Every season must be like Groundhog Day for beleaguered Arsenal fans. Theirs is a club that flatters to deceive time and time again. Sure, the FA Cup win last season was important, and a huge step forward for the club. But you can’t help feeling that’s just papering over the cracks, as happens so often with Arsenal. The 2-0 away win at Manchester City in January looked to be a turning point for The Gunners. But even that didn’t have the effect it maybe should have.
The last month has seen Arsenal fall to a 2-1 defeat to bitter rivals Spurs. The club also lost at home in the first leg of their Champions League knockout phase tie. They slipped to a 3-1 defeat to French side Monaco following an abject display.
Couple this with the same old questions surrounding Wenger’s future and the team’s mentality. Things could be better for Arsenal. Indeed, it seems their fan-base’s divided into two sections. There are those who appreciate what Wenger has done for the club, but feel it’s time he left. They will point to a lack of ambition both in Europe and the Premier League. An over-reliance on Alexis Sanchez, and failure to address defensive frailties. They’ll also point to the fact that Wenger seems to revel in finishing fourth each season. This is something the Arsenal manager has been quick to wave in the face of his critics. However, many believe a club of Arsenal’s stature shouldn’t be content with fourth place every season.
Then there are those fans who support Wenger and feel he should remain as boss. They point to last season’s FA Cup success as a clear indicator of progress for the club. They also point to the fact that Wenger appears to have taken a more relaxed stance on transfers now. He’s willing to spend big these days, something he wasn’t prepared to do for years.
So what is the answer at Arsenal? And where do the problems lie? Well, part of the frustration for many seems to be that it’s the same old story season after season. Arsenal’s defensive woes are well documented, but it seems that Wenger simply will not address them.
For years now The Gunners have needed at least one strong centre back. They’ve also needed a reliable goalkeeper and a powerful defensive midfielder. And for years Wenger has insisted on buying strikers and creative flair players. There are transfer rumours abound that Arsenal have targeted yet more attacking players. Such as Spanish striker Alvaro Morata. Long term Southampton target Morgan Schneiderlin would fit well into the midfield enforcers role.
It does appear that slow steps have been taken to get to the heart of Arsenal’s problems. David Ospina has finally replaced the dodgy Wojciech Szczesny in goal. Since this change Arsenal have looked a little more solid at the back. Per Mertesacker’s atrocious form has seen him dropped at centre back. He’s replaced by January signing Gabriel Paulista. And young midfielder Francis Coquelin has been a revelation since his recall from Charlton.
All these factors combined have seen Arsenal look much more solid defensively. Indeed, The Gunners have enjoyed three Premier League wins in a row since the defeat at Spurs. There are certainly steps in the right direction, and things look more positive for Arsenal fans than in recent years. Wenger will still have some work to do in the transfer window though if he wants to turn Arsenal into a force once again.