Could the Emirates be done for Arsene?

The number of dissenters in the Arsenal fan base are growing.

As Fabregas nudges towards passport control, and Samir Nasri readies himself for the drive up the M6 to Eastlands, Arsene Wenger is facing open revolt from gunners fans as his philosophy and methods appear to crumble around him. After six barren years without a trophy, ‘the professor’ as he’s often characterised by the press, seems to be falling back on old answers to new questions with yet more left-field signings rather than a search for the tried-and-tested Premier League veterans some quarters call out for.

The departure of senior squad members has often hit Arsenal hard, where a philosophy of promoting from within hasn’t always covered the gaps. In my mind Arsenal haven’t been the same since the 2008 exits of Alexander Hleb and Mathieu Flamini who each brought incisive, penetration going forward and a steadying platform in midfield respectively. Hleb especially brought width and accessible service from the flanks to a team short in stature, delivering line-breaking lateral through balls rather than floating over crosses, the likes of which are easily snuffed out by aerially adept opponents on a regular basis. Arshavin has become increasingly ineffective and inconsistent as a wide provider so hopefully Gervinho’s summer arrival from French champions Lile will bring about a renewed usability and intelligence to Arsenal’s wing play. With the other new acquisition out wide being Southampton’s latest ‘wonderkid’, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arsenal fans will be hoping their newest recruit from the south coast can develop a football brain to accompany his talents rather than regressing into a mindless speed merchant, sprinting head long into dead ends like his predecessor, Theo Walcott. Joel Campbell will hopefully act as suitable cover when the cutting edge of Robin Van Persie is once again laid off by predictable injury.

Replacing Fabregas and Nasri needn’t be a tale of tragedy and woe however, as the answers really could lie on Arsene Wenger’s doormat in shapes of Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsay. Whilst the Welshman was initially earmarked as the deeper operator of the two, Ramsay’s displays as an attacking raider behind the frontlines suggest he could be the player to take up Nasri’s vacant position whilst Wilshere’s solid composure in possession and appetite for the tackle makes him the perfect midfield general to replace Fabregas. These aren’t like-for-like swap-ins of course but both youngsters look almost unlimited in their potential and offering them the responsibility of becoming key players could be the making of them and their team.

Ramsey challenges for the ball against Manchester United's Chris Smalling

There is a financial silver lining to this whole fiasco too of course. A purported £65m, a figured enhanced with the income from Gael Clichy’s signing, buys a lot of player even in these times of inflated market forces. Suspicions arise however that the clubs transfer budget will see little of these funds. Indeed, Arsenal could do with spending in one area in particular: defence. Whilst their back four’s form improved last season, there was still a lack of confidence, leadership and responsibility without the superb Thomas Vermaelen. Silly mistakes such as in the Carling Cup final are symptomatic of an Arsenal back line that forever seems twitchy and fragile regardless any statistical reassurances. The reported courting of Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill look like tailor made solutions to these problems but a new left back also needs to be recruited. Another young signing, Carl Jenkinson from Charlton, will add cover on the defensive flanks but in a team already lacking in experience and direction at the rear, a more robust edition is a necessity, but isn’t that always the case with Arsene Wenger’s side?

In an interview with The Times in October 2010, Fabregas lamented at the lack of current leaders and role models in the Arsenal squad. Whilst he may be their captain he spoke as if he felt his own footballing education was in-complete. Without his former ‘invincible’ mentors and betters, he had been forced to become something of an unfinished teacher-in-progress to the team’s youngsters by circumstance, when in reality he felt more like a tutor-less prefect. If this is the case then a similar fate may await Ramsay and Wilshere as they become more central to the team. As the experience passed down from each generation of young gunners to the next is increasingly cut down by early exits by senior players and an ever-evaporating pool of experience, it seems as if Wenger’s project may falter due to the law of diminishing returns. Perhaps though, with a crop of British players finally beginning to show through with the technical skill and calm intelligence demanded of the Wenger model, such a expertise leak will soon be plugged. Its unlikely Wilshere and Ramsay would pine for the likes of Barcelona in the same manner as Cesc, or have their heads turned by the oily riches of City quite as easily due to their upbringing within the club. Only time will tell and that is perhaps Arsene’s greatest problem. With patience wearing thin he must deliver at least Champions League spot and trophy, regardless of its stature; the Carling Cup would do! Indeed, the league’s second tier knock out competition may seem irrelevant to some, but in the past it has inspired a winning mentality into transitioning squads at Manchester United and Chelsea that fuelled them to far more reputable heights.

Any scorn fired at Wenger must be viewed in context. The Frenchman has built Arsenal into the club they are today, delivering a state-of-the-art stadium and mouthwatering playing style that has won them fans, prestige and business all over the world. Dismissing the Premier League’s second longest serving manager now when his project may be close to ultimate fruition could pervert the progress already won.


7 thoughts on “Could the Emirates be done for Arsene?

  1. Arshavin is a peculiar case in that he often appears to be a lot less effective than he actually is. After his flashy, initial six month burst into England he has generally operated under the radar, despite a very reasonable return of 10 goals and 17 assists in the 10/11 season (in fact eclipsing Hleb’s greatest season return of 4 goals and 11 assists in all comps in 07/08)..
    Gervinho appears to be occupying Nasri’s role, with his pace and eye for goal he should prove more than adequate a replacement. Wilshere is already well establshed within the first team, with Ramsey likely to take on Fabregas’ role as the most advanced midfielder (unless new signings are made, of course). The amount of times Nasri was played centrally for Arsenal is negligible, with many believing the opportunity to ply his trade regularly in the centre – as he now does under Blanc’s France – at City as another contributing factor to the move.

  2. Arshavin is a very hot and cold player; great stats built up on a few storming games that cover a tendency to go missing far too often. Hleb may not stack up end product wise statically, much like Silva last season, but the composure and and extra-dimension he brought into Arsenal’s build up play has never been replicated to the same effect. We may not have been the provider of the final ball or finish, but he stretched defences out of shape or off balance with his supply lines from wide.

    I was perhaps wrong to cite Gervinho as a suitable replacement, but I still think Ramsey will be the player to replace Nasri. Whilst the Frenchman did a fair share of his work from the flanks, his tendency to drift into the midfield just in-front of an opposition’s defensive line created an overload in favour of the gunners, and brought an extra pair of quick feet and lithe dribbles to Arsenal’s attacking moves. Although a more physically imposing player than Wilshere, which may lead some to assume makes him a more astute ball winner and retainer, I think Aaron Ramsey has shown a comfort and confidence in a central attacking midfield position that will help the squad compensate for Nasri. Gervinho, whether a belated replacement for the byline playmaking of Hleb or not, will offer the width that Ramsey doesn’t.

    Like I said above about replacing Fabregas, it is Wilshere’s awareness, tidy defensive work and his ever-growing set of passing skills that make him the man to take over the ‘hub’ role in the guts of the team. Perhaps if Wenger does decide to splash out for Mata or Hazard, we might see the ‘Hleb effect’ once again as tactics are tweaked to fit around this newly dutied British spine.

  3. I feel that people are jumping to attack Arsene Wenger too easy. Arsenal are going through a dry patch with trophies, but are more set for the future then a lot of clubs in the world. They lack financial power after investing in one of the best stadiums in Britain which will last for the next 50 years. They still have an incredibly young squad, with immense talent all hidden in there. If you argue that 6 years is too long to wait for a trophy, then you need to look at it from a bigger perspective. Manchester United went for over two decades without a league title, and now are the cream of English football. Manchester City went 35 years with out silverware and are now poised with the world at their feet, nevermind the long struggle Liverpool are in. I’d rather be in the position of a team that is going to last for the next several decades then an upstart team with immediate success for a short amount of time.

  4. I totally agree and hope that my write up goes some way to show that in my optimism regarding Wilshere and Ramsey. As I said above, Wenger made Arsenal the club it is today and it would be an awful shame to remove him from his experiments just as the first crop of British brilliance begins to roll off the production line. Seeing Wilshere, Ramsey and all the other names passed about like wonderkid prophecies in the ranks below feels like the end product for the methods Wenger has been using for years; home-grown, technically excellent footballers in decent quantities!

    If there’s one thing Arsene has done for the club is build a bright future and establish a culture of excellence if not success in terms of silverware. If Wenger is to be sacked this term I think Arsenal and the league would lose something, or more accurately someone, very special but I can see it happening all too easily if crisis takes hold before Christmas. I reckon he can make 4th though if given the season to do so.

  5. Hello Stephen Elliot. I just got a letter dated 1/19/12 from Lorelie Lee in an envelope from you. We have no idea whatsoever how I got on your list. But I’ll write Lorelie back (a real letter, even), because it was pretty fucking brave of her to write that.

  6. not when they definitely dont care about our survival which they dont it could be bullshit but when it does transpire it will almost certainly be somthing such as this . NO warning in any way, thats why many of the important governments on the entire world are making underground bunkers which in all probability want perform anyway

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