After watching Arsene Wenger’s young guns humiliated at home for the second time in less than a week, the perennial questions surrounding Le Professeur’s philosphy and transfer window policy are being whipped about in earnest.
The possibility of a waning Arsenal side doing enough to steal third place from Chelsea could only be called that, a possibility, if the Gunners’ recent performances were anything to go by. Conventional wisdom should tell us that Arsenal would take it the Blues, especially at the Emirates, because, you know, Arsenal can get up for any game.
Obviously not. What used to be mainly frustration at Arsenal’s inability to win ugly against lesser opponents now encompasses the worry that the squad as a whole are simply too far from competing with their main rivals. Given the attitude and posture of this Arsenal side, I’d be reluctant to pick them over any of the other top four clubs in a one-off game.
There have been countless pleas for Arsene Wenger to make some big moves in the transfer window. The emphasis is on big moves, rather than big names, and Andrei Arshavin may be as big a name as Wenger may dare to touch. But there is no denying that there are gaps in the Gunner’s squad, and most of the finger-pointing is towards the back of the pitch.
While Arsenal at their best (in the Wenger era) relied more on their goal-scoring prowess more than defensive rigidity, the back line employed by George Graham and nurtured by Wenger could easily be labeled as the stable basis for success. Kolo Toure and William Gallas perform admirably at times, but this isn’t the partnership of the future at Arsenal’s back, obviously due to age. The yearning for a tall, atheltic centerback has fallen on deaf ears in north London, and the work of Manchester United’s Ferdinand and Vidic remain the elusive high standard. A pipe dream, perhaps, but Chelsea can seem to make do with John Terry and Alex or Ivanovic.
Of course, the a capable shield in front of the back line has yet to pop up since Mathieu Flamini left for AC Milan. While Wenger may have ignored the impact of the Frenchman’s departure, it’s hard to see why you’d let someone go that not only allowed your star midfielder to focus on going forward, but also could play a number of positions.
And, there is the inevitable urge to replace the spine of the team with perhaps a keeper and another striker. All this, of course is the kind of talk that’ll go on until it becomes apparent that Wenger has his eye on an unnamed 16-year old who’s ambidextrous and pacey, but has only played 18 minutes in his professional career.
While I’ve argued in the past that Arsenal lack that mental toughness and will to really make the season count, and that they flatter themselves by looking to get closer to silver than they really are, it all has to start with a few key players. Not an exciting cup-tied front man in the January window. And not Amaury Bischoff.
I do believe that simply grabbing a big goon who can find a ball with his empty head is not the way to go. And perhaps there are a shortage of those players with bite who can also begin an attack with great vision. But surely, there must be someone that Wenger will deign to throw a few million at who can at least appear to belong in an Arsenal shirt. Phillipe Senderos played the part well in the past, and if not for Didier Drogba, the moans surrounding him wouldn’t be as loud.
But what to make of Emmanuel Adebayor, Robin van Persie and Nicklas Bendtner? Adebayor can be brilliant in the right formation, RvP can be downright majestic, and well, Bendtner nicks the odd goal here or there. All have been valuable to the team, but to a team struggling to remain relevant within the top four. What about Abou Diaby, whose first touch is simply not good enough? Or the often-quiet performances of Denilson and Alex Song?
Where do you look and who do you go to if you’re Wenger, looking to infuse something into his squad?
Experience is often spoken of, but there’s much to be said of intensity and a tenacity, something missing among the talent and promise at the Emirates.