Tough Times Ahead – Is Arsenal In Safe Hands Right Now?

Arsene Wenger

Over the past few seasons, questions were asked about Wenger’s ability to enable Arsenal to challenge for titles. If he felt that his position would face less scrutiny after an FA Cup win, Arsenal’s indifferent play and lack of ideas at times while on the pitch has raised questions about training and has subtly pointed to Wenger’s lack of ideas in the team’s playing style, or in the substitutions, or in pushing his team to win games.

The warning signs have been present, for example, Arsenal seem to lack ideas in the center of the pitch at times, as they are content to pass the ball around. This occurrence reared its head in the away game against Anderlecht in the Champions League, almost disastrously, when Arsenal came back in the dying minutes to score two goals and win. There seems to be a yawning gap between midfield and attack, and the opposition tries to press a weak midfield into making mistakes and giving the ball away. The midfield has lacked physicality, with Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini not making enough tackles, or triggering fear in the opposition. The attack consists of good, pacy players who are unable to do anything if they do not get to touch the ball, while around the opposition box. The defence also seems to be taking winning leads for granted, as Arsenal have thrown away promising leads in their last two games on the trot, which does not bode well.

This could point right at Wenger, who has had more than one transfer window to repair this issue. However, he chose to fortify the attack, neglecting the defence or the defensive midfield, where Arsenal have been crying for a player such as Emmanuel Petit or Patrick Vieira. An injury to Laurent Koscielny has thrown the defence out of gear, which need not have happened if Arsenal bought players. Wenger attributed the inability to purchase defenders due to the high transfer values, but players such as Daniel Agger or Ezequiel Garay could have been astute purchases. Arsenal have to spend to replenish the squad, which looks jaded, to an extent. If Ozil is sold in January, the budget could be used to get the defensive players Arsenal badly need. Or else, Wenger could show his faith in the youth system at Arsenal, just like Louis van Gaal at United, who has put faith in players such as Tyler Blackett or Paddy McNair.

Another pressing concern raised by media and fans is Arsenal’s in-game substitutions, which are being left too late. It is different to throw in a player in the 60th minute and expect him to do something, or throw him on in the 80th minute, to similar effect. Wenger has been using his substitutions later than expected, which gives the substituted players far too little time to get into the game. It throws a tiring opposition off-gear, as they have to deal with fresh players, but it has hurt Arsenal on occasions.

Is it the winning mentality that seems to have been sucked out of Arsenal? Are Arsenal content with their fourth-place finishes and feel that they do not need to do more? Would Arsenal do better with a new manager, with new ideas, who will make the team play to its potential? The majority stakeholders, the Kroenkes will have to take a call. The chances of getting Jurgen Klopp could be good, in the summer, to replace Wenger at the helm, depending on Dortmund’s performance at the end of the season. Arsenal and Arsene Wenger need to show more urgency, as tough times are arriving.

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