Saturday, 1 February 2014

Wenger gambles on our season


It's 1st February, and we're left with Giroud and Bendtner on the back of a disaster of a transfer window. Suffice to say, my worst nightmare of Olivier bravely dragging his jaded feet across the pitch twice a week has come horribly true. Not to mention that the seeds for the beginning of the end of our season might have already been sown. Arsene Wenger has done it - he's somehow managed to evade interest from Draxler and Berbatov, instead loaned some guy's name I've never heard of, and yet be completely absolved of blame.

Our Premier League season is over. The only way we'll win the league is if Giroud remains fit and firing, Ramsey returns for the City and Chelsea matches in storming form AND we defeat our two direct title rivals. Don't get your hopes up people - there's not a chance in hell that such scenarios are coinciding over the span of 4 months.

Even if it does, it would almost entirely depend upon luck and asking too much of our key players, especially Giroud. The title is not in our hands, far from the mark of a title challenging side.

I'd be astonished if we finish second in the table, forget first now. Chelsea did us another favour by not buying a striker, missing out on Diego Costa. One mightn't be wrong to reckon that Manchester City did us a favour too, by not strengthening in the window and giving us hope in an injured Aguero. However, we have failed to capitalize on the situation, bringing another midfielder instead of backup for Giroud.

I know that Kim Kallstrom is supposed to be a short-term fix, but I doubt that he would be necessary over the course of 4 months. In reality, I have a strong feeling that Kim would be obsolete after a month, because that's when Flamini, Ramsey, Wilshere and Rosicky would return. While he is a very good signing for depth, a midfielder was hardly a priority in the market.

In the aftermath of the signing I spoke to one of Wenger's lap dogs, who heralded Kallstrom's signing as a "game-changing buy". After laughing cruelly for about an hour, I could only marvel at how sometimes supporters are so completely ignorant and put blind faith in a clueless manager.

Kim offers nothing new to the team except a fix for 4 to 5 games, after which players like Arteta and Flamini would undoubtedly take over. People who think that Kim's superb free kick ability would help us are sorely mistaken as well. Players like Arteta, Cazorla and Ozil's free kick abilities have notably declined under Arsenal. It isn't a jinx - I think it's the result of a lack of set-piece coaching, and I fear Kallstrom will go down the same way.

Kallstrom may be good, he may be shit (I actually reckon that he won't be half bad), but the fact remains that Wenger left it late to make a deadline day saga of a fairly mediocre player. I can bet top dollar that Kallstrom was a player looked up on 30th January or on deadline day. Suggesting that he was a long term target is absolute bollocks. Instead of buying a striker that EVERYONE knows we need, we get a 31 year old midfielder to seal us the title.

UPDATE: Our backup to injuries is injured. This is beyond ridiculous.

Our Champions League hopes are doomed too. There is no way that we're getting past Bayern Munich over two legs with this team. We might pull a surprising result at home, but I don't think that we can get past them into the quarters. Nevertheless, I'll still enjoy hosting the best team in the world at the Emirates, even if the word "failure" will be hanging at the back of my mind.

We might have a good go at the FA Cup too, I think. If we get past Liverpool, we can only hope that we avoid Chelsea or City in the next round. IF we can beat Liverpool, I must emphasize. After a demoralizing transfer window and injuries/suspensions hit us, I don't know where the team are going to get the confidence to reclaim first and dispatch Liverpool away.

Look, the season isn't dead yet. We still have the FA Cup to look forward to, and can entertain ourselves over two legs against Munich. However, one would be optimistic - if not foolish - to expect more from this season.

I don't think that this Arsenal side will ever "collapse", like in 2008, 2010 and 2011. Nor do I believe that February will solely define our season. However, I think that by the end of March, the gap between us and the league leaders would be so insurmountable that we won't be able to catch up with them, despite an easy run in. I may be wrong, but the factor of me being wrong depends a lot on luck, injuries and the opposition screwing up.

Wenger had a clear shot at success, and he blew it. The market was not at all as difficult as he made it out to be. On the contrary, I don't remember a January transfer window where so many strikers were potentially up for grabs.

Alvaro Morata, Dimitar Berbatov, Diego Costa, Jackson Martinez and Christian Benteke were players that were within our reach if we tried, and footballers that would significantly improve our squad. Heck, towards the end of the market, even players like Alexandre Pato and Miroslav Klose had become a possibility.

Predictably, Wenger wasn't even remotely inclined to grab those chances. Instead, he made a half-hearted loan attempt at Salomon Kalou which promptly got turned down. To cap off his madness in the market, instead of working further for possibilities like Klose and Pato, he gave away Park Chu Young on loan to Watford.

There is no excuse for such inactivity by Wenger. The board cannot be blamed for refusing funds to Wenger; remember that Ivan Gazidis had publicly stated that they want Wenger to buy (a striker in particular). If the board had sanctioned £42m for Mesut Ozil, why would they deny £5m for Berbatov? One cannot even begin to blame the Financial Fair Play as well, because they didn't stop Manchester City incurring a £100m loss.

In the end, it all comes down to Wenger's desk. It was 100% his responsibility to buy a striker, but he failed. I could have cut him some slack had he tried really hard and failed, but this was such a predictable disaster it's shameful. This transfer window is daylight proof, if proof were ever needed, that Wenger prefers a top four finish, anything else is only a bonus.

At this part of the season had we been languishing in 7th, I have no doubt in my head that Wenger would have made a move for a top striker. People fail to notice that over the past few years, Wenger has only bought productive players when his job was on the line or CL was in jeopardy. This year it was neither, hence we end up with nothing except for a midfielder who was signed just for the heck of it.

I know that the players have not deferred from their objective of winning the title. However, they might be aware that Wenger did not buy a player because he is content with a top four spot, and that might dent their determinations. It isn't easy to raise the bar for yourselves if you think that your boss is happy with a significantly lower result, you know.

I know that the players are not stupid. I reckon that some of them might be knowing of Wenger's true intentions in the "title race". However, I find myself praying that they think otherwise, because if they ever catch wind of how the true nature of their beloved boss is, they might just give up on the title.

I have to make a clarification from now on. To me this transfer window was the final piece in the jigsaw for me that Wenger is a manager who WILL accept 4th, and who WILL underachieve throughout his years in charge. However, the players are a different story altogether, for they want the club to succeed and win a trophy. They know that a lot is at stake this season, and that they will do what it takes to win it.

From today onwards, I'm drawing a clear line between the players and the manager. I don't care if Wenger is Arsenal's boss - in my head, he's merely an obstacle in the team's path to possible glory. Whenever I say, "Arsenal played really well to win the game", I shall mean only the players, and sometimes Steve Bould. I DO give praise to a person when it's due, but Wenger hasn't even come close to achieve it.

Come on Arsenal. And by that I only mean the players.

P.S. Genuinely upset to see Frimpong leave, to me he seemed like a direct Vieira replacement. If I would be the manager, then once Rosicky would've retired I would put Jack in Rozza's position, for he can match Rosicky's flair. With Wilshere's slot open in central midfield, there would be space freed for Frimmy to come in. Anyways, it's all irrelevant now, all thanks to Wenger.

Dench!

-Santi (Follow me on twitter: @ArsenalBlogz )