Talent, promise, hope, injuries, back from the dead comebacks, more injuries and finally crash and burn.
The above just about summarizes Arsenal's season this year. Yet another season without silverware and the Arsenal faithful continue to be tested.
As with last season and the season before, Arsene's young gunners started off the season in style. This time dismantling a hapless Everton side by putting 6 past them. Consecutive losses to the Manchester teams followed by a drubbing by Chelsea however pointed to the bitter truth. When not allowed to play their natural game this team lacks a plan-B. Flat- track bullies, but lacking when the big league comes a calling. Great against lesser teams but against the bigger, better sides well ..... Arsene's boys stayed boys.
On their day this Arsenal side can be a treat to watch. They define free-flowing football and only Guardiola's Barcelona look more beautiful when in full flow. At the start of the season Arsene's gunners were looking well on course to scoring in excess of a hundred goals but a combination of bad luck, bad defending and a non existent keeper hurt them bad.
A literally endless injury list and an inability to replace some of their better players meant just when Arsenal looked like competing they took their foot of the gas. However, credit must be given where it is due. Never once did this Arsenal team lose hope they kept fighting all odds and kept bringing themselves back into contention for the title, but you can go only so far on heart alone. Cruel injuries to the likes of Cesc, Ramsey, Van Persie didn't help Arsenal's cause one bit.
There is no doubt that the present team lacks talent, what it lacks is good old-fashioned class (exactly what Fabregas and Van Persie bring to this side). With almost 25 goals and an almost equal number of assists between them meant, missing them for large chunks of the season was bound to hurt them and it did. Coupled with some truly shabby performances by the Arsenal custodians meant it was going to be another season where the Gunners flattered just to deceive.
Almunia and Fabianski have never been top Premier league goal-keepers by any standards. Even Crazy Jens was not what you call top-four goal-keeping material, but he held it together for one dream of a season. On his day Almunia could be a handful as he showed against Barcelona in the first leg, but to win a title consistency is the key. A good goal keeper should get you at an average 10 points every season. With Almunia and Co Arsenal have lost and lost big. However as always with Arsenal the future looks bright. Mannone showed talent but was unlucky not to get more chances while Wojiceh Schezzny the 19 year old goal keeping sensation is definitely a talent to watch out for.
In defence Arsenal have been very porous this season. Conceding 38 goals a clear indication to this. Only Mancs have conceded more in the top 8. This surely will be a department Wenger will look to work on. However, on the bright side, Vermaelen has been a revelation this season. Whats more were the goals he added at the start of the season definitely an added bonus from one of your center-backs. What he lacked however was an able partner to compliment him. Typically a strong, fearless and physical lad. Billy Gallas looked good in patches but was plagued by fitness worries. In Campbell Wenger unleashed yet another masterstroke. A one year extension is on the cards for Big Sol but with Gallas and Silvestre (thank God for that) set to leave, Arsenal sure need a worthy replacement. Despite having 2 highly rated full backs Arsenal did lack consistency in this department as well. Clichy after his return looked nowhere the same as he did when Milan showed interest in the pacy Frenchman, while Sagna kept going off the boil in the crunch games. In Keiran Gibbs and Armand Traore, Arsene does have able deputies but with rumours linking both Sagna and Clichy away from Arsenal over the summer, it will be upto Wenger to make sure he retains some experience.
In midfield, every single one of Arsene's prodigies showed promise early on but when faced with adversity they tend to fizzle out. Denilson, Walcott and Diaby had good seasons statistics-wise but given the promise these three showed early on, their performances lately have not been ones worthy of a Gunner. Rosicky and Nasri showed signs of getting back to their best but neither possess that killer pass that makes Fabregas who he is. Song and Eboue have been probably the positives of the season for Arsene. Song has been solid as ever and his absence in a few games this season really hurt the Gunners. Eboue's transition from a crowd bunny to fan favourite is definitely heart-warming. His fleet-footed runs and devilish crosses have been a treat to watch. In Ramsey, Eastmond and Wilshire Arsenal has a steady supply of young and promising talent. Ramsey's season was cut-short just when the Welshman was getting into his groove and looks well and truly on his way to being an able Fabregas replacement. Eastmond played little, but impressed while Wilshire seems to be having an impressive loan spell with Bolton.
Up front, without Van Persie Arsenal have suffered. In his absence Eduardo and Arshavin were both tried in the talismanic Dutchman's role but failed miserably. Eduardo, sadly, never really recovered from his injury against Birmingham. Arshavin despite his numbers this season seems a touch selfish at times. His honest opinions and criticisms seem to hurt Arsenal more than push them ahead. More finishing and less talk could do him a lot of good for the next season. In Bendtner however, Arsene has found a hard-working striker. His demeanour may be a bit on the arrogant side but the Dane sure as hell works his socks off on the field. A little improvement with his finishing would surely take him miles.
All in all it's high time Arsene let go off his ego. He tried his hand at a very noble thing trying to prove that money can't buy you titles. Five years has been time enough and I'm sure Le Prof realizes his team needs more. Fabregas and Van Persie continue to remain the heart and soul of this ironically very similar to Liverpool's dependence on the Torres-Gerrard duo. This is not a good sign and dip into this summer's transfer market is vital to Arsenal's fortunes.
This Arsenal side is in desperate need of a complete remodelling of its spine. A quality keeper, a reliable center-back, a midfield maestro to partner Cesc and a strike partner for the Flying Dutchman are the needs of the hour. Knowing Wenger he will look to spend sparingly especially given the absolutely ridiculous goings on in the transfer market. So it is highly probable the likes of Almunia, Sagna(or Clichy) and Eduardo would depart to add to Arsene's already hefty supposed transfer kitty of 45 large ones. Moreover getting Chamakh on a free transfer would mean Wenger would have a lot more to spend. Seabstian Frey, Loic Remy, Felipe Melo and the other usual suspects are the names doing the rounds, though I would love to see the talented Yoann Gourcouff join his club mate Chamakh and come to the Emirates, not something Bourdeaux will be willing to do. He is French, plays well with Chamakh and is just 23. Arsene Wenger - 2 out of 3 ....check.
Arsene and Arsenal have come now to the crossroads and it is time for Le Prof to make some hard decisions. Knowing a manager of Arsene's calibre he will know what to do and will put the club's interest ahead of his own. This season is done and dusted it's time to look to the future, a new season which holds a lot of promise for Arsene's Gunners.
To the Arsenal faithful I have just this .... In Arsene I Trust.