It was the end of February at the back-end of the season, Arsenal FC had it all to play for. We had just completed a major upset in world football by defeating Barcelona at our home ground in the Champions league, were in a solid position in the Barclay’s Premier League, were contenders for the FA cup and lastly were on the verge of capturing our first piece of silverware for close to six seasons. I, as well as many others, could almost taste the success.
But what promised so much, delivered so little as in the dying minutes of the Carling cup final, a schoolboy error at the back involving Szczesny and Koscielny handed the cup over to Birmingham and in so doing dictated the coming implosion that has become familiar territory for Arsenal fans.
Following such a huge disappointment, Arsenal managed only 3 victories in the last 15 games of the season, dropping out of contention in all four cups and slumping to a fourth in the league. Once again I had watched on as my great team found itself collapsing at the final hurdle.
The pure frustration felt by so many fans, including myself, was immense and I could only imagine how Arsene Wenger felt after so much pressure had fallen on his shoulders. Looking visually gaunt and displaying emotions of disappointment in the final few games of the season finally Wenger has come out stating last season was the toughest of his 27-year career saying: “The last part of it was the toughest of my career.
“That was certainly the toughest because, emotionally, it was very difficult because we were on a low.
“And then you could see, the last three or four weeks were very difficult.
“It was because I took full responsibility for what happened. I knew at some stage that it was lost and I had so much hope for the team.
“Through November and December, you could feel that the team had really taken off and could win everything. And it was so close.”
More worrying than this though, was a statement that followed where he said: “I don’t think we are weak defensively but we are an offensive team and sometimes that exposes our defenders.”
The collective effort by Arsenal fans to encourage the signing of a proven centre back has been undeniable, supported by evidence showing we almost conceded the most goals from set-pieces last season (only being overtaken by West Brom at the back-end of the season in early May) as well as leaking more goals then Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City. Simply put, every offensive team still has the opportunity to prepare for set-pieces and should never be exposed by them. Even Wenger himself has stated the need for height at the back to deal with the aerial threat and indeed said he would try bolster that area of the squad.
With the likes of Mertesacker publicly stating interest in the premier league, as well as Samba and Cahill possible acquisitions, I hope to the high heavens Wenger does not pull out of the one demand many Arsenal fans have requested and a demand he said himself he would satisfy. With no official bids for centre-backs as yet though, I can only say the faith Wenger holds in his current defenders is simply unwarranted (besides the Verminator) and I only hope he is working on that signing we all so clearly see as being needed.
What do you think? Have our current defenders matured enough to warrant such high faith from Arsene? Or do we need that extra bit of toughness, composure and aerial dominance at the back? Feel free to leave a comment below!