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Arsene Wenger’s Legacy is Intact, But His Reputation is Fading

wenger

Arsene Wenger’s Legacy is Intact, But His Reputation is Fading

It was never meant to end like this. Like a good Hollywood movie, Arsene Wenger was supposed to ride off into the sunset with the grateful townsfolk cheering behind him.

But not like this, where he is the mad scientist, locked in the castle’s turret, babbling about finding the formula as the monster kills him while the lightning crashes outside.

Arsene Wenger created a monster and it’s eating him in front of our eyes.

Football uses terms confusingly. Legacy is viewed frequently from a short-term perspective. We think of it as the state of the squad and whether the youth set-up is producing first-team players. That’s not a legacy, it’s getting things working.

A legacy is something more ingrained in the culture of the club, something lasting. Wenger managed that at Arsenal, leading the transition of the grandest of ‘olde England’ clubs into a modern footballing entity.

One remembered for being the classiest of clubs in the manner in which it conducted business remains the same in the narcissistic world of the Premier League.

London Colney is a state of the art training facility and the Emirates a modern stadium which is the envy of many. Arsene Wenger had a massive input into both; he didn’t do it on his own, but his fingerprints are found on everything which affected the footballing side of Arsenal.

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His legacy is intact. If he feared for its future, he need not. These are the tributes to stand the test of time.

The same cannot be said of his reputation. A man who won two domestic doubles and went a season unbeaten in the Premier League can’t surely be worried about how he will be remembered.

Until ten years ago, nobody would have disagreed. Now, it isn’t so clear-cut.

The Moment The Dream Died

Even when the move to the Emirates happened, Wenger’s sides were remembered as vibrant. They played football as it was meant to be played. A swift passing game which was a delight to watch.

For a while, it seemed he was producing a blueprint and in 2007/08, the Premier League title was in his grasp. But it collapsed under the weight of Martin Taylor’s dreadful tackle on Eduardo. The broken leg broke the young Arsenal’s spirit. When they needed a captain, William Gallas sat petulantly in the centre circle after a 2–0 lead disappeared.

Something died in Arsenal that day, we just didn’t know it at the time. From the peak of challenging for the title, Arsenal slumped into a cycle of fighting for fourth place and losing in the early knockout rounds of the Champions League.

The situation at the club was summed up in 2015/16. Leicester City were being reeled in by the Gunners and arrived at the Emirates on Valentine’s Day. They took the lead, but Arsenal levelled before a Danny Welbeck header in the dying seconds gave them three points and the title race was back on.

One month later, they were out of the Champions League at the hands of Barcelona, out of the FA Cup, and out of the title race after two defeats and a draw saw a ten-point gap open at the top of the table.

Arsenal collapsed; there was no backbone, no substance to the squad as they flattered to deceive. Worse still, they were becoming predictable. Opponents knew how to stifle them and this iteration of Wenger’s Arsenal, even with Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil in the XI, lacked guile.

They were and remain, a dull side to watch.

A Crumbling Empire

arsene-wenger

Wenger’s reputation is being irredeemably damaged by this section of the club’s history. His contract renewal in 2014 in the emotion of the 3–2 victory over Hull City was a mistake; the two-year extension signed last year was pure folly.

The Frenchman is a prickly character when questions are about him and his footballing philosophy. For many of his critics, it’s arrogance and a reason why those critics are growing in number and louder in voice.

2016/17 was pock-marked by protests, demanding the manager, board and owner to leave. Ticket prices don’t represent value for money and the lack of cohesive transfer policy grates. Arsenal’s weaknesses remain unchanged for a decade.

A lack of depth in key positions in the squad, aligned to players who wouldn’t be in a title-challenging club has left Arsenal drifting out of the top four and unlikely to return. Wenger’s touch in the transfer market for defensive players was always suspect, his Achilles heel. It’s not improving as the years pass by.

The club is building for a future without Wenger while he is still there. Sven Mislintat, the new head of recruitment, already found himself on the end of the Frenchman’s public barbs. Raul Sanelhi joins from Barcelona next month as head of football operations – Wenger’s loathed director of football by any other name- while Huss Fahmy is already looking for contracts.

Wenger’s job is becoming isolated, focussing purely on the first team squad and eroding his power base at the club. But he can’t give up; he freely admits he has nothing else in his life. Football is all.

While it may be at Arsenal until the end of this contract in 2019, it seems unlikely he will be at the Emirates after that as anything other than managing the opposition or an interested spectator in the stands.

Arsene Wenger and his legacy – Why the world will miss him when he retires?

arsene-wenger

When one talks about teams in the Premier League, many come to my mind. There are a few that stand out though and one of those continue to be Arsenal. The Gunners are an English powerhouse side by every measure and if they have reached such great heights, it all comes down to one man – Arsene Wenger.

Right now, a good majority of the Arsenal fans have turned against him and to be very fair, one cannot blame them. Match after match, the Gunners have put up lacklustre displays and they continue to struggle despite having some of the biggest stars in the team.

Their midfield contains seasoned Premier League players like Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey and their defence boasts of some of the sturdiest defenders in the league. And yet, Arsenal have not found their groove this season.

Unfortunately for the club, their situation has just been worsening over the last few years and this time, it has reached the saturation point. Consecutive defeats to Manchester City have filled even the most passionate fan’s heart with dismay and anger and it seems like they have come to a point of no return.

Chants of ‘Wenger Out’ continue to grow louder across the world and speculations were rife that the French manager would be sacked after Arsenal failed to secure a Champions League qualification spot last season. However, the management decided to keep him on for another two years but once more, his questionable tactics and lack of judgement of the constantly-evolving modern game of football have landed the club in hot water.

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In fact, the chances of Wenger exiting the club continue to increase as the days go by. For many of us who grew up watching football in the early 2000s, it is honestly unimaginable to fathom an Arsenal side without the familiar sight of Wenger on the sidelines. With his perfectly tailored suit and the hairstyle he has donned throughout the years, the Frenchman does make for a powerful presence.

However, in a post-Wenger era, Arsenal might do well and improve as a team but there is absolutely no doubt that a lot of us will miss the manager.

After all, he is the one to have developed so many superstars while reaching and creating new milestones on a regular basis. How can anybody forget Wenger’s Invincibles? That was a season that will forever remain etched onto the minds of Premier League fans and not just people who support the club. To have gone an entire season unbeaten is unthinkable and yet, Wenger managed to do it at a time when there were no hefty price tags or inflated player values.

We are living in a time where price tags are as inflated as player’s egos and somewhere in between all the glitz and glamour of big endorsements and flashy cars, a manager like Wenger does not fit anymore. His strict emphasis on routine and discipline and the gentlemanly aspects of the game continue to be a necessity – but as managers like Julian Nagelsmann and Marco Silva emerge, there seem to be newer traits that are being employed while coming up with tactics and formations.

That said, people like Wenger hold a special place in the history of the game. Even the most passionate Arsenal fan might disagree with his decisions and tactics in most matches but one thing is for sure – the day he announces his retirement, there will be a lot of silent tears shed among the Arsenal faithful.

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Yes, the previous season and current one have been rather chaotic and terrible but is that enough to erase the legacy he has built so meticulously over the years? Most definitely not. Wenger will always be a legendary figure for Arsenal and there is nothing that can change that. Famous for his dry humour and steely looks, every single person associated with the Premier League will miss him when he leaves.

When it comes to iconic managers, Sir Alex Ferguson’s name will always remain eternal but Wenger is definitely quite close to that place. Even though watching him leave would be quite saddening, one cannot deny that it is high time for him to leave. It is quite evident that the fans are livid and they want to see some positive changes pronto. If Wenger continues like this, he will be at risk of destroying the reputation he built since more than the last decade.

Hence, although we are all aware that Wenger should be on his way out of the glorious Emirates Stadium, there is no doubt that we will lose one of European football’s most reputable characters.

End of an era: Olivier Giroud, the modern-day Arsenal legend

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End of an era: Olivier Giroud, the modern-day Arsenal legend

When Arsenal announced that Olivier Giroud has joined Chelsea on a permanent deal in the dying hours of the January transfer window, it pulled at the heartstrings of every single Gunners’ fan.

The towering Frenchman joined the club at a time when the fans were fuming after Robin van Persie’s infamous transfer to Manchester United. Since then, the player struggled to make room for himself in the hearts of the Arsenal faithful. Although he acted as a regular starter, the player failed to score that often and it led to greater frustration among the fans.

However, despite the many setbacks he has faced during his time with Arsenal, Giroud has still managed to leave as a hero. Over the years, Arsene Wenger utilised him solely as a backup option while strikers came and went. To be fair, the Gunners have struggled with finding a solid centre-forward for quite some time now. At present, they have the clinical Alexandre Lacazette and the lethal Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang but back when it was just Giroud, things were quite different for the club.

No matter how hard Giroud fell, he always managed to wrestle back into the first-team and perhaps more than anything else, his fighting spirit is what the club will miss. There was no setback too big for him to overcome and he always provided a lot of competition to whoever played ahead. In fact, over the last couple of seasons, in particular, the French striker not only displayed consistency but also proved to be an extremely reliable option from the bench.

The biggest complaint that the fans had about him was that he is not speedy enough to surge forward and net goals on any given day. While the pace part is true, many people failed to realize that Giroud is a natural poacher. Every team needs a poacher – somebody who may not start regularly but is utilised more as an impact sub to come in during the dying minutes of the game and net a goal or two.

And to that end, Giroud is arguably one of the best in the Premier League. His soft touches and movement around the penalty area make him a delight to watch. In the last couple of seasons, the fans started looking at him as a vital figure of the team and he took that reputation up a notch in the initial few months of the current season. Fellow Frenchman Alexandre Lacazette’s arrival meant that Giroud would have lesser time on the field and his form would crumble. While the first part was true, the towering striker simply rose like a phoenix from the ashes.

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He did not let Lacazette’s inclusion affect his game time. Instead, he used every single minute on the field to prove everybody watching that he deserves to be on the field. It is almost as if the less he played, the more he improved and started delivering results in important games throughout the season. However, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the team, it would have been tougher for him to appear regularly – even as a substitute, perhaps.

To be a player who primarily comes on and makes an impact towards the end of the game is very tough. Sir Alex Ferguson used Javier Hernandez that way and it yielded effective results for the longest time. More accurately, Edin Dzeko and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer were the ones who made it a trend and since then, the quest to find an impact sub has been a priority for many teams. One reason why this method works so well is that all these players enter the game with fresh legs and full of energy. Unlike the others whose energy starts wearing off, players like Giroud enter the field just with the sole agenda of scoring goals.

He can confront opposition defenders quite directly and is skilled in one-on-one situations as well. In addition to that, he can compete for the ball in the air while also displaying some elegant skills on the field. He is definitely no Thierry Henry but Giroud has managed to carve out a niche for himself as a modern-day Arsenal legend. There is no doubt that the Gunners will miss an influential player like him but he has given everything he can to the club and perhaps it is now time for him to experience newer pastures.

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His new job at Chelsea will include similar requirements as well. The Blues already have Alvaro Morata but with Michy Batshuayi out on loan to Borussia Dortmund, they were in dire need of an experienced back-up striker. Moreover, they have been in need of a poacher for quite some time now and who better than Giroud to do the same?

Strikers may come and go at Arsenal but what Giroud has done will definitely stay on forever and it is time for him to write a new chapter at Stamford Bridge.

Bidding Adieu To The Little Mozart – A Look At Tomas Rosicky’s Life And Career

tomas-rosicky

Bidding Adieu To The Little Mozart – A Look At Tomas Rosicky’s Life And Career

When it comes to football, the fans feel very strongly about two sets of footballers – the ones they dislike and the ones they love. As far as the first group is concerned, a good majority of people tend to dislike a lot of things about them. Be it their aggression or style of play, there is always something that does not bode well for a lot of people. The second group, however, includes players that every single person loves and admirers. The likes of Gigi Buffon, Pele, Ronaldinho, Totti and Kaka have been a few names to grace that list so far. News of their retirement affected millions of football fans worldwide, regardless of which club they support.

It was only about a month or two back that Buffon announced his retirement and now, Tomas Rosicky has joined in on the list.

Very few times do players get to achieve cult-status at two different clubs across leagues. And yet, Rosicky is considered an iconic figure for both Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal. There is no denying that things are very different in the Bundesliga and Premier League. Sometimes, switching leagues can hamper a player’s skills. Take a look at what happened with Radamel Falcao, for example. When he made the move from Monaco to Manchester United, he failed to make much of an impact and was dubbed a failure even though he was spectacular at Atletico Madrid.

Unless a player is already a modern-day legend like Cristiano Ronaldo, David Beckham or Zlatan Ibrahimovic, it is very tough for them to establish and build a reputation in a different club in a foreign league. But Rosicky came through in both situations and is still widely recognized as a Dortmund and Arsenal superstar.

Nicknamed the ‘little Mozart’ at a very early age, Rosicky embarked on his football career with his hometown club Sparta Prague. He spent 3 seasons playing in the Czech First League and then joined Borussia Dortmund in 2001 for an estimated sum of £18 million, which at the time was a record fee for a Bundesliga club.

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In his debut season itself, Rosicky’s influence and playmaking skills came up to the fore, which eventually helped the German club to win their first Bundesliga title of the century. He even reached the 2002 UEFA Cup Final with Dortmund that year and after spending 4 more years at the club, Rosicky switched to Arsenal in 2006.

Since then, the player went on to spend a decade at the club. In total, he made 247 appearances for the club, even though his tenure was affected by several long-term injuries. In fact, Rosicky actually learnt how to play the guitar during one of his injuries! It was in the 2009-10 season when he was injured and had to spend quite some time being sidelined. That was when he started playing the guitar and eventually became so good that he even played live on stage with a Czech rock band called Tri sestry in March 2010.

Rosicky is known to love being centre-stage, so it comes as no surprise that he enjoyed performing with the band. While he was playing with Dortmund, there was this one incident that probably continues to live on in the hearts of many of their fans. The year was 2006 and the season was coming to a close. There was a battle between Hamburg and Bayern Munich in terms of winning the league and mid-table Dortmund were playing a decisive match with Hamburg. The fact that a goalkeeper should never leave his net was a lesson learnt quite harshly by Hamburg’s goalkeeper Sacha Kirschstein.

He darted up the field and after a moment of confusion, Dortmund snatched possession and Ebi Smolarek sent it Rosicky’s way. Even though he was still about 40 metres away from the empty net, the midfielder knew there was no way any of Hamburg’s defenders would get to him and neither would their visibly frustrated goalkeeper. Rosicky broke into a celebratory dance as he surged ahead and neatly slotted the ball into the net. His celebrations continued and that was a truly iconic moment in his career.

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Known for his technical wizardry, passing accuracy, speed and vision, Rosicky boasted of all the qualities a playmaker must have. Much like a lot of other prolific players, his career was stunted by a series of injuries. Despite that, what he has done for Prague, Dortmund and Arsenal remain unrivalled.

Maybe if he had managed to stay fit, he could have established himself as a player with greater accolades. However, that is the beauty of the game. At the end of the day, it does not matter how many trophies you win as a player. As long as you manage to strike a chord with the fans, you will live on forever in their hearts and that is something Rosicky has managed to do in abundance.

English Premier League – An Era Of Underrated Players

Shaka Hislop
Shaka Hislop

English Premier League – Rating The Underrated Players

Ever since the Premier League began, we have had the good fortune of watching some of the best footballers play against each other. These players were famous for their many talents on the field and even today, there are so many players in the league that are worshipped and idolised by their fans across the world. Love and support for them only seem to be increasing as commercial factors like merchandising and advertising have come into play. They are endorsing some of the biggest companies while also proving to be marvellous on the field.

Be it a Beckham or a Ronaldo, there appears to be no end to the list of companies wanting them to endorse their products. However, amidst all the glitz and glam, there are some players who get lost. In every field, there are a number of people who do a fair share of the work and walk away with accolades while there are also others who do the real work but get lost somewhere in the middle. Football is no different and even more so in Premier League. Calling them the underdogs seems rather unfair given their contribution, so let’s stick with calling them underrated.

Underrated. That is the favourite word of many pundits to describe a player who does his work on the field but seemingly ends up receiving less credit for it. So, what really makes a player underrated? Is it the lack of endorsement deals or the lack of recognition for their hard work? To understand the answer to that question, one must keep in mind that players have been dubbed ‘underrated’ from a time when the commercial aspect of football hardly mattered.

To take you back in time, Shaka Hislop was one such player. Newcastle United were expected to win the 1995/96 Premier League season but an injury to their goalkeeper Hislop changed the course of their fortune and they failed to make it. Hislop may have won two runners-up medals but he was of pivotal importance for the Magpies as well as his country Trinidad and is arguably one of their best goalkeepers till date. Hislop was not a celebrated player but he was crucial for his teams in an unparalleled sense.

Ray Parlour of Arsenal
Ray Parlour of Arsenal

When it comes to defenders, Bobby Moore is undoubtedly touted as one of England’s best defenders. However, Nottingham Forest fans may disagree. A central defender by trade, Des Walker was famous for making his well-timed surges to manoeuvre the ball away from even the toughest of opponents. In fact, very few central defenders have been able to match his level of craftiness and speed, which further establishes his credentials. And yet, he is not one of the more popular names in football.

Cut to not-so-long ago and you have Emile Heskey. Now, a lot of Liverpool, Wigan Athletic, Aston Villa and Leicester City fans might get put off by the mere mention of his name but the fact remains that his contribution was necessary to every club he played for. He lacked self-belief to a large extent and one cannot really blame him for that. Playing in the Premier League is a tough job as it is and to have scores of fans hating you makes it all the more difficult. However, very few players lacked his creative vision up front and for all that he did, Heskey truly deserves more appreciation.

As long as we are talking about Liverpool forwards, names like Dalglish, Rush and Aldridge come to our mind. And yet one of their most prolific strikers till date continues to be Peter Beardsley. To be honest, he was the one who kept creating scoring outlets for Rush and Aldridge. Without him, could the duo have proven to be as effective? Most likely not.

Speaking of making contributions, we all know of players like Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Pires and Bergkamp. After all, they were all crucial parts of Arsene Wenger’s stunning ‘Invincibles’ side. But how many of us rate Ray Parlour? The midfielder often filled in for either Vieira or Gilberto Silva and often lit up the stadium with his unlimited energy. He always boasted of an important eye for the goal and was truly one of Arsenal’s finest.

Fernandinho
Fernandinho

This trend of overlooking players making important contributions seems to have continued until today. Unless a player is snazzy enough with blue hair like Tiemoue Bakayoko or possesses the goal-scoring skills like Harry Kane, it seems quite tough for them to shine through and make a name for themselves. One such player in our present crop of the Premier League’s unsung heroes is Harry Arter. He is one of Bournemouth’s most influential players and his energy has been key to a lot of their good fortune this season. He may not score flashy goals but he is the glue that holds the Cherries together.

Even Manchester City’s Fernandinho is underrated in a similar fashion. He does play for an attack-oriented team with some of the best players like Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva and Raheem Sterling, which often sees his fame get lost amidst all the power up front. But his influence in terms of holding the defence and the attack together has been spectacular to watch this season. Adept at making a mean, tenacious tackle and boasting of smoothness while in possession, Fernandinho can even be regarded as one of the best midfielders in the Premier League right now.

It seems unfair for them to not receive their share of credits but it is what it is. Perhaps even a decade or two down the line, we will have these underrated players who work tirelessly for their team and yet their contributions would not be celebrated as such. Regardless, what makes these players all the more remarkable is the fact that they continue to do their job despite this sense of unfairness.

The Art Of Finishing – A Look At Alexandre Lacazette’s Meteoric Rise

Alexandre Lacazette
Alexandre Lacazette

The Art Of Finishing – A Look At Alexandre Lacazette’s Meteoric Rise

Over the years, Arsenal have been starved of a strong finisher up front. It is certainly not easy to find a forward who is strong at finishing. Take a look at Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah, for example. He is excelling on all fronts for the Reds but he has struggled majorly when it comes to connecting the dots seamlessly. It is one thing to shoot on target but it is an entirely different thing to be able to score while running and when under pressure. These are two qualities Arsenal’s summer acquisition Alexandre Lacazette seems to possess in abundance.

The Frenchman was a part of Lyon’s academy and he rose through the ranks rapidly to establish himself as a mainstay for the French side. He spent about 8 years with the club, during the course of which he blossomed into one of the best players in Ligue 1. His magnificent displays attracted attention from foreign clubs and Arsenal were interested in him for around 2 summers, following which he finally joined them earlier this year. The move to join the Gunners was undoubtedly a big one for the player and it seemed like his years of hard work were starting to pay off.

He arrived at Arsenal with sky-high expectations from a set of fans desperate to see some quality new faces at their club. Manager Arsene Wenger has been subjected to a lot of criticism for his lack of activity in most transfer windows but he truly made some promising signings over the summer. One was Sead Kolasinac, who arrived on a free transfer. The other was the spectacular Lacazette, who was signed for a club record fee. Initially, there were doubts, since the fans were cautious about how quickly he would be able to settle into the demands and rigours of the Premier League.

However, from the first time he set foot on the ground in an Arsenal jersey, Lacazette displayed glimpses of the quality which prompted Wenger to target him for about two seasons and then ultimately sign him. He went on to score in his first 3 Premier League games at home for the Gunners and displayed ruthless predatory instincts – and that was something Arsenal fans were dying to see. Lacazette’s movement and influence in the final third is perhaps the most splendid quality about him.

Manchester City v Arsenal - Premier League

Over the last couple of seasons, a lot of strikers came and went for Arsenal but none of them managed to create as much of an impact as Lacazette already has. They struggled in all the areas that the Frenchman is excelling in. A look at his stats only further strengthens the fact that he has been a force to be reckoned with at Arsenal, with his sublime finishing and work-rate in the final third.

In 15 appearances in the league, Lacazette has already scored 8 goals and provided 1 assist. He has managed to do all this even though there have been times when he has been restricted to the bench during important games. Quite unsurprisingly, the Gunners have struggled in those matches where Wenger chose to set him aside.

In the last few matches (exceptions do exist), Arsenal have displayed a vintage style of attacking football that has truly impressed their fans. There’s still a lot of debate as to whether or not Wenger should quit as the manager but as far as the attacking trio of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Lacazette is concerned, the fans hardly have any reason to complain.

Sanchez brings about an innate sense of trickery and pace while Ozil makes things work with his creative advances. Lacazette – the darling of Arsenal fans, uses his enviable finishing skills to slot the ball into the net. Regardless of whether or not Sanchez and Ozil continue with Arsenal beyond this season, there is no denying that the presence of Lacazette has amplified their performances as well.

A look at Lacazette’s many YouTube video compilations is enough to deduce that he does not lack variety when it comes to scoring goals. For example, he can do a simple tap-in, a sublime side-foot finish and even strike from a distance. A naturally right-footed player, Lacazette is also quite adept at cutting in to take advantage of whatever the situation has to offer. An out-and-out poacher, the Frenchman has taken up a role up front for the Gunners that very few have been able to do before him.

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That said, when the transfer rumours were swirling around, there were concerns regarding his physique. It is quite evident that the likes of Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck offer greater physicality. Although that was a potential area of concern, the fact remains that the Gunners rarely ever use mere physical strength in terms of scoring goals. Lacazette’s movement is calculated and economical. He prefers to make tiny and subtle movements to get through tight spaces unscathed and that has worked in Wenger’s favour so far.

The manager brought him in to score goals and Lacazette has delivered so far. There is the age-old pearl of wisdom which suggests that good defences win the title but truth be told, the Premier League has been won more times by teams with a blistering attack with a goal-scoring machine leading the line.

Take a look at Manchester City, for example. Nobody has even spoken about their defence since everybody is so hypnotised by their electrifying attack. To put things in perspective for Arsenal, they have not come close to being the league’s top goalscorers since 2004-05. That does paint a worrisome statistic but with Lacazette up front, they do have the potential to restore their reputation as deadly attackers.

All this while, Arsenal had Giroud and Welbeck but neither of the two was strong enough to be the striker up front. Giroud can finish well but he is slow during counters whereas Welbeck can run but he is weak at finishing. In that sense, Lacazette seems to be the ideal amalgamation of the duo and there is no limiting as to how far he can go if he continues this way for the Gunners.

Can Harry Winks Handle And Rise Above The Jack Wilshere-Esque Hype?

The world of Premier League football can be a harsh place for any youngster striving to achieve their dreams. More than anything else, it is tough to even get the chance to make a mark but even after you do that, there are very little chances of maintaining that momentum due to lack of opportunities. And then there are some youngsters who are immediately thrust into the spotlight and are dubbed ‘the next so-and-so’, even as they struggle to get used to the glare of the harsh lights.

Harry Winks
Harry Winks

Players like Marcus Rashford, Harry Winks and Jack Wilshere are few of such examples in modern times. While Rashford has managed to stay grounded and cement his position, Winks rose to prominence for Tottenham Hotspur this season after a series of spell-binding performances, which saw him earn appreciation from fans and critics alike. What truly catapulted him to centre-stage was his brave performance against reigning European champions Real Madrid. While all the praise he is receiving is well-warranted, this does seem similar to a time when another English youth went through the same – only to fizzle out in the end.

When the world first got a taste of Jack Wilshere at Arsenal, he was immediately dubbed ‘the English Iniesta’ or ‘the English Xavi’. Very few English midfielders are able to replicate – if not better – the form shown by most midfielders in Spain. Intricacy, technical knowledge, pace and physicality are some of the attributes associated with them but not many in England are able to play in a similar fashion. However, there are times when the mould is broken and a youngster comes up with the promise of playing beautiful football in the middle of the park.

Wilshere was a product like that for Arsenal. He rose through the ranks rapidly and became a sensational figure for the North London club. The fans loved him and so did the pundits. In fact, the player’s then-fledgling career rose to greater heights after he had the last laugh against Barcelona when he had to play against Xavi and Iniesta. It seemed like a mighty task for a 19-year-old but Wilshere stood up to the challenge and dominated the famed Catalan duo, much to the astonishment of everybody watching. He was destined for greatness and the English fans and media were delighted with this new maestro.

Unfortunately for the player, the sweet taste of success did not last very long. A dip in form coupled with a slew of injuries ate up all his time on the field. Considering how intense the Premier League is, there’s no scope to take risks when it comes to awaiting a return from injury. The Gunners had to find out the hard way and they eventually moved on to different players while Wilshere got stuck far behind. Despite being one of Arsenal’s most celebrated young players, it might be best for him to move on from the club to avoid stagnating his career.

It is indeed a tragic end to his time with Arsenal but it is these unavoidable circumstances that make every minute on the field so precious. And now, it does seem like Winks is the latest player to be subjected to such pressure and hype. He did gain recognition in the Premier League after his exploits for Spurs but Winks received far greater appreciation after he stood shoulder-to-shoulder against the likes of Luka Modric, Casemiro and Isco in a Champions League encounter. The first leg ended in a draw but the second leg was his ticket to fame. He completely dominated the midfield area and played a splendid game of football that was astounding to watch. Real Madrid’s midfield greats were left baffled by the wizardry of Winks.

Tottenham ultimately won that game and one can majorly attribute their successes to the 21-year-old. What makes his display all the more impressive is the fact that he seemed like the only one in the middle to ward off threats posed by the midfielders while his partners Eric Dier and Mousa Dembele seemed pre-occupied with either supporting the attack or guarding the defence.

The road from here on for Winks can go in any direction but he must be vigilant enough to differentiate between what he should do and what people expect him to do. More often than not, these lofty expectations are the reason behind the decline in players’ forms. Wilshere succumbed to the pressure and failed to live up to the immense hype surrounding his every move but it will be of utmost priority for Mauricio Pochettino to ensure Winks does not endure a similar fate. Shielding Winks from the harsh glare of the spotlight might be tough but it is necessary to salvage his career.

It has been ages since an English midfielder has caught the fancy of the footballing world. Yes, Harry Kane is clearly doing wonders for the national team but he is a striker. Even in the game against Real Madrid, Kane was dependent on Winks to create spaces to ease himself into the play. That said, there is no undermining Kane’s brilliance. They are more like a co-existent pair of players right now and to succeed in the front, the Spurs hitman can benefit from having a player like Winks in the English team.

It will be quite a task but perhaps Pochettino and the English media can prevent Winks from turning into a Wilshere. There is a certain amount of pressure on the youngster right now but he is a bit more mature than what the Arsenal man was back then. Knowing that all of this can vanish in an instant is likely to keep him grounded. At the same time, it is also important for people around him to feed his talent and not his ego.

Meet the Runners and Riders in the race to replace Arsene Wenger

Arsene Wenger

It’s coming to the time of the season when Arsene Wenger must make the decision on his contract renewal. At any other club, the Frenchman’s future would be out of his hands but this is Arsenal and this is Wenger.

The board of directors – and more importantly, majority shareholder Stan Kroenke – are content with the annual top four finish and financial conservatism that the Frenchman brings. With the umbrella of attractive football protecting him, the majority of supporters are content, or not so unhappy that they want change.

There is an air of ambivalence at times around the Emirates which is the opposite of the febrile atmosphere of the club’s fanbase on social media.

Change is inevitable though. There’s only so long that the Wenger era can continue and the club is faced with the prospect of a seismic change in its operation.

Manchester United made the mistake of appointing David Moyes, a ‘Sir Alex Ferguson lite’ if ever there was one when their legendary manager finally called it a day. Arsenal would do well to heed those lessons.

It seems they are unlikely to. The financial plan which underpins the club isn’t going to change. Kroenke isn’t going to invest directly in the club and he’s unlikely to sell. Increasing the value of his shareholding is pivotal to his vision of Arsenal and at times, that is a direct contradiction of the supporters’ desire for Premier League and Champions League success.

If Wenger decides to end his tenure at the Emirates, who will replace him? We look at the main candidates.

The rank outsider: Steve Bould

The only internal candidate, Bould is as close to an Arsenal man as there is on the coaching staff. A title winner as a player under George Graham and Arsene Wenger, Bould sits patiently on the touchline, conducting his work on the training ground.

He is seen by some as a throwback and without any managerial experience, there is a huge risk involved in his appointment. Is that overcome by his apprenticeship under Wenger?

There is certainly a continuity element in appointing him and few can argue that he knows the club inside out. But is that enough to motivate the calibre of player that Arsenal need to attract and retain if they are to win the Premier League or in Europe?

The reality is no. Bould is the outsider in this race. Not entirely ruled out but his appointment would be the equivalent of Leicester City winning the Premier League title!

The Klopp effect: Thomas Tuchel

Managing Dortmund brings a romantic touch with it. Jürgen Klopp, for so long the favoured successor in the fanbase, has blotted his copybook by joining Liverpool but his successor, Thomas Tuchel, is rated as highly.

Working within budgetary constraints at Mainz is a sound footing for Arsenal, while his time at Dortmund underlines his adherence to the footballing principles Wenger has instilled at Arsenal.

Astute moves in the transfer market are part of the collaborative approach at Dortmund and overhauling Arsenal in that direction works with the likes of Tuchel, who see it as the ‘norm’ rather than an alien concept.

Runners-up last year and fourth again this, he understands the financial and supporter demands of Champions League football. Major minus is the lack of silverware but he’s a popular choice.

The media’s choice: Eddie Howe

The Bournemouth boss’ CV is based on the relative success of keeping Bournemouth and their style of play. Popular with the media because of his willingness to talk football and being English, Howe has no big club experience.

This, as well as never managing or playing in European football, undermines him at this stage of his career. Perhaps he could be an Arsenal boss in the future, if he hasn’t ruined his reputation by taking on the England job!

Europe’s bright young thing: Unai Emery

The Spaniard’s star is on the wane. PSG routinely ran away with the French title but are struggling in the post-Zlatan era. It underlines how much of an influence he was on PSG and how much they relied on his goals.

However, three Europa League triumphs with Sevilla and taking perpetual crisis-riven club Valencia into the Champions League, were phenomenal achievements. More importantly, his sides played with a high-tempo which suits English football.

Anyone who can get Valencia into the top four with their lack of funds and work with Sevilla in their business model, can work at Arsenal. Perhaps he could bring Monchi, the Andalusian club’s feted director of football, with him?

The man to keep Alexis at Arsenal: Jorge Sampaoli

Copa America winner, Sevilla in second place in La Liga, Sampaoli could keep Alexis at Arsenal through their past association.

A renowned tactician, the Argentine is a keen student of the game and is noted for probing the weakness of opponents. This is a regular complaint about Wenger, whose sides are, it’s claimed, routinely frustrated by well-organised opposition.

Recently crowned La Liga Manager of the Month in only his second month in the job, Sampaoli won three titles in Chile and the Copa Sudamericana so has silverware to bolster his reputation but his unfancied adopted country to the final and winning ranks as one of the best achievements of his career.

The one everyone wants to appoint: Diego Simeone

Maniacal on the touchline, a bundle of energy, the Argentine is the popular choice.

Many see the parallels between Arsenal and Atletico as a reason to hire Simeone. Taking Atleti to two Champions League finals underlines his credentials, as well as a solid defensive unit which underpins their regular top four finishes. A return to the days of “one-nil to the Arsenal” won’t be far away.

He’s won the Europa League and European Super Cup, as well as the Copa del Rey and of course, La Liga.

The fly in the ointment? Both Simeone and his son Giovanni, a pro at Genoa, have made recent noises that his next move would be to Serie A. Which is handy because it looks like the Juventus job is going to be available at the end of the season…

The more successful successor: Max Allegri

Can the English-speaking Allegri be the next Arsenal manager?

Speculation at the weekend says it’s very likely he will leave the perennial Italian champions at the end of the season. Looking around, Arsenal are the only club of a similar stature which offers a reasonable prospect of success.

His credentials are impeccable: the Scudetto with Milan and two with Juventus, top three finishes in each of his full seasons in the San Siro, as well as two Coppa Italia and Supercoppa wins.

He routinely takes his sides to the Round of Sixteen and beyond in the Champions League and has a CV which would impress Alexis and Mesut Ozil, Arsenal’s current contract rebels.

Would appease both the pro- and anti- Wenger camps.

Coming in from the left field: Luis Enrique

He’s won everything there is as a manager at home and abroad, but finishing outside of the top two in Spain’s two-horse race might be a signal that his time at the Camp Nou is up.

There’s been plenty of media speculation that he will be on his way following a harder than expected run during their double-winning 2015/16. In the Catalan capital, a failure to retain the Champions League cut deeper as bitter rivals Real Madrid claimed the prize.

At its’ heart, Enrique’s brand of football isn’t much different from Wenger’s which will keep the Arsenal faithful happy. If he can work through the political mire at Barcelona, keeping a split fanbase in check is child’s play.