Arsenal FC: 5 Small Steps to Turn the Gunners into 2012 Double Winners
Prior to the start of the season few gave Arsenal any hope of winning the league. With Chelsea and Manchester United still looking strong and with the likes of Tottenham, Manchester City and Liverpool improving over the summer, it was expected of Arsenal to fight for the third spot.
While Arsenal might yet finish third they also have a chance of winning the league despite it being a slim chance. They are currently six points behind United but with the Red Devils still to play Chelsea and Arsenal, the Gunners can still sneak the trophy.
But their recent form means that they might end up finishing either second or third and in the process contending for another promising but eventually trophiless season.
But it wasn’t always looking like this. At one point it seemed Arsenal would end their trophy drought with them playing Birmingham City in the finals of the Carling Cup. But it was not to be.
That loss proved to be the turning point of Arsenal’s season that at one showed promises of a ridiculous quadruple. The loss to Birmingham was followed by eliminations from the Champions League and the FA Cup at the hands of Barcelona and Manchester United respectively.
This followed by Arsenal’s indifferent form in the league which has seen them drop to third, six points behind United with a mere five games see them staring at another barren season.
This season could have been the season that Arsenal achieved so much if they hadn’t squandered leads on so many different occasions. But next season with all the teams including Liverpool and Manchester United set to undergo massive changes in personnel, Arsenal will have to be at their best to win a trophy.
Under Arsene Wenger Arsenal have won three Premier League titles and four FA Cup titles the last one being the FA Cup Arsenal won in 2005.
The one trophy missing from the cabinet is the UEFA Champions League with the closest Arsenal ever came being back in 2006 when they lost to Barcelona in the finals after they were reduced to 10 men.
Arsene Wenger has always said that not winning the Champions League remains his biggest regret and he will be desperate to win the trophy soon.
This season while it may end in disappointment has nevertheless been promising with many players like Samir Nasri, Robin van Persie, Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott among those showing great promise.
Arsene Wenger has hinted that there will be no massive changes in the squad but there will be some changes in personnel and the squad will be strengthened in the summer.
Arsenal will be desperate to end their trophy drought and they will be aiming to go all the way in the two main competitions they participate, the Premier League and the Champions League.
Completing the double is going to be no easy task and if Arsenal are to do this they will have to be at their very best and will need to spend in the transfer marker and it will require them to perform at their best throughout the season.
So here is a look at the five things that Arsenal need to do this summer to convert from underachievers to Double winners.
Keep Hold of Cesc Fabregas
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This is one which may create contrasting opinions with many believing that he must be sold and Arsenal needn’t keep him any longer.
There have been several questions raised about his commitment and his form in general. I for one believe that that he still remains motivated to achieve success with Arsenal and his performances are still top class.
I don’t really question his passion and have always believed that he isn’t a vocal leader. He is fairly subdued on the pitch, and so for some, it gives a feeling that he is no longer interested in playing for Arsenal.
For one I believe that he never stops trying, and while his teammates have struggled to finish off some of the chances he has created, he has been playing fairly well in recent times.
It is true that he has been unable to replicate his great form from last year but this is due to a variety of reasons. For one he has been in and out of the team with injury and often Wenger has used him far too quickly which has resulted in him picking up an injury before he has fully recovered from the previous one.
Another reason why some people believe that he has been below par is because of the fact that he has struggled to score goals like he did last season. This season he has scored just nine goals which pales in comparison to the 19 he scored last season. But when it comes to assists the numbers are fairly the same with him having 17 this season, just two less than the number he had last season.
Fabregas has been in imperious form over the last few games and I do believe that he is nearing his best. Fabregas’ influence on the team is often lost when we watch the match. For a normal viewer, the influence is decided with what a player does with the ball in his feet but it is the movement of Fabregas that is so crucial to his team.
Fabregas represents everything Arsene Wenger hopes to achieve through his long term vision: signing young talent and converting these players not just into good players but into world beaters. When you talk about world class players at Arsenal there are only a few: Robin van Persie, Samir Nasri, Bacary Sagna and Thomas Vermaelen. And of course Cesc Fabregas.
Selling any of these players would be a step backwards for the club and Arsenal cannot afford that. They are in a situation where selling a top class player would further derail the continuity of the long term goals. Arsene Wenger’s vision is based on turning these players into world class performers and then building the team around them. It does not involve them being sold off when a ‘big’ club comes calling.
Also currently Fabregas is undoubtedly one of the world’s best midfielders in football right now and there are few players who can be signed to replace him at a decent price range. That means it would be tough to replace him and while Arsenal have the likes of Nasri, Ramsey in their team, these players are not ready to replace Fabregas especially the latter while some see Nasri as capable of replacing Fabregas.
Fabregas is currently one of the best Arsenal players and his creativity and vision are essential for the club and Wenger should hold on to his prized player if Arsenal are to push for the Double next season.
Bring About Changes to the Back-room Staff
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This summer Arsene Wenger’s long time assistant, Pat Rice is set to retire and while Wenger is reportedly trying to convince him to stay, he looks set to leave.
So that would mean that Wenger will be looking for a new assistant and it has been suggested for quite some time now that Wenger should draft one of his older players as a member of the back room staff.
The ideal behind the move being that by bringing in a proven winner, someone like a Tony Adams, Patrick Vieira, Martin Keown, he will increase the belief of the team and he will be successful in bringing about a winning mentality into the squad.
Some of the choices include Patrick Vieira whose contract with Manchester City is set to run out in the summer, Tony Adams who is currently the manager of Gabala in Azerbaijan and Dennis Bergkamp who is currently the assistant coach of Ajax’s youth side.
The one thing common to all these players is that they are proven winners; they used to represent Arsenal during the time they used to be a dominant force in England and used to win trophies on a consistent basis.
These players were not just some of the most successful and talented players to come to the Emirates, they had a commitment and dedication to win. They were lion hearted players who used to give their best for the club day in and day out.
There is no need to bring in these players as only the assistant manager, but signing them and giving them a role in the back room will add some much needed experience to the Arsenal dressing room.
Their spell with Arsenal defined the careers of these footballers and it is clear that the club is very dear to all these players and a return to the Emirates would be a move that all these players would welcome and Wenger should look to engineer this move.
Sign the Right Players
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Recently Wenger hinted that he could make a big transfer splash in the summer but said that he would make only a few changes to the squad. So Arsenal fans can look forward to around two to three players being added into the squad.
Some fans have been calling for the Gunners’ boss to go sign, Manuel Neuer who runs out of his contract this summer and will not be renewing it with Schalke. But they should ask themselves if Arsenal actually need another goalkeeper with Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski showing so much promise.
Another player that most fans would love to see at the club is someone of the likes of Eden Hazard. He may be undoubtedly be one of the most promising talents in Europe right now and he would be a great addition to the squad but once again he does not represent a pressing need. With Ryo Miyaichi and Henri Lansbury coming through the Arsenal ranks, Arsenal needn’t sign the Belgian midfielder.
But what Arsenal does require is a defender. There have been some calls for Wenger to sign an experienced defender in the summer but that notion I believe is false. Last season Arsenal had the likes of William Gallas, Sol Campbell and Mikael Silvestre in their squad and yet their defense was hardly better than this season and some would even say it was worse than this year.
Also this summer, Wenger signed Squillaci who despite being extremely experienced as turned out to be a major disappointment.
Arsenal should sign a defender that is already established, a player who has proven himself and not an unknown talent. This summer Wenger signed Laurent Koscielny, a fairly unheralded player and he has proven to be a great buy.
But the problem with signings like him is that they lack experience playing at the top and they lack the leadership that Arsenal requires.
While Koscielny has all the traits required to become a top notch defender he is not what you would define as leadership material and what Arsenal require is a towering centre back, a person who can add not just solidity to the defense but also leadership.
Now I have always believed that Arsenal’s defense is far better that some people give it credit for but the fact remains that both Vermaelen and Djourou are injury prone meaning that Arsenal’s defense may just be missing their two best defenders. That is why Arsenal need to sign another solid defender who has all the traits of a top notch player.
Immediately the player that comes to my mind is Giorgio Chiellini. He is of the right age, has plenty of experience and is extremely versatile.
Another player is Jan Vertonghen. The Ajax defender is another no-nonsense defender who would be a welcome addition to the squad. Neven Subotic of Borussia Dortmund would be another good addition to the squad.
But Chiellini would be the best bet in my opinion.
Wenger has a penchant for signing unknown players and while they may come cheap and they do have potential they lack experience at the top level which is required for Arsenal to clinch trophies.
The other transfers Wenger will have to make depends on those leaving the club. Cesc Fabregas, Nicklas Bendtner and Gael Clichy are three players reportedly leaving the squad and if it does happen, Wenger must sign a replacement.
Axe the Flops
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Every team has sub-par players and so does Arsenal. Arsenal have the likes of Denilson, Sebastian Squillaci and Manuel Almunia to name a few.
These players have shown that they are just not good enough to play for Arsenal and their time to go is up. By keeping such players, Wenger is not just wasting space on the squad he is also increasing the wage bill.
It’s tough to fathom that these players could have their futures at Arsenal and the best thing would be to sell them now itself.
If the Dailymail, is to be believed then Wenger is set to clean out the squad and he looks set to axe the flops. This would be the ideal move both in terms of the future and the present. We have seen Denilson struggle time and time again this season and yet some believe that he should be kept because he is young.
Sure he is young and has potential but the reason he should be sold is far simpler: he is simply not cut out to play the Arsenal style of play. The only time he is used is as back up to Alex Song. But he lacks the attributes to be successful in this role and so he will always struggle to be successful at Arsenal.
Moreover with Francis Coquelin, Emmanuel Frimpong and Craig Eastmond coming through it is tough to see him even as second choice. So the best move is to sell him.
Almunia and Squillaci have been truly shocking this season and keeping them is unnecessary. Also in both the departments there are plenty of promising youngsters coming through who can have bright futures at the Emirates.
Removing such players is especially helpful considering the recent limit on players in your squad and it also reduces Arsenal’s fairly large wage bill. Instead Wenger should give an opportunity for Arsenal’s youngsters as back up players and he should look to give them the occasional run in the domestic cups.
So when Arsenal’s teams is cluttered with players who are just not good enough the best choice would be to use young and promising players in their places namely the likes of Ignasi Miquel, Kyle Bartley, Lansbury, Frimpong and Miyaichi.
Improve Quality in Depth
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Like mentioned in the previous slide some of Arsenal’s players are extremely poor and have failed to show any signs for them to be kept at the club.
On paper Arsenal have plenty of depth in their squad but as the season has progressed it has become woefully evident that this may not be the case. Arsenal have struggled this season when they have missed crucial players like Fabregas, van Persie, Song especially as the season has progressed.
The problem is that the players replacing them are woefully inadequate to play for a top club like Arsenal. We have to remember that while all top teams have plenty of poor players, for Arsenal these players are used more often than not because of the heavy number of injuries, Wenger and his side usually face each season.
The 0-0 draw against Sunderland is the perfect example of this. Arsenal were missing key players in Fabregas, Song, van Persie and Walcott. In their places in came Denilson, Diaby and Bendtner.
Throughout the game Arsenal lacked the killer instinct in front of goal and it was evident that something was missing.
The problem is that the gap between the players injured and the players coming in are huge. For instance in Alex Song, Arsenal have one of the best defensive midfielders in the league but the player replacing him is Denilson. Denilson lacks the quality to become a good defensive midfielder and his habit of wandering up field leaves his centre back exposed often.
The problem of having poor players is affecting the likes of Andrei Arshavin, Nicklas Bendtner and Maroaune Chamakh. Ever since the likes of Fabregas, Nasri, Walcott or van Persie has returned to full fitness, players like Chamakh and Bendtner have found first team opportunities tough.
So they have been drafted in when injuries are at a high and they have been used predominantly in cup competitions. So as a result they have been forced to play with some of Arsenal’s poorer players and have missed the creativity of Fabregas, Nasri which is one reason why they have struggled. Sometimes when Arshavin has been used in the FA Cup, he has seemed to be in a different wavelength to his teammates which sometimes tends to give the feeling that Arshavin is performing poorly but actually it is the rest of the team that is one step below him.
The pace of the game played by Arsenal’s first choice team is quick and they prefer a fast tempo to their game but the moment players like Diaby, Denilson come in the speed of Arsenal’s game drops down a notch.
Wenger has to ensure that his best young talents are used when an injury strikes and he has to ensure that the players that come in during times of injuries are good and they can continue to play seamlessly.
He has to use players like Ramsey, Frimpong, Lansbury when an injury strikes and not players like Denilson. For instance if Wenger signs a defender this summer and with the return of Vermaelen, Arsenal will have plenty of depth in their defense with the likes of Koscielny and Djourou as back up.
This has to be the case in every position.
By having quality in depth, Wenger also ensures that there is competition for places and no player has their place guaranteed. Right now players like Bacary Sagna and Song have their places guaranteed and there is a chance that complacency may creep in. Having depth mitigates this.
Arsenal are a team that is often hampered by injuries and having quality in depth will create a healthy competition that is required at a club like Arsenal.