Arsene Wenger’s Premier League ambitions suffered a fatal blow last night, with a 2-1 defeat at the hands of North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur. A new dawn brings a new day, and the anger and frustration of Arsenal fans will inevitably lead to frenzy, as pundits and glory hunters look to tear strips from the current team.
There will be calls for an overhaul, big-money signings, and the disposal of promising young players along with the cull of “past it” veterans. Oh, and a tidal wave of speculation that Cesc Fabregas will leave for Barcelona.
All this criticism will be misguided, of course. Big money doesn’t automatically equate to big quality, and where it does, it doesn’t mean that this quality will result in deliverable performance.
For every £30 million sprinkled on a Wayne Rooney there is a Dimitar Berbatov hiding around the corner. Spending excessively on talent doesn’t mean you get better players, it means you get better scapegoats when things go wrong.
In the absence of big money signings, it is Wenger that is being made the scapegoat for Arsenal’s shortcomings.
Even looking at Spain, Real Madrid spent a huge amount on Kaka when the substantially smaller sum invested in Xabi Alonso has been much more effective. Yet it was the incredible Xavi Hernandez who lit up El Classico, a product of the Barca youth academy.
Looking at last night’s game, it was the young Danny Rose that provided the telling moment of quality, and the experienced Mikael Silvestre who let Gareth Bale ghost past him early in the second half for Tottenham’s critical second goal.
Arsenal’s star performer was Sol Campbell, who produced a stunning defensive display despite the roaring animosity of White Hart Lane. Yet looking back to January, Wenger was criticised for signing the Englishman.
The point being, it doesn’t matter how young or old you are, how much you cost, or even how experienced you are. It's quality that makes the difference.
Arsenal’s first team lineup is littered with talent of the highest quality, as demonstrated by the returning Robin van Persie. Just after coming off the bench, he turned his marker in midfield with an awesome first touch before forcing Heurelho Gomes into a fantastic save with a stunning volley, despite being closely shackled in the penalty area.
You forget just how good he is, and people are forgetting just how good this Arsenal team is at full strength. A few small adjustments and Arsenal will be an ominous force next season.