Arsene Wenger's Dream for Arsenal's Future Gets a Grim Dose of Reality

Alex StampCorrespondent IDecember 1, 2009

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 21: Arsene Wenger of Arsenal shows his dissapointment after losing 1-0 during the Barclays Premier League match between Suderland and Arsenal at The Stadium of Light on November 21, 2009 in Sunderland, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images


Arsene Wenger entered this encounter promising that this time things would be different. Promising that his young charges were ready, after years of maturing, growing, and developing, ready to prove they have grown up and can take on the big boys. But once again, the world has been left waiting for Wenger's charges to deliver on their promise.

When he spoke on Friday ahead of this match against Chelsea, the message was emphatic, the tone teeming with belief. He said: "Everyone will look at the game to rate our potential, and I have no worries about that.

“We are ready for the game, are well focused, prepared and the confidence is good. We just want to focus on the game like we want to play it. I think there is a period for any team to come out and show its strengths. For my team, this moment has come.”

Sadly, for Wenger the moment came and went, with little in the way of a whimper. Once more, Chelsea proved themselves too big, too powerful for Wenger's team-champions elect perhaps, but without doubt, this was a team performance from the top drawer-and full credit must go to Ancelotti for that.

In Didier Drogba, John Terry, and Michael Essien, the Chelsea manager has men of substance, both in character and physical gifts, who were dominating their individual contests at will, and shaping the game to suit their needs. It did appear, despite what Wenger may think, men against boys.

Wenger's myopia is renowned, yet even that fact will not have escaped him. After the match, he rallied against the referee for disallowing a goal which was marginal at best, bemoaned Didier Drogba's decisive contribution, and then admitted Chelsea could drop points. In truth, he looked and sounded like a man desperately trying to maintain belief, when all evidence points the other way.

Belief is a tricky thing. For some, it is a comfort, for others it is a cause. For Wenger, it has practically become an obsession. The infinite pursuit of footballing nirvana, of creating a self-sufficient team, playing the purest form of football. It is a policy which deserves applause, if only for the purity of his intentions.

Yet, sadly, football does not simply operate on a purely romantic level, at some point there must be some result. For all his missionary rhetoric about the wonderful football that Arsenal are capable of producing, the bare fact is that Arsenal have not won a trophy since 2005, and have not won the Premier League since 2003.

Sunday just proved that after years of consolidation, the gap between Arsenal and the top remains as large as ever.

At some point it is this point will catch up with Wenger and his pursuit of football idealism. Both Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho when he was at Chelsea, openly questioned the lack of pressure on Wenger to win a trophy year after year at Arsenal.

Perhaps we all are guilty of falling into this trap, being so mesmerised by the beauty of football and promise of tomorrow on offer from Wenger, that we fail to notice the failings of today. Yet there are signs things could be on the turn.

Last season, the boos became increasingly common at the Emirates Stadium, as for the first time the question of Wenger's future became the subject of some debate.

Whether such levels of pressure return could depend on how Arsenal respond after Sunday, yet the dissatisfaction of the Emirates Stadium may return should the team not show signs of improvement.

This is a potentially tricky moment, suddenly after being so praised after a season of highs and lows, Sunday offered a dose of realism which cut through the intricate passing moves, glorious promise of youth and passion and belief so shown by the manager and simply laid bare the truth that Arsenal are far from able to challenge for the title.

The facts are that, beautiful football can, and often does, win titles. Anyone who witnessed two of Wenger's teams-that of the Invincibles in 2003, and the Double winners in 1997/98 will know that beautiful football can win.

But whereas those teams struck a balance between both the delights and the darks arts of the game, this Arsenal seem capable only of the delights.

In a team full of dainty aesthetic players, and the sight of the slight Samir Nasri being replaced by the similarly slightly framed Tomas Rosicky only underlined this, the absence of big strong men was painful to see.

Didier Drogba, John Terry, Michael Essien brushed aside their opponents seemingly at ease. For all Arsenal's pretty passing football, it was the physical element of Chelsea which ultimately won the game.

The problem for Wenger is that these critiques about his team are hardly anything new, in fact, they are as clichéd and well-worn as the plaudits for Arsenal's football.

The absence of a dominant centre half, capable of handling Drogba's height and power, was clear to see. Plus the lack of a midfielder capable of standing up to the power of Essien and Lampard, and a striker of sufficient height, and strength to worry Terry and Carvalho, like Didier Drogba did to William Gallas and Thomas Vermaelen, was crystal clear.

Whether these arrivals come or not, could depend on their manager. For a long time, Wenger has insisted he has had money to spend, he just doesn't want to spend it, such is his belief in his players.

Yet if Wenger wants to bring his plans for the future to their ultimate conclusion, then at some point some form of sacrifice will have to be made, and a compromise sought to bring in players with the requisite qualities to compete with the bigger boys.

Because it is these qualities that win titles, and while Chelsea showed they had it in spades, after Sunday's brutal reality check, it is these things that are desperately missing from Wenger's vision for Arsenal's future.