Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Are Arsenal now also-rans in the Premier League?

David Nugent in Editorial, English Premier League 19 Mar 2017

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Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has announced he will reveal his decision about his future very soon

Arsenal suffered another Premier League defeat at eighth-place West Brom on Saturday afternoon, going down to a 3-1 defeat at the Hawthorns.

In truth the home side did not need to even play that well to win the game, but were gifted three goals by a leaky Arsenal defence.

This game illustrated why Arsenal have not won a major trophy in the last decade. There was no spirit, no leadership and even less organisation.

Where was the organisation?

Arsenal have been poorly organised in defence for a long time. Captain Laurent Koscielny is often lauded as the Gunners best defender. However, that is not saying much, as his competition is not exactly tough.

It struck me during the West Brom game that Koscielny may be part of the problem and not the solution. No doubt he is a good defender, but as the dominant force in that backline and captain, he should be organising his teammates.

Yet he is just not vocal enough. The central defensive partnership of Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi should be strong. For some reason, though the Gunners are conceding goals left, right and centre.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not laying all the blame at Koscielny’s door. However, surely he has to take some responsibility on the pitch. He is the main man in defence.

West Brom scored two goals from set-pieces against the Gunners when scorer Craig Dawson was basically left free to head home, not just once but twice.

However, the biggest responsible lies on the shoulders of boss Arsene Wenger. He signs the players and also organises the team. For the last decade and a bit, it has been the same old story for Arsenal in the fact they have a soft centre.

Too many average players

Arsene Wenger has had a habit of trying to unearth gems and mould them into stars. Unfortunately, the policy has not proven that successful in recent years. Long gone are the signing of the likes of Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit.

Wenger was at the peak of his powers when his scouting and coaching methods were ahead of their time. However, it seems that most of the other Premier League clubs have caught up in both areas. The veteran Frenchman does not seem to have updated his methods in a long time, though.

That has been part of Arsenal’s problems in the last decade. They have signed the likes of Calum Chambers, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott, who were all regarded as highly talented youngsters at their previous clubs.

None of the trio have fulfilled their potential at the club. Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott have shown flashes of their talent. Walcott is actually enjoying one of his best goalscoring seasons. Yet is still really struggling to convince at the top level.

Oxlade-Chamberlain is versatile and has talent. However, sometimes he seems to lack confidence in his own ability. The England midfielder is reportedly looking to leave the Emirates Stadium in the summer in search of regular first team football.

Youngster Calum Chambers was sent out on loan to Middlesbrough last summer, having struggled to establish himself in the Arsenal team. The 22-year-old has actually enjoyed a good season in the north east. Although he is currently out of action through injury.

Looking at the Arsenal squad and there are very few players in the Gunners team that would get into the other top four or five teams in the top-flight. Hector Bellerin, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez are certainly players that would interest the other top English teams. However, arguably few very few others would.

The standard of the Arsenal squad has been watered down over the years. Their rivals have slowly strengthened their squad and the Gunners are in danger of being left behind.

Arsenal could struggle to make the top four

Arsenal are once again in a battle to finish in the Champions League spots this season, with Wenger’s team odds of 9/4 to finish in the top four. Gunners fans have taken for granted finishing in the top four in recent years, almost believing blindly that their team will somehow scrape into the Champions League berth.

However, this season could be the one that ends Arsenal’s incredible run of finishing in the Premier League’s top four. This season could well also be the final season of Arsene Wenger at Arsenal.

The veteran French boss’ contract expires in the summer. He has told the press that he knows what he is doing in the future and that he will tell supporters ‘very soon’. It might be an idea for the boss to let the Arsenal hierarchy know as well.

He is renowned for being very stubborn and it would not be a major surprise to see him extend his contract. The signs suggest Wenger staying at the north London club would be no good for the club or Wenger himself.

Quite frankly his current team are average. The Arsenal supporters deserve better than some of the poor displays their team have produced in recent weeks, months and years. Whether they will get it in the near future remains unclear.

Are Arsenal now also-rans in the Premier League?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Nugent


David is a freelance football writer with nearly a decade of experience writing about the beautiful game. The 33-year-old has written for over a dozen websites and also an international soccer magazine offline.
Arguably his best work has come as an editorial writer for Soccernews, sharing his good, bad and ugly opinions on the world’s favourite sport. During David’s writing career he has written editorials, betting previews, match previews, banter, news and opinion pieces.

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