The scene after the match at Old Trafford looked quite familiar for Arsenal. Their legs spent. Their effort admirable. The run of play theirs’. The scoreline favoring the opposition.
The Gunners have won just two of their last thirteen matches in all competitions. The only wins coming from a late brace against a gassed AC Milan and an improbable comeback from two-nil down against Bolton. It’s been a two-month run that saw them eliminated from contention in the Premier League, the Champions League and the FA Cup.
Perhaps, we were wrong to expect so much from the squad. They are young and inexperienced. The already thin squad faced soul-sapping injuries. With some better luck, they may still have been alive. With the squad as constituted, they gave it a good effort. We should be happy with their over-achievement.
The problem is that there is no compelling reason for the squad to have been so thin and so inexperienced. Arsenal are one of the top five wealthiest clubs in Europe. Even with the expenses from the new stadium, the club is raking in the profits. The board have repeatedly stressed that whatever resources Arsene wants will be made available.
There is no justification for not having enough defenders, for having no natural wide players and for not having enough cover at striker.
Arsenal’s healthy first eleven can play with anyone in Europe, but they needed that first eleven on the field to win. If you take Fabregas, Hleb, Flamini, Adebayor, Toure, Gallas, Rosicky or Clichy out of the eleven, Arsenal struggle and collapse.
Forcing your key players to play every match takes its toll. The difference against United today was not in quality, but in fitness and depth. Arsenal held the advantage in the first half, but faltered when their legs were shot midway through the second half. The fresher Man U squad reloaded, bringing in Tevez, Anderson and Giggs. Arsenal subbed two teenagers and a reserve squad defender.
No one is suggesting Arsene spend 60mGBP, but a few more players of decent quality would allow them to rest regulars without taking a titannic dip in ability. If the money is available, there is no reason not to do so.
The only rational justification has been to feed Arsene Wenger’s ego by accomplishing more with less, but, as I said before, the league is won by points, not points per pound spent. I spent more money on Arsenal merchandise this season than they spent in the transfer window. There is something wrong with that.
Why pass on outbidding an extra few million pounds for players on principle, when winning the title or the Champions League would more than account for it monetarily? Was principle worth having Eboue on the right wing instead of say, Ribery or Cristiano Ronaldo?
Arsenal’s youngsters may well lead the club to trophies down the road, but they will still need to compete with Manchester United’s who are of similar age and winning right now.
How many years does Wenger withstand on ego and propriety alone? And is it worth it?