Well where to start? Arsenal seem to be in disarray at the moment, and people are pointing the finger at manager Arsène Wenger, but does the buck stop just at his feet or has this situation that has arisen come out of no where, or has this been a problem that has been a long time coming. So what are the problems, when did they start and how could they be resolved?
The Transfer policy
Arsenal problems in the transfer market have not been something that has happened only in the last few season, but since David Dein left. His role at the club was one so important that the full effects were not known until he was gone, and as the years have gone by the effect has been more and more visible. For as much as Wenger is touted as the man to transform Arsenal into what they are now, well what they were a few seasons ago, Dein is also responsible. Even before Wenger, Dein was helping make Arsenal a better team influential in bringing Arsenal Legend Ian Wright to the club in 1991 and signing the Dutch Master and one of Arsenals all time greatest players Dennis Bergkamp.
Dein was the man behind Wenger joining the club, and worked closely with him, building a great friendship with him over the years. Wenger would highlight who he wanted and Dein went out and got him leaving Wenger free to do what he does best and that is coach. Wenger has his policy, his philosophy of how to play football and so wants the players that can play that way. He will bring in players that can already play that way, but also bringing young players that he can mould into the style he likes. When Dein was forced out, players there were still at the club and some that had moved on commented on how they felt it to be a mistake.
Ivan Gazidis oversaw MLS’s key strategic and business decisions and its marketing arm, Soccer United Marketing, he also helped promote the Mexican Football Federation and the CONCACAF Gold Cup. On January 1st 2009 he took over from managing director Keith Edelman but also took over many of the roles that David Dein handled. The players that have come in during that time have been Chamakh, Koscielny, Squillaci and this years transfers, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jenkinson, Gervinho, Mertesacker, Andre Santos, Chu-Young Park, Benayoun and Arteta. Ivan Gazidis came out and said that he is happy with the transfer business this season but a comment like that isn’t going to help the fans feel the club is going in the right direction. His background seems to be more on promoting a brand not bringing in players and organising a football club. Maybe that is something Arsenal need, but they need the latter more.
How can they fix this?
Well very easy for me, bring back David Dein.
The Leaky Defence
Some needs to call in a professional, there is a major leak in the Arsenal defence, and the finger isn’t being pointed at the goalie this time. The last two seasons Arsenal have conceded 40 plus goals and with the previous five seasons conceding between 31 and 37 goals and an incredible 26 in their invincible season, it is clear that things are slipping and already this season they have conceded 14. Yes it has slowly deteriorated but over the past few seasons everyone knows Arsenal are susceptible from a deadball situation. Wenger has tried to address that last season with Squillaci, but that didn’t work out, and again this season with the signing of Mertesacker, and this seemed to appease a large amount of fans, but the fact that Vermaelen then had surgery and Mertesacker was the only central defender brought in confused and angered fans.
Of course Arsenal fans can be angry with the defence as Djourou and Koscielny are not Adams and Keown, Adams and Bould, Keown and Campbell or Campbell and Toure, but Vermaelen and Mertesacker would be as strong, but with injuries to Vermaelen has meant that Mertesacker will partner Koscielny or Djourou, who fans are still uncertain over. Arsenal fans would have liked to see Cahill or Samba brought in as well as Mertesacker to really add depth and show intent, and just when they were looking forward to Mertesacker and Vermaelen teaming up, for Vermaelen go in for planned surgery to prevent further injuries in the future, but be out for six weeks, left fans wondering why only Mertesacker was bought.
How to fix this?
Well, simply, buy better defenders. Arsenal missed out on Phil Jones when he decided to join United ahead of Arsenal, and last season during the January transfer window they missed out on Samba. Arsenal face Bolton in their next game (Saturday 24th September), one I will be at Emirates to watch, and will be watching Cahill closely as he is another missed opportunity.
The Coaching Staff
When I was looking at the Arsenal Website I took a look at the coaching staff at Arsenal’s first team and here it is:
Pat RICE (Assistant Manager) Boro PRIMORAC (First team coach) Neil BANFIELD (Reserve Team Coach) Gerry PEYTON (Goalkeeping Coach) Tony ROBERTS (goalkeeping coach) Tony COLBERT (Fitness Coach) Marcus SVENSSON (assistant fitness coach) Ben KNAPPER (Football Analyst) Colin LEWIN (Physio) David WALES (Assistant Physiotherapist) Simon HARLAND (Assistant Physiotherapist) Gary O’DRISCOLL (Club Doctor) Kieran HUNT (Masseur) Darren PAGE (masseur) Danny FLITTER (masseur) James COLLINS (Performance Nutritionist)
Now I don’t know if it is just me, but what I have read there is 3 Masseurs, 3 Physio’s, 2 Fitness Coaches, 2 Goalkeeping Coaches and an Assistant Manager, First Team Coach and Reserve Team Coach. Now no doubt, those last three will be working with the first team with Wenger on the training ground, but it doesn’t look like there is real depth there. They do have Steve Bould and a few other coaches at the club, but that is with the youth set up, so really, maybe a little bit of help, one or two extra coaches to help out with dead ball situations, to help with man marking rather than zonal marking, really what harm could that do, if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, you cant be any worse off for trying. Steve Bould was utilized once before to good effect, so why not again?
How to fix this?
Hire one or two more coaches that are more suited to defensive duties from set pieces and lose zonal marking.
The Trophy Cabinet
It has been a while since it has been updated, and Arsenal came so close last season, but in the end the Carling Cup went to Birmingham, who deserved it for their fight and drive to win. And that is where the problem seems to lie. The last time Arsenal won anything it came through a penalty shoot out and was Vieira’s last game for Arsenal. That season the squad could boast Campbell, Vieira, Pires, Ljungberg, Bergkamp and Henry. A winning mentality was here with those players and the same players were also in the invincible team. Arsenal need to win a trophy soon, as the fans are growing restless but with the rise of Manchester City, they will have an even harder fight on their hands.
How to fix this?
Well this isn’t so easy. They have to fix all the problems above, but also have some luck and time. You always need some luck to win a cup competition, and to win the league, they will need time, as they need to build on what they have. They need to get better defensively, bring back Dein, and sign the right players. This is not an easy task, but it is one that Arsenal have done before, so there is no reason that they can’t do it again.