Arsenal; you are a cruel, cruel team to your loyal fans. You promise so much as the most celebrated entertainment side in the Premier League’s history.
Only now can I fully understand how exciting and symbolic the plans for Fabregas to stand alongside Van Persie and lift the Mickey Mouse cup really were. A mix up at the death of the Carling Cup Final saw Cesc drop his head and from the players bench as Martins prodded in the winner to Birmingham’s euphoria.
Commentators, bloggers and fans alike said words to the effect that “Oh well, there is still the triple…”, and so we all kept hope.
Barcelona once again delivered a painful reminder that Arsenal, whilst being the closest equivalent in European football to that of the Catalan entertainers, are short of matching their level over two legs.
Days later, Manchester United ground out a solid 2-0 win to dump the forlorn Gunners from the FA Cup. A combination of good tactics, poor Arsenal concentration in attack and defence, and the grit of Van Der Sar saw us dumped out of our third cup in two weeks.
This is indeed a familiar feeling at this stage of the season, and so I return to my original point: Arsenal are a cruel, cruel team to their loyal fans.
I have decided to consider to the changes needed to change Arsenal’s familiar pattern of disappointment into trophies. There is no question Arsene follow’s his own path and is his own frustrating yet brilliant man. However, the Barcelona template of high possession with wide attacking fullbacks has been followed for some time.
These are the changes Arsenal need to enforce to truly perfect the Catalan template:-
1. Arsenal need a front man with more pace to get in behind teams playing a higher line. Villa, Messi and Pedro all are extremely quick over 30 metres. Van Persie is a remarkable player and finisher but his lack of pace increases reliance on Nasri and Walcott.
2. They need fullbacks that offer a goal threat. Aside from very rare glimpses of the decisiveness in the penalty area Arsenal had under Ashley Cole, they offer no goal threat. With our skill players using intricate skill through the middle in the vein of Xavi, Iniesta a narrow pair of two banks of four is capable of frustrating Arsenal. Dani Alves will probably beat you if the creative players don’t at the Nou Camp.
3. Sign a Carlos Puyol, or a new Martin Keown. Sign a nasty, mean Vidic-like leader. I can see myself having a laugh with Djourou and Clichy in training. Abidal and Puyol? No I bet they’d be horrible. Roger Johnson may lack the passing flair of Koscielny, but he’s hard as granite and we’d have beaten Brum with him. I once read Puyol wasn’t born, he was quarried. I love that. Arsenal were infinitely more successful in the days of Bould, Adams, Keown. The sight of Abidal gripping van Persie round the throat in the Nou Camp made me ask, ‘Who is there to strangle Messi?’
4. Ensure the dominant squad nationality is English. Currently it is clearly French. Barcelona routinely play eight Spaniards in their team. Those eight often feature together in the national team. The continuity is one thing. The team spirit is another. The understanding they have of their club as an immense institution is another. Wilshere has been Arsenal’s most consistent player and emerging leader. He’s English and been at Arsenal since 9 years old.
5. Don’t reward mediocrity. Passengers at Barcelona who don’t cut it are not tolerated by Barcelona. Surely Diaby would be world class by now if he ever was going to be? Surely we can all see Rosicky has neither the physical fortitude nor ability to succeed as he threatened to when he arrived?
Come on Arsenal. Stop being cruel.
By ‘Red Detective’, follow me on Twitter @Detective82.
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