When it comes to Arsenal, my timing sucks!
Last Friday I wrote a piece on Theo Walcott being Arsenal's most overrated player this season, and you know what he went and did the next day. I still stand by what I wrote, but admittedly, the timing of my article made me feel a tad silly.
And here I go again. Three days after the Gunners' most resounding win in ages, I am about to indulge in a bit of squad-bashing. In all honesty, I planned this article last week, and irrespective of the 7-1 thrashing of Blackburn, the theme rings as true as ever.
For starters, I'd like to make a point about football analysis. This first struck me six or seven years ago after I watched a somewhat under-strength Arsenal team defeat (coincidentally) Blackburn 3-0 in an FA Cup semifinal.
The game was fairly one-sided, and the commentators got into an in-depth analysis on Blackburn being tactically poor, how their players didn't work hard enough and how Sam Allardyce had got things wrong. And I remember saying to myself, "what a load of rubbish!"
The reason for the Gunners' victory was that Arsenal had far too much quality on the field that day as compared to Blackburn. And when the better team plays well, then 99 times out of 100 they are going to beat a weaker team, irrespective of how the latter plays. Fact.
Think about it: How often will a team that plays well, and includes Vieira, Pires, Ljungberg, Bergkamp, Reyes, Cole and Gilberto lose to one whose best players are Morten Gamst Pedersen and Paul Dickov?
Let's now move to the present day, and look at Arsenal itself. Theories abound as to why this Arsenal team cannot recapture the glories that were almost the birthright of the Invincibles. I've heard so many different reasons—financial fair play, the age of the squad, defensive coaching, the lack of goal scorers, the fact that no one has ever won anything before, Wenger's transfer budget—I could go on and on.
The cold hard fact, however, is that man for man, this Arsenal team just doesn't stack up well enough against any of Arsene Wenger's previous squads. Now this isn't rocket science—we all know that this squad is relatively weak.
But if we look back at the Invincibles, and compare each player to his successor today, we will realize two things: (a) Just how strong that team was; and (b) Exactly how much weaker we are today.