Monday, 12 May 2014

Norwich 0-2 Arsenal: Are you happy with fourth?



In the Premier League, what do I call progress?

I define progress by two aspects. Firstly, I see how many points we've finished behind the leaders, on comparison to last season. In 2012/13 it was (yeesh) 16 points adrift, this season it was only 7. In that respect, yes, we have progressed.

Secondly, I define progress by seeing the position we've finished in. Last season we've finished fourth, this season we've finished fourth. In that respect, we've stood perfectly still.

What should be given more importance, though, the number of points we cover up, or our final league position? I have to say, I think it's the former. We finished third in 2011/12 and fourth in 2013/14, yet no one would argue that today's squad is much better than that of 2 years ago. Yes, we have progressed.

Our progress has happened down to two factors - Steve Bould and the dual signings of Flamini and Ozil. Steve Bould has been phenomenal. Our defence has been superb this season. Had Wenger shown tactical intelligence against Chelsea, Liverpool and City, we could have ended with the best defensive record in the league. Heck, had Szczesny started, he would have taken the Golden Glove home. What was Wenger thinking there?

Flamini, when 'bought', quickly integrated and became a defensive midfielder. Ozil, let's face it, was a panic buy, but one that had a superb effect on our team structure. He being in our team strengthened the midfield. Cazorla was forced on the flanks, which in turn strengthened our flanks. Since his purchase was a panicky one, I refuse to believe that Wenger had a master plan for his midfield all along.

Yes, we have progressed, but most of that progress has been accidental. Aside from signing Flamini, nothing this season has been well thought-of. Had fan pressure not been applied, Ozil wouldn't have come and Bould wouldn't be given license to forge a defence of warriors.

I know Wenger won't do it, but I'm asking again. To prevent another 'not good enough' or 'what might have been' season, the club needs to be PROACTIVE. It is absolutely essential that we do the following:

1) Either sack Wenger or pen him down to a conditioned 2 year deal, conditions being that he cannot overrule his backroom staff, set his own wage budget or go solo in dictating transfer prices.

2) Sort out everyone's futures before they leave for Brazil, especially of Podolski and Vermaelen.

3) Buy at least a goalkeeper, a right back (Aurier seems to be a done deal, in fairness) a striker and a defensive midfielder before the World Cup is over. Bayern have signed Lewandowski, Leverkusen have signed Dmric and United have bid 27 million quid for Shaw. Why can't we do the same?

4) Make sure the transfer business is done BEFORE the season starts, not after the Champions League qualifiers.

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Do these, and a solid foundation will be set. We might yet not win the league, but I guarantee we'll be much closer than previous seasons. We will even go closer in the Champions League, and that's all I want, anyways. Even though there is a fantastic chance to win the FA Cup next week, I've never said that I want the team to win trophies. All I demand, all I have ever demanded, is competitiveness on the big stage. And by the big stage, I mean the Premier League and the Champions League.

Winning the FA Cup is great, sure, and I wish I could say that it could be the start of something. But the truth is, if the above 4 points are not done, there is no way we'll see genuine progress. Frankly, if the above points are followed and we fall short, I'd still be happy. I'd prefer finishing second in the league, losing in the semi-finals of the CL and not winning the FA Cup, rather than finishing 4th and winning the FA Cup and being a nobody in the CL.

What I want next season is for Arsenal to compete in the Premier League and the Champions League. If we don't win it then I'd be sad, but at least I'd know that we'd be on the right track. It would provide hope and a good foundation for the future.

Whatever happens, I don't want this 'flattering to deceive' nonsense again. I don't want the season to be a predictable collapse, foreseen a day after the transfer window ends. I don't want the club to go meekly out of the Champions League and fall short in the EPL. I want competitiveness, right from the first day till the last.

Win the FA Cup, get the deals done early, listen to the experts, and it might just happen, Wenger. Come on.

-Santi (Follow me on twitter: @ArsenalBlogz )