The following question was asked of Arsene Wenger following the 3-3 draw at home to Fulham. “Arsene, why do Arsenal seem so fragile this season?”
Wenger obviously not liking this question replied that he didn’t share that opinion, but then added that on the day Arsenal were defensively fragile.
On Tuesday Arsenal led their Champions League game at Schalke by two goals, only to allow the Germans to regain the initiative with a goal right on half time. Schalke equalized in the second half, with Arsenal having to thank Mannone for preventing a worse scoreline. Things were not much better at the weekend with Arsenal once again squandering a two goal lead, this time against a Fulham team which had failed to win on 20 previous visits to north London.
The three clean sheets at the start of the season suggested that the influence of Steve Bould was paying immediate dividends; however the subsequent 15 games have seen only a single clean sheet, that in a narrow 1-0 victory over bottom of the table Queens Park Rangers.
It is rumoured that a rift has developed between Wenger and Bould over defensive tactics. While this may be scurrilous gossip, Arsenal’s failure to carry out simple defensive duties suggests that there may be some truth to these rumours.
Arsene Wenger is supremely intelligent, and his management record speaks for itself; but his increasingly condescending attitude to the thousands of loyal Arsenal supporters who pay top price to watch the team play is wearing very thin.
Wenger may well be correct that a top four finish is preferable to winning silverware, after all the financial benefits of Champions League football are significant and the thought of Champions League football without Arsenal is not a pleasant one. On the other hand, ask the players and supporters what would give them a bigger thrill, winning silverware or finishing top four and the answer is obvious.
The psychological high associated with winning silverware cannot be replicated and once a winning mentality is established, it has a positive effect that carries on into the following seasons.
With the departure of Robin van Persie there is no player in the current Arsenal squad with the experience of having won silverware as an Arsenal player. Whilst not wanting to compare Arsenal with any of our rivals, the words of Jose Mourinho are of some relevance. He commented that the most important trophy that he won as manager of Chelsea was the League Cup during his first season, because that installed a winning mentality into his players and from that success the team had the belief to go on and win the Premier League title.
With a League Cup quarter final tie against Bradford City in less than a month; this is the perfect opportunity for Arsenal to reach a two legged semi-final and from there it is one game to glory.
Arsene Wenger may regard the League Cup with a certain amount of disdain, but after the remarkable 7-5 victory over Reading, maybe he understands that Arsenal’s name is on this cup.
If the manager does not want to answer questions about Arsenal’s fragility, what better riposte to the media than by bringing the League Cup back to the Emirates and finishing the season in the top four.
David Wise is a blogger and writer who can be found online discussing Youwin Sports Betting News and views. His thoughts on Arsenal can be found on the Youwin blog.