By Tarik Demoura, @Tarik_demoura
***Written Pre West Ham Match***
Back-to-back wins, two clean sheets, Welbeck, Sanchez and Walcott back on the score sheet; add to that exciting prospect that is Alex Iwobi, with Jack Wilshere on the way back – again – the positives are there to see. Even some, if not all, of the ‘Wenger Out’ banners have been folded away until the next disappointing result.
However, the question remains: where were these performances at Man United away, more significantly at home to Swansea?
Why is it when the pressure is on and it really matters Arsenal just can’t cope? The last two performances smack of a team that are playing with freedom, with no pressure. The way this season has gone, it’s not impossible to think Arsenal may still win the league; but recent history says that is unlikely and this season – more than any – this to the majority of Arsenal supporters is unacceptable, and this type of failure is becoming so repetitive and predictable it’s becoming embarrassing.
So, what’s the answer? Gauging the response to this question, opinion is polarized from sacking the manager, the board, and a large amount of the playing staff; however more level headed fans are of the mind that we are just a couple of players away from really challenging (where have we heard that before).
Whatever way you look at it, Arsenal have again failed to mount a substantiated challenge for the Premier League title in a season that it looks like Leicester are going to win it, and again fallen so far short in the champions league, in ten years since the final in 2006.
Arsenal have in reality gone backwards in terms of real progress. Any other team or manager would have been under pressure to move aside, but Wenger seems to be made of Teflon; putting aside the success under the Wenger era after such a long tenure, surely the time has come for real change at the club?
Failure to recognize that, in what is one of the most physically demanding leagues in Europe, – maybe the world – our player recruitment of small, technically-strong players while ignoring the need for taller, more physically-minded players – notability in midfield – and in my opinion just as importantly in the center back position, is at the heart of the fundamental failure to compete on a constant basis; and I strongly believe a big reason for a very poor injury record (a change in back room staff has made no difference). Add to those failings the need for a real top-level striker to go with the creativity we have has led to a season where we have such a dire chance conversion rate in front of goal.
Arsenal made more chances per game that almost anyone in the league, and possess the most creative player in Europe in Özil; yet we have Giroud, Walcott and Welbeck as our first choice strikers. All three are very good players, but I don’t think any of them are real top-level strikers. These are fundamental issues that are no big secret, and you don’t need to be an expert to recognize these shortcomings (Although myself and every pundit ex-player have been touting this for years).
A large majority of Arsenal supporters have known this for ten years or more, so this stubborn – and there is no other word for it – attitude to change and public opinion is what needs to change, regardless who the manger is, this is an issue with the club from the top down; with a looming power struggle in the boardroom leading to an attitude of making money being the first priority, and as long as Arsenal finish in the top four, that’s where the ambition ends.
We are in need of leaders, both on the pitch and in the boardroom, we need a clear and transparent plan to take the club forward into a new era: so is Mr. Wenger the man to lead us through this era of much-needed change? In my opinion, – and a large majority of fans/ex-players – no.
I strongly believe that – as much as I admire and respect the manager – he has taken the club as far as he can, a fresh approach is needed and I think a top class tactician like Germany’s Löw would be ideal… According to media reports contact has been made, who knows? What do we know…?
Arsenal are at a crossroads, and have been for a good few years, making that evolution to competing with Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Juventus; the real top clubs, has been Wenger’s biggest failing, and big changes both at clubs home and abroad, if there’s not a real change at Arsenal it could all too often be too little too late.
Written by Tarik Demoura. Follow him at @Tarik_demoura