After an impressive pre-season complimented by the addition of Petr Cech, I had started to consider against my better judgement that this season could perhaps be the one where Arsene would at last prove to his critics that he had finally learned from his past mistakes, however, despite my early season optimism I have once again been left with a familiar sense of déjà vu about our chances of success this campaign.
Following our controversial defeat at Stamford Bridge a couple of weeks ago, an online petition calling for Mike Dean to be banned from refereeing all future Arsenal games was created and has now attracted over a hundred thousand signatures but I can’t help noticing the irony of a situation where Arsenal supporters are campaigning against a man for failing to perform at the expected standard within his job role, when closer to home our clubs manager is doing the same.
If our supporters were not frustrated enough by our failure, or perhaps reluctance, to add a single senior outfield player to the squad during the transfer window, their moods would not have been improved by Wenger’s comments when questioned by the media in the aftermath of the deadline passing, where he declared that there wasn’t a single available player who would have improved our squad and although some will point out the word ‘available’ as the key word in Arsene’s statement, which itself is a bizarre comment to make following a window where Monaco allowed Geoffrey Kondogbia to move clubs, why is it that every other top club in Europe managed to find someone?
What has often appeared to be the case is that the club simply doesn’t identify potential transfer targets or make bids early enough in the summer to have a realistic chance of successfully landing them and with Wenger having publicly made a bold statement of this nature, he has effectively made a rod for his own back by implying that he believes he has a squad strong enough to compete for both the league title and Champions League this season and therefore,should step down or be replaced if this is proved not to be the case.
The revelations that came out shortly after the window had closed, regarding the club being fully aware of the extent of Danny Welbeck’s injury, prior to the closure of the transfer market, made it even more difficult for supporters to understand why at least one extra forward wasn’t added to the squad and whilst the argument about a shortage of available world class strikers is a valid one, there is a counter argument that questions why, if a player a level below world class still offers an improvement on our current options, then why wasn’t that player signed?
It is not only in transfer market that Wenger is currently failing to deliver, it is with his team selections too, most noticeably in our two Champions League group games this season, both of which have resulted in embarrassing defeats after unnecessary changes in personnel were made by our manager, where the Dinamo Zagreb performance and result alone should have been enough to have taught Arsene a lesson about complacency, sadly it didn’t.Having heard Wenger describe the Olympiakos fixture as a must win game in the pre match build up, supporters had every right to expect to see the likes of Petr Cech, Nacho Monreal, Per Mertesacker and Aaron Ramsey included in the starting eleven, however, all four were named as substitutes and whilst some will argue that it was the right decision to name our first choice goalkeeper on the bench like outfield players are when allegedly not fully fit, there is a big difference between naming an outfit player carrying a knock and goalkeeper, after all, were David Ospina to have been sent off or injured in the first minute, Cech would have been expected to play the remaining eighty nine, whilst in the case of outfield players, there is a choice from six options and if Cech was genuinely injured, as hinted by Arsene, why not say so and leave him out altogether?
Since the midweek defeat, a lot of criticism has justifiably been aimed in the direction of Ospina for the way the second goal was conceded, it was after all, very poor goalkeeping but ultimately it was the manager’s choice to pick a goalkeeper that I have never had any faith in from day one and I was surprised to read comments from fellow Arsenal supporters that defending him by saying it was a one off mistake and that he was excellent for us last season, he wasn’t and has looked a potential liability in many of his previous performances, most recently when he almost dropped what looked like a simple catch into his own net during our Capital One Cup victory at White Hart Lane.
Whilst Ospina was clearly at fault for the second goal, the Olympiakos defeat was not solely down to his mistake and a collectively disappointing defensive performance from the rest of the team was also to blame, by conceding the crucial third goal immediately after equalising for the second time in the match, the team showed that nothing had been learned from a similar scenario that occurred against Monaco in the knock out stages of last seasons Champions League and until the manager and the players wise up to their naivety by displaying some leadership and composure in these type of situations, we will continue to be punished in Europe’s premier completion.
Despite all my criticisms, this weekends clash with Manchester United offers the players and manager the perfect opportunity to bounce back and deliver an impressive response by taking all three points…..