The 2015-16 Barclays Premier League season is drawing to a close with dramatic turns of events which eventually saw Leicester City being crowned champions of England. While most of the big guns were never in the title race, one team was right in the mix and were even the favorites for many to be the champions. And that team was Arsenal. Instead, Arsenal have to wait till the final day to be sure of a top 3 finish.
But once again, this was not the story midway through the season. Arsenal dominated many games and the fans were expecting them to finally break their 12 year jinx. But as we have seen before, their claim for the title slowly faded away and this has once again frustrated their fans and a section of them has even raised their voice asking for a change in the managerial hierarchy. The Protest for Change demonstrated by a section of supporters emphasized the fact the fans are running out of patience with Arsene Wenger and his managerial style.
But what changes do Arsenal need to make if they have to make it all the way through in the league and in other competitions?
Questions have always come up during every transfer window as to why Arsene Wenger is not willing to spend much to bring in star players. The addition of players like Özil and Alexis Sanchez has made huge differences in the squad that the fans expect more such stars to arrive and make a difference in matches. But many are of the view that Arsene Wenger likes to make one big buy to allay doubters and ignore gaping holes in the squad, choosing instead to address these problems with “internal solutions”. With all due respect to the signings he has made, they have not proved this statement wrong with their intentions and performances. And then comes the cliché statement associated with Arsenal. They would have done much better had the whole squad been fit enough. Definitely the transfer strategy has to change and they must fill the void in certain positions which is quite evident. So, lets take a look at the positions in which Arsenal must add power.
The goalkeeper was a concern for the Gunners but the arrival of Petr Cech has covered this aspect. But they are short of a powerful dominant centre back who can hold the defence together. Though the arrival of Gabriel promised to cover this void, his style of play has been reckless at times and is not very different when it comes to the error-prone nature of his fellow defenders.
Per Mertesacker seems to be a liability more often than not and his lack of pace is a serious cause for concern in a demandingly pacy league such as the Premier League. Koscielny seems to be the best Arsenal have got in their armoury and they definitely need to bring a dominant defender into their squad to partner the Frenchman. And it wont be a surprise if Arsene himself feels this is an urgent issue to be looked into.
Going further forward, the defensive midfielders role has always given Arsenal head-aches since the departure of their former iconic captain Patrick Viera and then the reliable Gilberto Silva. Though it is hard to find a similar player in the modern game available in the market, Arsenal should make sure that they have someone more dependable than the ageing Mathieu Flamini and an inconsistent Coquelin. Though Coquelin has looked promising at parts, his inexperience and a short tempered game style has cost his side dear many times. The addition of Elneny has provided an alternate option for Wenger, but that signing definitely was not enough to win his side the Premier league title.
At the other end of the field, a proper out and out striker who can give you 20 goals a season could take this Arsenal side to new heights. The signing of Danny Welbeck still for many was a panic buy by Arsene who has only Olivier Giroud as his proper full-time striker with enough experience. And Giroud has once again failed to prove his critics wrong when it comes to scoring goals.
Once these areas are sorted out, Arsenal would be helped if they have another winger, preferably a right sided one. With Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott once again struggling with their fitness and a possible replacement for Santi Cazorla also becoming fragile when it comes to fitness, a bit too much is on the shoulders of Ozil and Sanchez especially when it comes to the big games where a piece of individual brilliance could be the decisive factor. One thing Arsene Wenger has done this season is give youngsters such as Joel Campbell and Iwobi a chance to show their abilities in the big stage.
But, we will again have to wait and see if Arsenal would be on a signing spree or will continue to back the squad that they have. It is a good thing that Arsene Wenger is backing the squad which he has built by himself. But the backing should not be in a fashion where it hinders the growth or betterment of the squad.
The current Arsenal squad is definitely lacking a leader amongst their ranks. The Arsenal fans would be missing such a figure in their squad as they are so used to having one such regular member in the past. And that has been a core element in champion Arsenal teams of the past. With Petr Cech’s arrival and a smooth mixing among his team-mates we can expect Cech to play the role of a leader. And this could make a huge difference in the team’s push for points and results. As Gigi Buffon and Iker Casillas have shown in the past, this role can be effectively done by the man between the sticks as well. And having made his transfer from Chelsea after a successful stint at Stamford bridge, Cech with his Premier league experience and experience of winning things could be the ideal man to take up this role at the club.
Arsenal sides of the past and even the current ones are one of the most glamourous sides when it comes to playing beautiful football. They have often left their opponents thinking what can be done to stop such a team and has mesmerized many defences across the league. And one thing that could make a huge difference is if this beautiful football can combine with smart football. As Leicester City with their title winning performances and Manchester United in the opposite pole of that spectrum has proven, possession without penetration wont help you force results in tight situations. And at most times we are left wondering if Arsenal are doing too much with the ball. And as many have already said, it is about time Arsenal become a smart side and have a thought about what will be stacked against them on the field rather than going out and playing their own brand all the time and getting tactically figured out and frustrated. This could be a decisive factor in Europe as well as they are coming up against more tactically sound teams across the continent.
While a certain section wants the changes to be brought in place by removing Arsene Wenger from the manager’s role, it is not a guarantee that the new person coming in would replace the big shoes of Arsene Wenger. With atleast a year left in his contracts, it is quite clear that Arsenal can be transformed into a deadly set-up with a solid shake-up in the squad and in the psychological side of things. But if the club decides to make a huge shake-up which could include the arrival of a new manager and a change in the whole board hierarchy, the fans might well have to be a bit more patient to see if the changes can bring in instant positive results.
It all depends on the mindset of the club. And it is clear enough that atleast the fans are not happy enough with a guaranteed European spot every year and a half season title challenge. It is a sure thing that the fans want to talk about a realistic title challenge during October-November and also during April-May. There is a famous saying that “Progress is impossible without change and those who cannot change their mind cannot change anything”.
All that we can do for now is to wait and see the extend of shake-up that will happen at Arsenal and hope they will make the league an even better one next season.