Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Southampton vs Arsenal: Match 'Preview'

Truth be told, my mind is barely on this game. Deep down, I know that Arsenal are going to notch a one-goal margin win, and I know that there will be praise for succeeding where City and Liverpool failed. I know that we're going to show "Champions' qualities" in a game where it wasn't really necessary, and I know that we'll be praising our defence once again, ignoring our problems upfront.

I just think that the reason of my disinterest for this game is because frankly, we have bigger fish to fry. It's 28th of January and predictably, Wenger still hasn't signed a striker (or a winger). After 28 days of speculations linking almost every striker to Arsenal, we're finally left with no one but Nicklas Bendtner and Yaya Sanogo (ha). What sucks the most - something I've been saying throughout the window - is that by now we could've been in a much better position had Wenger not been so stubborn and blind.

I've long since learnt how to support Arsenal, yet not support Arsene Wenger's philosophies. And part of that includes accepting the fact that Wenger has a risky habit of leaving things really, really late in the window. As always, I still think that Wenger will make a late attempt at a player on deadline day, hoping to get him on the cheap. With Arsenal announcing the Puma deal (adding £30m to their summer transfer kitty!), I don't even see why we need to be cheap.

Either ways, the truth remains that Arsenal will not - I repeat, NOT - win the Premier League if we don't buy a striker. It's impossible, period. Even if we do buy a striker, I'd still fancy Bayern Munich to go through to the quarters, and while I do admit that we have a fair chance of winning the FA Cup either ways, it still wouldn't satisfy our primary objective of winning the league.

Let me get this crystal clear - our season DEPENDS on a striker. We buy, and we have a damn good shot at success. However, if we remain inactive, we're left with a season that is doomed for failure. I cannot bear to imagine Olivier Giroud struggling to carry his jaded feet across the field against Liverpool, United and Bayern. In a row.

The thing about Giroud is that he's good, but he's an incomplete striker. He's great at aerial battles and holding the ball and laying it off, and his one-touch finishes have taken a huge turn for the better. As a creator and the target man, I agree that Giroud undoubtedly fits the bill.

However, Giroud is a player sorely lacking in his other fields of play. He completely lacks pace, and he can't dribble the ball to save his life. He seldom finds the net when one-on-one with the goalkeeper, and he doesn't make runs off the ball, which is something that is essential now with Theo injured. I don't blame Ollie, for those aspects of his game isn't in his DNA. And that is why we need a striker who does have that in his DNA.

Either we can get a striker who can succeed where Giroud fails (sprint speed, dribbling and composure), or we can buy a striker who has ALL these attributes, and make Olivier his backup. Either way, we cannot go into February with Nicklas Bendtner as backup to Giroud. It's preposterous, especially when there are a lot of players potentially available in the market.

Arsene Wenger is trying hard in the press conferences to create a picture of "lack of options" in the transfer market. It increasingly seems like we're going to see no signings by the end of the week and that Wenger's getting his excuses in early, even though there ARE options in the market that can be bought. If Manchester United managed to buy Juan Mata and Chelsea bought a replacement in Salah in the period of one week, why couldn't we buy someone like Berbatov, Morata, Martinez or Mandzukic in 28 days?

There is only ONE explanation to this madness. The only reason why we aren't with a striker and/or a center back thus far is because Arsene Wenger does not want to buy one. Either he's haggling with a club over a few pennies or he's "happy" with Bendtner and Sanogo, but I'm certain that there isn't any real push for him to buy.

We have the money, boosted by the £30m gained from the record breaking Puma deal. We have the incentive, players like Berbatov and Morata would kill to play alongside Ozil and Cazorla and fight for the Premier League. It ALL comes down to Wenger - not his scouts, not the Financial Fair Play and not the board. It is totally 100% Arsene Wenger's responsibility to buy a striker and/or a center back that is so obviously necessary to win the EPL.

But he won't. And you know why? Because he wants Champions League qualification more than he wants the title, which he's almost guaranteed this season. And he cares more about his job security than the overall development of the club, which is guaranteed again owing to Ivan announcing that he WILL stay on.

Sometimes I surprise myself by actually considering the future of Wenger. He's a deeply flawed manager who overplays key men (Wilshere's injured after playing 90 unnecessary minutes against Coventry), is an appalling man manager, sports a baffling transfer policy, messed up the wage budget, sold star players to direct rivals, oversaw "Project Youth" (a calmatious failure), and didn't give Steve Bould his space until his job was in jeopardy (around the Bayern Munich 3-1 defeat).

However in the end, I know that Arsene won't leave the club. I know that we're set to see Wenger at the
helm for another 12 years, including the time of his inevitable promotion to director. I know that we're going to struggle for trophies for another 7 years at least (which doesn't necessarily mean that we won't win them), and I know that regardless of our blossoming financial conditions, Wenger will always do what he wants, irrespective of the club's best interests.

Many would ask me why I still support Arsenal FC, and they might feel that they have a fair point, judging on my sombre views on the manager. I'd like to answer to them that my sole reason of supporting this club is because I love everything else of it, apart from Arsene Wenger. I adore the history of the club, and I'm proud of our self-sufficient business model. I view fellow Arsenal supporters as my brothers, and I enthusiastically pick up a conversation with them whenever I can. Moreover, I love the players of the club, a cohesive bunch of hardworking lads who'll give anything for the logo in front.

As I said, I've long since adjusted myself to the fact that Wenger will oversee the helm for 12 more years, and I've learnt to support the club despite knowing that sickening fact. However, that still won't stop me from criticizing Wenger when his frustrating managerial 'decisions' take a step too many.

As much as I respect Arsenal fans - for I believe that they are one of the most loyal and patient fanbases - sometimes it annoys me as to how they put their blind faith in the manager. While I agree that the manager should be given praise when it's due, he cannot be absolved of all criticism just because he contributed largely to our success 10 years ago. It's okay to not support the manager yet support the team, you know. Arsene is not bigger than the club.

Nevertheless, I'm giving my predictions on the coming season. After a nervy win against Southampton, there will be no signings in this window, and this Arsenal side will lose against Liverpool in the FA Cup, and get eliminated from the CL by Bayern Munich. Bad results in February and March will throw us off the pace in the title race, and while we might finish the season strongly by mounting a late title bid in the season run-in, it might just be too little too late. In my opinion, Chelsea will win the title, with Arsenal finishing second or third depending on Manchester City.

Look, I'll still be an Arsenal supporter no matter what, and I'll still want us to win the title and/or the FA Cup. However, the realist (or possibly pessimist) part of my mind believes that we are in for another barren season, and finding ourselves asking "What if's?" in May, while looking back at January. I might as well enjoy our surprising form while I'm at it, now, because subconsciously I know that the team will run out of steam and fail if Wenger remains foolishly inactive. What a horrible thought.

Oh, and Come on You Gunners.

-Santi (Follow me on twitter: @ArsenalBlogz )