“I have not failed. I have just found 10, 000 ways that won’t work.”
This quote by the great inventor Thomas Edison aptly describes the school of thought of the current Arsenal team and in particular its coach, Arsene Wenger.
After another nondescript season (their eighth without a title) Arsenal as always have had a sudden burst of enthusiasm towards the end of the season. After a winning run that was momentarily halted by a barren draw with Everton the Gunners are currently in fourth position, seemingly poised for a 16th consecutive Champions League qualification.
They say that success is measured in different ways. At Chelsea Jose Mourinho was shown the door despite winning 6 trophies in 3 glamorous seasons. In doing so he became the most successful manager in the club’s history. In other clubs a win percent of over 67% would have been sufficient for immortality. Not at Chelsea.
Liverpool is yet another classic example. In the period of time that Arsene Wenger has been at Arsenal Liverpool have had 5 different managers in their quest for a return to glory.
This scenario (save at Manchester United) is replicated in the managerial changes that have faced all the top clubs from Manchester City to Tottenham.
So 2, 892 days later without a trophy the question that one asks is: Why is Arsenal not realizing it’s potential?
LACK OF END PRODUCT
Arsenal have always been the traditional pass masters. Cute little, intricate patterns all over the field that one probably needs a protractor and slide rule to conjure. The end product has unfortunately not been as impressive.
In trying to address this problem Wenger brought on board Lukas Podolski, Santi Carzola and Olivier Giroud. The acquisition of these players has without doubt brought in an added dimension but still the lethal finishing of the likes of Henry and Van Persie is lacking.
Wenger will have to consider spending big to lure goal machines like Liverpool’s Luis Suarez, Zenit’s Hulk, Atletico’s Falcao or Brazilian Neymar if the Gunners are to become effective title challengers again.
RETENTION OF KEY PLAYERS
The main clog in the wheel has been the consistent departure of top players over the seasons. Thierry Henry, Robin Van Persie, Samir Nasri, Cesc Fabregas to name but a few have left a dent that has never been adequately filled.
Valued at 1.33 billion pounds by Forbes placing them 4th in the list of the richest clubs Arsenal has the financial muscle to purchase top players. Retaining them is another matter all together.
With a healthy bank balance and despite the Financial Fair Play Rules that are now applicable Arsenal is in a position to ensure competitive wages for its players. This in addition to setting up a framework to ensure regular success at country and continental level will help retain some of its top players thus ensuring a return to winning ways.
GOING THE EXTRA MILE
Last season Arsenal scored a total of 74 goals in their 38 games and won 21 games drawing 7 and losing 10 to finish third with 70 points. They were 19 points behind the joint leaders- the Manchester clubs.
In comparison this season the Gunners with 32 games played are fourth having scored 60 goals notched up 17 wins 9 draws and 7 defeats for 60 points. They will likely hit the 70 point mark this season as well. The statistics depict one simple fact. The Gunners are good in sustaining consistent points tallies. One thing is however also evident, Arsenal will not go beyond third position in the table unless they go the extra mile.
Going the extra mile necessitates a burning desire for success and a mentality for overcoming adversity. This are attributes that the current Arsenal team lack and are virtues that the last successful Gunner team, the class of 2004/2005, possessed in abundance. To achieve this they may have to consider shuffling their technical bench to bring in tacticians known to focus on developing mental strengths.
Arsenal have flattered to deceive in the cup competitions. Knocked out of the FA Cup by Championship club Blackburn and embarrassingly eliminated from the Capital One cup by Fourth Tier outfit Bradford the Gunners were also edged out of the Champions League by German side Bayern Munich.
Wenger has over the years deployed a system where younger players are utilized for the FA and the league Cup and the senior team retained for the league and the Champions League.
However consideration can be given to developing two strong sides which will have a blend of senior and up-coming talent so that the Gunners can attack on all fronts.
In summary the problem with Arsenal is simple: lack of focus, commitment, inadequate strategic planning and limited desire to challenge at the very highest level. The person responsible for providing a platform for improving the fortunes of the Gunners is the manager himself. The buck stops with him.
It seems Wenger follows the mantra of W.P. Kinsella who once said that success is getting what you want whereas happiness is wanting what you get. At the moment Arsenal seem content with what they have. However to return to the lofty heights they inhabited in the 90s, they will have to remember that Success in footballing terms is measured by the contents of your trophy cabinet.
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