After the draw with Manchester City at the Emirates last week, Arsenal can probably say farewell to winning the Premier League title, even though this draw was proclaimed to be a success. And why wouldn’t it be, especially after the draw with Swansea, and the disaster at Stamford Bridge – the worst defeat to Chelsea in Arsenal’s history? Arsenal were, once again, the title contender for a few weeks, but the lack of rotation, many player injuries and Wenger’s denial that the club needs reinforcements through the transfer market have all contributed to Arsenal being brutally pushed out of the title race.
The Gunners will have an opportunity to end their 8-year-long trophy-less period in the FA cup, but they will have to face another failure in their Premier League campaign regardless – and this dream of winning the title, by the way, could become a real nightmare, since Everton have an opportunity to come in front of them, if they beat Arsenal at Goodison Park, which would leave the Gunners without a chance to participate in the Champions League next season.
All this being considered, the question that is currently begging to be answered is: is Arsenal a hostage of Wenger’s vanity? Has the famous French manager lost his path and vision, and is there anyone else to blame for Arsenal’s trophy drought?
Arsene Wenger always preferred developing young players, instead of bringing accomplished and expensive acquisitions. When he won the last Premier League title in 2004, the most expensive player was Thierry Henry, who was paid 11 million pounds – a minuscule amount by current standards.
For that price nowadays clubs can buy a bright youngster, invest in his development, and hope that he will become a world class player, and become a real asset to a club like Arsenal. Wenger did exactly that, but when those players evolved, he sold them to bigger clubs, and had to start the cycle all over again. Today, Arsenal is facing the risk of losing their players because of the trophy drought, and the fact that many of them would opt for a club like Chelsea instead, because they don’t expect that Arsenal could step up and make the other clubs in the Premier League run for their money.
Wenger’s excuse for not bringing in quality players were the expenses of the Emirates stadium. The building of their new home cost Arsenal nearly half a billion pounds, which is, of course, a colossal amount of money. But, Arsenal didn’t have any other loans or debts to be paid off, and could spend a reasonable amount of money on transfers, but Wenger refused to do that.
But, if we even accept the “no spending” policy, or at least the policy of buying no one but talented youngsters, we must ask the question – why have most of the players that have come to Arsenal in recent years played exclusively in attacking midfielder positions? If we only take a peek at Arsenal’s squad, we will see that in their first team there are currently almost 10 players which play on the winger or attacking midfielder spot, but they’re deficient in players who could cover other positions, such as defensive midfielders and attackers; and their defense clearly doesn’t have the of quality to make the club competitive in the title race.
The beginning of the downfall of Arsenal is linked with the departure of Patrick Vieira, who was, at the time, the best defensive midfielder in the world. The “swan song” of that generation of players was the final of the Champions League, which Arsenal lost to Barcelona 2:1. Gilberto Silva was featuring in that match, and after his departure, the defensive midfielder spot has been covered by Flamini, Song, Diaby, Rosicki and others who clearly couldn’t perform at the same level, and who, additionally, spent much time sidelined because of the injuries.
Injuries are the other Achilles’ heel of Arsenal. Why do they happen so often? Is Arsenal’s medical staff doing a good job? Or, considering the frequency of them, a passable job at all?
Arsenal has been a leader in the sheer number of injuries throughout the majority of the last eight Premier League seasons. If that’s a coincidence, it’s one of the most curious coincidences in existence.
There are two paths for Wenger at the moment – to change his philosophy and spend big in this summer transfer window, or to slowly fade and even tarnish his legacy, which would be quite a misfortune for a man in possession of undeniable football knowledge and managerial ability. All of the Premier League’s “big guns” are already lining up for the most wanted players on the market, such as Diego Costa, Luke Shaw, Koke, Ander Herrera, Gundogan, Reus, Draxler, and Arsenal can’t afford to miss out on that party. If they do, maybe we won’t see them competing on the highest level for a while…