Friday, 14 February 2014

Arsenal 0-0 United: Adjust your sights for the remainder of the campaign

We aren't winning the Premier League.

Acceptance is the first step to understanding, and only with proper understanding can there be true recovery. I have been saying since 1st February that our league hopes have been vanquished by Arsene Wenger, and today I believe it more than ever.

Don't get me wrong as people always do - I badly want this team of all teams to win the EPL. However, when everyone knew that we needed a striker and Wenger refused to buy one (not failed, REFUSED), that was when we lost our chance. All that hard work done by a plethora of honest, dedicated players like Szczesny, Mertesacker, Ramsey, Flamini and Giroud was laid waste by a blind manager who cares about his job more than our title hopes.

Back in November 2013, this is what Ivan Gazidis had said:

"We will see where Arsenal will be in January and whether or not the club will invest in another forward. Olivier Giroud won't be able to go on all alone until the end of the season. We need to buy."

Board at fault for denying Wenger funds? That's a laugh and a half. There were quality players in the market that would have infinitely strengthened the team and taken the pressure off Olivier Giroud. Even if we failed to buy a striker, a doable transfer like Julian Draxler would have undoubtedly provided the club a massive boost going into the crunch period.

Let me get this clear - if you have the money, every player on the planet becomes available. The question of a possible snag between deals for players like Dimitar Berbatov, Mirko Vucinic and Jackson Martinez does not occur; when in doubt, throw in a few million and get the deal done! It's not like we're a poor club anymore, we're raking in cash from business deals, sports deals and ticket prices everywhere.

I know that I have emphasized our failure to purchase a striker a lot since the transfer window had closed. After all, such redundant facts would get increasingly tiring to read, even for people who agree on my views. However, my sole reason to keep Arsene Wenger's blunder fresh in everyone minds is because I don't want people blaming Olivier Giroud or Nicklas Bendtner at the back end of the season. I want Wenger held 100% responsible.

I completely support the boos ringing around the stadium at full time - everyone connected to Arsenal deserved better from Wenger. By that I don't merely mean defeating the worst United side since three decades - the fans deserved some show of real ambition from Wenger. They deserved a better signing than Kim Kallstrom. They deserved a manager who has his sights on first and not fourth, and they deserved a manager who makes the right calls during team selection and mentality preparation.

Not this shadow of a person. I'm growing sick and tired of Wenger's one-dimensional tactical naivety, playing the same players and using the same formation, whether the team is Manchester United or West Ham United. I'm beyond frustrated at his refusal to make substitutions before the 69th minute, and his insistence to play Oxlade-Chamberlain ahead of Lukas Podolski.

We could have just as easily defeated Manchester United today. The fact that we drew doesn't have anything to do with Moyes' tactical brilliance (ha), or that we had an off day. It's all Wenger's fault that we drew this game, because he went about this game just as he goes about with others.

Nothing has changed with Wenger's Arsenal. The problem of a lack of movement up front was initially apparent at the Cardiff game, but Bendtner's heroics saved us. However, instead of counting his lucky stars and addressing this obvious problem, he stuck to his same old philosophy throughout the following games, including today.

It isn't the February run of fixtures or the March top-of-the-table clashes that will define our season. It was the month of January, when Wenger had the chance to bring in the cavalry. He failed, and it seems like the hinges of our season are already beginning to come off. With a spirited team now fading away, players like Ramsey have succumbed to injury, and Arteta, Ozil and Giroud are looking dead tired from the rigours of overplaying.

The season isn't over yet though. While I've given up hopes for the Premier League, our Champions League encounter with Bayern Munich is one that I'm really looking forward to. Our stable defence gives us a good chance to nick this tie somehow, and while the chances of winning the CL are slim to none, a good result from the Munich ties might just have the Ozil implications on the club that we need.

However, I firmly believe that a huge chunk of our season depends on the FA Cup. Irrespective of Wenger's infuriating lack of activity in January, the squad remains motivated and talented enough to win the FA Cup. I know that winning the league is the primary objective this season, but I think we all know that wresting the title from Chelsea and Manchester City is a long, long shot.

Win the FA Cup, and a lot would be forgiven. Even pessimistic supporters like myself would call this season a success, and Wenger's disappointing managerial decisions would be quickly forgotten. Most importantly, the ghost of the "9 years without a trophy" would finally be killed, something that has been our objective for half a decade now.

It goes without saying that the game against Liverpool at the Emirates is massive. It's a game that would have long-lasting implications when we look back at the season. Lose, and a trophyless season awaits, with only the Champions League as a possible highlight. However, if we win, a bunch of Arsenal supporters would be filled with something that they crave for right now.


P.S. Here are the highlights, for those interested.

-Santi (Follow me on twitter: @ArsenalBlogz )