I am very, very concerned about the physical and mental well-being of the Arsenal Football Club. Based on what we saw against Liverpool and the uninspired draw with Manchester United, it's hard to see anything other than Bayern Munich winning both legs by two or three goals in the Champions League.
How things have changed since August and September. If Arsenal were taking on Bayern back then, I would have fancied Arsene Wenger's team to at least make a game of it. Their energy levels were high, clarity of thought sharp and they had a club-record signing in Mesut Ozil to set the tone.
However, as usual with this Wenger team, things have fallen away at the key point of the season. I was at the Emirates on Wednesday, and Arsenal looked exhausted in every possible way. Olivier Giroud is a striker who needs too many chances to score, Jack Wilshere looks frustrated and leggy—unable to bring the creative influence we might expect—and Ozil's output is dropping by the game.
Having played in the Premier League for many years, I can tell you it's by far the toughest league to play in. You need more than one approach, and you need to stay supremely strong, physically and mentally, to continue winning games.
Even if you're one of the strongest sides, if you're not armed with the right focus and fierce work ethic, you can drop points and lose games. We've seen it time and again this season.
Jose Mourinho knows how to get it done. His team can play wonderful football, but they can also scrap their way to wins. When you think about things tactically, look at how Manchester City can go directly to Alvaro Negredo, or how Manchester United used Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney last season.
Arsenal don't have an outlet like that. That's a squad issue, but Wenger is directly responsible for their lack of fight. Ultimately, Arsenal's frail mentality is a reflection of what their manager is saying in public.
Wenger is a lovely man. He's intelligent and one of the nicest guys in football, but he needs to be firing his team up to get the results they need. That's what Mourinho does and what Sir Alex Ferguson used to do at United. It's about coming out and saying Arsenal are a great side and his players will give it everything they have to win a trophy this season.
He should be saying they're a team who deserve to be crowned. And he should respond to every bad result with a rallying call to his players. The message needs to be bold and positive: "We were beaten, but we'll be ready for the next game, and you'll see the reaction then. We all believe we're good enough to win the league, and we'll do everything we can to make it happen."
It's that kind of statement his players need to hear. Right now, they're flailing and vulnerable, and with a strong Liverpool side to play in The FA Cup at the weekend, Arsenal need to pull it together before another season passes them by.
Wenger needs to find a way to squeeze every last drop of effort and resilience from his team. Even that might not be enough to avoid a battering from Bayern next week.
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