Is Arsene Wenger drinking at the Last Chance Saloon?
Three games into the 2015/2016 Premier League is probably not the right time for Arsenal fans to be making knee-jerk reactions or getting on Arsene Wenger’s back again, but I can already feel the pressure beginning to creep into the club again. All things considered, the draw against Liverpool was not the worst result in the world, particularly as we lost both our first-choice centre-backs days before the Monday night kick-off. However, we have to be honest and admit that a slow start to the campaign denied us any chance of challenging Chelsea last year, and I’m afraid that the start to this season feels like Groundhog Day.
Losing to West Ham on the opening day, after such a strong pre-season, was a real kick in the teeth made all the worse by a poor performance, and although the win at Crystal Palace and draw against Liverpool were much better, the Gunners are already five points behind early pacesetters Manchester City. The upcoming fixtures certainly do not help Arsenal’s chances of making a strong start to the campaign with Chelsea and Manchester United on the horizon, and although I strongly believe that any team and its manager should be judged after at least ten games, Wenger is under real pressure to deliver – and he knows it.
If you were to ask Arsenal fans what the first thing they expect from the club, I bet that most would come back with the same answer – challenge for the Premier League. That is Arsenal’s bread and butter this season, make no bones about it. Fans have gone eleven years without seeing a team in red and white lift the trophy…have we really regressed that far from title winners to a side that has rarely came close since being victorious in 2004?
I believe we are two or three world-class players short of being a truly top team again, but despite that, I still think that there is enough quality within the current squad to at least mount a serious challenge for the Premier League title this season. Wenger certainly has faith in the players currently at his disposal to deliver when it matters, but the blame will be placed at his door once again if Arsenal do not, at the very least, challenge at the Premier League summit. Bookies strongly believe that Wenger could leave Arsenal at the end of the season if he fails in his efforts to win his fifth career league title, and if results do not improve soon, he may face another barrage of flak from disgruntled fans who want to see the club succeed. It entirely depends on whether Wenger finally decides to loosen the purse strings and make late stellar signings that match the quality of Alexis Sanchez’s arrival last year; I also believe that Wenger could do himself, and the team, a big favour by formulating a plan B (and perhaps a plan C) when Arsenal’s passing game clearly isn’t work. Passing it around the pitch outside Liverpool’s 18-yard box was all well and good, but it means nothing when we created barely anything and struggled to break their defence down.
Arsenal, and Wenger for that matter, have unfinished business in the Champions League after last season’s debacle. There is no question that we gravely under-estimated Monaco and effectively lost the tie in the first leg, but the manner in which the French side scored the third goal epitomises just how kamikaze Arsenal can be. We all want to see attacking, easy-on-the-eye football that gets the results we want, but when there was a complete disregard shown for sensible tactics or defending when a 2-1 defeat would have given Arsenal a chance to reverse the deficit in the French Principality, it just makes you wonder what goes through Wenger’s mind. It would be considered a disaster if Arsenal were unable to get out of Group F which includes Bayern Munich, Olympiakos and Dinamo Zagreb, but I think it would be considered another nail in Wenger’s proverbial coffin if Arsenal fall before the Quarter Finals hurdle.
As for the domestic cup competitions…why not take them seriously? Yes, the Premier League and Champions League will take precedent and be the competitions that Arsenal will (or should!) put every effort into winning, but when fans have been starved of silverware over the last ten years, the Capital One Cup and FA Cup are winnable competitions. Given that the Gunners are the holders of the latter and are on the cusp of creating history (only Blackburn Rovers have won the FA Cup three times in a row), it would be a fantastic way for Wenger to leave a legacy behind him if he is able to equal the record after setting one last season against Aston Villa (whilst equalling another record in the process). I would imagine, however, that many fans would swap domestic cup glory for a shot at Premier League glory, but even if Arsenal retain the FA Cup again, failing in other competitions may be the end for Wenger.
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