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New Season But Arsenal’s Problems Persist


This season promises to be a pivotal one in the reign of Arsene Wenger at Arsenal. Wenger has been one of the most influential managers in Arsenal’s history but for the first time last year there were rumblings of discontent from the fans.

In the build up to the new Premier League season the Arsenal manager has again been bullish about his side’s prospects. Speaking in the Guardian today Wenger said: “I have the project here that I started four years ago and I wanted to reach the end of it… The team we have now gets there, and by that I mean it wins the Championship. At 22 or 23 I think a team is mature enough to deliver and it is a massively important year for our club. I am conscious of that.”

Bold stuff from the Gunners boss, but following a summer where centre half Thomas Vermaelen has been the only acquisition of note do Arsenal have the depth and steel within the squad to put it up to the league’s big guns?

Arsenal fans will point to a number of factors that will improve their chances this year. The young players that Wenger has so steadfastly stood by have more experience under their belts and the likes of Alex Song, Nicklas Bentnder and Denilson all improved to varying degrees.

Bentnder has the ability to frustrate like few others but his goal tally last season was quite impressive and I think there is more to come from him this season. The displays of Jack Wilshere in pre-season will also have Gooners excited about the prospect of a new home grown talent to cheer.

After lengthy spells on the sidelines the experience and class of Eduardo and Tomas Rosicky will also strengthen Arsenal’s attacking options. Eduardo is a true goalscorer and he will play an important role this season, as will Rosicky if he can overcome his relentless propensity to break down with mysterious injuries.


A fully fit and fresh Andrey Arshavin will also be a terrifying prospect for Premiership defences. His impact last term after his arrival was very promising and there is no reason to think he cannot improve further and become Arsenal’s prime attacking threat.

Despite the positive signs I feel many of the question marks that hung over Arsenal at the season’s end have not been answered. The sales of Toure and Adebayor represent great business and I do not see a problem with releasing them but that belief is based on the quality of player that replaces them.

There is still time left in the transfer window but Arsenal fans were here last season and Wenger chose not to add to his squad, a decision that hurt the Emirates club as they slumped to early defeats effectively ruling them out of the title race before Christmas. A slow start this season will be fatal as Arsenal travel to Everton, Manchester United and Celtic in the opening five games of the season.

Injuries are part of the game and every club goes through a difficult period during the season but there seems to be an underlying frailty to Arsenal’s squad. One needs only to look at Arsenal’s injury list for the opening trip to Goodison Park to understand this, Diaby, Fabianski, Djourou, Walcott, Rosicky and Nasri all look set to miss out through injury. You have to wonder how Wenger can put so much faith in players like Djourou and Diaby when they spend so much time on the treatment table?

The lack of a midfield acquisition must also be concerning, Arsenal were heavily linked to Felipe Melo but missed out when the player joined Juventus.  Arsenal fans must be sick of hearing it but repetition does not make the problem less obvious. After being brushed aside by Manchester United in the Champions League semi-final and physically dominated by Chelsea in the FA Cup semi one would have thought a midfield enforcer would be priority number one.

The sale of Kolo Toure is a symbolic one as he is the last real link to the Invincibles team of 2004, in that side the likes of Campbell, Vieira, Henry and Lauren were well able to match teams physically if they needed to, this Arsenal team does not to have that same strength and its absence will surely damage their chances over a long season.

There are obviously some financial constraints on Wenger but the mixed messages coming from the Emirates makes it hard to gauge where Wenger’s stubbornness and Arsenal’s heavy financial burdens meet. Wenger still has time to add to his squad but if he does not do so I will go on record to say it will be another trophyless season at the Emirates.  I take no pleasure in making that statement but all the indicators seems to point to another season of frustration.

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  1. Lyle

    August 15, 2009 at 12:46 am

    Arsenal will surprise this season and win something. They will be better than they were last year, I think.

  2. Tyson

    August 14, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    I think a lot of people are being unfair towards Wenger here. The PL for the most part is quite predictable. The team that won last year is probably going to win this year.

    Back in 2004-05 Chelsea went through a revolution that meant they won 2 back to back titles. The big moment was Mourinho leaving which lead to Manchester United winning 3 titles back to back spurred on by the blooming of Ronaldo and Rooney.

    The point I am trying to make here is if you look at the history of the Premier League since its inception the only time a team has been able to win the Premier League is when something truly groundbreaking changed at one of the clubs otherwise the club that won the previous year generally won the next year too.

    Nothing groundbreaking or big has changed over at Arsenal so it isn’t their turn so to say just yet. Wenger will get another shot at it but it’s not as simple as having the same squad that won nothing last year and turning them into winners the next year.

    Wengers trophies will come but they will come with change. As long as everything stays relatively the same its entirely too predictable who will be challenging for what.

    Football might as well be math everything is based on the law of averages and in the PL and other leagues its generally the same teams coming out on top. Football is like chess and at the moment Wenger doesn’t have the right pieces.

  3. Tim

    August 14, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    I don’t think Wenger’s infallible but I think that the burden of proof is on you to explain how the most decorated manager in Arsenal’s history, a man who has worked with the likes of Vieira, Petit, Gilberto, Flamini, and Diarra is somehow a less adept judge of footballing talent in the holding midfield role than you and the other pundits who have written Alex Song off?

    • Rory

      August 14, 2009 at 3:46 pm

      Yeah I take your point, but that does not mean I am not allowed my own opinion or to question Wenger’s judgement. Having seen some of the great midfielders we have had down the years I don’t think Song is near that mark and never will be.
      As I said I am open to be proven wrong and hope I will be. I also don’t think I am alone in my assessment.

  4. Mike K

    August 14, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    I agree with Tim, but the main reason Man Utd has done so well over the past three years is due to their depth. Ronaldo obviously helped, but when they needed it, they had options off the bench that could help tremendously. Utd’s bench was easily one of the best in the league, even if most of the players were mediocre individually, but they worked together extremely well with the rest of the starting XI.

    Titling winning sides like Utd are built for a long season, Arsenal is currently not. Too many of our players are too injury prone, so we become reliant on the likes of Silvestre (currently one injury away to Gallas/Vermaelen from starting him) which I know most Arsenal fans would not want to see. If injuries did not exist, I would say Arsenal’s side is perfectly fit to win the title. But unfortunately that’s not the case.

    I admit, I hated Song with a passion for years. His ball control, passing, and decision making were horrendous. This last season he has proved me wrong, and he’s become a much better player. But who fills in for him when he’s injured, or gone at the African Cup of Nations? Denilson? Denilson has been more of a Cesc than a Gilberto. Diaby? He’s likely to be out for most of the season again due to niggling injuries (most likely). Who fills the gap? Especially since we’re likely to employ a 4-3-3 system, the holding midfielder is extremely important. Makelele was integral to Chelsea’s titling winning sides in 04/05 and 05/06 in the 4-3-3 system. If I could only chose one player to buy this season, it’d be an experienced, physical holding midfielder. A decent center back would help for cover to Gallas/Vermaelen/Djourou as well.

  5. Tim

    August 14, 2009 at 1:10 pm


    That’s another great point. Look at Arsenal in the context of the other top 4: Man U was significantly weakened when they lost the 40 goals of Tevez and Ronalda, plus they have injury problems in Vidic and v.d.Sar. Liverpool lost Alosno and replaced him with a guy who might not even play this year. Lucas? Ask a Liverpool supporter how they feel about him. Minor injuries to their elderly back 4 or their only striker will devastate them. In fact, I’m pegging them to drop out of the top 4, they finished 5th a few years back.

    From my perspective only three teams strengthened this off season: Arsenal, Chelsea, and Man City. Everyone else got weaker.

    Write Arsenal off at your own peril.

  6. Matthew N

    August 14, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    I’m not an Arsenal supporter, but I completely disagree here. Arsenal has talent other clubs (outside the big four) would kill for. They will no doubt have a great season, probably competing for the top of the table.

  7. Tim

    August 14, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    Wow, 2 comments in and the article has produced the desired effect; negativity from Arsenal supporters.

    You can choose to look at this club in the negative light that the Gaffer here has laid out, or you could look at a lot of the positives: Fabregas has 4 years of experience starting at a top four club in the most difficult league in the world. Yes, he’s 22, but he’s already played over 200 matches for Arsenal. Song and Denilson were handed an entire year to sharpen up, and if you didn’t see their progress last year, you’re blind. If they were English, they would be worth £15m each.
    Up front, Arsenal have the EPL’s most feared attack; Eduardo is the best goal poacher in the league, van Persie makes magic, and Arshavin is nearly unstoppable. Bendtner is going to do the hard work that Adebayor did for us 2 seasons ago, and then off the bench is Walcott, Rosicky, Vela, I mean come on.
    There are question marks about the back 4 but the question marks are not because the players aren’t quality, they are more because Wenger chooses to play a high line and plays offense as defense. This does expose the center halfs to over the top and through balls but the reason he bought Vermaelen is because he’s a direct replacement for Toure. Oh AND he’ll win balls in the air, which Toure proved incapable of doing. I believe if Arsenal hold on to Senderos (which is looking very likely now that Everton are refusing to sell Lescott) Wenger will have more options at the back and you may even see him play a flat back 4 a few times this year.
    And don’t even start criticizing Sendy, he was integral to Arsenal’s record breaking Champions League run. And before you look to Brede Hangeland, know that “Dogbag” scored on him plenty of times as well.

    Why would you want to watch a team that you are so down about? I don’t get it. I am seriously excited about this season, we’re more experienced, and deeper than we’ve ever been. And we’re going to mop Everton up tomorrow.

    When was the last time Arsenal had 6 injuries and were able to field a starting XI that would be the envy of any team in the EPL?

    Case closed.

    • Rory

      August 14, 2009 at 1:10 pm

      If you read the article I did point out that all of the above young players improved last season and I pointed out the impact Arshavin will have this season. I just don’t think Arsenal have sufficient quality to sustain a title challenge.
      By the way I am also fully capable of forming my own opinions and need no direction from the Gaffer. You’re entitled to your own opinon but I know plenty of Arsenal fans that have a similar attitude about the current squad.
      I will definitely enjoy watching Arsenal this season but again I think we will be a little short when it matters most.

      • Tim

        August 14, 2009 at 1:19 pm

        Where is it that they “lack quality?” Vermaelen is going to be better than Toure (who was a distraction on and off the pitch) and Song already looks the real deal as a holding midfielder in pre-season.

        Seriously, this whole “Arsenal need 2 signings” thing is so friggen tired it’s not even funny.

        • Rory

          August 14, 2009 at 1:27 pm

          Song may have improved last season but is still not good enough to anchor a title winning side, simple as.
          I am adopting a wait and see approach with Vermaelen. I also pointed out I don’t have a problem with the sale of Toure, great business for a player who has not looked the same since his bout of malaria a couple of years back.
          We were significantly short last season when it really counted and I don’t think enough has been done to rectify the weaknesses that were already in the team. Trust me if I am wrong I will be bloody delighted!

          • Tim

            August 14, 2009 at 1:33 pm

            I think you’re going to be proved absolutely wrong about Song. Arsene Wenger thinks he’s good enough and Arsene Wenger has worked with some of the best holding midfielders the world has ever seen. This year basically every holding midfielder in the world was linked to the club, who have the money to spend. As Wenger said today, there’s only maybe 10 players in the world we couldn’t afford to buy if we wanted to.

            So, if Song isn’t good enough why didn’t Wenger buy?

            Either Song’s good enough or Wenger’s lost the plot.

          • Rory

            August 14, 2009 at 1:42 pm

            Nobody is infallible mate, Wenger has put his trust in players before that haven’t worked out. Granted he gets it right more often than wrong but on this occasion he may be proved wrong.

            Wenger obviously trusts the player’s potential but there is quite a distance between being a prospect and a proven player. I think Song is far from proven yet and we should have strengthened in that position.

          • Rory

            August 15, 2009 at 4:08 pm

            Tim just to get in first, how do you feel about that?
            I don’t think anyone saw that coming but Vermaelen really impressed me, went to win the first ball every time, that is what we need.
            Great start but I think it is feet on the ground time.

  8. Jake

    August 14, 2009 at 11:50 am

    It’s just so frustrating as an Arsenal supporter. Wenger is a great coach but I’m tired of hearing his positive spin week after week when something bad happens. When they lose, he feels good about how his team played. Missing out on a key transfer, he feels like his current squad can win trophies. It’s so frustrating because he never tells the truth about the situation, he always makes it sound as if Arsenal are ok when it’s obvious something needs to change to get some trophies at the Emirates.

    • Rory

      August 14, 2009 at 11:57 am

      I’m an Arsenal fan myself Jake and I think this is a reasoned account of where we are at. I left blind faith behind in my teenage years and the lack of strength in our team is really concerning. We are not far off being right up there but Wenger is either hamstrung by economic problems or is too caught up with developing the young players we already have.

      I have never approached a season in such a downbeat mood I don’t think, the fact we have a very tough start is adding to my sense of dread. We simply have to add to the squad.

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