Supporting a team can be an extremely frustrating experience. Midweek against Chelsea, Manchester United looked like world beaters. A team performance that would have given Barcelona a run for its money. Then Saturday against Manchester City they were hapless. Arsenal fans, meanwhile, must feel incredibly frustrated after coming so close to ending goalless against Liverpool Sunday at the Emirates Stadium. Then, with a flash of good fortune (i.e. Jay Spearing’s clumsy challenge), Arsenal are handed a life line. Up stepped Robin van Persie who seemingly grabbed all three points. That was until the last kick of the game when Dirk Kuyt banged in a penalty to end the match 1-1.
The same thing is happening with my own team, Swansea City, who were on the cusp of getting promoted from the Championship. After a scintillating victory against Norwich last week, they drew midweek against Hull in a match they should have lost. And then they slumped to defeat Saturday when they lost 2-1 against Burnley. Their automatic promotion hopes are in tatters and they may end up qualifying for the playoffs instead. Just as Arsenal supporters are (or some will say ‘were’) so close to tasting triumph (whether it’s for the entire season or just Sunday’s Liverpool game), I have felt the same frustrations supporting Swansea this year. To make a long story short, Arsenal fans, I feel your pain.
But one of the things that bug me about Arsenal is that they have been so inept at taking free kicks this season. We saw it Sunday against Liverpool. Time after time again this season, Arsenal have been so predictable with their free kicks. Up steps Robin van Persie who either hits the free kick straight into the wall or hits it skyward, over the bar. For a team as talented as Arsenal, opposing teams must breathe a sigh of relief whenever the Gunners get a free kick because it’s very likely that Van Persie will fail in converting the golden opportunity.
Surely Arsene Wenger has seen this as a weak spot on his side, but how he hasn’t given the free kick task to someone else on his side is beyond me. As we’ve seen with other teams, a free kick magician is sometimes the difference between winning and losing. Just imagine if some of these wasted free kicks had been turned into goals and what a difference this could have had, if any, on Arsenal’s season.
Finding someone else to take Arsenal’s free kicks is just the first of many improvements that Arsene Wenger needs to make to his squad. Let’s hope he’s honest with himself during the summer and he rectifies the holes that are in his squad, namely a solid goalkeeper, a leader on the pitch to replace Cesc Fabregas (or, if Fabregas stays, to lead the team when he’s injured) as well as a more consistent striker up front. This summer Wenger needs to make some big changes in his squad to make the team stronger and better positioned to win a trophy this season.
One more thing. Wednesday’s match between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane is a must-win match for the Gunners. If it’s anything less, there’ll be a lot of Arsenal supporters questioning the ability of Wenger.