They say you should never kick a man when he’s down – however, it’s an equal travesty to not consider the reality of the situation, so hear me out before you start screaming.
Arsenal are 16 points behind Manchester United, 13 behind Chelsea. They have a game in hand, but that advantage will mean little when they play Chelsea at Stamford Bridge – on current form, they’d be lucky to get away without conceding more than 2 goals.
A 20 points gap between Arsenal and Manchester United going into January is possible, and likely. You don’t win a league with the injuries and poor start Arsenal had, and you sure as hell don’t win by playing like Arsenal did at Fulham.
Arsenal have, so far, spectacularly failed this season. They’ve failed to match their own standards, they’ve failed to match the expectations put on them by Arsenal fans, and worst of all, they’ve refused to accept that they’re going about it the wrong way.
A manager’s job in front of the media involves protecting his players, so it’s understandable that Wenger prefers to avoid criticising Arsenal in public. But the reality is that Arsenal’s ‘pretty game’ is worth shit – teams have learned how to counter it, and that, coupled with a sensational drop in confidence in the Arsenal camp, has meant that Arsenal are now fighting for the 3rd spot with 5-6 other teams instead of pushing for the title or at least appearing like favourites to end 3rd.
Ferguson has gone through the same period with Manchester United, and him and the club came out stronger for it. It’s not right that Wenger should be dismissed because Arsenal are stuttering – the league is now much more competitive and you pay heavily for your mistakes.
Arsenal’s moment of truth was Fulham – when they finally had to face the reality of playing like a shit team instead of the title contenders that they can be.
Wenger’s moment of truth will be in January, when he’ll need to bring in reinforcements. His moment of truth revolves around clearing out the cruft in the squad and making sure the core of his team – the young gunners – are strong enough, and fit enough, to mount a challenge next season.
Gallas, Toure, Eboue, Lauren, Senderos, Djourou, Flamini, Fabregas, Rosicky, Hleb, Baptista, RVP, Walcott, Diaby, Adebayour – These are the players Wenger will rely on in the next 3 years, and it is important that this lot is uninjured and well-rested next season.
Gilberto is over, so is Henry – I’m sorry if that offends you, but it has to be said – Arsenal need to evolve, and players like Lehmann, Henry, Ljunberg and Gilberto are not part of Arsenal’s future.
See you next year.