Arsenal: Failing season the catalyst for overhaul
The last couple of months have been dreadful – possibly the worst ever phase we have experienced. I literally have no idea as to where our next win is coming from. The feeling is one of helplessness. I know how hard it can be for one to be positive during these testing times, but it is also imperative to have some perspective and look in more detail into potential implications of our club’s future in the coming seasons.
ARE OUR PLAYERS AS GOOD AS WE MAKE THEM OUT TO BE?
Its natural for fans to show love and hype up their own players. I’ve been guilty of that myself. Its important to realize that about 98% of the players in our squad can be replaced, or even upgraded upon if we play our cards right.
The weaknesses start at the back. David Luiz and Sokratis are simply not good enough right now. Mistakes galore. Calum Chambers is a good squad player, but again – not at the level required to be a consistent starter for a club with CL ambitions. Rob Holding has good potential, but will take more time to fully recover from his awful injury. Mavropanos is quite raw and has had his fair share of injury issues- he is in need of a loan. And Mustafi.. well… Is Mustafi. This is the first area that needs addressing.
At the start of the season, it seemed to me like the midfield had good variety. Issue is they aren’t playing to their potential. Xhaka’s incident with the fans, Torreira’s discontent regarding his position and Guendouzi/Willock still learning their trade hasn’t helped matters. Mesut Ozil is not the player he once was and while he could definitely give us that creative edge, I have serious doubts of whether he could be a part of our future. Dani Ceballos showed some promise early on, but even he is yet to fully adapt to the league. What was a potential strength at the beginning of the season, has now turned into a weakness. We get run over way too easily. Freddie spoke about stopping the transition and our inability to do so stems largely from our midfield’s ineffectiveness.
The forwards have been relatively better, but then again, the question of whether they compliment each other arises. Pepe is still young and coming to a new league. He’s shown flashes of brilliance, but needs little more fine tuning and adaptation. When you play Lacazette as the center forward, with Aubameyang on the flank, that is where the problems arise. Manchester City have Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero, yet only one of them start. The other is on the bench. Team balance is everything. Lacazette and Aubameyang may be good mates, but unless you are playing them both centrally, it just does not work and is becoming a real issue.
Playing 4-4-2 means you compromise the midfield and playing a diamond means you compromise on width. 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 is ideal and gives us the best balance.
The number of times Auba receives the ball out wide and loses possession is something he cannot be blamed for considering that simply isn’t his position. I don’t want him tracking the opposition full backs. I want him playing on the shoulders of defenders, as near as the opposition penalty area as possible. We need ball carrying ability and retention of width in wide areas. You need to bench one of our strikers to get that aspect covered.
Our other wing options are relatively younger, but have great potential – Nelson, Martinelli and Saka. I would start Martinelli because he is way ahead of the others in terms of development and has done more than enough to warrant the opportunity. Really feel for our youngsters right now because the senior players bar Leno and Aubameyang simply haven’t stepped up. They are the ones who need to set the tone.
So when you look at our squad as a whole, we are a work in progress. In fact going by results and performances – a work in regress would be more appropriate.
IS THE SEASON DONE?
Arsenal play with fear in every game. The confidence is completely lacking. We are in desperate need of a couple of wins to bring that swagger back to save the season. Top 4 is dusted. All eggs in the Europa basket, but I really don’t want to back on a competition where turning up on a given day is the deciding factor. There is just too much uncertainty.
THE NEED FOR SURGERY:
What Arsenal’s squad needs is major surgery. We need to sign players 27 and under who have fantastic ability and can make an impact. Some names we could realistically be looking at include Grealish, Ziyech, Zaha, Demiral, Upamecano, Partey, Sangare, Soumare, Doucoure, etc. Players with pace and power. I really fancy Jack Grealish because he knows the league well and is adaptable to playing #10 and on the left flank where he would be a wide player of a creative profile.
Arsenal FC needs a change of scenery. These players have been given enough chances and have failed to prove their worth time and again. They may be good players, but their cycle with Arsenal is done. The team needs a major overhaul this summer. Cut through the spine of squad and replace them with quality. Being 10th might actually wake the board up.
WHAT IF THE OWNER DOESN’T INJECT FUNDS?
Even if the owner doesn’t invest in his own funds, we’ve saved up quite a bit from the summer. Our net spend was only around £35/40m. We were in for Upamecano and were willing to go up to £60m according to multiple reliable outlets – so we do have that fund outlay. Even if we have a meager budget next window, adding that with the existing fund outlay + player sales and we can generate a good amount. We just need to be spot on with our dealings in the market.
In addition, we also need a quality coach who can develop a style over time. Even if we don’t always get results, what we need to see is progress.
TAKEAWAYS AND IMPLICATIONS OF LOOMING FAILURE FROM THIS SEASON:
My biggest takeaway from this season is not to emotionally invest yourself in individual players beyond a point. We all (myself included) need to set aside our biases, agendas and think about what is best for the club.
Finishing 10th, with no Europa league football next season will lead to attrition. Then, it comes down to the right managerial appointment and signings. Its not the end of the world, in fact we might actually progress as a club than stick with some of these players who are simply just not good enough and continue to regress further.
The onus is on Edu, Raul and Josh to work diligently behind the scenes to help us get the right candidate. We also need to be actively monitoring the market for potential opportunities. Sure, we won’t be able to attract someone like Jadon Sancho, but I’m confident we can still attract players of quality. We’re a gargantuan institution going through a bad phase. We will be back in a few years time. Its a game of cycles and this season could be a catalyst for the major surgery that is required to fix Arsenal Football Club.