There has been a growing trend recently. Many of Arsenal’s young, unknown players who have one good season think they are suddenly bigger than the club. Then they hold the club ransom and surprisingly succeed. Respect of Arsenal as top European club has been falling, as it is no star player's dream to join Arsenal anymore. They could not even turn the heads of Brede Hangeland or Tim Cahill, while their own players have been openly flattered by the links of Barca, Madrid, and Milans, a certain Beyounce. Many of these clubs have been achieving less than Arsenal recently. Minor teams fancy a game against Arsenal.
Many pundits link Arsenal’s recent decline and "soft club status" to lack of experience and physical strength. I believe it’s more the lack of mental strength, resolve for the club to succeed, loyalty, and passion for Arsenal—or DESIRE as Wenger says.
Lack of passion for the club was imminent last season in all the games in which Wenger said that they did not really want it and did not show the DESIRE. I believe they lacked it in all of their games.
If the players did not really want it, then they do not deserve to be in there. I think Wenger has really turned Arsenal into a soft club with his defense of under-performing players, suspect transfer policy, and the soft talk of DESIRE.
Who is the person who fills players with venom and ferocity before a game? Who do young players look up to? Cesc Fabregas? Willaim Gallas? I am not so sure.
Their own players enter the field as if going for a daily jog. Wenger's initial success was mainly due to players like Tony Adams, Martin Keown, Thierry Henry, Patrick Viera, Dennis Bergkamp, etc., whose passion and desire could be felt easily. They do not have any such players now, as they are no longer demanding success from them. Rather they are "developing" them. There is more to developing than improving technical aspects. Moreover who will the players look up to in the team, and who is their role model? Bergkamp is no more an Arsenal player!
This is not really about leadership either, this is more about the self belief 18-year-olds and 35-year-olds have that they play for Arsenal, so they would be really good and have good backup in case they fail. They may not be that good, but confidence makes up for it.
Another contributing factor I think is the presence of a French-speaking clan in dressing room, and then there are "the others." This is really a negative environment as the squad should be cohesive and diverse in origin and age with the right amount of British players to bond the team with the club.
Departure of certain French and African players is key to balance off and on the field. I think it is time for their board and manger to show that they have to DESIRE to win as well, take this opportunity with scruff of the neck, and make difficult decisions. There is no doubt that Arsenal has a long-term plan, but do they really have a short-term plan?
Lack of DESIRE should not be defended. Players should be demanded of what they are paid for and the likes of Emmanuel Adebayor and Mathieu Flamini should be made examples for years to come. The aim should be to instill pride in players of being an Arsenal player and fear in the opponents facing them.
Arsenal is no lesser of a club and should be treated likewise. They have to be brave and decisive in the transfer market to restore the confidence of their own players and that of the footballing world that Arsenal is a top club.
This is not a call to spend like Real Madrid did. Arsenal has a crop of very talented players, but they think they are more talented than they really are, thus undermine the overall potential.
They need to invest in the right quality players to restore balance on and off the field (not necessarily big names, but players who can compliment the capabilities of the current squad), instill passion and DESIRE. They also need to sort some of their players’ heads straight or head them straight out, so that next year Song won’t ask for a transfer or undeserved pay-rise.
Arsenal really needs to move swiftly to fulfill its short term goals and win a major trophy convincingly, which they really can—without much fuss. Otherwise, it would be no use of a great stadium, sustainable structure, and paid debts if they are not considered a top European club.
I think Matthew Upson for starter is a good choice, not because he is the best defender in the world, but because he is an arsenal product and knows what the club really means! He has enough experience in EPL and has a point to prove following his prior departure from Arsenal, putting a firm stake in England’s World Cup team next year.
He should be able to instill calmness, passion, and loyalty toward the club and not take it for granted as many of players have been thinking. But they need more than players to clear this invisible wall which seems higher every season. Whoever they buy needs to be passionate for Arsenal and not see it as a stepping stone.
Maybe a psychiatrist should analyze potential transfers for any traces of greed and certain American pop stars…Cheers!