A View From Below

Sporting debate and opinion

Milan massacre unearths gaps in Wenger’s philosophy

SAN SIRO SUFFERING: the scene of Arsenal's midweek 4-0 thrashing

This week marked another watershed moment in what is fast becoming the most dreadful season in Arsenal’s recent history.

First came the publicly humiliating 8-2 thrashing at the hands of United, before the travelling support were treated to a startling 4-3 loss away to strugglers Blackburn Rovers, and January’s recent league spell for the club reads three games, three defeats.

In the midst of this tumultuous campaign have been few highs for Arsene Wenger’s beleaguered side, notably crushing Chelsea 5-3 at Stamford Bridge and exacting some revenge on Blackburn during a 7-1 thrashing at the Emirates.

However, Milan’s midweek destruction of the Gunners serves as a painful reminder as to quite how far the club has fallen since the ill-fated Carling Cup final disaster against Birmingham.

A year ago on Thursday, Arsenal looked to have come of age, coming from behind to complete an astonishing victory over European heavyweights Barcelona at the Emirates.

That night Jack Wilshere announced his talents in central midfield on a European stage against global stars Xavi and Iniesta, in a team that lined up with now departed stars Emmanuel Eboue, Gael Clichy, Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas.

Carl Jenkinson, Andre Santos, Yossi Benayoun and Mikel Arteta have replaced those players. Decent professionals but a clear gulf in class apart.

It has not been a steep fall from grace for Arsenal, more a gradual decline over the last 12 months.

Manager Arsene Wenger didn’t help his soldier’s cause last night, sending them out to battle without the red-hot Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (apparently due to concerns over the wings of the San Siro pitch) and veteran Thierry Henry, who looked desperate to return to New York on a high.

Defensive frailties resurfaced as Bacary Sagna and Kieran Gibbs looked rusty in the fullback positions after only recently returning from injury. Thomas Vermaelen put in easily his worst performance in red and white at the heart of the defence after 10 games filling in at left back.

Another mystery is the 4-3-3 formation the French tactician persists with. This structure was built around for the talents of Cesc Fabgregas, and now he has left why not return to the 4-4-2 style that worked wonders for the Invincibles vintage of 2004?

Wenger’s failure to reinforce his defence this January and purchase a top-class centre forward to support Robin Van Persie, not just loan a 34-year-old club legend for less than two months, will prove his undoing come the end of the season.

The future is certainly bright for Arsenal. Goalkeeper Woijech Szczesny, rapidly improving defender Laurent Koscielny and precocious English talents Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain offer undoubted hope for the future.

RVP THE MVP: will Arsenal's star striker be at the Emirates next season?

Unfortunately it remains to be seen whether the team’s leader, talisman and goal scorer will stick around much longer. You cannot deny Van Persie’s loyalty, but as he approaches the last contract of his career, who could deny him a move to a club with serious domestic and continental aspirations?

Arsene Wenger deserves the patience of the club, its fans and the media. This is a man who revolutionised Arsenal Football Club, and he should be given the respect he has earned.

However even he must be tired of failure by now, and it is essential that he bend his strict principles to allow on field success not to be skewed by the profit margins and revenue balance of the business.

Arsenal need serious investment and it has to be done this summer.

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February 18, 2012 - Posted by | Football

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