Heading into last weekend’s Premier League fixtures the biggest talking point was centered around Arsenal and it’s manager Arsene Wenger. That weekend’s title crunch match with Chelsea would be his 1000th game in charge of Arsenal. The omen’s appeared good for Arsenal to stake their claim to the title. Yet it only took 20 minutes to show Arsenal are fatally flawed as title contenders. Where does this leave Arsenal fans?
This season many Arsenal fans expected different. After last season’s final day heroics the fans were promised a summer of transfer activity, to ensure the team would be challenging for the title from now on and not simply 4th place. Indeed, Arsenal were linked with a number of high profile players last summer such as Stefan Jovetic and Wayne Rooney. The biggest saga however centered around Liverpool striker Luis Suarez. Despite all the hype and rumor the only signing’s Arsenal had made by the time the new Premier League season started in August was a free transfer of young French Ligue 2 prospect Yaya Sanogo.
For the majority of fans this season has promised a lot in comparison to previous seasons yet as I type this on March 25th Arsenal currently sit in their almost customary position of 4th place in the Premier League. Whilst in previous season being 4th at this point of the season, 6 points ahead of Tottenham in 5th with a game in hand, would leave the club feeling content. This season the fans were led to believe things were going to be different as we sat atop the Premier League table for the majority of this season, backed up by the statement of intent by the club that was the record £42.5 million pound signing of German international Mesut Ozil.
The only constant therefore between this and the previous seasons is the fact that when it comes down to the high pressured games against fellow title contenders Arsenal have been woefully exposed. False hope was provided on this front after the team beat Liverpool comfortably 2-0 at the Emirates in November, yet in reality Luis Suarez didn’t play and at this point the Liverpool team had yet to gather the belief they currently possess.
Since that point Arsenal have played the current top 3 Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City 4 times and the stats have been ugly to say the least. December 14th saw Man City demolish Arsenal at the Etihad 6-3, with their only point against these teams coming soon after on the 23rd December, a 0-0 draw at home with Chelsea. Liverpool exacted their revenge with a 5-1 win at Anfield whilst things got worse last Saturday as Chelsea ran out 6-0 winners in a demoralizing display from Arsenal.
Whilst reasons behind the results and promises of a big response have been trotted out from club staff after all these defeats the simple fact appears in the trend carried over into this season; Arsenal looked second best against title opposition. This is a fact that massively saddens me as an Arsenal fan myself. I grew up being spoilt by previous Arsenal teams such as the famous “Invincible’s” side consisting of world class players such as Thierry Hnery, Patrick Vieira, Dennis Bergkamp, Cesc Fabregas and Robin Van Persie. Here’s a link to some highlights of the great Invincible’s season
Whilst now it seems Arsenal are the team everyone loves to mock and hate this season has shown the team is making the right progress to someday soon challenge for the title. The new Financial Fair Play rules coming into force in the next few seasons can only help a club traditionally prudent in it’s spending, whilst the fact the team has led the Premier League for such a long stretch until now does show significant improvement in comparison with the last few seasons. However, in the past Arsenal have had these seasons before slipping back into the mire of the 4th place battle after this. Therefore a summer of spending is needed to ensure we remain competitive going into next season as arguable all areas of the team need improvement if were to displace big spending teams like Chelsea and Manchester City as Premier League champions, bringing back previous memories of Arsene Wenger and players proudly raising the Premiership trophy aloft, of which we were so accustomed too.