As I was working on my second step for my sociolinguistics paper about UK English, I thought I would take a break and write about something else that’s along the lines of the U.K.: Arsenal. If you’re an Arsenal fan, you probably know the ups and downs that comes with being one. This season was definitely one of the more unusual seasons though in that we actually were in it for all four competitions that we were eligible for: League Cup, FA Cup, Premier League, and UEFA Champions League. Yet in a matter of weeks, it’s pretty promising that we’ll go away without silverware yet again. So what went wrong this season? A few things come to mind:
(1) Defense. Our inability to hold leads or deal with more physical teams (like Man. United) is attested to our defense. Our defense is inconsistent. Whether it be random blunders from our goalkeeper or center-backs being unable to hold down opposing center forwards, it’s just clearly present that we’re struggling in this area. Especially in a league where there’s Wayne Rooney, Drogba, Van Der Vaart and the like, we need a pair of center backs that are just as strong and physical as those guys. Christopher Samba was basically asking to join Arsenal. Sure, he might not have as great of a passing game, but he is solid in the back. Also, our left-back in Clichy has been inconsistent as well. His mistakes in the backline have been costly at times. But things like stupid fouls and lack of discipline have been so bad in the defense that it seriously needs to be retooled. No more of this, “We’re not gonna spend money on star players.” You need it with defense because without it, you can’t protect wins.
Our goalkeeper situation is another issue that needs its own paragraph. We have three guys that are all pretty awkward. However, the best of the three right now has to be Szczesny. He is the future of the club. However, he will need some time to develop. But if he was under the guard of a stronger back four, I think he would improve greatly. He will make mistakes once in a while (see today’s game against Tottenham with the foul on Lennon), but with a better back four, he can focus on not having to come out and make such tackles in the manner that he did today.
(2) Durability. What do I mean by durability? Simply put it, it’s about not being injury prone. We’ve been struggling with this for numerous years now and it needs to be addressed. Robin Van Persie is a great player, but at the same time, is well-known for being Mr. Glass. Same with Theo Walcott and Cesc Fabregas. Maybe it’s the training and medical team that needs to reevaluate their methodology or something because it does hurt the team a lot when these players pick up these injuries.
(3) Being able to adjust tactics accordingly. Arsenal’s playing style is by far one of the most fun to watch. No question about that. Arsene has been able to equip these players with that mentality that has seen them break through even the most difficult of defenses in the game. However, sometimes, we need players that not only have this mentality, but also the physical strength or other qualities to get through physical teams. What do I mean? For example, Blackburn is known for being a very physical side. You know that every game you play against them will always be the same: Be physical, no holds barred. So choose players that can handle that kind of physicality, whether on offense and defense. Isn’t that why we picked up Chamakh? Sometimes, speed is good, but other times, matching brute force with brute force is just the answer you need to hold them off long enough to score goals and win games.
I’m sure there’s other things that come to mind as one picks apart this season. But the fact of the matter to all this is that changes need to be made. Everyone looks back to the days of the Invincibles and what they did. However, if you look at their roster, it was pretty obvious what they had. They had a side that was physical, disciplined when it needed to be (well, kinda minus some stupid things here and there), yet still played the same amazing offense that they have today. Henry was able to hold off physical defenders. Pires had pace but a strong game. Vieira was in the middle of the pitch controlling the pace of the game. The back four of Toure, Lauren, Cole, and Campbell is a testament to a strong, physical back four with people like Keown and Parlour available as well. That’s the kind of equation you need to win soccer games nowadays.
It’s still not over as Arsenal can still possibly win the EPL this season. However, if they keep losing 3-1 leads to teams like Tottenham or fail to score against others, I’m not sure if this will be even possible.