Getting into the Champions League is great, but as a player that’s not enough. That’s the minimum requirement.
We have run the club sensibly, and we haven’t done badly; it’s not as if we have been relegated.
The first statement is courtesy of Nigel Winterburn from this article while the second quote is from Peter Hill-Wood from this article. I think that should be a basis for a very good discussion. One which every fan to their dog has a very different take on matters. What is the level that Arsenal is suppose to be challenging in every season. Though I think we need some context here.
There are no clubs that are entitled to win trophies or titles every season. No names are automatic winners, not even the mighty Barcelona or Real Madrid sides. People see the success of Manchester United now but easy to forget that they went well over 20 years without ever lifting the Division One title. In fact, those old enough to watch football in the 80’s (which I wasn’t) will question how is it that Liverpool has failed to lift the Premier League even once.
What about Arsenal you ask? Well, I’m only going to further because you’re not the type that think we should win the all the trophies on offer every single season. There is absolutely nothing wrong in challenging. 7 years is very long because we are living in the now and has to go through every day listening to the insufferable taunts of a Chelsea fan or a City fan or a United fan. What we should want first and foremost from the team is the ability to match what the personnel in the squad is capable of.
Whether a team is deemed successful or not by the results at the end of the season is based on the reflection of the squad strength at the start of the season.
That is the way I see how any team should be judged. That is also how I judge the performance of The Arsenal over the course of the season. Like every other fan, I’m also guilty of placing unreasonably high hopes on the team every season. Whenever I’m asked by any friend at the start of the season, my only respond is always Premiership champions. Now, I do say that in jest but secretly, I can’t hide the fact that I had belief that we can do it. Fair to say fans of every other top clubs in the league will also think the same way.
If we are to take the current squad that we have as it is, I would seriously only put us within the bracket to qualify for the Champions League once again. Who are we to compare to? Manchester City, as reigning champions should be the barometer at which to judge this. What we’ve shown last season in the match at the Grove was that we could match them provided we have almost the full first team available. But that alone does not mean we will win the league title.
Over the course of a season, no team would be able to field exactly the same 11 players in every single game. That just impossible when you take into account the form, fitness and disciplinary issues. It is the entire squad that wins you the league. The same also applies for cup competitions because it is not played over a period of 3 weeks like Euro 2012. Many things could change by from when you play the first cup game in September to the final in May the following year.
There are still rumours surrounding the ins and outs of the squad before the registration could be done and we are still at the very early stage of the pre season, therefore it is hard to make an accurate judgement on things. Then again, any purchases done in late August meant that we’re sacrificing precious blood-in/settling time for the new recruits. It also affects the building up of partnership and developing an understanding of each other’s game. But the time that is picked up, we could be in October and lamenting on those drop points in August and September.
There are two positions which I think we’re a little light. Those are the goal keeping department and the midfield. The Lukasz Fabianski issue is still not sorted yet. I would actually prefer Arsene Wenger to say to him and Wojciech Szczesny that the No. 1 jersey is up for grabs (it literally is). This is not because I prefer Fabianski nor is it because I don’t have faith in Szczesny. As we’ve seen over the course of the season, Szczesny is not quite the finished article yet. Some competition without being guaranteed of the outcomes regardless of the results should keep him on his toes.
As for the midfield, I think it is light because of who we have out injured. Jack Wilshere and Abou Diaby were both long term absentees last season. We are hopeful but there’s no guarantee that either one will actually fully return without persistent problem. Though we shouldn’t discount them completely, we should also plan for possibility of it. If Arsene Wenger do put his trust in Francis Coquelin and Emmanuel Frimpong, then I think we only do need one more player in midfield to complement the team.
Now, by now you’ll be telling me that neither Coquelin nor Frimpong are the same type of player or have the same characteristics that the former duo have. Which is fair point but we do have other individuals who can sit in for Wilshere or Diaby. One could look at Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and even Alex Song as individuals who can be tasked upon to assume the slightly more offensive role in midfield.
While we’re not particularly short on numbers or have a lot of recruiting to be done, it doesn’t mean that we’re a player or two short of winning any trophies either. We have capable back-up/squad players who could come in and do a decent job. But comparatively to those that Roberto Mancini have on his bench, we aren’t exactly on equal terms. The financial power that we are up against, belongs to a separate discussion.
At this point, while being the Champions League spot is not enough, it is what the squad is saying to me.