On Sunday, Arsenal lost 3-0 to Everton at Goodison Park which has thrown their challenge for fourth-place into question. This comes just a couple of months after they were flying high at the top of the table and looking like real title challengers. That’s some decline.
After losses against Stoke and Everton, combined with a mauling by Chelsea, there is growing frustration amongst Arsenal fans at how they just don’t seem to be on the same physical, technical and in particular mental level as the very top teams.
On the surface of things it may seem like a reasonably good season for Arsene Wenger if they finish in the top four and go on, as they are expected to do, and win the FA Cup. However their capitulation in the final third of the season cannot be disregarded as unlucky. Excuses will not do.
With all of this in mind, I decided to list four key things Arsenal must do this summer to ensure a better season next time around.
Wenger must be realistic
Arsene Wenger not reinforcing weak areas in his squad in January was not a mistake or even naive, it was reckless. He has faith in his players which cannot be under-rated, but that decision was bordering on the ridiculous. The Gunners needed a proper holding midfielder and a proven goalscorer. In his press conferences and interviews he gave the impression that there was nobody out there who was a realistic buy to help the squad, but surely someone like Nemanja Matic, who has looked hugely impressive for Chelsea, would have fitted in perfectly? Yes, Flamini was brought in, but is he really the ball playing, holding midfielder Arsenal are crying out for? He’s a ball winner, nothing more.
Keeping a strike-force of just Giroud and Sanogo (who has never scored for Arsenal) is ridiculous when you consider the options that Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool have in comparison. It simply isn’t good enough.
Revolutionise the physio department
Doesn’t it always seem that Arsenal are missing a few key players when it comes to crucial points in the season? This is not a coincidence. The amount of muscle injuries which occur amongst their first team squad is unbelievable, with everyone seeming to suffer setbacks on the way back from their respective injuries. Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey this season sum this up for me. Its happened far too often to suggest Arsenal’s squad is simply injury prone or weak and as campaigns enter vital stages and Arsenal’s injury list piles up, like it is at the moment, it must be a huge concern for Wenger and the club as a whole.
The captaincy issue
Thomas Vermaelen cannot get himself into Arsene Wenger’s first XI without somebody being injured. The Belgian is a back-up centre back because the partnership between Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker has flourished and sticking with that is understandable. Why break up a successful partnership?
However, he is still club captain, but is on the bench. This needs to change as surely this cannot be healthy for the team, especially a side that is evidently lacking leaders. Per Mertesacker seems to be the on-field captain but without the title. Why not strip Vermaelen of the captaincy and give it to someone like Mertesacker who’s playing week in, week out? This is something i expect to see change hands over the summer as it is a very strange scenario. Every big side needs an ever present leader, and Arsenal simply don’t have one.
Arsenal’s results against the bigger teams over the last few years have been abysmal, there is no getting around that fact. They always seem to look dangerous, play nice football, seem to have finally gone to a new level, but then a big team rolls into town, plays physical football and hammers them. The players seem to go into hiding and are particularly weak physically. The performances at Anfield, The Etihad, Stamford Bridge and even Goodison Park showcase this. In all of these games they conceded the first goal and then just crumbled. There was no gut and no fight, with the team struggling to deal with the oppositions quality and just dig in and grind out a result or even just limit the scoreline. No grit, no bottle and no responsibility.
I possibly could’ve list a few more issues, but these standout for me. Until they’re addressed, Arsenal will continue to struggle in the major competitions.