The World of Arsenal in the Wake of the Swansea Aftermath
When the 2011/12 campaign kicked off with the stalemate against Newcastle, I had a quick view of the 20 teams in the Premier League and judging by the state of the Arsene Wenger’s squad in August, I ruled out any chance of Arsenal winning the Premier League. I was in the opinion that a good run of results in the Cup competitions will be good enough to help the club end its long-lasting trophy drought.
Last season, Arsenal stood no chance against Barcelona in the Champions League, wasn’t too impressive against Manchester United in the FA Cup and was highly unlucky in the Carling Cup final against Birmingham City. This season’s promoted teams looked really weak on paper and were highly tipped to plunge back to the bowels of the npower Championship.
Queens Park Rangers won the second tier division in English football and were followed closely by Norwich City. Swansea City had to use the gamble of the play-off final and the Welsh outfit was very impressive on the night to oust Reading for the last available slot to English top flight football. In my imagination, I fancied Arsenal to get 18 points from both encounters against these promoted sides but the line between reality and imagination is very thick.
Arsenal was hugely disappointing in the home tie against Swansea and had to depend on an error from signing of the season contender Vorm to grab all three points. For what its worth, the Gunners’ last Premier League match before the Swansea tie was a confidence-draining 8-2 defeat in the hands of Manchester United so caution was in the air that September afternoon. Arsenal swept Norwich aside when the club was riding high in confidence and ended 2011 with a victory over QPR.
2012 has seen the Gunners lose further ground on the leading pack and as expected, questions have been raised about the manager, his stubbornness in the club’s lack of activity in the transfer window, his team selection and the performances of certain players that are within the reins at Arsenal.
The defeat against Fulham was a very bitter pill to swallow but Sunday’s defeat against Swansea didn’t go down well with everyone connected with the club. The manager cursed the team’s bad luck with yet another poor officiating decision, lambasted his team’s defensive frailties and talked about how his team was made to rue wasted chances.
Many Arsenal fans voiced their frustrations on Twitter and they all spoke in different tunes. Some rained curses at Aaron Ramsey and Andrey Arshavin, some want the boss out, some want new signings while others want to see more of the Ox; as Wenger promised a few weeks ago:
“In 2012, at the beginning of the year, he will play games. Alex is a talented boy, it is all there – he just needs that toughness in the game and because every game for us is so tight.”
“At Aston Villa last week, again, I could have brought him on and you have the hesitation to do it – but you do not want him to be a little bit over-ruled by the intensity of the game.”
“He is ready to play. Alex is just missing that experience at the top level. You have to throw him a few games.”
Arsene Wenger has always done his best to defend his team after any defeat but excuses like refereeing decisions, injuries, suspensions and bad luck in general are just a small part of the big picture. Arsenal is in dire need of defensive coaches that will revolutionalize how things are done at the back.
Think of the space Bobby Zamora had to smash in his volley to perfection or the acres of space Nathan Dyer had to pick his spot before beating Wojciech Szczesny hands down. The amount of time Mario Balotelli had to settle, beat Alex Song before pulling the trigger or the time Danny Graham had to place the ball past Szczesny.
Blackburn’s Chris Samba has handed a transfer request to leave the club but signing four Sambas across the back line will not necessarily solve Arsenal’s defensive problems; it will only add quality personnel into the defensive department. In his Borussia Dortmund days, Tomas Rosicky fired four shots with every five passes received but in Arsenal, he’ll pass the ball five more times. This clearly shows that he’s playing according to Arsenal’s attacking tactics.
Arsenal’s next match comes up against Manchester United but both teams face each other with many key players still nursing injuries. I’ll save the match preview for another post.
If this will give you any comfort, Arsenal’s Champions League knockout phase opponents AC Milan lost at home to fierce rivals Internazionale and the Arsenal loanees are doing very well with Joel Campbell’s goal against Nancy the pick of the bunch.
As Thierry Henry said in the wake of the Swansea defeat,
“No matter what, you should support the team.”
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