The demise of Arsenal is not entirely imminent; however, the season that could have been is dwindling day by day. With Arsenal on top of the league, leading their group in the Champions league, and sailing through the F.A. Cup, this season had the look of finally bringing not only trophies, but also the respect of all those doubters who claimed it was time for Arsenal to make a change in the managerial position.
Even though the Silverware drought could end this season with an F.A. Cup victory, some could still consider this season a failure. Arsene Wenger believes his squad has the talent and the synergy to take the European football scene by storm, just not this season, as evidence by their fallout from their Champions League and EPL title hopes all but squashed for another year. Now, all of the blame cannot all be placed upon Wenger and his footballing philosophies, Arsenal have seen their injury list pile up like never before, lacked a killer attacking threat, and finally did not add to their roster in the January transfer window when options abounded.
With at least six of the regular starters now sitting in the trainers room getting treatment for myriad of issues, Arsenal’s luck this season has been dismal. The loss of Aaron Ramsey has been felt more this season than any in the past. Ramsey was the surprise, and feel good story, of the season, up until he pulled his thigh against West Ham in December. He has been close to returning to the starting eleven multiple times, each time getting set back due to his thigh not being cooperative.
Jack Wilshere and Mesut Özil both have found themselves watching games recently due to injuries, which has hurt the creative flow of Arsenal’s normal pass happy attack. Theo Walcott’s speed and knack for finding open space has been missed the most. Without the Brit’s pace to spread the defenses, Arsenal’s attacks have been narrow and predictable. Injuries, though not an excuse for the poor performances of late, have wreaked havoc on what was a promising campaign.
Giroud is a solid striker with the height, left boot, and ability to hold up play when needed; however, he has no one to hold play up for. Yes, Lukas Podolski is brilliant in front of net with a left foot any footballer would only dream to hold, but his apparent lack of connectivity with Giroud is on display in almost every attack the two of them take together. Santi Cazorla has wonderful skill on the ball and can shoot with either foot from really anywhere on the pitch.
The Arsenal attack at this point in the season should be firing on all cylinders, but it looks as though it is the first week of training every time they step onto the pitch. The game against Manchester City they needed Mattieu Flammini, the defensively minded, hard-nosed pit-bull to score the lone goal for Arsenal when he is a holding midfielder tried and true. This kind of attack is not the way a premier “attack” minded club should be functioning, especially with the season winding down.
With the injuries stacking up, losing Theo Walcott and Nicklas Bendtner in quick succession, should have prompted Wenger to open up the purse strings and bring in another attacking threat. With having only three true center half’s, Wenger ran the risk of having to shuffle his defensive back four and put Bacary Sagna, an out and out right back, into the heart of his defense. Bringing in another true center half in the January window would have brought more stability to an already meager back four. Instead of finding sensible backups for the positions of weakness, Arsene Wenger decided in the waning moments of the transfer window to bring in yet another midfielder. Finding a sensible backup to push Giroud, and bringing in another dependable center half would have been the first step in restoring the faith in Wenger that seems to be running away from the fans in the Emirates.
Even though Arsenal are in the Semi-final of the F.A. Cup, Arsenal’s season has not been defined by victories and progress, but by missed opportunities, injuries, and personnel conundrums. With the season winding down, Arsenal should already start contemplating the future of the club, does Arsene Wenger still hold power over the fans and board? Will the injury bug continue to hit Arsenal year after year? Can Arsenal actually play with the big teams in Europe? All of these questions should be addressed and answered if Arsenal are to find the correct path forward.