Seven years and counting is a long time for a top football club to go without a single trophy to their name. The 2005 F.A Cup trophy is the only honour Arsenal have managed to get for a very long time. Coming close to the Champions League in 2006 and the League Cup in 2007 and 2011 are the examples of how close yet how far the Gunners are to silverware.
With Manchester City able to purchase players for ludicrous amounts and Chelsea following suit, clubs such as Arsenal have to be able to generate the money first in order for them to spend. The sale of Robin Van Persie did seem inevitable but the club he has strengthened, Manchester United are direct title rivals. But they won’t be any more because Arsenal will struggle to keep pace at the top.
Last week, in a game that typically defined Arsenal’s determination and ability, they dominated most of the play away to Manchester City and deserved three points. However, poor defending at the back from a corner allowed Joleon Lescott to score the opener. But for a Laurent Koscielny equaliser in the last ten minutes of the game, Arsenal could have gone home empty-handed. And this isn’t the first time you could say that.
Arsène Wenger loves to play a dominating game, where his players keep the ball and construct swift, passing moves to dissect their opponents. Yet, the amount of chances Arsenal create and the amount of chances Arsenal take are too few and far between. On the opening day of the season, Olivier Giroud wasted a glorious chance against Sunderland as he did against Stoke and Liverpool. Gervinho was the villain against Manchester City and his poor finishing frustrated fans. Yet one ball for the opposing side goes into the box and panic ensues.
Steve Bould has been deservedly collecting credit for tightening the back four and stopping the leaking of goals but when Arsenal do concede, it’s not due to fantastic finishes and glorious set-ups; it’s down to a defensive error. Wojciech Szczęsny was the culprit against Southampton and it was another lapse in concentration that got Koscielny in the bad books against Chelsea. No matter how brilliant the Gunners play and how much they take the game to the opposition, one mistake and the game is lost.
Koscielny didn’t cover himself in glory at the Juan Mata free-kick either and when his slight touch took the ball past a diving Vito Mannone, you just had to wonder whether or not Arsenal were ever really different to last year. Fans may argue that it’s only early in the season and top sides do concede goals too but the manner in which the North London club do it raises a lot of questions.
Until they find a solid centre-back pairing that are fearless when defending and carry no lack of decision-making, Arsenal will always continue to struggle when bombarded in the box. The defeat to Chelsea just goes to show that no matter how well any team play, defence is the most important aspect in victory.
Wenger may feel ‘extremely disappointed’ with Saturday’s result but he must keep his team going to the very end. Zonal marking may be causing more problems than solutions but since that glorious 2003/04 season, the Gunners have lacked defensively and offensively. Stop the threat and take the chances – that is the harsh lesson the boys in red will need to learn.
And until then, and as unforgiving as it is, Arsène Wenger and his side will go another year trophy-less.