It’s only April and we are already talking about the future. How ‘Arsenal’ is that! It’s been eons since I’ve posted a column and I’m sure everyone can understand why. No? You can’t? Well, OUR Arsenal did it again, fluffed their lines when it was there for the taking. Some may say we are underrating the performance of Leicester and Spurs, but honestly with a squad like ours, we should have blown the competition out of the water. Whether the rest of the Top 4 is in flux right now or not, this squad should have been able to mount a successful title change. ‘Small teams’ have in recent years tried to get to the top in Germany and Spain in the form of Wolfsburg and Celta Vigo, but the true world class potential of Bayern Munich and Barcelona came to the fore and shut it down from happening, no fairy tales allowed!
This year, we had the cohesion from keeping the core of the team together for the first time in a long time, the momentum from the run we ended last season with, the momentum from a brilliant preseason and Community Shield victory and also World Class Players training all over London-Colney. Wait, hold that last thought.
That may seem to be where the problem lies. I have been one of the warriors who has fought with my fingers and keyboard for the stay of certain players over the years at Arsenal, but after a long talk I had with myself after the loss to Manchester United (you have those self talks after 15 years of ‘constant’ heartbreak) I came to the conclusion that, OUR Arsenal had become a feeding centre for the ‘best of the most mediocre players around.’ At least we shop in the top end of the market in that regards. Shrug!
The second-leg game between Bayern Munich and Juventus that went deep into extra time after our team’s usual ‘great performance for nothing in the second leg of a UCL round of 16 tie after shooting ourselves in the foot in the first leg’ showed what Arsenal has been lacking for years since Bergkamp, Viera, Henry and a host of others either hanged up their boots or moved on to pastures anew, to enjoy the thrill of winning the biggest trophies in World football, while we lingered in the cesspool of mediocrity and underachievement in North London; the dearth of World class players at Arsenal. That game pitted two great teams full of world class talent against each other, although it wasn’t strange to eventually see Bayern Munich come out of such a tough encounter unscathed.
Arsenal this year has suffered certain losses which baffle the imagination and like the Munich win was unsurprising, these losses (West Brom, Watford in the Cup, Southampton, Manchester United, Chelsea,) also shouldn’t have been, really. I say this because we have in our ranks players such as Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey, Per Mertesacker, Kieran Gibbs, Olivier Giroud, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini. This is not an indictment on any of these players as they all have certain a quality or two that might place them over others with similar abilities. But this is Arsenal. We should have players in our ranks that tick many boxes, not just one, or two. Enough is enough really. Over the years we have had players such as Andre Santos, Squillaci, Mikael Silvestre, Emmanuel Eboue, Johann Djorou, Maroune Chamakh, Chu-Yong Park, Denilson, and a truckload of mediocre talent who really would not have been allowed to get a look in the first-team squad of any of the other regular Top 4 teams, yet collected fat paychecks we could have spent on genuine talent from our youth teams rather than waste on under-performing, retrogressing players. Some may blame the purchases of these players on hard financial times, and rightly so, to an extent.
It is 2016 and we can boast of only THREE Genuine world class talents in our squad of about 23 first team players; Cech, Ozil and Alexis. Ozil and Alexis in recent times have ridiculously been branded by certain pundits as ‘in the second tier of world class talents.’ I never quite understood that because, the first tier contains the only extraterrestrials plying their trade on earth, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, so we would gladly take the World Class talent from the second tier, as it’s the ‘next best thing’.
Next season sees the man who masterminded Munich’s win over Juventus, Josep ‘Pep’ Guardiola; make an appearance in the Premier League at the helm of Manchester City, one of the main flops among the regular Top 4 clubs. It is expected by many ‘pundits’ and ‘analysts’ that he is going to run away with the league in his debut season and no other team has a say in the matter. That is quite staggering a stance to take, as the Premier League is a pretty cruel mistress and this season should enforce that belief. I do believe though that Arsenal stands a very strong chance of spoiling Guardiola’s party, ONLY IF WE MAKE WORLD CLASS ADDITIONS to this current squad, whilst culling the mediocre, ineffective players.
We need a Striker, a Defensive Midfielder and a Centre back in my view; he positions that have ailed us for years. Purchase world class players such as Muller, Hummels, Busquets for any two of these positions, and you push your team into the pantheon of Elite teams. This isn’t just because of the potential and immense ability these players obviously would bring to the team, but also, the improvement their performances will demand from others around them. When you see them train, the dedication, sacrifice and hardwork should push any other player to want to follow in their footsteps in order to reach such a level, an in the long run both player and club benefit. Alexis according to several players has had that effect since his purchase, Cech and Ozil as well, so imagine what having two or three more of players of similar talent would do to this squad’s ‘ceiling.’ Yeah, you can crack a smile at that thought, I have as well.
For us to compete at the top end of the table, we need to fight with the teams at the top end of the table for the players they want to purchase, as bar Arsenal, all the other top 10 to 16 teams in Europe almost always go in for the ‘true’ world class talents. Maybe behind the scenes, there have been attempts to make such major inclusions, but for us to take the next step to join the ‘Elite’ teams in Europe, we must not just make attempts, but actually spend big and bring in players only of the highest quality, and let’s not kid ourselves, we are not in the group of the most Elite teams in Europe. The most Elite of teams in Europe also have another alias they go by, ‘The Fairy Tale Destroyers,’ this season meanwhile, we have looked like the tail, of a fairy.