Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Arsenal: Wounded by time


On the backdrop of the pitiful defeat in the hands of Swansea City at the Liberty stadium last week, people have actually started to question if this is the time when Arsenal will no longer be seen as a title contender to the league trophy, this or in the coming years. While a few argue that the 13-decade old club still has the resilience to atleast compete for the title till the very end, the major part of the football world claim that Arsenal has succumbed to the very painful yet prevalent sight in football these days - stacity. Currently teetering at the 6th position in just 11 matches, Arsenal have already provided a 12-point lead to the leaders of the table Chelsea and the recent statement by Arsene Wenger asserting that there is no competition to Chelsea this year only adds to the despair.

Wenger's faithful have played a strong role in maintaining the dignity of the Frenchman who recently completed 18 eventful years at Arsenal. They have securely upheld the notion that Arsenal still remain a top club fighting its way through the storm upto the top 4 every year, while gradually strengthening itself to one day accomplish that mark of obtaining the silverware that Arsenal have only dreamed of in the last 10 years. However, the statistics of the last 4 years do not remotely seem to be standing by them.

Since 2010, Arsenal have finished 3rd once and 4th three times in the Premier League. While this may seem substandard for a successful club as Arsenal was, the results in the Champions League are further more astonishing. In the last 4 years – Arsenal have never managed to go past the Round of 16, while it’s Premier League competitor Chelsea have managed to win the CL and reach the semi-finals of it once each in the same time! Shocking as that might be, the Frenchman has hardly shown any change in his game tactics and transfer spending to bridge the gap. The contract signing of midfield maestro Mesut Ozil and one of the most promising South American talents Alexis Sanchez in the last 2 years was a dream come true for the Arsenal family, but while Arsene Wenger has managed to deviate from his what is commonly known as ‘Money can’t buy class’ principle, he still falls far behind his competitors in the transfer market, even though clearly the team is in dire need of some horse power.

Barring Alexis Sanchez, all the transfers that have happened atArsenal in the last 3 years have made little impact to the team. The value addition seems to have reached an impasse. Arsenal have made 4 striker signing in the past 3 years and yet the replacement of the role of former captain Robin Van Persie seems to be a distant dream. What’s worse is that the striker problem Arsenal are facing is prevalent for 2 years (and four transfer windows!) and little has been done to solve it.

While the signing of Manchester United benchwarmer Danny Welbeck may seem like a light at the end of tunnel, truth is that he does not seem to be capable of getting Arsenal to the top position. With only 2 goals in 8 Premier League matches, the Englishman has a goal scoring rate of 1:4 at Arsenal - even worse than what he had at Manchester United.

Clearly, poor transfer decisions have reflected the score sheets to an even greater extent. Arsenal have time and again shown that however good they may be against some teams in EPL, they become an injured soldier against worthy opponents. Arsenal have managed to win only 1 game out of 21 played against the Top 4 teams in EPL. Last season they only won once against their top 4 rivals. The lack of confidence was evident in the away matches when Arsenal was handed a merciless drubbing by the likes of Chelsea, City and Liverpool last season, conceding an average of 5.6 goals per match.

Arsene Wenger's unimpressive "performance" in the transfer windows have not only replicated in the output of the team, but has also splashed in the shadows of the club fans. The club’s performances have inculcated a sense of complacency among the fans, who now celebrate a good performance by Arsenal like it would never be seen again!

A tie with Manchester City at home was seen as a positive sign. Gooners rejoiced in the wake of the 4-1 win against Galatasaray at the Champions League this year more than what the Chelsea fans did after the 6-0 debacle! Even a player like Danny Welbeck (whom the Arsenal fans thought of as a mediocre player till last year, lest we forget) is being compared to Thierry Henry just because he showed a good performance against a weak team. Roll back the years, and you'd recall that these things never happened back in the days.

If there was to be change at Arsenal, it would have happened long ago. A decade without a Premier League title is acceptable only if the club competes for it till the very end. But it doesn’t seem so for Arsenal in any season!

The once Invincible Arsenal, known to the football world as a robust team, is now being written off for the title even before the league starts. Performances are deteriorating, yet the manager seems to be unperturbed, satisfied with a Champions League qualifying position. This will leave us with the likes of Chelsea and City dominating the Premier League for some time before an actual change is carried out at Arsenal.

A shame for the Premier League, in all honesty.

-Vib_H [Follow me on Twitter @Vib_Hafc ]