Why Arsenal's Season Has Not Been A Failure

Tottenham vs Arsenal

So it looks as though that’s it for another year for Arsenal. Another trophy-less season. Wenger’s admirable faith in his side may have been slightly misplaced after all. They’re not far away from being winners but not close enough.

But does it really matter?

You’ll read and hear a lot about how many years it’s been since they picked up any silverware as though it’s fifty years or something. Its actually only five – which in the history of football, is not very long. But in the current climate of demands for instant success is an eon.

But we live in impatient times. Fans who have grown up with such lush previous success, demand it once more as though it is a right. To listen to some of them talk it’s as though they feel almost insulted that Wenger hasn’t delivered more trophies after his first five or six years of doing so. It seems unfair.

However, I’d argue that success is not wholly measured by silverware. Success is also filling a massive stadium with 60,000 people for every game. Success is playing sublime football on some occasions. Success is actually nearly winning the league.

While the point of football is to try and win things, the fact is that very few things are available to win, so very few clubs are going to win anything each season. Thus the vast majority of fans must be prepared for this and not turn into hysterical girls when their club falls short. Sadly, not turning into hysterical girls is a characteristic in short supply amongst some modern-day fans.

Wenger has stuck to a game plan and a vision, refusing to be knocked from pillar to post by trends, fashions or fan pressure. That is all anyone can expect from a manager. Yes he’s made mistakes in the creation of this squad of players but many of those only manifested themselves in the perfection of hindsight. Add in the injuries to Van Persie and Fabregas and you have plenty of reasons for excusing this seasons’ failure.

The question is how much longer will their fans tolerate Arsenal’s trophy-less seasons? Some are restless already but Wenger shows little sign of either leaving or changing his style or policies. That might alter if the ownership of the club changes this summer of course.

Wenger has created a golden period of football in The Gunners history. An era that people will look back down the vista of years at and recall fondly, suck their teeth and say, boy that was some side. But uniquely for a golden period of classy football, it has been without the crowning achievement of titles and trophies. How can a team with such ability, such skill, and such dynamism not have emerged victorious in at least one competition?

The answer is football is a bitch and it doesn’t always reward the best teams or the best players. The margins between winning and losing are very fine.

Perhaps fan’s can comfort themselves with this idea; Arsenal’s victory is the greater one of playing entertaining football for season after season. Whether, in this day and age of short-termism, that is enough, only time will tell. They should be congratulated nonetheless. Many have achieved much less.

42 thoughts on “Why Arsenal's Season Has Not Been A Failure”

  1. Johnny Nick, sorry mate.
    If you finish top of the prem, that year You are the best team.
    If you win the CL, you were the best in Europe.
    Over the long season or competition, The best team wins!!!
    Yes every year Football rewards the best team and the best players.
    And it hasnt been the gooners for quite a while now.

  2. We ran out of players in the end. As we expected, another trophyless campaign. Squad too light, no tactics, little squad rotation (Cesc doesn’t need to play vs bottom half teams at home), too much mediocrity, no goalkeeper. Move Arsene upstairs and bring in new blood – we do need trophies and we’ve gone very much backwards when you consider the sides we had 10 and 5 years ago. Only Cesc, RVP, TV, Arseshaving and maybe Gallas and Song would have got near those sides.

    I know we’ve had huge injury problems, but we had a title shot and Arsene blew it by not signing a couple of quality players in January. If we had bought a ‘keeper and a striker, we’d be champions. I know it’s not easy to bring in high quality players, but that’s part of Arsene’s £4m per annum role.

    I hope that’s the end of the vanity experiment – whether it was spin or necessity, let’s add to the best of the youth system with 4 world class players and say farewell to nos 1, 7, 9, 18 at least.

  3. Written like a man whose gotten comfortable with losing.

    Some might argue that Arsenal had a better season simply because their implosion in February didn’t finish them off. Sadly, that fails to acknowledge that the only reason Arsenal’s hopes lasted this long is because the teams above them blazed a weaker trail this season than the previous five. Arsenal didn’t have a better season, Chelsea and United had worse ones. And it was still enough to deny Arsenal any silverware.

    Like Liverpool last year, this was the best chance you’ll have in a while to break the duopoly, and you blew it. Now, with Man City’s spending about to hit another stratosphere, you’ll spend more of next season trying to protect third than you will fighting for first.

  4. So where is the talk about Man United falling flat on their faces? They had Rooney ALL season and relatively speaking stayed injury-free. Sure, they won the Carling Cup, but does that equate to the enormous potential in a side that only produced that single trophy? Criticize Arsene all you want and continue to blame him for not defying the strict code he holds himself to (which produced an undefeated season within the last decade) in order to attain short-term success but when you look at the squad that will finish 2nd in the premier league and lost to the world’s best in Champion’s League I can honestly say I see a lot of potential.

    The simple fact of the matter is they weren’t deep enough and were missing a key players for key matches(Cesc, Diaby, Song, Nasri, Walcott, Gallas, Bendtner, Clichy & Ramsey). Even without RVP’s injury (that he picked up on international duty) just a couple players presense when needed could have had Arsenal at the top of the table and still fighting for the Champion’s League trophy today. It’s not so much that I excuse Arsenal for their dry run, I just don’t think it needs justification. They play in the toughest league in the world and in a couple years will be back on top. Wenger develops teams, whereas Chelsea and Man U buy them and sooner or later it pays off. Quite frankly as soon (and it will be soon) as they put out a dominant squad next year I think most of the sports writers who bashed them this year will be silent or hailing them as if they had knew it was coming all along. This season Wenger has taken a group of KIDS and produced one of the best 7 or 8 sides in the world.

    It would be one thing if Man U had a great season, Chelsea were still in Champions League and Liverpool were going to win Europa League (or finish 4th for that matter) but all of that either didn’t or won’t happen. How about you ignorant critics look at the big picture and say that it just hasn’t been a strong year for the EPL as a whole. Thanks.

    1. Injury free? You joking? Vidic, Ferdinand and VanDer Sar each missed tons of time this year. Anderson is out, Hargreaves never played, Owen has been out since February. United have had plenty of injuries, plus selling key players. This was widely anticipated to be a backward step year for United. Arsenal are supposed to be on the upswing, but look like they really haven’t gained ground. The illusion stems from those ahead of them sliding back.

      You claim if not for injuries, greatness is right there. If my granny had balls, she’s be my uncle. One of the persistent problems with Arsenal remains the perception as a soft side. Using injuries as an excuse simply adds to that reputation. Ironically, the Untouchables side you reference were chock full of players who could take care of themselves and sort out others.

      1. Well said, BR.
        During the middle of the season we had Fletcher and Carrick playing centerbacks, and GIGGS cameo-ing as right back. The ONLY defender that played in that time was Evra. Did I also mention VDS was out too?
        The only game that this defense wipeout costed us dearly was away at Fulham.
        Every team has injury problems. Deal with it or be left behind.

  5. I agree with the others. You should always define success by how much you realize your potential, and by that standard it seems that Arsenal may have failed yet again. Look at how aimless Arsenal played last night, no movement on the front third of the pitch, balls being played into “ghosts” in the 18 yard box. Then Van Persie came on – and what a difference that made. If Wenger had 2 or 3 more players of his quality in the midfield/frontline, how different their season may have been.

    1. If we had van persie available as much as Drogba and Rooney was available for chelsea and man u then I think our league position would have been much different, that can be seen just by what he did last night.

        1. IAN – how many season as has RVP managed to last the entire campaign? Why put your eggs in such a pretty, yet cracked basket? Once again, part of the problem, Mate. Arsene eschews the “thuggish anti-football” of his opponents, but everything he won was built with a collection of thugs! I’t no coincidence that the waning of Vieira, Keown, Adams, Dixon, Lehman and replacement with such tough nuts as… Flamini? coincides with the waning of Arsenal’s success.

          Sadly for Arsenal, “durability” is one of the key components that define greatness. When Pele tells Messi to talk to him after he’s scored 1,000 goals, it sounds arrogant, but he has a point. Prove that your are sustained greatness, and you’ll be recognized as such. If you prove to be a flash in the pan, that will be your legacy instead.

          If RVP can be the best striker in the world for five games a season (no, you can’t choose which five), but only lasts 10 games a season, he’s really not that big a help to a team playing a 50+ game season.

  6. The trouble is that we aren’t the best team and we haven’t got the best players. We have some of the best players in the world struggling to hold up their less than able team-mates. Sadly we have 4-5 very average individuals and when the likes of cesc, RVP and TV aren’t around to carry them they are shown up for what they are. Its also clear to everyone except AW that 4-3-3 doesn’t work ( even our own players are saying it ). Sagna and Clichy are being made to look like ammateurs because they are left totally exposed. The last time we had a great side was 5yrs ago and that was built on hard work and defence with a subtle blend of flair. Now we just have lots of lightweight clone midfielders and not enough fight.

  7. I agree. All those saying we have a light squad need to look at last night’s absentees – Gallas, Djourou, Verm coming off injured, Gibbs, Song, Fabregas, Ramsey, Arshavin. Have a think about a Man U team say without Ferdinand, Vidic, Evans, Evra, Fletcher, Carrick, Scholes and Valencia? Also not to mention how other top teams would have coped without their leading scorer for so much of the season. The club who have been most able to consistently put out their strongest team win, that doesn’t mean that injury free we are not as good as Chelsea and Man U.

    With a new keeper, possibly CB and DM we will be looking good.

    1. Hi, I’m Phil’s Non-Delusional side. I’m a Gooner, so I can’t talk about reality. But deep down, I really understand that all teams have been hit hard with injuries and suspensions. I look at Tottenham last night and see they played without Woodgate, Lennon, Palacios, and Corluka. I see ManU playing most of the season without either or both Vidic and Ferdinand, without Van Der Sar and Owen. I could list all the other teams, but I understand deep down that injuries are a part of the game and Arsenal, as a Big 4 team, need a squad that can withstand those inevitable injuries. Injuries are simply an excuse for not planning ahead well enough. The bottom line is we don’t, so we’re in for 3rd place.

      Woulda, coulda, shoulda isn’t enough.

    2. PHIL: United did play a couple games with equal losses. Fletcher and Carrick in the back, If I’m not mistaken. Only Evra an actual defender in the back line. United had mixed results, which goes a long way to point out why they’re on the wrong side of the title race too.

      Reagardless, the argument misses the point. Simply stating that others couldn’t deal with your casualty list does not change the fact that Arsenal regularly has a long casualty list. Arsene likes a certain type of player which is flashy, but not too durable. Your team is made up of a massive number of them. Can you imagine Manchester Untied with a spine made up of guys the size and sturdiness of Nani? That’s pretty much what Arsenal have up front and in the middle, which puts extra strain on guys like Gallas.

      This is your fate when your squad is unbalanced.

  8. people forget how 2007-2008 was ours til the eduardo incident. Though i agree the best team wins the PL generally i don’t believe the best team wins the CL. Were Bayern better than Man U? really?

  9. Its true that we have been very unlucky with injuries and i cant remember a season with so many. With just a couple of replacements (stars rather than starlets please ! ) a re-think in strategy and a relatively injury-free season we would have to be favourites for next year. Oh and keeping hold of cesc of course.

  10. “[F]illing a massive stadium with 60,000 people for every game”… well, filling it with 60,000 mostly silent people who leave 15 minutes early every week would probably be a better description.

    The fact is Arsenal will never win anything with the attitude of this article. Worse teams than this year’s Arsenal (even with all their injuries) have won the Premiership.

  11. How many damn articles do we need apologising for Arsenal? This was a massive win for Spurs, and nobody feels inclined to write an article about THAT. Every other big win between the big four or City garners half a dozen articles about the winner. What gives?

  12. what an awful, deluded article. epl talk is the true center of gooner loving. might as well call it gooner talk. you don’t write articles on why united’s season is still a success. or how chelsea, who will actually win, are a success. nope, its the team that lost and has lacked venom for most of the year really should be proud cuz they are fun to watch.

    1. mw828, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur just played their biggest league match of the season, hence the Arsenal and Spurs coverage. We don’t cover just those two clubs, but all clubs in the Premier League. We’ve written plenty more articles this season lauding Manchester United and Chelsea, as well as other clubs.

      The Gaffer

      1. i know these teams are in the spotlight due to that great game. however, there is no article on spurs, the winner of the game. their chance at 4th is much greater than arsenals chance at 1st, so they are probably more relevant to cover. also, the same thing happens every time arsenal have a setback. we had to endure a host of gooner loving articles after the ramsey injury that made no sense at all. the coverage is disproportionately weighted towards arsenal.

        1. It is his blog. He can write about the curlies on his chest and you can do squat.

          If you want to read about spurs, go to a spurs blog. If you want to read EPL general, read Gaffer’s other excellent pieces. Use Google for more than internet porn 😉

          PS: Sorry if I were too harsh… consider it jest :)

  13. It seems like I’ve been reading this article for the past 5 years: Arsenal are trophy-less but they had a good year.

    No, not really!

  14. This year has been a strange one for all members of the “big 4”. 2009-2010 will be remembered as the season that the least of the worst won not the best of the best.

    Hopefully next season sees a more revitalised Chelsea, Man U, Arsenal and Liverpool this year(and as a United fan I hate to say this), all 4 teams have just simply been terrible and far far from the quality they have exhibited at times during the past 5 years.

  15. Well, I would add to the points brought by the article is that success is also to have a sound business model and to stay reasonably competitive without overspending in the inflated market. And to have a solid financial future for the club. Compare this to say United: they are facing a prospect of needing to replace 7-8 players without clear source of funding and have a mountain of debt and owners who are hated by the fans. Or Liverpool fans secretly (or not so secretly any more) dreaming about a takeover by a sugar daddy from the Middle East.

    Finally, I’ve heard enough critics saying that Arsenal style will not win them the titles. I’m not going to get into an argument about that. Instead, I would like to ask this question – do you really want Arsenal to change? To follow the Chelsea’s style for example? Does EPL really need a clone of Chelsea? Or United for that matter?

    1. Yes, yes, all us fans really want from our clubs is a solid current account. I guess you’re saying Arsenal will eventually regain the title after the 19 other clubs have gone bankrupt. Bankers.

  16. John,

    I hear what you say and Arsenal have done good this season with so many injuries. But last night was one of the worst Arsenal performance I have seen in a long long time. I mean just look at those idiots, Diaby, Nasri, Rosicky, do they even have a clue what they were trying to do. They were just merely passing around corner to corner not doing much as if to kill time. I mean it was just like helping Spurs with that. I wish somebody reminded them that Time is not on their side. Where is the direct aggressive Arsenal approach going at the heart of the defence.

    I mean almost the entire match I was like, passs….shoooot…passs….shooot please..passss…Who is playing that killer pass, or killer runs. How can one man change the entire complexion of the game like RVP did last night for Arsenal. It would be okay if they would have fought and lost, but with that kind of lack of energy and pathetic passing performance, they have made the most die-hard of Arsenal fan’s mad as hell and I don’t blame them for being that upset. Fighting and going out is one thing, but its another to just lazily casually go out. That’s what hurts the most.

    1. You’re absolutely right. Nasri and Rosicky wanted no part of scoring in that game. They had absolutely no desire to shoot, like they were scared. It was so frustrating because possession was dominated, Arsenal were around the penalty area very often but no one was willing to pull the trigger. It’s be easy to say same ol’ Arsenal trying to walk the ball in the net, but I don’t think that was the case. I think it came down to individual guys not caring enough to win, not wanting to take the risk. And yes, it does hurt.

  17. The point is, Arsenal has a side with high quality players, who play really beautiful football is part of the reason why its supporters are disappointed. How come a side with so much talent, who invariably starts the season with aplomb finish 3rd year after year? I’m not an Arsenal supporter, but I like their game. I respect the ideology with which Arsene picks his players, nurtures them, makes them play.

    But, submitting yourself to the joy of game does not mean you should not be pragmatic when the need is. Just count how many times Arsenal concedes soft goals, contributing to losses in big matches.

    Frankly speaking, being a Chelsea fan, I fear a depleted Man U side or a 7th placed Liverpool more than a rampant Arsenal. Arsenal has played some great football this season but they have lost most of the BIG matches, home and away… and that pinches a supporter more than a trophy-less season, IMO.

    Yes, they’ve been unlucky in the injury front. But then, who haven’t been?

    1. I think the key is in unrealistic expectations. To me, Arsenal are over-achieving team given the lack of depth in their squad. You say they to get more pragmatic but what exactly you expect to them to do? Buy more physical players? Use more defensive minded tactics? Be more direct in attacking formations? Well, this will definitely change their style. But will it make them a stronger team so they become a real title contender? I doubt it. They would have to compete with likes of Chelsea and have the same level financial resources. They would need to mach depth of Chelsea bench with 15-16 world class players competing for starting positions. It is not going to happen given Arsenal focus on financial prudence and I personally applaud them for that.

      I must say that comparing big 4 teams it is Chelsea who come out as under-achievers. They’ve had the best squad in last 4-5 years and it required United to have an off year for Chelsea to have real chance at the title.

  18. Arsenal is simply not good enough and are more closer to Liverpool, Aston Villa, and Everton than the big two. What is beautiful about picking the ball out of your own net more than you put the ball in the other guys net !?!

  19. Sadly for the Arsenal, success for a big club is rightfully measured only in titles and cups won. That is the only indisputable measure of success, with all debates about the relative beauty of one side’s play vs. another always open to future interpretation and revision. There is one fundamental reason why Arsenal has failed for 5 consecutive years to capture a trophy, despite extended runs in nearly all competitions, and that is a lack of Character.

    It takes steely determination and an indomitable will to win titles and trophies, a trait evidenced by Man United for years now, and Chelsea more recently. Pretty football never guarantees any sort of objective success. Plaudits, yes. Admiration, yes. For Titles? — it’s really optional, and takes a back seat to pragmatism. As a Chelsea fan, I have to bear witness to our periods in the 60’s and the late 90’s as times of truly gorgeous football (don’t forget, WE invented “Sexy Football”, copyright Ruud Gullit), but lacking the character to really deliver the league title our play in 1998-99, for example, probably deserved.

    The talk of injuries is really laughable. ManUre have been decimated by injuries this year, and for Chelsea: missing our most influential player Essien for nearly the whole year, the entire back 5 save Terry for periods, and Drogba et al to the African Cup. It’s how your squad steps up to deal with that adversity that is the mark of Champions.

    I can’t help but think all the talk of excuses and an “encouraging year” is banter by Arsenal fans, for Arsenal fans, in some vain effort to ease the pain of having a rather talented squad unable to deliver real success. It’s certainly not the talk of the Arsenal who amassed the impressive haul of League titles and FA Cups on their list of Honours. This is a much more sedate and, at times, almost apologetic Arsenal. Part of me misses the old, tough-as-nails Arsenal. The other part is loving the period of uncontested dominance of London’ football that Chelsea is now enjoying. Tread carefully Arsenal, because all of the “Nearly” talk is very Tottenham-esque indeed…

    1. Quite honestly, I don’t see where character and “mark of Champions” talk comes from in case of Chelsea. They haven’t shown that much in terms of winning titles for their money. Yes it is their title to lose this season but it is mostly because United are not at their best.

      And I haven’t seen too much character in United loss to Bayern either…

      1. erm, I’m tempted to assume you meant that ironically. In the event you’re being serious, we can look at the last 6 years. Should Chelsea pull off the Double this year (I’ll be the last to believe it ’til it’s done and dusted):

        League Champions: THREE of the last 6 years, FA Cup winners: THREE of the last 6 years, League Cup winners: TWO of the last 6 years, and two tin pot Charity Shields to go with it.

        ONE trophy in 6 years, an FA Cup — and that was 6 seasons ago. Did you get an Emirates Cup in there somewhere, too?

        I’ll give you credit for fighting your corner, though, albeit with blatant disregard for any objective facts. Carry on!

        1. “Chelsea: … League Cup winners: TWO of the last 6 years, and two tin pot Charity Shields to go with it”
          And who is being ironic here?

          The bottom line: though Chelsea has had better results recently compared to Arsenal they are still second best compared to United. Despite having better squad and by far better financial resources they have been completely dominated by United last 3 seasons. Please, explain me why if it is not for lack of character and “mark of Champions”.

  20. Its getting a bit frightening, how the Arse are trying to become the Mighty Tottenham Hotpsur.
    First they move to N London.
    Then start wearing navy blue kits! (Always thought the scum were red and white)
    Now boast of their pretty Football without winning trophies.
    Next they’ll put the cockerel on the kit and outside the Emirates.

    Thankfully they’ll never have the passion of the White Hart Lane faithful.

  21. Disagree. If you don’t win the title it’s a failure. That’s just how it is for the Big 4 clubs. To say that football is a bitch and doesn’t always reward the best teams or best players is a convenient excuse. You make your own luck. Chelsea and United have had their own struggles to overcome, too. Many have achieved much less but they are not many. They are the mighty Arsenal. At least that’s how they need to view themselves because if they start to think otherwise there’s the danger of becoming a little too comfortable being the bridesmaid and the trophy drought will go on a looot longer.

    Having a decent goalkeeper might also help the situation. Just sayin.

  22. I agree, the season proved exciting and exasperating all at the same time. As an Arsenal supporter, it’s easy to assume that capturing trophies is an entitlement, but the reality is that only one club can capture a competition’s trophy. Think about the multitudes who never see their club even finish in the top four, e.g., Fulham, Hull City and the many other clubs in the Football League, etc.
    Look, it’s easy to be a glory hunter, I see them all the time in my community pub every time the Red Devils play, but trust me, those blokes will fall away once Man United slip down the table.
    Be supportive, fellow Gunners! Arsene is one of the most capable mangers in football, and although we may not secure a trophy this season, at least we are a far more financially secure organization than our friends to the north.

  23. Just Stating something. Arsenal has said that the money had not been available for a while and now this season he seems to finally have a transfer kitty available to him. These are relaible cause they come from Arsenal.com. One more point. When we did move to the new stadium, I had accepted we would not be able to spend money. Arsenal had to sell to buy. Chelsea had come in and completely revamped the transfer window to make things worse, and Man u had gotten into a 100 million summer a few years ago. The fact that we made it to the top 4 every year in that time and came close to winning the title (twice) and the CL as well just shows how well we have done. This season is not a failure, but an expectation. Now that the finances are solved, And wenger can buy, we may be looking at those missing pieces that Arsenal needs. Namely one great GK, one big defender (Wenger noted that Arsenals defence has been weak so chances are those spots are going to filled), two central midfielders and
    Chamack. Arsenal also has to replace (as in buy a new striker) Eduardo (does not fit current system) and Vela would have to change into a winger in the new formation. Also one energetic tackling midfielder who has alot of leadership qualities (Flamini reincarnate). His recent comments may show wenger is looking into that.

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