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Why Arsenal Will Be Back After The Dust Settles

It’s easy to kick a dog when it’s down.  And it’s even easier when everyone else joins you in doing so.  Arsenal Football Club is certainly going through a difficult period, but just how bad is the situation they find themselves in?  Is it as bad as most pundits make out?  Is it worse?

I would argue that, before the season began, Arsène Wenger would have expected a minimum of five points from their opening three league games.  His team were favourites at St James’ Park on the opening day, whilst a home game against a revitalised Liverpool and a trip to Old Trafford to face the champions would have been seen as slightly trickier.  And so they proved to be, as Arsenal lost both their second and third league games after only picking up a point at Newcastle.

We mustn’t forget that Arsenal have had several problems to contend with, especially regarding team selection.  Wenger will hope their next league game will be their first this season where they have eleven players on the pitch come the final whistle.  As well as having three players sent off, Alex Song was handed a retrospective ban following a stamp on the ever-popular Joey Barton, further limiting the club’s options for the matches that followed.  Combined with injuries, they were left desperately short for the United game, as they had to take on the Red Devils without influential players such as Jack Wilshere and Thomas Vermaelen.  With regular fullbacks Kieran Gibbs and Bacary Sagna also both on the sidelines, a duo of Armand Traoré and the inexperienced Carl Jenkinson found themselves thrown in at the deep end, the latter being the unfortunate victim of an early dismissal.  The former has since left for QPR, never really settling at Arsenal since joining the club in 2005.

Cesc Fàbregas and Samir Nasri, arguably Arsenal’s two best players, have both departed the Emirates for large fees.  The money from these transfers is the subject of much speculation, with many supporters urging the French manager to go out and spend on new signings, rather than allow it to burn a hole in his pocket.  Many names of central defenders have been thrown about, whilst the goalkeeping position has recently become less of an issue with the improved form of Wojciech Szcz?sny.  Ultimately though, the tactic of replacing quality with youth seems doomed to fail.  Losing their two star midfielders has provided the biggest challenge to Wenger regarding his transfer policy.  Arsenal have not been in this situation for a long time, where their own top players seek a move away, with the belief that there are other clubs with a better chance of winning trophies.  Thierry Henry, the club’s greatest player ever, left for Barcelona in 2007.  The difference between his departure and that of Fabregas is that the Frenchman was approaching his thirtieth birthday and, although he was still a quality striker, his best years had been in an Arsenal shirt.  The fact that it is now the likes of Nasri and Fabregas, both only 24 years of age and in the prime of their careers, is a worrying sign indeed.  What’s more worrying for Arsenal supporters is that it is something which Arsène Wenger is powerless to prevent.  In both transfer sagas he initially declared his intention to keep hold of his best players, which eventually was not possible due to their desire to leave.

The Gunners’ season could have been a lot worse had they not produced an impressive comeback in Udinese.  No Champions League football would have been a disaster for a club of the stature of Arsenal.  I would suggest that having to participate in the Europa League whilst the big boys battled against Europe’s elite would have caused more humiliation than the 8-2 drubbing at Old Trafford.  The pain certainly would have lasted longer.  But Arsenal did ensure entry into the Champions League and will now play Marseille, Olympiacos and Borussia Dortmund in a group where, despite their poor start to the season, they will be fancied to qualify for the knockout stages.  If they make it that far then who knows what could happen, although I feel they had a much better chance of winning the competition last season, where they were knocked out by Barcelona at the Nou Camp after defeating the eventual winners at home.  When it comes to the Premier League, Arsenal will do well to recover and achieve their fourth placed finish of last season, as, although it’s still early stages, Liverpool look threateningly capable of stealing it.

So, all the negativity surrounding the club suggests that it will be yet another disappointing campaign for Arsenal.  They are pretty much guaranteed a position within the top six, having not finished outside the top four since 1996, when they were just outside in fifth.  Interestingly, the season before that they came twelfth, which is currently their lowest finish in 35 years.  The club is a long way from that sort of downfall, but they are also a similar distance from “The Invincibles” of 2004.  Arsenal Football Club is not in decline, but a period of transition.  The self-destructing second half of last season together with the removal of two of the club’s main pillars has had a massive impact on Wenger’s project.  When the dust has settled, Arsenal will be back.

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  1. Francisca Bonney

    September 1, 2011 at 8:20 am

    how many players have you buy so far after the closing date?

  2. Steven

    August 30, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    The rumo(u)rs of Arsenal’s death are greatly exaggerated.The media have created an artificial crisis. Yes, Arsenal lost two of its best players in the transfer market. However, Wenger was always going to have to wait until the cash and lure of the Champions League was secure to play in the market himself. The humbling at Old Trafford essentially involved only squad players (8 of 10 starting outfield players were missing). By this time tomorrow, the club will have 4-5 new players targeted by Wenger, whose track record in the matter is not bad. The return of Song, Sagna, Wilshere, Gervinho, Vermaelen, et al, combined with the advent of the new signings will renew the club following the break. It may take them a while to gel, but there’s no reason to rule out a top 4 or 5 finish by seasons end. In other words, quit freaking out.

  3. TaylorD

    August 30, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    With mertesacker and Andre Santos coming in to strength the defence+ park ji young from Monaco coming in from Monaco for 3mil–we’ll be good as long as arsene gets marko Martin from sochaux or m’vila from Rennes.

  4. Taylor

    August 30, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    AW was extremely lucky to have excellent experienced players when he joined Arsenal, thus enabling him to buy young players who were unknown or excellent young players who failed to shine after moving clubs (see Viera at Milan and Henry @ Juventus) or just got injured (Overmars, Kanu) cheaply. With experienced players, this experiment worked. Plus it didn’t hurt that the players he bought were excellent.

    A lot of people forget that like other managers, it wasn’t always a hit: there were Diawara, Luzhny, Wreh, Girondin, etc. But when they failed, the “old guards” were still there.

    The team doesn’t have leaders like it used to have with Adams, Keown, Merson, etc. RVP is not a leader, Fabregas wasn’t a leader last season.

    Young players will not refuse going to Arsenal because: (1) it’s is still a great club and (2) they know they;ll play. The more they can showcase their talents, the higher fee/salary they can command once they leave Arsenal.

  5. David Grant

    August 30, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    The argument that Fabregas and Nasri are leaving at their prime is a big worry for Arsenal is flawed. Fabregas was never Arsenal through and through. We saved him from his misery at Barcelona and he was always openly keen to go back once the opportunity presented itself. Nasri is just plain greedy, simple! We have managed to hold on to the likes of Wilshere, Van Persie (who is far better than Nasri) and also Ramsey (who chose us above United). Losing young players is not new. We lost Flamini, Diarra and Hleb at their prime so I am not too concerned about losing the likes of Nasri. How we replace them is my major concern.

    • R2Dad

      August 30, 2011 at 2:34 pm

      The whole Wenger business model is based on buying quality youth, giving them a big contract at the time, indoctrinating them into the system and the club. As long as this works, players will want to come and stay. Having to replace top players is not part of the model, nor the wage structure. The answer isn’t to keep bringing in even more youths, it’s to know when to supplement with experienced players. From the move with Park, it appears AW is concerned that bringing in experienced players at higher wages will blow up the wage discipline, disrupt the dressing room and unsettle the starlets with talk about better clubs/wages/nightlife/weather elsewhere. So maybe his answer is to look for Asian players who won’t present that sort of problem.

  6. Gillyo

    August 30, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    I don’t understand this part of your comment:” What’s more worrying for Arsenal supporters is that it is something which Arsène Wenger is powerless to prevent.”
    The chairman says at the end of every season that the manager has ample funds to use in the transfer market and Wenger repeats every time that he has enough quality and doesn’t need to buy any players.
    Please explain to me who is responsible for a team going from unbeaten in 2004 to loosing 8X2 in 2011?
    Both the board and Wenger are always reminding us (ignorant peasants) that Arsenal is run like a very efficient and profitable company.
    Well, if this was like any other business, would this be acceptable by the shareholders? If Apple went from it’s position right now to being barely able to compete in the market, would the shareholders say: everything is going great?

  7. Harry

    August 30, 2011 at 10:45 am

    Nice title but the bigger question is, if Arsenal returns to form, where will Wenger be ?

  8. SteveE

    August 30, 2011 at 10:23 am

    We will be back. Sounds like 2 defenders will be signed. Hopefully we get a creative player and with Park coming in, we may be able to kick start something. We have a while to heal up and get these players here. Wenger is a great manager, he can get them back up to the top. They have to sign a big name though if they want to actually win something.

  9. MNUfan1991

    August 30, 2011 at 9:00 am

    Get better soon, Arsenal. Let’s settle the score again at the Emirates.
    As an United fan, I truly, wholeheartedly want clubs like Arsenal and Leeds to come back to the very top and challenge the title. These are historic, esteemed, great football institutions that deserve to be in the same running as my beloved Red Devils. They deserve respect and hatred at the same time.
    United, Liverpool, Leeds, and Arsenal–the proper Big 4.

  10. Dlink04

    August 30, 2011 at 8:26 am

    I think if we add a creative midfeilder and experienced defender, we can finish top 4. Most of the managers hate international breaks, I bet Arsene is very relieved now. Reboot and start the season after the international break

  11. QPR_Fan

    August 30, 2011 at 8:14 am

    Simple: Same as Taylor. I hope all the write ups and articles about Arsenal will be negative so that the bookies start giving better lines.

    This comes from a QPR fan and wannabe sports bettor.

  12. Taylor

    August 30, 2011 at 8:09 am

    Simple: because Arsenal is a great club. There will always be good players who will want to be the hero for their boyhood club and won’t be tempted by purely money.

    This comes from United fan and soccer fan.

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