To coin from Arsene Wenger’s yearly catchphrase, it is time for him to ‘be judged in May’
Arsenal finishing second for the first time in 11 years and staying in the top-four for the 20th consecutive season has brought a pleasant shift of focus away from the overall failure of the team this season, yet has done little to eclipse the fact that many supporters had hoped for more and are, now more than ever more ambitious than Simply maintaining stability.
After a season of missed opportunities, Arsenal’s 2015/2016 campaign can be summed up as a complete debacle as the team was unable to take advantage of Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City’s collective regression; after a farcical summer transfer window, none of us can truly claim to be all that surprised. Under Arsene Wenger, Arsenal have consistently followed a familiar pattern of failure. I, like most passionate Arsenal fans, am ever ready to blame such failures on the clubs transfer dealings or lack thereof, and in turn the manager.
When almost every pundit, player, manager, and fan was synonymous in highlighting the same weaknesses; the need for the club to buy a proper defensive midfielder and a ‘world class’ centre forward in the last summer transfer window, Wenger refused to sign anyone other than Petr Czech trusting his squad was strong enough to to seriously compete for the title, therefore relying on dead weights (Flamini, Arteta, Rosicky etc). as back ups for the team. By so doing, Wenger stubbornly ignored the fact that injuries are always on the horizon, and as a matter of fact a yearly crisis at Arsenal.
Just as I feared, injury struck in November and we lost two terrific mid-fielders, Carzola and Coquelin; you could tell right then it was a blow we may never recover from. And we never did. Coquelin, though far from the finished article was the team’s only proper defensive midfielder and as a result of lack of depth in that position, indispensable.
The summer transfer window was one I had hoped the manager would address such weakness, it was, after all, the summer where everything was in place, the stadium paid off, over 20 players shipped out and a decent season to build on. It wasn’t. Defending his transfer inactivity, Wenger claimed “you either find someone who strengthens your squad or you do not”…coming from a manager with one of the most expensive transfer networks at his disposal.
Don’t forget this was a summer window where Vidal and Kondogbia both went for £25m. Now in May, Wenger’s assertion that there wasn’t a single player in Europe available to improve his squad last summer looks simply inaccurate.
In his analysis of where things went wrong, the manager said “…we had many injuries as well and this season, for the first, time they were injuries where we couldn’t do a lot about it”. This makes me want to ask why? Why was Arsenal the only side in Europe to not have signed an outfield player in the summer?
Throughout the summer window the consensus was that Arsenal desperately needed another centre forward to provide competition and option to Olivier Giroud. Walcott, Sanchez, Welbeck and Campbell are all good forwards, but they’re not strikers. There should be no doubt, Giroud is a good premier league striker but the fact remains that he is not good enough to be the focal point of a team that wants to compete for trophies. Arsenal consistently created chances throughout the year – even as results suffered a downturn – a sign that a more lethal striker was needed.
Once again we are left to celebrate a top-four finish and narrowly finishing above Spurs, with no silverware.
Wenger is going nowhere anytime soon regardless of results and whether you like it or not but it’s only a matter of time before the likes of Ozil and Sanchez begin to start looking elsewhere in the same manner RVP and Fabregas did a few years ago unless the manager adopts a new approach in line with that of a genuine title-challenging club soon.