With Arsenal’s Champions League recent performance against Schalke in Germany as well as the season in general, some supporters are going to view the club’s glass as half full while many others are seeing it as half empty. The team showed it is still suffering from the Jeckyl and Hyde syndrome as it looked great early on in snatching a 2-0 lead and then frittered it away while settling for a 2-2 draw, even though Theo Walcott had an excellent chance to bury the winner in the dying seconds of the match.
The squad has the talent to do better, but just doesn’t seem to have the intestinal fortitude and mental toughness to win the big games. In fact, this is a problem that has plagued the team for the past several years no matter who has been wearing its colours. To some fans, they simply choke when they reach football’s biggest occasions. Many people blame manager Arsene Wenger for the team’s worst start ever to a Premier League season with just 15 out of 30 points earned, but talent-wise the horses are there, but they simply aren’t doing the job expected of them.
As of now, it looks like the club will once again be rejoicing at the end of the season if it can grab a place in the top four and make it to the Champions League again next season. The League and FA Cups are still a possibility, but they’ve really dug themselves in a deep hole if they have realistic aspirations of winning the league.
And yet again, the club has to decide if it’s going to let one of its star players in Theo Walcott leave the Emirates or if legitimate attempts to sign him are going to take place. With Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, and Robin Van Persie all walking out the door, most supporters aren’t going to accept the departure of the 23-year-old England international, especially the way he’s been playing so far this season.
This could be an area where Wenger should be taking some of the blame though. Walcott’s talents are being wasted with him sitting on the bench most games when the team’s in desperate need of goals. The kid has eight of them to his credit so far this season in all competitions and has played a limited number of minutes.
Make no mistake about it, this current Arsenal squad has a lot of skill and depth, but it just can’t seem to put the ball in their opponents net or keep it out of their own goal when important games are on the line. There’s not really any need to make wholesale changes to the squad, there just has to be less talk and more action. The players and manager all talk a good game, but can’t replicate their words on the pitch when push comes to shove.
This is a problem that most team sports suffer from as everybody is looking at everybody else to be the saviour. There’s always a place to hide after a bad game and the old cliché’s of “We’ll play better next time,” roll off of everybody’s lips. Except there’s not really any accountability in that. When Muhammad Ali used to boast about what he was going to do to his opponent once the bell rang he had to back it up since he was the only one responsible. If he had a bad performance there weren’t 10 teammates to hide behind and share the blame with. Everybody has to be accountable for their own actions and just talking about it isn’t good enough.
The players need to adopt a “never say die’ attitude in their games, much like they did against Reading when finding themselves down 4-0 before they woke up. If the squad is filled with players who are willing to easily accept defeat, then unfortunately they’re going to get a lot of practice at it. Sports are designed to showcase improbable performances and comebacks and the players need to have it inbred in them that a game’s never over until the final whistle blows. Until it does, just about anything’s possible.
Those who view the team with its glass half full will quickly point out that a nine-point deficit behind league-leading Manchester United can easily be made up with three quarters of the season to go and they’re right. Nine points can even be made up in the last few weeks of the season if everything falls into place. But the job now is to try and make sure a nine-point deficit doesn’t grow from week to week. The Gunners still have one of the best, if not the best defensive record in the league and this is why it’s imperative that they start to score goals.
It’s obvious that Walcott is hot right now and is in a groove. He’s currently got the Midas touch as every time he plays he’s depositing the ball in the back of the net. It’s essential that Wenger starts the lad whenever he’s healthy and goes with his hottest player. The team relied on Van Persie to score the majority of goals for them last season and it could be the same with Walcott this campaign. In addition, Wilshere’s finally back in action and Gibbs, Diaby, and Rosicky will hopefully soon follow, creating more optimism with supporters.
Every player as well as the manager needs to take a long look in the mirror and decide if they’re just going to ride out the rest of the season or dig in their heels and give it 100 per cent game in and game out. Wenger has to stick with his most productive players and let them play their way out of the whole they’re in. Forget about rotating the squad just for the sake of it and go with a solid nucleus of at least seven or eight players who he can depend on.
There’s no time for stubbornness and nonchalance from the manager and predictability on the pitch from the players. If Wenger can’t lift this squad and motivate it to fill the glass to the top, it’s time to make a change and get somebody in who can before it’s too late.