Arsenal and the Champions League are a match made in hell. Twice drawing Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona side in the knockout stages and twice drawing Bayern Munich, it would be easy for the Gunners to make excuses and praise the opposition as ‘the best in Europe’.
After years of glorious failure how much longer will Arsenal supporters continue to accept a sub-standard transfer policy and a season that ends in February?
You can blame last night’s result on many factors but there seems to be one that stands out from the rest. It’s not the sending off, missing a penalty or even dodgy referee decisions, Arsenal did this to themselves in the summer when they failed to strengthen in all of the areas in the pitch they needed to.
The club is no stranger to injuries, having had Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Rosicky, Arteta, Wilshere, Diaby, Ramsey, Gibbs, Walcott and Podolski spending time on the sidelines this season to name a few. Whilst every club has injuries to deal with Arsenal do not have the squad to cover all positions when the shit hits the fan. The club failed to prepare in a familiar narrative that has left Gunners fans fuming and frustrated at the club that refuses to adapt to the modern game.
Refusal to buy a back-up for Olivier Giroud is the main failure. While Yaya Sanogo did well in his second start for the club against Bayern, an injury-prone and inexperienced striker starting in the knockout stages (ahead of the promiscuous Giroud and questionable Podolski) is a damning condemnation of Wenger’s transfer policy. Whilst the defence is strong and the midfield has reasonable cover after Walcott’s injury, the club is left with only one recognisable striker leaving them unable to truly compete (Bendtner doesn’t count).
Look at Manchester City for example who have four excellent forwards at their disposal (Jovetic, Dzeko, Negredo and Aguero) even if three of them got injured they would have a top player to lead the line, something that is completely absent from the North London club. An injury to Giroud this season leaves the club with the choice of starting an under-21 Frenchman, a disinterested Dane or the seemingly unfancied German forward leading the attack. Far from ideal for a club with ambitions to bring glory to the Emirates.
Gunners fans rejoiced when Mesut Ozil joined the ranks but one player cannot carry a club. Arsenal watched target after target sign for other clubs while sitting on their hands. This has to change. If Arsenal want to win a major trophy money must be spent, Arsene Wenger may not like it but the game has changed and you have to adapt to survive.
Whilst Arsenal are sitting pretty in the league and are involved in the latter stages of the FA cup, last night’s loss to the European Champions has all but ruled out the club advancing to the Quarter Finals of the Champions League this season. At the same point every year the clubs season starts to unravel, at what point do the supporters say maybe Wenger needs to move on?
Is the finishing 2nd or 3rd and an extended cup run enough to justify a fat new contract for Arsene Wenger?
Undoubtedly Arsene has been a great servant to the club but after almost a decade without a trophy to reward the Frenchman with a lucrative deal is madness and should never happen. If another summer goes by without some major additions then the club will continue to be left behind and be the richest club in the country without a trophy.
Sitting on a transfer pot of over £120m, Arsenal have the means to purchase the best quality players in the world. The club needs 3 or 4 key signings, not free-transfers, short-term loans or quick fixes. Quality, tried and tested household names, that’s what the club is lacking. Ozil is a great start but the rest of the starting eleven needs a shake up.
Whilst Arsenal claim they are no longer a selling club (having watched Clichy, Fabregas, Adebayor, Nasri and Robin Van persie exit the club in the past) they are certainly not a buying club, not yet anyway.
Unfortunately the buck stops with the manager, I struggle to think of a single club elsewhere in the world that would operate in the same way. Managers have been sacked at Chelsea and Real Madrid after winning the European cup, how long would a manager who wins nothing get at Stamford Bridge or the Bernabeu? It certainly wouldn’t be anywhere near 8 years.
Stability is important at a football club but supporting the manager for the sake of supporting the manager makes no sense. Would you blame Wilshere, Ramsey or Oxlade-Chamberlain for thinking of making a move elsewhere after years of being the bridesmaid and never the bride?
At the end of it all Arsene will sign a new deal and the only person who has a real impact on how this club will develop going forward is the Frenchman. So for us Arsenal supporters all there is left to do is get behind the team and hope that the cheque book is opened in the summer.
By Colin Armstrong – Arsenal fan – @_ColinArmstrong