After another defeat against a fellow top four side, it is clear that Arsenal have a fair amount of work to do that will enable them to challenge for the end of season silverware once more. Defeats from Manchester United and Chelsea have shown that the Gunners are a long way from being a championship winning side once more, but the manner of the losses were far more telling.
Going into the Champions League semi-final tie, Arsenal were in great form and most people thought, coming up against a Manchester United side that were in the middle of a blip, the Gunners would provide a very stern test and possibly even cause a shock. This was not to be as they were out fought, out shot and out gunned by a far superior Manchester United side.
Serious failings in the backline were exposed by a United side lead by Ronaldo, who was at his imperious best. Manuel Almunia was a shadow of the goalkeeper that performed heroics a week prior. Kieran Gibbs let his mistake, which led to the opening United goal, affect his game, and from that point he looked fragile. Fabregas, Van Persie and Adebayor were all overran and handled with ease by Vidic, Evra and an imperious Darren Fletcher, my man of the match despite his red card.
Another devastating home defeat against Chelsea highlights the defensive frailties in the Arsenal line up. Going forward you may not see a better example of passing and movement from an attacking unit in England. Contrast this with a defence that cannot deal with the pace and power Chelsea showed when attacking the frail Arsenal defence. Mikael Silvestre is clearly not up to the job and cannot perform at the highest level, Fabianski does not inspire confidence and the midfield are reluctant to help their defenders out.
The age of Arsene Wenger’s team has often been used as an excuse of kind, but I advocate that most of them are established international players and almost all have plenty of first team experience. A sentiment shared by Manuel Almunia, “The young players are internationals and have been playing for Arsenal for a long time, they have played many games. They should have the experience now. We need to be criticised,” he told the Sunday Express.
My problem with Arsenal is the extremely visible ‘soft centre’ they accommodate. Fabregas, Nasri, Song and Diaby are all reluctant to track back and help their fragile defence, they are far more interested in how they can next attempt to score the perfect goal, Song is probably the most defensive minded of the four but he cannot be commended for his tackling. He reads the game well, but has only just broke into the first team and cannot be relied upon to nullify top quality attacking players such as Frank Lampard every week. A world class proven defensive midfield player should be top of Arsene’s wish list, Denilson is not the answer.
Along with a midfielder, a top quality centre back should be a priority as well. Djourou and Silvestre are not up to the task of replacing Gallas and Toure in the big games. Experience players of quality are essential if Arsenal are to progress from the stagnant state they find themselves in. It seems Arsene is already on the look out for two such players, “We will try, of course, to bring in one or two players to strengthen the squad but we have plenty of strikers. And if we buy, it certainly won’t be players who lack experience. We have enough of those.”
A make or break summer is in the offing for the North London club. Will players like Fabregas and Adebayor stick around to see if Arsene’s plan will come to fruition or will they move on to pastures new, where the chance of silverware may well be higher.