This is a club that went an entire season unbeaten over a decade ago, but has failed to win the title ever since. Credits to Wenger for successfully enduring the tough times that happened in between, and preventing a potential financial crisis and abandonment of the top 4 spot. After the stadium switch, Arsenal had to sell their star players each and every season, and still Wenger ensured stability and kept the boat afloat. Kept the boat afloat is an understatement, rather. He went close to winning the PL once and took Arsenal to a couple of cup finals.
The footballing philosophy was still maintained and Arsenal were still one of the most beautiful clubs to watch in terms of style of play. No one in the world but for Arsene Wenger could have possibly done that season in and season out. A lot of players have him to thank for having been shown faith in spite of underwhelming performances and injuries. This is a club that has over the years maintained its class and ethics come what may.
But times have changed now. The number of managers who are 60+ has reduced considerably, and the young managers who have come to the fore are more adept with their tactics and focus only on winning. Trophies speak about the glory of a club.
Arsenal’s transfer record was smashed when Wenger shocked the whole world signing Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid for 42.5 million pounds. He disappointed and caused embarrassment with his 40 million plus 1 pound failed bid for Luis Suarez. Robin van Persie was failed to be replaced, as Wenger rather chose to have faith on Giroud. However, the signing of Mesut Ozil certainly showed intent, and Arsenal put their words into action after dramatically winning the FA Cup and breaking the trophy drought. That was Arsenal showing intent. Following it up with signing Alexis Sanchez and winning another FA Cup, it was high time Arsenal made a significant challenge for the PL title.
In the summer of 2015, Arsenal signed Petr Cech from Chelsea after months of negotiations. Wenger not only signed a world class goalkeeper, but he signed him from a direct rival. Whether he was their first choice goalkeeper or not, it was a statement made by Arsenal in England. A statement of intent. A statement that Arsenal meant business that time around. But, a signing that was supposed to be followed up with the signing of a world class striker, was not so done as Wenger chose to keep faith on Giroud yet again.
Cech remained to be the only player signed in the window, as Gooners were left ruing the failure to sign a defensive midfielder and a striker. Coquelin definitely was good enough, the major problem was with Arsenal having to turn to Arteta and Flamini if an injury occurred to him. So at the end of the transfer window, Arsenal fans were left hoping for injuries to not occur to Coquelin and specially Cazorla. And Wenger was made to regret his mistake, for after a fantastic start to the season, Arsenal lost Coquelin and Cazorla in quick succession during November, and had to make do with Ramsey and Flamini in midfield.
What was feared by Arsenal fans, was exactly what happened. Giroud continued to deliver in almost every match, but soon the goals dried up after the opening week of the present calendar year. It was yet another signing that could have been done, and was not done. Arsene’s quality of showing faith on his players that once reaped enormous benefits, had then backfired. There was only so much a player could improve on his quality. Giroud was good and hardworking, but simply not good enough to deliver the league title. He was simply not in the league of Kane, Vardy and Aguero.
February marked the return of Danny Welbeck and his injury time winner in a crunch match against Leicester offered Arsenal a lifeline. The gap between them was cut down to 2 points, and Arsenal were gunning for the title once again. Wenger had someone to turn to, who could offer something different at center forward from what Giroud and Walcott had been offering. But it didn’t make much of a difference, because subsequent losses to Manchester United and Swansea City caused Arsenal’s title challenge to derail and instead fight for a place in the top 4. It was deja vu, all over again. Arsenal though ended the season on a positive note finishing 1 point above arch-rivals Tottenham at second, the best finish since 2005.
Arsenal, however, should not get carried away by their second place finish. It was an underwhelming season that exposed Arsene Wenger’s lack of ambition and inability to take risks when having the luxury to, in the transfer market. Arsenal desperately needed world class players at GK, CB, CDM and CF. Though a signing of a world class CB was afforded to be delayed, the need for such players in the other three positions was mandatory. And it was largely exposed after Coquelin and Cazorla got injured, and the trio of Giroud, Walcott and Welbeck didn’t prove to be good enough. Giroud may have scored 82 goals for Arsenal in his 4 seasons, but he has his own limitations and Arsenal cannot afford to forego them if they aim to win the title.
With the signing of Granit Xhaka seeming to be all but done, Wenger has found an answer to the requirements of a world class CDM with the ability to break-up attacks, hold the ball, and distribute it wisely. Elneny was just a filler and will act as a cover for the departing Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini, and the ageing Santi Cazorla. Wenger has openly stated that he chooses to keep faith on Giroud for the upcoming season while vowing to buy a cover for Danny Welbeck.
Arsenal fans will only be hoping that it is not the same mistake of not signing a world class striker all over again. As much as Wenger knows what he is doing, he is not a man well-known for learning from his mistakes. He is rather known as a stubborn personality who refutes to budge from his principles. It was the primary reason for Arsenal failing to challenge for the title again, and with only one year remaining in Wenger’s contract, the fans will revolt against any idea of extension if the same factors result in Arsenal not challenging for the title again next season. Arsene Wenger better be knowing what he is doing.
There are squad revamps taking place in his rival clubs. Every club with the financial resources is showing ambition in the transfer market and making the big signings. Top clubs should make marquee signings season after season. They don’t necessarily win one titles, but they at least appease the fans for having shown intent and made an effort. Not only the fans, but also the players.
Top players will want top players around them which will make them stay amidst other offers. Top players want their clubs to show ambition. The next season, Chelsea, Manchester City and possibly even Manchester United will be having new managers, and Leicester’s success may be a one-off after all. So Wenger, in the last year of his contract, may be having the chance of having one final go at the title.
Let’s hope he wins it this time.
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