FA Cup and 4th place: is it enough for Arsenal?
Posted by Aaron C-Reid | Published on March 11, 2016
Mediocre, inconsistent and wasteful. These are three words to describe Arsenal’s season thus far. They sit 3rd in the table, 8 points off a resilient Leicester. However, Arsenal came out victorious against a lacklustre Hull on Tuesday night. A second string Arsenal side defeated the Tigers, 4-0. A brace each from Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud doing the job on the night. The win puts Arsenal into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup where they face Watford at home. The Gunners will be favourites in that tie but will still face a difficult challenge, with Watford no pushover. The Gunners have won the FA Cup for the last two seasons and have finished 3rd and 4th in each of those seasons. But the real question is: is top four and the FA Cup good enough for Arsenal Football Club?
Having not won the league since their famous “Invincibles” team in 2004 Arsenal need to take a long hard look at themselves. This was the best chance they have had in a long time to lift the league title, but not the first time they have blown it. Arsenal have failed to win the league after being in great positions before, slipping up in both the 2007/08 and 2013/14 seasons. With Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City all having poor seasons, it was a chance for Arsenal to win the much coveted Premier League Title. However, it seems they have already blown it, once again. .
“I think boring is 10 years without a title. That’s very boring. You support the club and you’re waiting, waiting, waiting for so many years without a Premier League title, so that’s very boring.” – Jose Mourinho. Some may say that the top four is a great achievement but Mourinho seems to sum it up perfectly in that quote. Describing Arsenal’s lack of league titles as “boring” While this may have upset many Arsenal fans at the time, including me, this is an accurate assessment of Arsenal over the last decade.
Since finishing second to Chelsea in the 2004/05 campaign, the Gunners have finished every season in third or fourth place. After winning three Premier League titles and four FA Cups in Wenger’s first nine seasons in north London, Arsenal embarked on a well-documented trophyless run. They then ended that in 2014, with an FA Cup success, followed by another FA Cup last season. While that was good for the time being, I feel that no league title in 11 years is a joke. As an Arsenal fan, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to be happy with a “4th place trophy.” While getting into the Champions League for every year in Wenger’s tenure is a great achievement but they haven’t reached the quarter-finals in 6 years, a dreadful stat.
With Arsenal’s lack of success what needs changing at the North London club? Personally, I feel that a number of things have to be done if the Gunners want to be considered one of the big boys again. A lot of adjustments must be made for the Gunners to progress. But what exactly needs to change?
Some players in the team need to take a long hard look at themselves. With the likes of Theo Walcott, Per Mertesacker and Aaron Ramsey having sub-par seasons it has been difficult to find a starting XI that performs on a consistent basis. While some players such as Mesut Özil, Nacho Monreal and Petr Cech have been exemplary, others haven’t added much to the team. Olivier Giroud has struggled to find some consistency in front of goal as well. After having a great run through October to December, the Frenchman has only scored 2 in the last 12 outings for the Gunners. Another star who has been hot and cold this season is Alexis Sánchez. After scoring 25 times in his maiden campaign, the Chilean superstar has found it hard this term. It hasn’t helped with the sheer amount of games he has played, but the winger will hope to go on a decent run after his recent goal in the North London derby. In seasons gone by scoring goals was never an issue for the North London side but this season has been a different story. They have only managed 46 league goals, a poor statistic given the attacking threat they possess.
Deadwood is expected to leave in the summer, with the likes of Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini expected to leave. Not only has the form of some players been average but the mentality of many in the squad has been questioned. Many people have been calling Arsenal “bottlers” and it is easy to see why. This term seems to have been coined by Arsenal as it refers to their inability to win games they really should win. After recently slipping up against an inexperienced Manchester United side, as well as a struggling Swansea team, this term couldn’t be more fitting. This may come down to the manager and his tactics but the players have a huge part in Arsenal’s recent slump in form. Danny Welbeck and Petr Cech are the only members of the squad who have a Premier League winners medal to their name. It is time to see Arsenal go on a run and for their players to step up, even if it is too late to win the title.
Whether you are Arsene Wenger in or Arsene Wenger out, it is easy to see that his errors have cost Arsenal again. After failing to sign an outfield player in the Summer Arsenal have suffered the consequences. Many could see that Arsenal needed a striker, defensive midfielder and centre back, but Wenger could not. With Danny Welbeck being injured until recently, Olivier Giroud was Arsenal’s only striker available until February. Anyone could see that he needed help, whether it was an upgrade on the Frenchman or a backup. However, Wenger’s stubbornness meant that Arsenal had to begin their title pursuit with just 1 fit striker. While Wenger may have stopped being naive in big games, he still has his tactical flaws. With Alexis Sanchez struggling to find form, Wenger played him into the ground, leading to the Chilean’s injury.
Not only this but he is too stubborn to drop big names. With Theo Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain having mediocre seasons, Arsenal needed a right winger to step up. The unlikely hero was Joel Campbell. After making a few cameo appearances in various cups, the Costa Rican was given his chance in the Premier League. Just as the young forward established some kind of form, he was then dropped. Many Arsenal fans couldn’t understand and Campbell was then left on the sidelines for another few months. Campbell then started against Swansea, scoring a sublime goal early on. He seemed to be giving the drive and determination that Sanchez had given last season. After having a remarkable game and being the best player on the pitch, Campbell was then taken off in the second half, to a chorus of boos from the Arsenal faithful. This seems to sum up Arsene Wenger. He can’t adapt to situations and appears to have become more ignorant than ever. Many, including myself, feel that this should be Arsene Wenger’s last season as the Arsenal manager if Arsenal fail to win the league.
It may sound like a silly excuse but injuries have been a major cause for concern at Arsenal in recent seasons. Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla, Danny Welbeck, Tomas Rosicky, Alexis Sánchez and Francis Coquelin have all suffered long-term injuries this term, which has seriously hindered Arsenal’s title bid. Recent layoffs for Gabriel, Koscielny, Cech and Ramsey have further weakened the Gunners pursuits for their first league trophy in 11 years. The North London team have suffered 156 injuries so far this term, an astonishing number. The Gunners need to get to the bottom of their injury plight and fix it if they can.The Arsenal teams of old never had these injury problems. You would never hear of the Invincibles team suffering more than 1 or 2 injuries.
The Arsenal of old wouldn’t have accepted anything less than 1st place. While Arsenal’s recent FA Cup success may be a distraction to their failings in the Premier League and in Europe, the Gunners must improve immensely in the immediate future. I feel that the only way Arsenal will move forward is if Arsene Wenger leaves the club. He may have done great things but I think his time is over as Arsenal manager.
If you agree or disagree with me, tweet your thoughts to my twitter – @ReidTheGame