Has Wenger gone too far this time?
The blood and thunder contest that is the Barclays Premier League in England has started and, after the first round of matches, one thing I can say with conviction is that there are 37 more matches to go and nothing is settled.
The champions, Manchester City, played with the swagger, that comes with being champions and having a deep squad of really talented players, in their win over newly promoted Southampton. Even when the team from the south coast of England took a shock 2-1 lead not even their fans expected them to hold out. City breached them with minimum fuss and are off and running.
European champions, Chelsea, also tore past an alarmingly lethargic Wigan with even more ease as the sheer quality of movement from Hazard, Mata and Torres ripped the hosts apart time and again. Frankly, the 2-0 score did not do Chelsea’s dominance justice.
Something bothered me though while watching the match: why on earth did Wigan allow Rodellega to depart to Fulham when they only have Franco di Santo as an out and out striker? The Argentine is so poor in terms of movement in and around the penalty area that it is totally shocking that he is a Premier League striker. Seriously, he is not even good enough for top championship striker. No matter how much he is being paid it is a big waste.
Manchester United went to Goodison Park without FOUR of their recognised central defenders and were duly put to the sword by the Everton tactic of hitting the shockingly nimble-footed giant, Fellaini, early and having the fleet-footed pair of Osman and Pienaar to buzz around him. Everton deserved their victory, of which the margin could so easily have been better. However, it still took a goal-line clearance from the hugely impressive Jagielka to preserve their lead and keep the three points their all round play had so richly deserved. United will regroup and make a fist of the title race.
In 2004 Arsene Wenger masterminded Arsenal to go through a whole league season unbeaten as the club won the Premier League title. They did this playing a brand of attacking football that got rave reviews all over the world. With Vieira, Parlour, Edu, Silva and company taking it in turns to hold sway in the centre of midfield, the forwards of Henry, Bergkamp, Kanu, Ljunberg and Wiltord frightened the life out of the opposition.
The previous season they had lost the league narrowly to Man Utd but did win the FA Cup but they were determined to win the title back and they did, making history. The next season they finished second to Chelsea and won the FA Cup in one of the most one-sided FA Cup finals between two teams of the same league in recent times on penalties.
Paul Scholes missed for Manchester United while skipper Patrick Vieira scored the winning kick. It is instructive to note that from the United team that lost to Arsenal in what is still Arsenal’s last silverware to date, Paul Scholes, Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs and Darren Fletcher are still with the club. How many from Arsenal are left?
I had written in an earlier blog that Arsenal need to win the League this season. If they don’t then the FA Cup or the Champions League or else the manager’s reputation is going to go down and probably through the floor. I have always maintained that Wenger dismantled the 2004 team too soon.
His policy of not offering longer contracts to players of 30 years made very little sense when you find out that some of these players went on to play longer at other clubs. Also, with talented youngsters coming through they need guidance from experienced campaigners but they are lost with the moving on of these players.
Last season, Nasri and Fabregas left the football club. One understands the departure of the Spaniard while the French man’s could be motivated by a lot of other things. This season last season’s captain and talisman Robin van Persie has left to join Manchester United while the lynchpin of the midfield in the last 2 and half seasons Alex Song has gone to Barcelona.
The Dutchman was in the last year of his contract and had said he was not going to sign a new contract so one could say that the club’s hands were forced, however, why was he allowed to enter the final year of his contract? Theo Walcott is also another in the last year of his contract - how come? Alex Song still had 3 years of his contract left to run, so why was he allowed to leave?
Ridiculous sponsored stories have appeared in the press accusing the Cameroonian of being “lazy in training” and that he had “come to blows with new asst manager Steve Bould in training the last few weeks”. All very convenient now that he has left the club so as to tarnish his image in the minds of the club’s fans who are no doubt mystified at these departures. What exactly informs this plan to let some players leave and start all over again? Why is there this impression that winning trophies are not important to a manager as driven as Arsene Wenger?
Arsenal fans have short fuse when trophies are mentioned and they tend to get tetchy with anyone who tries to question the reasoning behind the departures of influential footballers from the club and their current inability to win trophies or even challenge for the league title into the last month of the season.
Santi Carzola, Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski have arrived but would Arsenal not have been stronger if Van Persie and Song were there to complement them rather than making way for their arrivals? Staggering.
My long-held belief is that the Arsenal board are happy with Arsene as long as he keeps the team in the Champions League group stages and their account in the black – a deal they might have reached when The Emirates Stadium was built because the manager was desperate for a move away from Highbury.
There is a huge banner at The Emirates that says “In Arsene We Trust”. It seems that the club’s fans are happy with their current drought for what I hear and read from them, the anger is usually directed at the departing players rather than the club that allows them to leave.
Thierry Henry said it publicly that he had to go to Barcelona so he could have a chance of winning the Champions League. Song has said he hopes to win trophies now he is at Barcelona. Clichy and Nasri said same when they left for Man City last summer only Fabregas said he just wanted to go back home. What do these mean? No matter how much money footballers get, the really special talent want to show their medals at the end of their careers and it has become increasingly obvious that Arsenal was not going to provide these.
There are many excited by the new arrivals at Arsenal but somehow I think this season might just be a big season from the man they call Le Prof.