Written by TotalArsenal
Arsenal does not really do transitional seasons, or does it? Somehow, through the magic of Wenger, we have been able to rebuild squads and first teams without losing sight of silverware and European football in every single season the Frenchman has been at the helm. What’s more, he has been able to achieve this against the background of Arsenal building a new stadium, and the departures of many established players in the last seven years or so. We basically made a through-start again and again, and during the process we, the fans, got a bit spoiled.
More and more, it is becoming clear the 2011-2012 season might well turn into a proper transitional year, in which we might win nothing and not even finish in the top-four.
If you take a closer look at our direct competitors, you will see that all of them, in one way or another, are also in transition. MU and MC are out of all cup competitions with over 100 days of the season to go, and both their managers are trying to build a team that can compete for years to come. Liverpool, despite their enormous investments over the last 12 months, did not feature in Europe at all this season, and are struggling to make it into the top-four: their transition is ongoing too. Chelsea is in a similar situation as Arsenal, in terms of their positions in the various competitions, but they have to come to terms with the decreasing powers of their ageing squad and, as a result, are also struggling badly to make the transition. The Spuds are doing relatively well as they are currently picking the fruits from Rednapp’s team building/ squad building efforts over the last few years: it looks like they are in a post-transitional phase right now. For various reasons, this is unlikely to last and soon they will be back were they belong: well below the mighty, red & white buttocks of The Arsenal.
I wish the BoD/Wenger would come out and say: last season was not good enough for Arsenal and on top of that we lost Fabregas and Nasri this summer. We had to buy a great number of new players and it just takes time to settle them all in. We will work hard this season to build a new team and still try and win something, and to finish in the top-four, but we have to go through a period of transition in order to establish a new team that will be able to compete for many years to come. There is quite a chance Arsenal will win nothing this year, and might not even finish fourth, but in the long term it will be for the best. Please be warned: it might be a tough season for us all.
I could live with that. In fact, I have reluctantly come to terms with it anyway, whether the BoD come out and say it or not.
I am absolutely convinced that all the ingredients are there for sustained success in years to come. The current squad has many players who can make it to the top in the next few years and a number of youngsters are progressing quickly to make the first team. Arsenal has a number of super talents around whom we can build a super team: Szczesny, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Sagna, Ramsey, Wilshere, the Ox, RvP, Gervinho, Song are all top players. The BFG, Arteta, Theo, Santos are good squad players and the young talents of Miquel, Frimmpong, Coquelin, Gibbs, Ryo, Campbell and Jenkinson are very promising prospects. In the summer, we can add to those, if required. The club is financially healthy and the owners appear to be in for the long haul (and please note that financial success for Kroenke & Co totally depends on sporting successes by Arsenal), we have a great stadium and play (at least until recently) a fantastic brand of football which is revered all over the world.
But, it might take a while before we can pick the fruits of this very exciting and promising new team. And that is the hardest part for us fans to accept, especially after the seven barren years which did not meet our relatively high expectations.
Does it mean though, that this season is a write-off? Difficult to say. There are basically four scenarios:
- Somehow, Arsene manages another ‘through-start’ this season and Arsenal finish in the top-four. We might even win something in the next few months. I would not put my money on it though.
- The season ends in a complete disaster: we win nothing, finish outside the top-four and moral is rock-bottom.
- We win nothing and do not make it into the top-four, but the last few months of the season have seen a massive improvement, and Wenger has build a new team that will be ready – give or take a new signing or two – to go all the way next season.
- As per scenario three but on top of that we win the FA-cup, or even the CL-cup.
Whichever way it goes, the next four months will provide some clarity of where Arsenal is going. I hope we’ll end up with scenario one: who does not? I could live with scenario three if it is based on fundamental truths. Scenario four would be great and I might even prefer it to ‘only’ finishing in the top-four, as I strongly believe the sooner this new team wins something the quicker it will grow into a super-team.
If the season finishes as per the second scenario, I am sure we will see a change in team management. In many ways I would hate that to happen, so big is my respect for Arsene, but on the other hand, it would be good to see Arsenal start a fresh, new era, under new management, however risky this will be.
I am under no illusion this is the hardest sporting challenge Wenger ever had to face. We all seem to know where it is going wrong with the team at the moment, and what he should do to resolve it. But, I trust his knowledge and deep passion he has for our club. A genius is able to see and understand complexity like nobody else. Or, as Edward de Bono observed: ‘Removing the faults in a stage coach may produce a perfect stage coach, but it is unlikely to produce the first motor car.’ If you know what I mean.
For the rest of the season, I am going to relax a bit and lower my expectations. However, I will support the players and manager as much as I can, because their struggle is my struggle.