By 1970’s Gooner
Wenger’s stinginess and the Arsenal Board’s tight purse strings has been a match made in heaven.
While the other big three have been splashing the dough making big money purchases during the last two transfer windows, Arsenal, apart from Sagna and Eduardo, have been recruiting youngsters mainly under 18 years old.
Reliance was therefore placed on a squad that was thin and littered with younger players with as yet unproven ability on the big stage.
This approach had made Wenger take a chance on many positions and rely on squad players to fill in if and when required. And this is where eventually a lot went wrong.
Experiment Number 1: Not buying a centre back during the January transfer window
It was known beforehand, of course, that the Africa Nations Cup would take Kolo Toure away during the significant January period.
Yet Arsene refused to bring in cover choosing to rely on the services of two error prone and relatively inexperienced youngsters. Philip Senderos and Yohan Djourou.
And on top of that Kolo Toure returned crocked.
As he did during the previous Africa Nations Cup (and so did Alexander Song a possible adequate replacement as it turned out to be)!
Senderos had a few good games and even scored.
But he also had a few bad games; and when you make mistakes in defence they count more than if you make them in other areas of the pitch as an attacker….
Yes it is important to allow the youngsters to get valuable experience.
But letting Djourou play in very demanding games for relegation threatened Birmingham and then recalling him in the middle of the season meant that his fatigue levels were high as also was his susceptibility to injury.
He only played in the Carling Cup semi final against Spurs and then he got crocked too! He hasn’t started a game since. It’s difficult to say, of course, whether he would have made fewer errors than Senderos…..
Experiment Number 2: Anointing Eboue as a winger
Eboue showed weaknesses last season as a right back. He did however sparkle when he ventured forward being very incisive and thrusting.
But promoting him to a more permanent role as a creative wide midfielder backfired pretty quickly.
Especially when the injury prone Rosicky began to miss one game after another.
And then Wenger had to choose between Eboue, Diaby and Walcott to play on the wings.
Two of them proved to be square pegs in round holes.
The other needed time and games to grow up a bit. Need I say no more….
Clearly a real winger, either left or right footed, has been badly missing from the side. This meant that in his absence, opponents were not stretched enough thus forcing Arsenal to attack mainly from the middle.
But that is the easier way to defend, by packing the central areas in front of the defence and making it really difficult to get through. And this is what Arsenal faced throughout the season……
Experiment Number 3: Relying on a newly bought forward to blend in double fast and on a rookie with promise
You can’t win games in football unless you have pretty potent and experienced forwards. And you need more than two as injuries are always part of the game.
Yet Wenger chose to rely on only two relatively experienced forwards in Van Persie and Adebayor (who admittedly proved to be up to the task), on a new to the Premiership recruit and on a youngster who showed promise but in a lower League the year before.
This was indeed an experiment because although Eduardo blended in fast it did take him the best part of half the season to do so. Until unfortunately when he was coming good he got taken out by injury.
However during the time it took him to acclimatise there was always the real danger of either Van Persie or Adebayor getting injured. And Murphy’s Law says that if anything can go wrong it will go wrong!
Van Persie got injured on international duty with Holland in October.
He hasn’t really been back since.
Injuries are part of football life and everyone knows that.
That is why you are taking a real risk when you are really relying on only two proven forwards to get you through the best part of the season.
This forced Wenger to change the system from 4 4 2 to 4 5 1 by bringing Hleb in the central areas of midfield and playing Adebayor usually as a lone striker.
No wonder the guy was so tired in many of the latter games of the season (and probably why he kept getting caught offside).
This also meant that Wenger had to find other players to occupy the wide midfield positions as Hleb had to fill infield; but of course Arsene then had to improvise as there weren’t any genuine wingers in the squad that he could rely on.
And talking about taking risks; Togo failed to qualify for the Africa nations Cup otherwise we would have been without Adebayor as well as Toure during January (may be Murphy’s law is not foolproof after all).
Experiment Number 4: Signing a new right back
This is a move that really proved very successful as Bakary Sagna has excelled in that position; rightly picked in the Premier League’s best 11.
He is strong and tenacious in the tackle but more importantly has excellent positional awareness. He will be Arsenal’s right back for years to come.
And with Clichy blossoming as Europe’s best left back leaves as the only tinkering needed in defence the recruitment of another top class central defender who can also tackle the long balls.
Experiment Number 5: Promoting Almunia
A lot of fans may disagree but in my opinion Wenger had no other choice after mad Jens begun dropping clangers early in the season costing us points.
Almunia has defied most of his critics making some great saves and even saving a crucial penalty against Spurs at the Emirates.
He will be even better next season as the experience gained as first choice this year will be invaluable.
A note of optimism
The best way to look at it is that this season has probably been used by Wenger as a learning process and to provide a hands on assessment of areas in the team that need strengthening.
A calculated experiment towards getting the youngsters ready for a real onslaught on glory for next season.
Then all the above were experiments well worth taking…..
Arsenal and Barcelona play the beautiful game…… and then get knocked out
Kolo Toure stretchered off the Africa Nations Cup
Sagna: get your hair on please!
Song shines for Cameroon as they reach the Africa Nations Cup Final