Things haven’t looked pretty for us lately. We have suffered a fourth debacle of the season and it looks like the wheels are falling off again in the decisive months of the season. We spent 18 weeks on top – more than any other team so far this season – before our defending and overall game had became very poor compared to our standards set in 2013.
Inevitably, that sort of decline raises questions about our manager and his future. Arsene Wenger is in his last year of his contract and despite all the reports that suggested Arsenal would announce a new contract with the Frenchman after his 1000th game in charge, he is yet to sign a new deal with our club but, what is even worse, he is yet to make a victory since that 1:0 win over the Spuds in his 999th game. Given the circumstances, it might be that one of the greatest managers of all time has entered into his last two months at Arsenal, especially if he fails both to retain fourth spot against Everton and Spuds and/or win the first trophy since the 2005 FA Cup.
WHAT SHOULD WENGER DO?
We are bare to the bones as they say. Injuries have been molesting us since Day One of the new season – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had been out for five months before he returned against Aston Villa in January – and at this point in time, we have been without Koscielny, Wilshere, Ozil and Walcott (not to mention the eternal patient Abou Diaby who hasn’t played a single minute since March 2013) while Ramsey returned yesterday. That means our best defender over the last 12 months, our best player in the first half of the season, our future Mr Arsenal, the best No.10 in the world and our top-scorer from last season have been out during the most important matches of the season. Imagine Manchester City without Kompany, Yaya Toure, Silva, Nasri and Aguero; Chelsea without Terry, Hazard, Willian, Oscar and Eto’o; Liverpool without, er, Agger, Gerrard, Suarez, Sterling and Sturridge. I can’t guarantee that any of those respective sides would have been in the top four.
That injury crisis doesn’t leave too many options for rotation. We have: Szczesny, Fabianski and Viviano (remember that lad? Italian, goalkeeper, on loan); Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs (he should be back soon), Jenkinson, Monreal and Bellerin for our defence; midfield options at our disposal: Arteta, Flamini, Rosicky, Ramsey, Kallstrom, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gnabry; Giroud, Podolski, Bendtner, Yaya Sanogo and Akpom are our attacking options, with Cazorla and Oxlade-Chamberlain as our options for the wing.
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We will have five more games in the Premiership and one or two in the FA Cup. We must pick our best eleven in each of remaining games to retain fourth spot that is practically in Everton’s hands (provided that they beat Crystal Palace in their game in hand). So, what should Wenger do?
1) Put Giroud on the bench for the rest of the season and use him only as a last resort before his sale.
Look, Arsene, I know that managers have their preferences and some of them are based on the nationality of the players. Louis Van Gaal had signed Hesp, both de Boers, Cocu, Zenden, Reiziger, Bogarde and Kluivert before his project “Dutch Barcelona” failed. Roberto Mancini had favoured Mario Balotelli over Edin Džeko and Carlos Tevez before he realized Balotelli is not the sharpest tool in his super-expensive shed of strikers. Jose Mourinho had managed Ricardo Carvalho in Porto, Chelsea and Real Madrid while Paulo Ferreira and Maniche had worked with him at Porto and Chelsea. But, let’s face it: France are no longer a European powerhouse like they had been between 1996 and 2006 or, to put it simple, in Zidane’s era.
Arsene Wenger has signed a lot of French players during his tenure at Arsenal and some of them were brilliant – Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires earned their place in the Top 5 Arsenal players of all times (at least in my top-list, that is) while Emmanuel Petit, Nicolas Anelka, Sylvain Wiltord and Gilles Grimandi gave their contribution in double-winning sides in 1997-98 and 2001-02 respectively. Players like Bacary Sagna, Mathieu Flamini, Samir Nasri and even William Gallas fell short of reaching the heights of their compatriots in terms of winning titles but their individual quality was visible.
However, ever since French football has been in decline, French players in an Arsenal shirt have been more or less disappointing. Sebastien Squillaci, Mickael Silvestre, to a certain extent Gael Clichy and, in a different way, Samir Nasri failed at Arsenal but if there was a player who deserves a label “FAILURE”, it’s Olivier Giroud. I’ve spent too much time on finding excuses for his presence in Arsenal’s attack and, unfortunately, so has Wenger but at least I realized that Giroud is useless at this level of football.
Giroud’s stats lie a lot about his worth – he might have scored 36 goals since he arrived but the problem is, he replaced a striker that has scored 37 goals in his last season at Arsenal. Giroud hasn’t scored a single goal for Arsenal in competitive matches against either of the Manchester clubs and Chelsea. If there are enough brain-cells that work at our club, Giroud won’t have another chance to be the flop of the match against the aforementioned teams. Well, at least not at Arsenal.
Given that he has been very poor lately, he should be placed on the bench and used only if Yaya Sanogo, Chuba Akpom or Lukas Podolski fail to deliver. Some might point at his impressive flat-track bully record but it’s more likely that he will crumble under pressure of the forthcoming games. Hence my suggestion.
In the summer, Giroud should be sold and replaced with a real striker.
2) Use Sagna next to Mertesacker as a central defender and give Carl Jenkinson more playing time on the right.
I’m sorry but Thomas Vermaelen is another player that has disappointed me (and many other Gooners) too many times to keep his place in Arsenal’s roster next season, never mind his armband. He has been nothing but a failure in big matches for us and his defensive flaws have been very visible ever since he had stopped scoring goals to cover them. If there is a transfer-list in the making, Vermaelen’s name should be there. He can’t answer to the demands of English football – it’s that simple.
Given how unreliable Vermaelen has been lately even in matches against teams like Swansea, I’d like to see Sagna next to Mertesacker in central defence. BFG has been poor lately too but his partnership with Sagna has been great on the rare occasions they played together.
Carl Jenkinson is an Arsenal future. He needs playing time and confidence.
3) Never go out without Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right wing as he is the only player in our team with enough pace.
The Ox might have been below his own standards lately but he is the only player that can offer us width. He doesn’t hesitate to take a shot from the outside of the box and that might be the answer for our profligacy.
4) F**king prepare for our opponents!
Whilst our opponents lately have been prepared for us, we’ve been learning during the game. In order to avoid more upsets until the end of the season, we must improve in that area too and prepare for the forthcoming matches seriously.
5) Drop Szczesny for Fabianski.
That one worked for us last season.
6) Drop Arteta and move Rosicky in the middle next to Ramsey for the two forthcoming matches.
Today’s match at Goodison Park should be the last one for Arteta in an Arsenal shirt as well. If we want to save the season, Rosicky and Ramsey will play in the middle against Wigan and West Ham (Flamini is suspended for those matches). Give Kallstrom a chance if we have a two- or three-goal lead after 60 minutes and rest Rosicky a bit.
7) Win the FA Cup.
Wenger shouldn’t have a problem dispatching Wigan and Hull/Sheffield in our quest for the elusive trophy. They don’t have world-class players that our defenders can’t stop or world-class midfielders that will over-run our midfield.
8) Announce a departure from Arsenal after the last match of the season.
We all know it’s the right thing to do, Arsene. Say it in the press-conference: “I leave as a winner. I leave as a man who won the double in his first full season at Arsenal and an FA Cup in his last. I leave as a man who leaves Arsenal as a club that will participate in the Champions’ League for the 17th consecutive season with Real Madrid being the only participants with a longer run in 2014-15. I leave as a man who leaves Arsenal with manageable stadium debt, with one of the best stadiums in the world, with a British core, with cash reserves that allow the signing of at least two world-class players this summer and with a stature that attracts every player in the world. I leave as only a manager that has won Premiership without a single defeat in more than one hundred years. Merci and adieu.”
In the last part, I’ve already answered my second question from the title but here are a few additions to it:
1) We should let Wenger go – no new contract for him, please.
Twenty goals conceded in four away games against the Top 5 teams. Four debacles from a terrible performance, especially in defence. Negative goal-difference away from home. 13 points taken from 33 available in the last eleven games. Four defeats in our last five travels. The inability to keep fourth place safe despite a 14-point-cushion with only five weeks ago.
Wenger should be allowed to see out his current contract with Arsenal. He is our legend and deserves a statue of his own.
2) We should replace Wenger with a modern manager with fresh ideas and an approach to every aspect of the game.
We need our Brendan Rodgers or Roberto Martinez – someone who is young, fresh and ready to make moves that lead to victories in big matches. Rudi Garcia has done wonders with Lille and Roma – it’s the only manager in the world that has made Gervinho work properly! That’s saying something..
Jürgen Klopp might be tempted with our offer – Borussia Dortmund will lose Lewandowski this summer and it’s unknown what will happen with Gündogan, Hummels and Reus – but it is debatable whether Kroenke and Gazidis are ready for a dynamic and demanding manager like Klopp. The German once said that he likes heavy-metal and I have a feeling that Kroenke is more into classical music, probably because he can take a nap!
3) Host a testimonial game for Wenger.
It would be a really nice gesture.