With the Gunners missing a Premier League title victory since the famous glory of the ‘invincibles’ in 2004, for years questions have arrowed in the direction of the Frenchman and is capability of leading the North Londoners to glory once again.
Arsenal may have had an unbeaten pre-season – conceding only 1 goal and scoring 14, including the Community Shield victory over Chelsea – but the start to the current campaign suggests that good pre-season form, may just have been a false dawn.
Although the season is still young with just 3 league games in, the team clearly haven’t settled; there isn’t enough fluidity and confidence pulsating through Arsenal as there seems to be from Manchester City. City have started with the much needed title challenging initiative, having strengthened where needed and look like serious challengers this year.
What’s worrying is that this is the exact sort of struggle Arsenal began with last season. This clearly suggests that lessons haven’t been learnt; a host of accusations surrounded Wenger’s mangement in the past, is the lack of a world-class goalkeeper, lack of defensive stability, the lack of pace and the lack of a world-class goalscorer.
Some of these issues have been addressed with the signing of Petr Cech and the change in defensive tactics (dating back as far as January), but some of them half-heartedly examined or not at all, out of sheer blindness as to what’s clear to see. In evidence of how the season has begun, tactically and in the transfer window, the manager has got it all wrong and it’s seriously hindering the potential of the team.
For the first time in years, Wenger possesses a team featuring the frightening pace of Theo Walcott, Alexis Sanchez, Chamberlain and Danny Welbeck, but inexplicably insists on accommodating all his creative midfield players by having one of them play on the wing. The clear problem with this, is that players of their nature won’t offer the width or pace of a winger, erasing the partnership with the full-back, especially one as fast as Hector Bellerin.
Instead, they’ll continuously look to drift inside and overload the no. 10 role. As a result this causes narrowness in the play, making it easy for opposition players to defend against, as we saw against West Ham and Liverpool who were set up excellently. This has been the recurring issue in these first three games, with the team clearly missing the pace in their football without the presence of their English forwards. On a different day, the likes of City, Untied and Chelsea would surely capitalised on our shortcomings.
Another issue is Olivier Giroud as our main striker. There’s been plenty of discussion over Giroud’s ability to lead the line throughout the course of a season, with many calling for a new striker. Based on the evidence of his latest performance as well as past occasions, buying a much more mobile striker would be a wise decision.
I don’t think Walcott is the man to lead the line because of his physique and Welbeck isn’t clinical enough. One thing Wenger continuously does is directly substitute Giroud for Walcott, and although he offers far more pace, the team are unable to cross the ball into the box with the lack of height to aim at. If anything, playing to everyone’s strengths can only see better football.
Giroud is a player who thrives when surrounded by pace because of his slick link up play. His partnership with Walcott a few years back was evidence of this, but is non-existent now with Wenger’s baffle-ling team selections. We have a players with pace to frighten the life of Europe’s very best, but it’s being wasted and it’s a shame. Wenger hasn’t learnt from past experiences and continuously shoots himself in the foot as a result.
It seems as though it must take a bad occurrence in order to goad Wenger into action; it took Giroud’s early season injury and Sanogo’s performance at Leicester to buy a Welbeck, it took an 8-2 thrashing at Old Trafford for Wenger to buy FIVE players in one day, and it seems it’ll take an injury to one or two of his midfield players to start TWO natural born wingers.
Wenger’s continuous stubbornness and lethargy to amend unhealthy situations or be proactive, means the team will always be a step behind their rivals. When a problem is there to be fixed Wenger will wait until late or not do anything at all. Now to be clear; I’m not insinuating that this team isn’t capable of winning the league, the team isn’t capable of winning the title under Arsene Wenger, because he doesn’t learn fast enough.