Under fire Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger prevented a third successive home defeat with a 2-1 victory over Aston Villa on Saturday. Last week's losses to Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup and Bayern Munich in the Champions League have seen the Gunners in an all too familiar scenario.
With no silverware for the past 8 years, the fans are fast becoming more and more frustrated with the Frenchman. The lack of signings in the January window caused confusion among the supporters, when it was clear the club had to strengthen if they were to have any chance of a trophy to show at the end of the season.
The humiliation started in December with the Capital One Cup. Arsenal were knocked out by League Two Bradford, situated three divisions below the Gunners, in the quarter-final. A full-strength side could not overcome the Bantams, who rode their luck at times, but it wasn't until the dying minutes of the game that Thomas Vermaelen equalised to send the game into extra-time and then onto the dreaded penalty shoot-out, which Bradford won. Vermaelen became the villain by missing the all important last spot kick.
Arsenal have been two teams this season, poor from one game to brilliant the next. They showed their quality in games against Tottenham, Newcastle and West Ham, all of which they came from behind after gifting their opponents the lead through 'playground' defending.
The defending has been their downfall. Not one defender can say they have had half a dozen decent games.
The captain, Vermaelen, a one time rock at the back, looks nothing like the player who scored regularly in his first season. It also makes you wonder how the giant of a man Per Mertesacker can not head a ball in defence and is way too slow.
Bacary Sagna looks like he wishes he was somewhere else and Carl Jenkinson appears to be too rash in his timing of tackles. Andre Santos, the £7m signing, looks at times as if he has been plucked from a kid's playground. Wenger must have been glad as he was dispatched to Brazil on loan for the rest of the season.
The one January signing Wenger was forced to make, owing to yet another injury to the long-suffering Kieran Gibbs, is the Spanish left-back Nacho Monreal, who looks a capable player, but it's early days yet.
The midfield has no teeth, though the one shining light they do have is Jack Wilshere, who is just back from 17 months injured. Wilshere tries to drive the team through the mess, but he's been seen throwing his arms in the air in disbelief.
Mikel Arteta, About Diaby (when fit), Santi Cazorla (when he turns up) and Aaron Ramsey all fail week in week out to do their bit, and why is Lukas Podolski substituted every match? Why, when an experienced head is needed with some drive and vision, is Tomas Rosicky left on the bench until it's too late? And what of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, has he suddenly become inept?
To their credit the goals have been spread around this season, Theo Walcott with 18, Olivier Giroud with 14, Podolski with 13 and Cazorla with 11. All these players are with or close to double-figure assists.
They have no defence and the biggest culprit is the first-choice 'keeper, the all too confident Wojciech Szczesny, who doesn't seem to be able to catch a cold, let alone hang on to a cross or a shot. He's the only 'keeper I know who parries a shot consistently back into the strikers' path like a present.
Wenger, in his 17 years in the English Premier League, has contributed enormously to making it what it is today. I would imagine nearly every manager up and down the country would agree with that. His record speaks for itself, he is no doubt Arsenal's most successful manager. The past 8 years have been trophyless but still he remains, not even thinking about quitting.
Apparently, at Thursday's AGM his future wasn't even on the agenda. It'll be interesting what happens come May if, for the fist time, he fails to qualify for the Champions League. Who will the cash-minded board turn to then? I doubt there's a manager out there prepared to do what Wenger's put up with for the last 7 years.
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