327 days ago, Arsenal heroically pushed what was arguably the best club team in the world to the last 10 minutes of the Champions League Final having been down to 10 men for most of the game.
On Saturday afternoon, they lost at to a relegation-threatened West Ham side who had 2 shots on goal in the entire game.
In less than a year this Arsenal side has gone from almost being world beaters and champions of Europe to one of the most inept teams in front of goal I have ever seen. In the last 10 games, Arsenal have scored 6 goals.
People will say that we have been unlucky with injuries, having lost Thierry Henry and Robin Van Persie for a large part of the season. However, we played exactly the same when these two were in the side as we did on Saturday. The only difference then was that we managed to score a single goal against Middlesboro’, Everton and Aston Villa and therefore scrape a point.
Unfortunately, the fact is that the current side, whilst they are full of skill and ability on the ball, they have no fight, no guts, no leader and no desire. The truth is that, since he left 2 years ago, Arsene Wenger has failed to replace Patrick Vieira. Furthermore, he has not even got around to finding a replacement for Tony Adams, who retired 5 years ago.
There are people (mainly Match Of The Day pundits and Arsene Wenger) who will point to Saturday’s game and say that we created lots of chances but didn’t have the luck – but the reality of the situation is that Saturday’s match was no different to any other game at home this season, bar Manchester United. Predictions before the kick off were that we would concede a goal out of nothing, get one back but fail to win the game. These predictions were only wrong in that we didn’t get the equaliser. We had 10 minutes of pressure midway through the 2nd half when we hit the post and the bar and Robert Green made some superb saves and then we gave up. For the last 20 minutes, not one of the 11 players on the pitch made any effort whatsoever to motivate his team mates or inspire the team with some dynamic football and, as a result, the team were booed off the pitch.
On my way home I was asked what had happened by a man sitting in a doorway of his flat, swigging from a bottle of beer. I told him all about it and we proceeded to have a 30 minute conversation about the current team. This man is not a regular at Arsenal – in fact I’d be surprised if he’s ever been to see us play – but even he can see that skill and ability alone is not enough to win football matches. He told me that we need some “fighters” as he called them, like Martin Keown or Patrick Vieira. He said that we need to get back to getting yellow and red cards and wanting to win, rather than playing “the right way”. He said “its nice to see pretty football, of course, but we want the team to win first”. It’s simple, the regular fans can see it, the casual fans can see it, but Arsene Wenger cannot.
Last season we played just as poorly in the league as we have done this season. We reached the final of the Champions League due to some Herculean efforts in that competition – everyone wanted to win and it showed. The effort and desire shown in that handful of matches has now finally gone and we are left with fancy football and no punch.
It is not just a case of needing another world class striker or two (Baptista is not up to the job, nor is Aliadiere).
It is not just a case of needing another 2 or 3 midfielders who can score goals regularly.
It is not just a case of needing one or two defenders who can not only defend set pieces with their head but score goals with it at the other end.
It is not just a case of needing a proper captain who can inspire the team even when he does not play well himself.
The problems go on and on and on and if someone doesn’t start addressing them soon then this club is going to become one of the perennial also-rans of the Premiership.