Knocked out of the League Cup by League Two Bradford, beaten at home in the FA Cup by recently relegated Blackburn Rovers and up against one of the most in form teams in European football in the Champions League. Times are certainly tough at the Emirates Stadium. Add in the fact that Arsenal are fifth, four points behind north London rivals Tottenham and it is easy to see why Arsene Wenger is under arguably the greatest amount of pressure of his Arsenal career.
The main problem for Wenger now is that for yet another season his team are facing the prospect of finishing the season trophy-less. The FA Cup was Arsenal’s last shot at a trophy this season with the Premier League not an option and the Champions League increasingly unlikely. Ahead of the arrival of the Bundesliga leaders Arsenal fans are far from optimistic.
Bayern have been impervious in their division this season and are now 15 points clear at the top, almost the distance between Arsenal and Manchester United. For a team such as Arsenal this is far too long without a trophy and it is telling that since Arsenal last won a trophy Juventus have been relegated, promoted and taken the title back in Italy. Paul Scholes, the man who missed the decisive penalty in that FA Cup final all those years ago, has since won four Premier League titles and a Champions League.
This season’s performances in the cup competitions have been mediocre at best and given how far the Manchester clubs have moved away from the London side these are the matches the club needs to be prioritising. In the League Cup Arsenal coasted past Coventry before struggling to see off Reading and then being knocked out by Bradford.
In the FA Cup they were lucky not to lose against Swansea and Brighton and when Blackburn took the lead at the Emirates it almost seemed inevitable. It hasn’t been much better in Europe where Arsenal struggled against Schalke and lost away to Olympiakos, they finished a deserved second in their group and now face last year’s runners up, Bayern Munich.
The Germans have been impressive all year and after losing the 2012 final on their turf you can be sure they will be desperate to send departing coach Jupp Heynckes out with the trophy he desperately deserved last season.
The problem for Arsenal is that the squad just isn’t strong enough to compete in Europe and it shows when they face off with European giants like Bayern. There are few genuinely world class talents in the Arsenal team whilst when you look at Bayern you could argue that there are more or less a full team of them.This comes down to Wenger’s reluctance to pursue big name players or pay big fees for players.
Wenger has undoubtedly dropped the ball on a number of transfers recently and some big names have moved, some of whom were affordable for even Arsenal. Perhaps the primary example is the transfer of Demba Ba to Chelsea this January. The release clause of £7 million in Ba’s contract was not a secret, in fact it was extremely well documented over the summer and it beggars belief that Wenger chose to sign an unproven player in Olivier Giroud.
In terms of creativity Santi Cazorla has been inconsistent recently and until a few weeks ago his old team mate Isco has had a relatively cheap release clause of £17.5 million in his contract. His contract has now been renewed and if Arsenal now want to sign the young playmaker they’ll have to spend £35 million which is something they have never done. You have to think that until Arsenal decide to break their record transfer fee, which is yet to go over £20 million they will never catch up with the other top clubs.
Wenger has repeatedly stressed that qualifying for the Champions League is a trophy in itself and whilst he has never failed to achieve this just how long can the Arsenal board persist with the current system? Since 2005 three different teams have won the Premier League, four have won the FA Cup, five have won the League Cup.
Five have also won the Champions League including English teams Chelsea and Manchester United. When you factor in teams like Portsmouth and Birmingham City winning the FA and League Cups respectively it just isn’t good enough that Arsenal haven’t won anything in what will probably become eight years after this season. Something has to change whether it be the club’s transfer policy or the manager or even both and it has to come this season. Last season Arsenal lost the talismanic Robin van Persie and if things continue at this rate it could be a while before a player of Van Persie’s calibre graces the Emirates again.
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