It might sound a bit harsh, but the truth is, Arsene Wenger and his men have simply not been ‘good enough’ in the last five seasons at the helm of the English Premier League. Arsenal, with their illustrious history and a small case of “living up to the Invincibles’ chapter”, have to balance between ‘rebuilding a team for the future’ and ‘winning trophies to retain star players’, and to some extent, even gratify the Gunners’ inimitable fan-following. Under Wenger, we are yet to miss out on European football on even a single occasion. That in itself is a tremendous achievement; but for a club of Arsenal’s stature, basking in the glory of such an accomplishment is simply a thoroughfare towards mediocrity.
With the dare-to-say simple objective of winning the league, Arsenal FC needs to tighten the screws on quite a few departments in their team.
The Endless Goal-Keeping saga
Watching ‘The Ring’ all alone in a movie theater is considered equivalent to watching the exhibits of our men guarding the goal posts in a football match. For Manuel Almunia, time is running out; he needs to get his act together, or find a new club who can tolerate such inconsistency in front of the goal. When he should have concentrated on improving his goal-keeping skills and making his ‘No.1’ spot assured in the Arsenal system, he went about talking about playing for England. It is difficult to fathom that Manu is the same guy who replaced Jens Lehmann for the ‘Keeper’s slot’ with a splendid first season at Arsenal.
We haven’t heard from any club who might be interested in Manuel. It is a request to all Arsenal fans – if they hear about any club/manager/agent/stadium care-taker interested in him, please get in touch with our team at TheHardTackle; we’ll let Arsene know about it.
When it was the perfect timing for securing a place in the Arsenal XI, Lukas Fabianski, affectionately called ‘Flapianski’, made matters really difficult for himself at the club. With a horrendous display at the Champions League Last 16 round and a few critical blunders in the league, the Pole had done permanent damage to his reputation as far as the Arsenal fans were concerned. Wenger, on the other hand, for some very strange reason, still believes that the handsome Pole can come back to his best and be Arsenal’s No.1.
Considering his young age (25), Fabianski, to everybody’s surprise, might get another season to prove himself at Arsenal, if the manager doesn’t invest on a new keeper.
With one terrific display at Fulham, Vito ‘The Don’ Mannone had earned a lot of extol, but a few more of his outings proved costly for Arsenal as he made small mistakes, keeping with the tradition of Arsenal keepers of recent times. Wojciech Szczesny, the bright young talent at Arsenal, is tipped as ‘taking over’ the big mantle in the near future or even at the start of this season depending on the fate of the above-mentioned stalwarts at the club.
Transfers so far:
Rumors doing the rounds:
Every footballer on this planet, who has worn the goal-keeping gloves, has been linked to AFC in the last one year or so.
Strong rumors suggested that Arsenal had made a bid for Mark Schwarzer with a decent 2 Million on offer. After it got rejected, Arsenal ‘upped their bid’ with an extra ‘Goal-Keeper Coach’ deal added to the player’s contract. Since Fulham are without a manager now, nothing conclusive has come out of the above rumor. Maarten Stekelenburg from Ajax, Rene Adler from Bayer Leverkusen, Joe Hart from Manchester City, David James from Portsmouth and even Russian keeper Igor Akinfeev have all been linked to Arsenal in the past few months.
It is a matter of immense curiosity as to who will start in that No. 1 jersey when Arsenal play at Anfield in the opening day of the season.
The Story of the Back Four
With William Gallas and Mikael Sylvester released and Phillipe Senderos sold to Fulham, Arsenal need to replace massive experience with young defenders who are ready to step up to the level of the Premiership. Many believe Arsenal were incompetent at the defense, which led to their eventual ‘drop out’ of the Premiership Title race. Individual mistakes were in abundance, and the much-needed co-ordination between the Back Four was clearly a missing component. Thomas Vermaelen, who is willing to ‘give his all’ to make sure we compete for the top prize, is conferred with the ‘senior role’ in the heart of our defense. Medical Room Elite Member, Johann Djourou, who has been with Arsenal for almost 6 years, needs to keep himself fit and competent for an entire season. Promising to Arsenal fans about the need to be aggressive is excellent, but keeping that promise is much more important. Sol Campbell, a man with vast experience under his belt, is understood to stay at the club for at least one more season. Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy would resume regular responsibilities at Full Back, with Clichy clearly under pressure to perform at his best; Englishman Kieran Gibbs and French lad Armand Traore are almost ready to take up the left wing-back responsibilities from him.
Transfers so far:
– Phillipe Senderos ended his ‘misery’ with Arsenal, as he joined Fulham FC on a three-year contract.
– William Gallas needs to convince ‘Panathinaikos’ to keep his high wages intact to play football next season.
– Veteran Full Back, Mikael Sylvester, the most shocking signing in Arsenal history, might be a free transfer target for neighbors West Ham United.
– Laurent Koscielny (10 Mil) from Lorient FC has been entered right into the defensive line-up. The man, who made a name for himself in the French League last season, is considered to be a strong defender in the air and is highly rated as the replacement for William Gallas at Arsenal. Wenger has already made bold statements about the young Center Back – such is his confidence in the man.
– Havard Nordtveit, after completing two loan spells, is back at the club. He looked really sharp at pre-season matches and is almost ready for any defensive cover if required by Arsene.
The Men at the Center of the Park
With the experience of Czech skipper, Tomas Rosicky and Russian ace Andre Arshavin, Arsenal have enough craftsmanship in the middle of the park. Samir Nasri, who is in top pre-season form, will try to prove his detractors wrong, as he was dropped from the French squad in the recently concluded World Cup in South Africa. Abou Diaby and Denilson would have to pick up their respective games and show more consistency throughout the season, if Arsenal are to challenge for the Premiership. Alexandre Song, who was the most improved player for Arsenal last season, would love to carry on the good work of providing the defensive shield in front of the Back Four. After serving a loan spell at Bolton, Jack Wilshere is back in business at The Emirates, and Arsene wants him to gain further experience staying at the club than going out for loan spells.
The Mother of all Transfer Sagas
Cesc Fabregas, the Spanish prodigy, who was ‘picked up’ by Arsenal from the Barcelona training academy in the middle of the night with the help of Armée de l’Air way back in 2003, is under tremendous pressure to play for Arsenal Football Club next season. There is no qualm about his dedication and love for Arsenal, but sadly, his alien DNA has made his stay here in the London a difficult proposition. With almost every footballer from a certain Spanish football club backing our club captain to join their forces, it would ultimately be an unfeasible task to keep him at Arsenal.
How we wish Cesc would win trophies at Arsenal and retire after maybe thirteen years, permanently making a name for himself in Arsenal folklore as the greatest Arsenal player ever! But alas, such a possibility looks highly improbable. TheHardTackle predicts one more year at Arsenal for Cesc, trying to win that elusive Premier League crown.
Transfers so far:
– Fran Merida – Went on a free transfer to his home-country club, Athletico Madrid.
The ‘Striking’ Department:
Robin Van Persie, after spending 6 years at Arsenal, knows very well that the ‘Striking Frontman’ responsibilities are very much on his shoulders this time around. Having spent quality time almost every season in the Medical Room, the Dutch ace never lived up to his ‘potential’, and Arsenal craved for his services every season. After a successful World Cup outing, the former Feyenoord hitman is all set for a booming season at Arsenal, taking up the mantle of the No.1 striker in the team. We would hope his dreams and ambitions come true.
Carlos Vela and Nicolas Bendtner had decent World Cup outings, with the latter scoring for his country on occasions. With Vela being handed the No. 11 shirt and Bendtner slowly becoming an imposing figure in the Arsenal frontline, the attacking prospects of Arsenal look safe and sound.
Not getting picked for the World Cup squad, would probably be a blessing in disguise for Arsenal speed ace Theo Walcott. In four years at Arsenal, Theo had a few exceptional outings, but overall he has been a disappointment, if we take into account his enormous potential. Another one of those players who spends a considerable amount of time with the Physios, the England star needs to add a season of ‘Living-up-to-the-expectation’ football to his otherwise insignificant Arsenal resume.
Transfers so far:
– Marouane Chamakh – The much anticipated free transfer finally happened and Chamakh left Bordeaux for the club of his dreams. The Moroccan adds a different element to the Arsenal attack. He is strong in the air, a quick mover with the ball, a clever poacher and an unpredictable character, making life hard for his opposition defenders. He’ll have to fight for his place with Bendtner for that second striking role in the team.
– Eduardo – The Brazilian-Croatian striker left Arsenal for Sparta Prague for a suspected fee of 6 Million. ‘The Eduardo before that incident in Birmingham City’ was never to be seen again in Arsenal colors; he never got back his mental fortitude to compete at the same level he used to, before the incident. It was really a sad moment for Arsenal as he messaged his last words for the Arsenal fans before leaving the city of London.
Possible transfers, young players from Youth-system etc…
The Arsenal Youth Team has a lot of players who can easily make their way into the first team; in fact, many of them, have already experienced ‘Senior Team’ action. Nacer Barazite, Francis Coquelin, Emmanuel Frimpong, Henri Lansbury, Mark Randall, Sanchez Watt and most certainly Jay Emmanuel Thomas, who looked phenomenal in a pre-season outing, are all ‘kids’ in midfield ready to step up into the next level. Kyle Bartley, Thomas Cruise, Kerrea Gilbert, Gavin Hoyte and Craig Eastmond who filled in for Song last season, are worthy of first team action at the back of the field within a year or so. Jay Simpson and Giles Sunu are very decent strikers in the youth system and the former has got valuable loan outing in the last season.
As far as the transfers are concerned, Arsenal needs to buy a top-class goal-keeper for a long-term solution; for a club of Arsenal’s stature, a stop-gap solution is a ludicrous idea. One more experienced defender at the back who can ‘guide’ the talented young stars and who can be an aggressive and a solid figure, would really be the perfect candidate to help Arsenal end their long and annoying dry run of Trophies.