Posted by Barrie on Monday, 19 April 2010

Where Has It Gone Wrong for Arsene Wenger's Arsenal?

It's nearly six seasons ago that Arsenal done the unthinkable and went the whole of the Premier League season undefeated on their way to a third league title under Arsene Wenger.

That successful squad included Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Vieira, Robert Pires and Ashley Cole. Arsenal have not come close to winning the league in six attempts since.

The following season saw Chelsea's dominance under Jose Mourinho. A defeat at Old Trafford with the Wayne Rooney penalty incident ended Arsene Wenger's sides long, unbeaten run. That started a poor run of form which Arsenal would drift too far behind Chelsea, despite finishing the season as runners up. Arsenal haven't finished second since and this season will mark only their second finish in the top 3 in the past five seasons.

Where has it gone wrong?

From the invincible's to the inexperienced. Arsenal's side lacks the level of experience and quality they had five or six seasons ago. When Arsenal became the first team to lose a Premier League game from a 2-0 lead in the 80th minute on Sunday, they had an average age of 25 which was boosted by Sol Campbell and Mikael Silvestre's centre back partnership in for the injured William Gallas and Thomas Vermaelen. Injuries have been a major blow for Arsenal this season. Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas, Andrei Arshavin and William Gallas are just some of the many injuries and long-term injuries Arsenal have had disrupting the fluency in the Arsenal team this season.

Defeat could have been avoided if the inexperienced Lukasz Fabianski had have got down quicker to make a save on Ben Watson's goal and later not dropped the ball onto Titus Bramble's head for Wigan's equaliser. At that point they had fallen apart. Arsene Wenger put it down to discipline. That problem could have been erased with more experience in the centre of midfield instead of Craig Eastmond, who was making only his second start in the Premier League, and alongside him, Abou Diaby.

Consistency

The biggest problem this Arsenal side face is consistency. Andrei Arshavin, Nicklas Bendtner, Gael Clichy, Abou Diaby, Emmanuel Eboue, Eduardo, Samir Nasri, Tomas Rosicky, Bacary Sagna, Alex Song, Theo Walcott. There's enough players to field a first team there. They've all put in some excellent performances for Arsenal in the past. But unlike what Manchester United players churn out season after season, these Arsenal players fail to play well on a consistent basis. They will not win another title or even another trophy until they can fix this issue.

One thing they need to do to fix this is build a spine of consistent and good players through the team. They currently have Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie who can do that, if they stay healthy and if Arsenal can keep hold of both players over the summer. One urgent requirement is a solid goalkeeper. Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City and even Liverpool all have those. Arsenal need to bring in someone who can match that. Manuel Almunia simply isn't good enough. In defence, with William Gallas' fitness issues, finding another top defender to partner Thomas Vermaelen should be a summer priority. The rest of the centre backs on the squad list are simply ageing or not good enough to compete for a Premier League title.

The physical side

Successful Arsenal sides in the past under Arsene Wenger had the likes of Sol Campbell, Patrick Vieira and Gilberto Silva in. Players who weren't afraid to get stuck in and win the ball/knock opposition off of it. As was demonstrated when they played Chelsea this season, they lack the physical game to compete with some sides. When Wenger looks for a new centre back, perhaps a new partner in midfield for Cesc Fabregas and someone up front for Robin van Persie who should look for players with physical presence to bolster up the team.

The competition

With Manchester City's spending power that included stealing both Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Toure from Arsenal last summer, they will be looking to improve the squad further this summer, especially if they qualify for the Champions League, and with a new manager in charge from the one they had at the start of the season. Tottenham and Aston Villa are also good sides who are looking to compete with Arsenal. The Gunners cannot afford to rely on their current batch of youngsters to come good next season. They need to bring in a few solid signings if they want to make a serious push for the Premier League and Champions League next season.

Let's not forget that both Chelsea and Manchester United have underperformed this season and will likely make a few top signings in the summer to make sure they come back stronger after the World Cup.

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