By Richard Popple
(I have been on holiday for two weeks in the jungle of Mombassa and had no internet access. This article was written on the 26th August 2008 so please take this into account when reading Richard’s article)
After a very disappointing defeat at Fulham there has been what can only be described as panic amongst many Arsenal fans. Having read some of the fans forum boards and articles on various websites it is clear that there are many who believe this could be Arsene’s last season. After two games the managerial guillotine is already beginning to be sharpened and the unthinkable thing is, is that Wenger is topping the bill at the moment. Sanity however will prevail, and in most fans eyes and the boards he remains the only man to take the club forward.
The most alarming factor in Saturday’s defeat was the lack of desire and creativity shown by the team. It has been painfully clear in season’s past that we could be beaten on our travels by tough, physical and aggressive opponents. However, Fulham didn’t play like this at all. They didn’t even play that well themselves. They worked very hard for each other and put the Arsenal midfield under pressure. Our midfield forgot how to pass the ball and if Denilson has a future at the club past the end of this season I would be very surprised. Having exploded onto the scene two years ago he has become an increasing enigma. He is a young man who simply does not play enough football. But he is clearly not good enough to dictate the midfield in Fabregas’s absence.
It has been well documented that we have a long injury list at the moment. The bench we had on Saturday was very young indeed, but my worry with Wenger is, does he really trust his young players to be up to the job? During his post-match interview he openly admitted that Kolo Toure is not fit and is not playing with confidence. The defender is still recovering from malaria so why play him? Johann Djourou played against both West Brom and FC Twente. In both games we kept clean sheets, yet Wenger was not prepared to play him against Fulham. Why? Simply he doesn’t believe Djourou is up to the job. This is not the only example of double standards regarding his younger players. Aaron Ramsey is a £5m signing who we were told would be fighting for a first team place. Fighting obviously means sitting on the bench whilst the first 11 struggle to a 1-0 defeat. Why was the teenager not introduced? Denilson and Eboue were awful and even if Ramsey had done nothing, what was there to lose. Again, Wenger betrayed his trust of the young player. Jack Wilshire at just 16 is a very young man indeed, but why would you include him in the first team squad, expose him during the pre-season tournaments (during which he was fantastic) and then leave him on the bench?
Anyone would think we have an abundance of defenders judging by the amount we are allowing too leave on loan. I understand that the players need experience and in the case of Armand Traore it is fantastic that he will be playing premiership football with Portsmouth. In the case of Senderos though, his future at the club looks bleak. I’m not sure what the reasoning behind loaning him out is. The move to Milan has the option to go permanent next year and Arsenal are obviously going to try and trigger that clause. If this is the case, why not sell him now and get some money for a replacement. With 6 days to go in the transfer window, I for one am not holding my breath that we will bring anyone else in. I truly hope we do, but what is more important is that Wenger trusts his young players. If he doesn’t, then why would he have put so much impetus on nurturing players over the past 5-6 years?