Arsenal FC: 10 Mistakes Wenger Has Made That Could Cost Them This Season
Arsenal have had an extremely difficult time in the last two weeks in which they crashed out of all cup competitions and have only the league to play for. Their trophy drought is weighing heavily on the players, and the heat is on Wenger and his men to prove themselves.
Though Arsene Wenger is defending his team's mentality, many supporters have lost faith in the club's ability to make it count in the big matches.
The Gunners have lost a number of important players due to injuries, which has made their job harder to accomplish. Johan Djourou, who has been Arsenal's best defender, was ruled out for the season after an unfortunate collision with Bacary Sagna in the game against Manchester United.
Their confidence seems to be low after the defeats, and Wenger needs to identify the leaders in the team who can help them bounce back from the defeats.
Despite a number of critics writing off Arsenal's title hopes, the Gunners still have an excellent opportunity to prove their mettle with only 10 games left in the season. With only one game to play per week, there will be a lot of time available for players to recover from their injuries.
If Arsenal do win the league, it will be amazing for the team and its faithful supporters, who made themselves heard at Old Trafford.
Arsenal supporters have shown a lot of faith and patience in Arsene Wenger and the team, and it is important that fans get behind their team despite recent setbacks.
The manager made some mistakes which could cost them this season, but there is still time to resurrect this season with fighting displays from the team.
Wenger's Faith in Under-Performing Players Is Baffling
Wenger has been extremely important to the success of the club, and the supporters have been patient with the Frenchman's youth policy. But his decision to stick with some under-performing players have left the supporters baffled and frustrated as they have not vindicated their manager's displays.
One of the prime examples in this regard is Denilson who has been unimpressive in the last couple of seasons.
It is clear that Tomas Rosicky has lost his best form and giving the armband to the faithful Czech International is another surprising move by the Frenchman. Abou Diaby is another player who has not progressed, and his injuries have been frustrating for the Gunners as he cannot deputise when he is needed to.
Wenger's faith with Djourou and Song have seen them both become extremely important players for the team, but he also needs to be ruthless to instill a mentality of "perform or perish" in the team.
Marouane Chamakh Not Provided with Enough Confidence by the Manager
Robin van Persie has been in scintillating form in the second half of the season scoring 14 goals and is integral to Arsenal's title hopes this season. However, his injury which kept him out for around three months could have wrecked their season if not for the consistent performances from the hard working Marouane Chamakh, who had scored 11 goals by the end of November.
Though many supporters have shown to have very short memory, one must remember that Chamakh has been immense for the Gunners this season. It is clear that physical fatigue is one of the reasons he lost his form, and the return of Van Persie ensured that he did not start matches on a regular basis.
However Wenger's decision to not play him in a number of games has affected his confidence to a great extent. His performances deserves to be recognised by the manager and supporters who have been critical of his shooting abilities.
However, his efforts have often resulted in better team play for the Gunners, and it is important that the manager helps him regain his confidence. Though he cannot start games ahead of Van Persie, he should be the second striker for the Gunners.
The Crucial Decision by Wenger to Waste the January Transfer Window
The January transfer window presented a great opportunity for Wenger to strengthen the team as Arsenal's title challenge has been greatly affected by injuries in the past.
Thomas Vermaelen is arguably the Gunners' best defender, and his injury hampered them in the beginning of the season. However the return to full fitness of Johan Djourou masked his absence as the Swiss International was strong in defence.
But Wenger should have realised that injuries are always a concern for the Gunners, and with only three fit defenders, it was a gamble to expect them to be fit for the rest of the season. The Frenchman had banked on Vermaelen returning in February, but the Belgian captain could be out for the season with an achilles injury which has troubled him.
Arsenal supporters feared the worst when Djourou suffered an injury due to a collision with Sagna and Wenger confirmed it by ruling him out for the season. This leaves Laurent Koscielny and Sebastien Squillaci as the only central defenders and they have not been able to form a good partnership this season.
Ignasi Miquel is expected to be the back-up, but it will be very hard for the young Spaniard to cope with the pressure of the Premiership with very little experience.
Wenger's Reluctance to Spend on a Defensive Midfielder as Backup for Song
Wenger's reluctance to spend the money has frustrated the supporters, who are aware of Arsenal's strong financial situation. The fact that there is only one senior goalkeeper fit for the rest of the season is not his fault as he could not have predicted the finger injury to Wojciech Szcesny.
But Arsenal's struggles in Barcelona highlighted the importance of a defensive midfielder.
Alex Song is an excellent central midfielder and has grown into more than just a holding midfielder. For most of this campaign, his partnership with Wilshere has been excellent which has helped them dominate the midfield. However, there is no good replacement for Alex Song which has affected the team immensely in important fixtures.
Though Scott Parker would cost the Gunners around £8 million, he would have been an ideal player for the Gunners considering that Wilshere has often played in an advanced role due to the injuries of Fabregas.
Song has been immense for Arsenal, but bringing in a leader in midfield would only add steel to the team who have cited lack of experience in the past as one of the reasons for their failures.
Wenger's Decision to Go for a Cheap Signing in Sebastien Squillaci
Arsene Wenger has often been blamed by the media and the supporters not for his tactical acumen but for his reluctance to spend on quality players.
Arsenal lost two of their senior defenders in William Gallas and Sol Campbell and needed quality players to revamp their defence. The profits the football club are posting should be invested back into the team in order to appease the supporters who have the right to believe they are being short-changed.
Wenger signed an unknown defender Laurent Koscielny for around £9 million from Lorient FC, and as talented as Koscielny is, he did not have the experience to marshall Arsenal's defence. However, the bargain signing of Sebastien Squillaci was not the move that supporters wanted.
Squillaci had not been a top class defender even in his prime years, and signing him at the age of 30 was surprising to put it mildly.
Djourou had been out with a long term knee injury and was not expected to play a very important part in this season (though he has proved it wrong). Wenger should have spent the cash on a quality defender like Per Mertesacker or Gary Cahill and signing an experienced but average defender was not the solution to Arsenal's defensive woes.
Denilson and Diaby in Midfield Heaps Pressure on Others
Arsene Wenger has trusted his young talents to prove their points to the critics, who question their ability. The likes of Song and Walcott have shown their value to their squad by putting in some excellent performances. But there are others who continue to frustrate supporters and critics by performing well below their potential.
Abou Diaby has shown that he is talented, but his decision making and shooting should be much better for him to be a regular. Denilson has shown that he is a decent box to box player but must utilise his talent to be adventurous when going forward.
In this season, he has shown no penetration and has refrained from making passes more than 10 yards.
The problem for Arsenal is when the duo play together alongside Wilshere. Though young Jack Wilshere is extremely talented, he cannot control the tempo of the game like Cesc Fabregas which means he needs help from his other midfielders.
Whenever the duo of Denilson and Diaby have played together, it has resulted in too many passes which are sideways and back and as a result, far fewer chances are created by the Gunners. Also, their lack of pace makes it difficult to start counter attacks.
Wenger's Gambles with Fabregas Has Resulted in Many Problems
Cesc Fabregas is undoubtedly one of the most important players in the team, and his presence on the pitch adds a lot of value to the team. However, he has suffered from hamstring problems in the last two seasons and has missed a number of important matches which has left him frustrated.
The hamstring strains/injuries are a source of concern for Arsenal and the player himself as it can affect his future.
However, Fabregas has declared himself fit for many matches only to have a recurrence of the same problem a few weeks later. Wenger cannot allow the midfielder to convince him of his fitness and must take strong decisions in order to protect his captain.
Also, he has gambled with the midfielder’s fitness in the past which has led him to this problem.
In the Aston Villa game last season, he was rated as 50-50 but Wenger still introduced the midfielder in order to secure the three points which he did in scintillating fashion. But he suffered a recurrence of the same problem, and it was a gamble not worth taking in hindsight as he has still not got over his problems.
In a similar decision, he played Fabregas from the start against Braga when he had a fully fit Nasri and Rosicky who could play in his position. The gamble backfired as Fabregas called for a substitution after straining his hamstring.
In the Barcelona game, he was clearly not fully fit but was desperate to play in the fixture, and Wenger decided to start him despite the fact that he had just recovered from his injuries.
Inability to Inculcate a Fighting Attitude Within the Gunners' Camp
Arsenal have allowed themselves to be beaten by teams without putting up a fight, which wasn't the case in the times of Patrick Vieira and Tony Adams who refused to go down.
This current team lacks the mentality to fight their way out of trouble and as a result, they have endured a number of poor results. One cannot imagine Arsenal conceding three goals against WBA or the four goals against Newcastle if there was a leader like Patrick Vieira.
The Gunners have shown good mentality at times like the games against Everton and Barcelona (at the Emirates), but their inability to develop a "never say die" attitude could cost them the League. Wenger needs to inspire the team to keep fighting till the last minute even if things are not going right for them.
The Multiple Excuses Given by Manager Who Refused to Admit His Side's Weaknesses
Wenger has always believed in the abilities of his team who have the potential to beat any team in the world. However, he has provided many excuses for his team's poor performances, and though it has relatively helped the players from getting the blame, the team seems to hide under these excuses provided by their manager.
If Arsenal concede a two goal lead against their rivals and lose a game at home, a manager should admit they lacked the mentality to seal the game. Though Wenger has backed his players to a great extent, he needs to expose the team to some extent so they also take their share of the blame.
One of the most recent comments from Wenger was about the Barcelona game at the Nou Camp.
Though Robin van Persie was unfairly sent off, he blamed the referee for killing the game and dismissed the thought of his team playing poorly which was the case. Similarly against Manchester United at Old Trafford in the league, he accused of United preparing a bad pitch instead of accepting their superiority on the day.
Wenger's Rigid Tactics Make It Predictable for the Oppositions
Wenger is one of the greatest mangers currently in football and his record with different clubs speaks for itself. He has been instrumental in moulding this Arsenal team playing excellent passing football. Though it is a joy to watch the team passing their way to the goal, their lack of other options have left them frustrated when the defence is strong.
One of the main reasons that teams know how to play Arsenal is that the Gunners' are very predictable in their approach. Wenger hardly changes the formation, and his team can be predicted quite easily by others. Sir Alex Ferguson is one of the best managers when it comes to dealing with formations and their changes.
The United manager rotates his strikers in many games with good success, and also, he changes his formation according to the opposition. The game plan is also different which makes his side more unpredictable.
Arsenal have got the resources to be unpredictable, but Wenger has almost always stuck to his 4-2-3-1 formation and the oppositions are not caught off guard with their tactics.
In Arsene We Trust and That's Why Fans Have to Be Patient
This is a time when Arsenal are down but are definitely not out of the title race. They have to inculcate the belief that they can achieve what was thought of as impossible before the season started.
There have been many positives in this season like the development of Jack Wilshere and the performances of Johan Djourou, and it is hope which will drive supporters like us.
Wenger is a brilliant manager who has brought Arsenal to this level, and it is because of his high standards that fans are expecting titles. The reluctance of the manager to spend has cost the team on some occasions, but fans should keep their head and back the team to bring trophies to the Gunners.
"In Arsene We Trust."
Though this article might show me to be extremely pessimistic, I am still optimistic of Arsenal's title hopes and let us hope for the Gunners to show their mettle.
Many other articles of mine are featured on The Invincible Gunners, a blog on Arsenal