton where we drew 2-2.
Finally, Wenger must also give help to Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman has received a lot of stick this season due to his lack of goals. Yes, it is true that Olivier has at times been disappointing, but again the manager’s tactics must come into question. We have seen in many games that the gangly Frenchman has been completely isolated and devoid of service, yet again we expected him to score goals! Well, it is the role of a striker to score goals, but again the tactics must be right for them to score. For example, in Robin van Persie’s last season at Arsenal, where he scored 30 goals, Wayne Rooney scored 27 because he led the line for United. The following season, Rooney scored much less, not because he had lost it but because the goal scoring responsibility had been given to the Dutchman. Therefore, for Giroud to score more goals, he needs a partner, someone with an eye for goals, not Mesut Ozil, Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla or Tomas Rosicky, as none of them are a natural goal scorer.
Surely Wenger must relieve himself of the tactical responsibilities and give them to a tactically astute coach if we are to get back to winning ways.