Although a feeling of discontent has been fermenting at The Emirates for several seasons now it is not too often that you hear boos at the end of a game. I heard boos yesterday, a lot of them.
As has been endlessly documented by the media in the last twelve hours Arsenal’s failure to push past Championship side Blackburn Rovers now means it is very likely it will be eight years without a trophy.
For as club the size and the stature of Arsenal is that acceptable? I am not entirely sure. Remember the Gunners went years in the 80s without a trophy and nineteen years in the 70 and 80s without a league title. No club has a divine right to silverware.
However, as has also endlessly been pointed out ,Arsenal fans pay handsomely for their lack of success. They left a beautiful historic stadium several years ago as they were told that the club needed bigger revenues from home games or else they wouldn’t be able to compete. It must feel like they have been sold a pup.
Personally I don’t think that the club is in crisis just yet. A sizable defeat to Bayern on Tuesday followed by losing at home to Villa – now that would be a crisis.
So what went wrong yesterday. Here are five conclusions.
1 Wenger got his team selection wrong – Personally I do not feel like he got it too wrong. The team that started should have been way too strong for Blackburn, and that really was a fluke result. Given his concerns about Jack Wilshere he should not have started. As for Theo and Santi, yes they could have begun the game, but in Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and Tomas Rosicky Arsene had two high quality ready-made replacements. Perhaps the big mistake was not playing Podolski as he has linked so well with Giroud of late. But then Gervinho had a great AFCON, so you can see why Wenger was keen to give him a full game.
2 Arsenal didn’t actually play that badly – Ok so who you going to blame? The defence? They were fine apart from one misunderstanding. The midfield? Diaby had a solid game and had several shots on target and was unlucky not to get on the score sheet. Rosicky played reasonably well and Aterta was solid. What let Arsenal down yesterday was their front three.
3 Arsenal are paying the price for not buying a striker – If I had been Wenger I would have told Barca that unless Villa joined Arsenal on a loan deal with an option to buy in the summer that he would never sell them a player again and that any Arsenal player who might be Spain-bound would be heading for Madrid. Even without Villa Wenger and his team had thirty days to find a striker and failed.
On one level you have to admire the belief that Wenger has in Giroud. It is clear that buying a proper RVP replacement – or even an second string striker – would have unsettled him. The French striker is though a work in progress. He has a good goals to chances ratio, but the diffuclty for me is his lack of pace, and perhaps more importantly his positional sense, means that he just doesn’t get into enough goal scoring positions. Yesterday Arsenal seem to be just peppering the Blackburn box with passes and crosses, but no one was there. Giroud may end up as an Arsenal legend, but at the moment he has a long way to go. Ironically Arsenal’s likely failure to qualify for the Champions League will mean that the high profile clinical striker won’t come anyhow. One last thought. What happens if Giroud sustains an injury against Bayern? Who will lead the line then?
4 Something is not clicking with Alex – Remember when AOC first played at The Emirates? His confidence was infectious. He seemed to have a huge amount of self belief. That confidence seems to have been dented and yesterday he was once again a shadow of the player Arsenal fans got so excited about last season. I am sure that he will be an integral part of the team going forward, but there is clearly something that isn’t quite right.
5 Wenger doesn’t really care that much about the FA Cup – At the press conference he stated the importance of fourth place. The tragedy is that I think if you gave Arsenal fans a choice between winning the FA Cup and missing a CL season and finishing fourth they would plump for the former. And as important as that Bayern game is he must know in his heart of hearts that Arsenal are not CL contenders. On the way home fro the game I heard some fans talk about how excited they were about Tuesday. Not that Arsenal would give the Germans a game mind, but to see the team that they think will win this year’s CL. Now that’s sad, really sad.
Anyway, what do you think? Did Arsene get the team badly wrong? Is he right to have so much faith in Giroud? Let us know in the comments.