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Arsene Wenger Faces His Most Important Preseason Yet

When the final whistle went after Sunday’s match, Arsene Wenger could possibly view the previous 7 days as one of his worst weeks since he began his 13 year tenure in charge of Arsenal. In two massive matches, Wenger has seen his side start fantastically well in both games, get caught by a sucker punch and then collapse, his players heads dropping with a collective “Here we go again”.

There’s no doubting that this has been Wengers toughest season, with probably more criticism than he’s ever received since he came to North London back in1996. His signings have been questioned constantly, his buying policy questioned at every turn, having his tactics poured scorn upon week in, week out, even his future has begun to become a point of speculation. Yet, his response to a question about fans leaving early for the second home game in a week was unusual to say the least, “Everybody is free to leave the stadium when he wants, I don’t believe we put in a bad performance today”

I hope he’s trying to deflect criticism from his players, but he’s got strikers that can’t score, defenders that hate each other, a captain that leaves young players to try and get their own head together after making a mistake and midfield that all want to play through the middle. Of course, there’s not too much wrong with Arsenal, but Wenger really needs to bring a little bit more steel into the side and more togetherness. This is a side that seems to be pulling away from each other, rather than together.

Once Arshavin settles in and Eduardo gets a full preseason under his belt, the options upfront seem a whole lot better. The loss of Clichy and Gallas has been a big blow recently but they’ve still done well in the league, until Chelsea picked them to pieces on Sunday, Liverpool ripped them apart at will but met two players on a mission to keep Arsenal in the game. Walcott will keep improving but needs more games and to get through this injury hampered spell, Fabregas will always give you quality in the middle.

The key question is if any of his stars actually try and leave or even if one of the suitors finally comes in to take Fabregas/Adebayor/Toure away from the Emirates, what will Wenger do? Will he get the money to reinvest in more rough talent that simply needs a couple of years of polish or will he go for real top quality? Or as some are beginning to speculate, Wenger has gone as far as he can at Arsenal and the lure of AC Milan, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich will finally be too much for him to ignore as he comes up to his 60th birthday?

Next season Aston Villa, Tottenham, Everton and Manchester City will all be more consistent, all will have more experience and will look to fill the gaps in each side over the summer. The three sides above them will all strengthen with top level reinforcements and Wenger will have it all to do keeping Arsenal competitive in the 3 big competitions next season along side the other Premiership big boys. A bad draw in the Champions League qualifiers could see Arsenal dumped out before August and crucially, before the transfer window shuts.

Beautiful football is all well and good, but if it keeps leaving nothing in the trophy cabinet, what price a bit of blood and thunder if it brings home some silverware? This Summer will be Wengers most important since he joined Arsenal, let’s hope he manages it.

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  1. chengiskhan

    May 11, 2009 at 9:24 pm

    People forget that players do improve, and no doubt will that be the case again at Arsenal. In the past we have always had players suddenly become indispensable (Flamini, Hleb, now Song). Who will it be next season? Adebayor, Denilson, Diaby, Eboue? I know it sounds crazy, but who would have guessed Flamini or Song?

    If Rosicky can recover and attain his previous heights, then we will have a starting midfield of Rosicky, Arshavin, Fab, and Song. That is quality! We would have Nasri, Walcott, Diaby, and Denilson on the bench, not to mention extremely promising youngsters like Traore, Wilshere, Merida, etc. waiting in the wings. It is not all doom and gloom.

    The back four certainly needs a little work, but we are not miles away from challenging for the title. Just remember, we were VERY close to winning the league last season. 2 key departures and a spate of injuries kept us at a distance this year, but if AW can keep the team together this year, we will be a potent force next year. That IF is the key.

  2. James

    May 11, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    I think we are just a couple of players short. We need a good CB and a good defensive midfielder. We have a good strike force. Look at our goals for — right up with the MU and Chelski. Only Liverpool outclassed everyone in this category. The glaring stat is goals against. We gave up far too many goals (36 vs. 23/22 MU/Chelsea). A good defensive midfielder and better CB will fix this. Of the two positions the midfielder is far more important. A good defensive midfielder (or two!) would provide the cover our back need so desperately. I think with this position filled our back four would perform up to next level.

  3. Jaime

    May 11, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    Chelsea isnt on form though. It would be a different story if we didnt play well against them. We dominated possesion, shots, and chances but the problem was that we couldnt finish. They capitalised on the few chances they had and that was the difference. Arsenal showed a lack of maturity with not wanting to shoot and squandering chances. As far as United are concerned it was the same story. They were able to capitalise on sloppy defending and a lucky, all be it nice, shot from Ronaldo. Had we better defending it would have been a different tie.

  4. Tyson

    May 11, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    I think they could defintely do better but I don’t think this week is necessarily their biggest low point.

    United have been playing very well lately and would give any team in the PL trouble and Chelsea are a resurgent side after the screwing they received from anti-EPL UEFA.

    I think Arsenal do need new players but I don’t know when United and Chelsea have been on form(though admittedly their both shadows of what they were the previous season) they’ve been hard to beat so I don’t know exactly how damning it is.

  5. brn442

    May 11, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    You are not supposed to win a league with kids. Three years ago Arsenal made one too many passes to score the perfect goal, now they pass the ball because they’re scared to take a shot. Ever since Gallas’s meltdown, Arsenal has gone wanting for leadership on the pitch. Stadium or not, Arsene should go out and get at least three experienced players: A gritty midfielder with some spine, an imposing centre-half to marshal that defence, and a greedy, scrappy centre-forward, a la Inzaghi. These players don’t have to cost a fortune and may not even be long term solutions (they could be all 30+) but until Wenger’s kids turn into men, this maybe his only option.

  6. Morgan

    May 11, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    Very good article. Thanks.

  7. Jaime

    May 11, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    Cheers… thats all I can say. I completely agree. Something has to be done. Not a total overhaul but a 2-3 key players. A strong CB and a strong holding midfielder ad maybe a striker, but I believe we have plenty of quality there with RVP and Eduardo. Both need only to find their form. It will be an interesting summer. We need just shrug the shoulders and put it all behind. I know it is getting old but next season should be better. An in form Arshavin available for all competitions and everyone else well rested, as well as (hopefully) some good summer signings and we should well be in next season. Your last sentence says it all.

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