Arsenal’s policy has come under fire but with one that is at the envy of most clubs, Wenger is right to question himself.
With half an hour to go the stream of fans who exited the Emirates seemed endless. But those watching the match on ITV would have then seen the cameras pan to a shot of a couple of, albeit similarly dejected fans, with an “In Arsene We Trust” banner draped across the front of the East stand.
It was nice to see some, not entirely common sense but subjective thinking amongst all the doom-mongering and knee-jerk reaction talk that has been taking place. Those fans know that a club run the way that it is, and most importantly the correct way, cannot always break the bank. And the way that the club is run requires a special manager, and there aren’t much better than Mr. Wenger.
But even he has reservations about himself. “I don’t doubt my methods but I doubt myself everyday,” Arsene Wenger said earlier this season. And it is this policy which is envied by most clubs. However the increasingly competitive transfer market is maybe something Wenger has found even more difficult to challenge in the past few years..
Trawling through the United line up sees Ronaldo, Rooney, Anderson and Fletcher signed at a young age and all except the latter have commanded massive fees. Others such as Ferdinand and Carrick, who Arsenal pulled out of signing have also garnered almost extortionate prices. Arshavin, seen as the player who embodies the reason for spending big was signed at around £16-£19m but the time it took to complete the deal shows how much of a bargain Arsenal got for him. Even then Arsene has spent good money for Nasri, Eduardo, Rosicky, Sagna, Hleb and Adebayor to name a few.
Manchester United were tactically at least better but restricting their game in the face of Arsenal, just shows the underlying potential of the side as much it’s strengths and weaknesses. Central midfield seems to be a problem, as the Gunners need an Anti-Fabregas to counter balance the real thing. Song has improved immensely but positionally he has been suspect, as shown in the same game. But last season, with Gilberto Silva away with his country for international duty, Arsenal found someone within the ranks to fill the Brazilian’s boots and the answer may be there once again with Denilson, Nasri and Diaby showing huge promise.
A tall, Vidic-like centre back would be a huge plus but who in the current market is available at a reasonable price? Lucio, Hangeland, who given Arsenal’s possession game would have to play a high line whereby likely to expose his lack of pace. Indeed the Gunners have a highly mobile and tall centre back in their ranks in Johan Djourou.
And what about experience? The Gunners admittedly fall short in the respective area but as former player and coach of Barcelona, Charly Rexach says: “Experience isn’t things happening to you, it’s learning, seeking solutions.” The defeat will have been hurting but the player’s reactions after the game shows much maturity. Core players are a few years to enter their peak while Fabregas and Nasri have both been playing since their teens.
Arsene Wenger is not the perfect manager; arguable team selection and organisation of his troops was one of the reasons for the FA Cup defeat. He signed Francis Jeffers during a boom period for goal poachers in English football but who knew they would quickly go out of fashion. His side should have won the league last season but maybe a step backwards is a necessary step forward. The Frenchman has made crucial tactical changes this season such as making the full backs more cautious while the defensive shield has shown it’s limitations against the bigger sides.
The Wenger project may have derailed for the past years but two semi-finals is not bad for a supposed bunch of kids. Injuries and the constant dismantling of the squad where the ‘bigger clubs’ relieve Arsenal of their integral cogs and use them as spare parts, has made it even harder for Arsenal to compete, and yet to a degree they have.
If Arsene can keep them together and maybe add one or two, then anything is possible.