By Richard Popple
There has been plenty of doom-mongering amongst journalists, pundits and opposition fans about Arsenal during previous pre-seasons. Seemingly every summer predictions are made about Arsenal’s lack of depth and the battle we face to beat Tottenham to fourth place and this year has been no different. Football really has become very swallow and completely in awe of money when coming fourth is the be all and end all. Frankly, the predictions and taunting from other fans is becoming a bind for many Arsenal fans, who like myself face questions about our manager and the clubs aspirations. In the past I have simply shrugged off suggestions that Wenger has lost the plot or that the club do not want to take financial risks. But the writing seems to be on the wall, at least for the next few seasons.
Even the most optimistic fan will concede that the possibility of Arsenal overpowering both Chelsea and Manchester United is unlikely at best. Of course this was the concern voiced last season and to some degree Wenger and the team proved people wrong by finishing a comfortable 3rd. But we didn’t win the league and the stats don’t lie. Three seasons without a trophy is a phrase drubbed into every Arsenal heart. Last night’s victory in Holland was professional without being reassuring. I found myself wondering where this current crop of players can lead us this season.
We are of course ravaged with injuries at present and even United or Chelsea would struggle with so many players out. But what have the likes of Rosicky, Diaby, Senderos and Eduardo actually achieved for Arsenal. They are all very talented players and of course Eduardo reserves special sympathy, but the point is, what will these players bring to the side when fit? Having players out injured is a nightmare for any club, but using it to mask a lack of squad dept could also be damaging.
In terms of transfers Wenger has not done anything to reassure the fan this summer. I still harbour doubts over Adebayor’s behaviour this summer and I simply do not buy the ‘Well he didn’t actually say he wanted to leave’ excuse. The fact that he spent three months trying to negotiate deals for more money suggests that we have a power-driven striker who really let last season’s terrific displays go to his head. I detest greedy footballers but I will not single out Adebayor for unfair treatment. With each passing summer the stories of players holding clubs to ransom seems to get worst and if it continues fans will start to step back from the game. We are lucky as Arsenal fans that our club still maintains its morals and if Adebayor has told Wenger that he truly wants to stay and fight for the team then I will give the Togo striker the benefit of the doubt.
Losing players has been another tradition that Arsenal have developed over the last few seasons. This season has been no different although as long as an experienced midfielder is secured we are no worse off than last season. I’m afraid though we don’t seem to be any better off in terms of numbers or defensive security. It does not take a genius to work out that last season’s shortcomings were down to conceding sloppy goals. When Wenger stated at the start of the summer he intended to strengthen the defence every fan breathed a sigh of relief. Unfortunately, the manager has seen something to change his mind. His continued negligence when it comes to our defence I believe will hamper us when challenging for the title. I am not against the manager’s methods. Every club in the world would be delighted if their team played like Arsenal, or if youth players were given a chance to blossom and become stars for the club.
His tactical knowledge is superb and his ability to lift players and instil a never-say-die attitude should be applauded. He is the most successful manager in the clubs history and will always have a place in the club’s future. I’m delighted that he has never left Arsenal and he most certainly won’t be pushed, but Arsene knows one thing. If this season ends in disappointment for the club, nothing will change, no drastic action will be taken and more talent will leave, whilst others arrive. There will be no quick fix at Arsenal like at Chelsea or Manchester United. We are in it for the long term and the board and Wenger should be supported and believed in.