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Arsenal – from a club to an academy

The Barclays Premier League and other European leagues have resumed.

The ‘madness’ of the movement of players has still not abated with a few more days left for last-minute wheeling and dealing.

As the dust gradually settles, however, we can already see through the ‘morning mist’ to what could lie ahead for the rest of the season.

After watching a few games in the BPL, permit me to share a few of my projections and thoughts on Arsenal. Supporters of the Gunners can now stop reading!

I like Arsenal even if I am not an ardent supporter of the club. They attempt to play attractive possession football just like the club I fervently support - Barcelona.

I also like Arsene Wenger. Of all the renowned premiership managers he is the only one I have ever met one-on-one and had a conversation with. He really impressed me with his knowledge and appreciation of African players.

Arsene Wenger and Arsenal committed a big blunder at the start of the 2012/13 season. They let go their best player, Van Persie, and compounded the matter by selling him to their greatest rival, Manchester United. In one season, Man United turned him into a goal-scoring machine, with Arsenal as one of his many ‘victims’ during the course of the same season.

As the 2013/2014 starts, Van Persie has matured like red wine. His spate of injuries while he was in Arsenal has disappeared and his muscles are bulging everywhere. He has become the most lethal and consistent striker in the BPL and one of the most prolific finishers in front of goal in the world.

Unfortunately for Arsenal, they appear to still be groping. Like Nigeria a few years ago, they are defined by their inconsistency and unpredictability.

How else can one explain how a team could play its first home match in front of a full capacity crowd of its faithful followers, with an awesome 100 per cent pre-season record, and capitulate so woefully (by 3-1) to a team that had a poor record against them on home ground (Aston Villa).

The very next week, the same Arsenal club went across Europe to Turkey, played against one of the dreaded teams in that country that rarely loses at home (Fenerbahce), loaded with two great Nigerian players (Yobo, who had an outstanding performance and Emenike, the great Nigerian striker making his debut for the club) and handed them an easy, heartbreaking, 3-1 trouncing.

In the space of one week Arsenal’s performance oscillated from woeful to brilliant.

For the first time I saw disenchantment with Arsene Wenger written on the faces of some of his staunchest local supporters. They have never witnessed a worse start to their season. One of them angrily remarked that if Wenger does not leave the club, the club will leave him. How that will work I do not know.

Another supporter said that the directors of Arsenal should change the status of the club to that of an academy – a nursery for grooming players, which is what the club has become in the past few years under Wenger.

Yet another supporter said that nature will inevitably take its course and Wenger will soon leave.

Any which way, the world of football is watching with bated breath to see what will happen this weekend.

The faithful fans of the Gunners are in a daze. For the first time most of them agree that the club’s financial philosophy must be changed. Wenger must start to spend big in order to compete to win. This season, from all indications so far, Arsene Wenger has got it wrong. He must stop being ‘the miserly one’.

The BPL has started with its usual bang. It is left to be seen how Arsenal will survive the season without changing its strategy, spending big and hiring a mega-player for the first time.

One thing is for sure. So far the Gunners do not look like a team that can go all the way to the top of the BPL.

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