If there’s one thing we can all learn from Chelsea (apart from whom to call for a sly look at a Premier League training ground), it’s that the Premiership title is up for sale. With decent managerial guidance, it’s quite realistic for any fat cat to expect to be polishing the Premiership trophy after a couple of years and around £150-200 million.
Of course, Arsenal don’t have anywhere near that sort of cash. They do, however, have Arsene Wenger. This is a man with an exquisite eye for tactical detail, a fine perception of the art of football, and a reputation as a truly great manager. Since establishing himself, Wenger’s philosophy has been to rely on the power of player potential. This has seen some very promising young talent emerge from Highbury/Emirates over the last decade, but with the Gunners heading for a fourth consecutive trophy-less season, is it time to question Arsene’s extreme youth team?
I don’t think anybody can deny that watching first Wayne Rooney, then Didier Drogba and their respective cronies tear apart their timid back line over the past week or so has sealed Arsenal’s fate of a finish outside of the top two this season. For all the potential there, there are serious deficiencies at the Emirates. What is most interesting is that these deficiencies flow through the backbone of the team, a backbone where United have Edwin Van Der Sar, Nemanja Vidic, Darren Fletcher and Rooney, and where Chelsea have Petr Cech, John Terry, Michael Essien and Drogba. It is from this rigid stem that flair and talent can blossom, and trophies can be won.
I’ll start with the goalkeeper; Manuel Almunia. I think that gives enough reason to spend some of the money from the Kolo Toure/Emmanuel Adebayor sale on someone decent in goal. Secondly, William Gallas will never be strong enough to be in charge of a back four. This has been uncovered several times this season, and although Thomas Vermaelen will be good, he isn’t good enough yet. Maybe Rio Ferdinand is over the hill at Man United but he knows how to organise a defence and knows how to make the best of the talented Jonny Evans. Arsenal need someone to unify the defence and stop them all flapping around, entangled in each other’s bootlaces while Drogba whistles past.
Perhaps that is all a little harsh, but if he’s unwilling to cough up for a defender, then Wenger cannot deny the need for a commanding central midfielder. Brian Clough was of the view that a club should never have a creative gem in midfield without a dogged tackler in midfield to win the ball for him. The incredible skill of Cesc Fabregas is suffocating alongside the incompetence of Alexandre Song. I dread to imagine what that midfield will look like if the Spaniard hops over to Catalunia this summer. Compared to the glory days of Marc Overmars, Emmanuel Petit and Patrick Vieira it’ll look like Ringo Starr leading a Beatles tribute band.
Finally, the centre forward situation could do with a rethink. Andrei Arshavin had more in common with that annoying Russian meerkat than he did with Drogba last weekend. He’s just too wasteful and his skill doesn’t make up for his lack of presence, and has been dining out on his Euro 2008 performance for too long (remember Thomas Brolin?). With no Robin van Persie, Arsenal need five good chances before they can score a goal. Sometimes they can do this, other times not.
Arsenal fans shouldn’t be depressed just yet. It may be frustrating for now, but let’s not forget that Wenger has sowed the seeds of a potentially trophy winning team. He just needs to buy a tractor and a rake and start harvesting………..