By Daniel Stafford
Poor old Arsene Wegner, having seen his side make their worst start to a Premiership season Arsenal’s defensive incapability’s have returned with a bang, two consecutive away defeats having been in front on both occasions against supposedly inferior opposition has left Wegner scratching his head again.
With Manchester Utd to roll into town this Sunday you could argue it is actually the perfect fixture to get back things back track, revenge will be in the air after the humiliation of the 8 – 2 defeat back in September. However injuries continue within the squad whilst Wenger has yet again stated his reluctance to spend in the January transfer window. The divide between manager, players and the fans at the Emirates has never been more apparent as last Sundays altercation between club legend and returning hero Thierry Henry testifies.
It got me thinking, is Arsene Wegner, one of the most successful managers in the Premier League era and one of the most respected managers in Europe starting to really feel the strain and transfixed in a mind-set of “what if”.
What if… he had managed to convince Cesc Fabergas to give him one more year, what if… Arsenal hadn’t cashed in on Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy to Manchester City, what if… Jack Wilshire hadn’t got injured in the Emirates cup, what if… Arsenal had brought that powerful centre half rather than the shocking Per Mertesacker, Chris samba for example.
Football is full of what ifs and buts, close margins and circumstance, however each is a compelling argument , Arsenal were looking good last season until February when they imploded in February after the Carling cup final defeat to Birmingham.
Fabregas for example has gone on to be a goal scoring sensation in Cataluña, granted whilst playing for the best club side perhaps the world has ever seen. Samir Nasri was incredibly unlucky not to win PFA player of the year last season when only a stunning hat-trick from Gareth Bale in Italy pipped him to the post. Gael Clichy who many Arsenal fans feel had lost his way and agreed with Wegner that it was time to move him on have seen at-least 6 different players feel the void he left due to injuries. Jack Wilshire’s injury could have happened to anyone at any time however Arsenal were unlucky in the fact it happened to arguably along with Van Persie their most influential player.
Then there is the aged old argument every Arsenal fan, pundit has been saying for years, Arsenal need a commanding centre half. Wegner has been proven right in his stance in the case of Gary Cahill after Bolton accepted the seven million bid Chelsea managed to secure the English international for early this week. Wegner made a similar bid last season and was heavily criticised by Bolton at the time, however as talented as Gary Cahill is, is he really much better than Thomas Vermaelen and the most improved player at the club this season Lauren Koscielny? I’m not sure – for me Chris Samba was the one Arsenal should have gone for, with proven Premiership experience, built and brave like an gladiator, good in the air and the right age, with an occasional eye for goal he was what I believe exactly what Arsenal have been looking for ever since Sol Campbell left the club the first time round.
There is an argument that players like Aaron Ramsey may not have been given the opportunities should Wegner have managed to hold on to his prize assets however as impressive as Ramsey’s development has been this season he is still a long way short of what both Fabregas and Nasri could do on their day. There is also an argument that perhaps Van Persie may not have stepped up in the way he has so far this season and embraced being made captain, however the key factor here more than anything else is that Van Persie has remained fit. You also cannot for-see every fullback at your football club being injured at the same time and one of your main signings whom is a proven international being such a flop.
Which leads me nicely to my closing point, what if Wegner had managed to retain the services of those key men?
The thought of Van Persie in this form with Fabregas and Nasri is one that would strike fear into any opposition. If Samba had been pursued harder you cannot imagine the last minute goal Arsenal conceded at Crave Cottage would ever have happened. If Jack Wilshire had not played for England aggravating that injury how much further would he developed from last season, and in all honesty you can only put the full back situation down to pure bad luck.
In summary I believe Arsenal were one season away from glory or at-least going very close, Wenger would have always believed it was inevitable such is the faith he had in his philosophy and therefore the trophy duck would have been lifted. I know Manchester City have millions to spend and Spurs are looking strong however I really believe when you look at where Manchester Utd, Chelsea and Liverpool are an opportunity has been missed for the Gunners and Wenger knows it – “oh Arsene what if”.