The start of the season saw Arsenal begin on a very positive note. They were defensively stable, the attack had flair and industry. However at this point in the season, they have limped on game after game whilst giving even the most loyal fans a reason to vent their anger against Arsene Wenger.
Facing almost certain elimination from the Champions League, barring a miracle in Munich, exits from the Capital One Cup and FA Cup at the hands of lower league opposition are already low points of their season. A lack of activity in the January transfer window, except for the signing of Nacho Monreal, when it was clearly seen that the squad needed reinforcements has further tested the patience of the fans to a large extent.
Wenger last won a trophy with Arsenal in 2005 when they pipped Manchester United to the FA Cup in a penalty shootout. A meltdown in the 2011 League Cup final saw them lose an almost gift-wrapped opportunity for silverware. The drought and an almost stubborn unwillingness to improve on the squad has seen numerous incidents that have called for Le Professor's ouster.
With Tottenham improving under Villas-Boas with every passing game and Chelsea on course for a top four finish despite their vacillating form under Rafael Benitez, Arsene Wenger has plenty to ponder about after the defeat to Spurs.
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Wenger can point out that he has led this Arsenal side to the Champions League year after year despite losing their quality players to other clubs and managing to keep the finances extremely stable. But when fans see their cross-town rivals bringing silverware back to their trophy cabinets, it can only instill a sense of desire to see some of those make their way to the Emirates.
Spurs won the League Cup in 2008, Chelsea won the FA Cup in 2009, 2010 and 2012 in addition to being the first ever London club to win the Champions League last year.
The question that is repeatedly being posed at Wenger is that when there is money to be splashed, why is not being done on bringing quality players to the club. Though one must credit Wenger for finally opting to sign an experienced striker in David Villa in January, it was Barcelona's unwillingness to let the Spaniard go which hampered the potential move. What was indeed surprising that Wenger didn't recruit any striker and only opted to sign a left-back who was cup-tied.
Juan Mata, Lewis Holtby, Jan Vertonghen, Gareth Bale and Loic Remy are just some of the other quality players the Gunners could have had but lost to London rivals for a variety of reasons.
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While every other London side in the Premier League recognised their deficiences in the squad and made attempts to improve them, Arsenal decided that they would much rather focus on finishing fourth and keeping their finances healthy. While this may be beneficial to the Gunners when Financial Fair Play (FFP) kicks in, the success of a football club depends on results, something which Arsenal do not have.
Arsene can point out to positive results like the 0-2 victory at Anfield, the 7-3 win over Newcastle United and the 5-2 win over Spurs in November 2012. But not having won against Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City, Arsenal were second-best against quality opposition which is a fact none can deny.
AC Milan are a perfect example of how investing in quality players can just rejuvenate a team into performing better. With an exodus of stars over the summer, the seven-time European Champions started the season on a bad note but managed to recover in time.
Mario Balotelli's signing during the January transfer window saw the return of a marquee striker to the San Siro. Super Mario felt right at home and the confidence was there to be seen as he scored four goals in his first three games. Despite his absence against Barcelona in the Champions League, Milan gave an exhibition of the team organization and defensive stubborness coupled with a brilliant exhibition in counter-attacking to pull off a 2-0 victory over the much-fancied Catalans.
Zdenek Zeman's failed experiment at Roma can be seen as an instance that shows that a team playing beautiful football are not always successful. Roma played some exemplary football under the veteran Czech coach who based his tactics on only one word - attack. However inconsistency was their bane and the owners, who desired Champions League football, could not see that happening with Zeman in charge. His ouster was seen as cruel but nevertheless the pragmatic decision taken in the long-term interests of the club.
The messages that emanated from Arsenal's Annual General Meeting (AGM) did little to convince the fans that their club was heading in the right direction. Finishing in fourth was equated to winning a trophy, while at other London clubs it is deemed as a mandatory requirement of the manager-in-charge. Arsenal settled for mediocrity while other London clubs have raised the bar.
Arsenal can still yet put in a late surge and pip Spurs or Chelsea to fourth spot and ensure the Emirates hears the Champions League anthem for another season. But if it does happen, it will only be papering the cracks which run deep at a club who were once deemed 'The Invincibles'.
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