The last few seasons have carried a theme of sorts.
After years of suffering under the cruel lash of austerity measures – our shiny stadium was rather expensive seeing as we couldn’t rely on the government for handouts – Gooners were promised that the fabled warchest wasn’t merely a myth. The majority of the stadium debt had been diligently dealt with and now we were finally able to go wild in the transfer window aisles with the cash brought in from huge sponsorship deals and match revenue.
We did indeed splash some of the cash. Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez are proof of this, as well as tying down some of our other star players to lucrative contracts. The problem though, is that whilst our club sits back and marvels at how wonderful they have done in signing these world-class footballers, our rivals for major honours capitalise on other opportunities and go that little bit further.
We were promised that we could now compete at the very top, the glass roof had been smashed to smithereens and Arsenal were primed for battle. Standing near shoulder to shoulder with any club in Europe in terms of revenue, this would be the time that we could rise above the parapet and look any rival in the eye without fear of repercussion.
When we suffered losses that reverberated throughout the club, we were told that lessons would be learned. These painful sessions of tutelage at the hands of Monaco, Chelsea et al were going to have a silver lining as they would eventually benefit our side.
No more would we suffer due to defensive naivety. We would remember that if we attack with abandon, that our Champions League demise and the murder of many a title tilt were the result of throwing too many bodies forward.
We were told that the win Vs Manchester City last season was a watershed moment – that finally, we would focus on our defensive shape and that just occasionally, our opponents merited more than just a little scouting. It was maintained that we would not go on with the mindset where we didn’t have to worry about who we played if we play football the way we are capable of.
So many words that were thrown out into the ether, in the attempt to stave off criticism and let fans know that we were finally on the path to success.
Well, we have come to a fork in that path. All those promises must come to fruition at some point. If not, they were just time-wasting tactics, and time is a precious commodity. When do we finally cash in on these supposed future chips? When do we have that joyful moment when all the waiting finally sprouts a flower that we can all look upon proudly?
It appears this season is when those lessons have finally sunk in. Changes have been made.
This season, another promise of sorts was issued. The frustration was felt by many when we captured an established goalkeeper in the form of Petr Cech but chose not to sign an able assistant to the menacing brilliance of Francis Coquelin. We took the option to go into this season with only Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott as striking options, knowing full well that the versatile and ever-useful Danny Welbeck wouldn’t be fit for the start. Arsene stated that there was no viable alternatives in the market. This could very well be true and if we are honest, Wenger knows infinitely more than we can surmise.
So, let us go along with this very premise – that there was nowhere for Wenger to spend his readies in his quest to help Coquelin survive a season and for Theo and Giroud to shoulder the burden of goals.
We have no idea if this is the case or not, but what can be levelled at the Arsenal manager is that he has chosen to go until at least January with this squad. If by January, we have been cast adrift in the League, then that is either because the squad is too threadbare, or because tactical mistakes were made when points were dropped.
Either way, the fault lies with our boss and the squad if we are beset by injury.
This season is the season it all comes together. This season is where we look at all the old scars caused by vicious lashes from opponents and they enable us to avoid the same fate. Our rivals have stuttered. We have the squad and the experience. It looks like the best chance we have had in quite some time.
With the losses to Zagreb and Olympiacos in the Champions League, we exhibited the same frailties that have been a part of our make up for a number of seasons. Excuses can be flung out in defence of our team, such as the lucky nature of two of Olympiacos’s goals, but every team can hide behind pretences. Chelsea were without marksman Diego Costa for an extended amount of time. Manchester City rely heavily on injury-jinxed Vincent Kompany, David Silva and Sergio Aguero.
All teams that fight for honours can always offer up reasons why they came up short.
When there are so many that have been aired and used as a shield to hide behind however, when do we call time on words?
In the demoralising loss to the Greek side, the second goal we conceded was thanks to David Ospina nigh on carrying the ball into the net. Whilst the defeat cannot be laid at his door, why on earth was he playing in the first place?
Wenger chose to have our South American stopper as our designated ‘Cup Keeper’. Any F.A Cup, Capital One Cup or Champions League game, then Ospina would come in, whilst Cech would be on the bench. The question that must be asked is, ‘Would Cech have made that blunder?’
He didn’t have the greatest of starts in the defeat to West Ham, but you could feel confident in thinking that the giant Czech would be a tad better at avoiding those type of errors. It was said that Cech had a minor leg injury and playing the full game would only exacerbate the ailment. Why then, was he on the bench?
Season after season, the expectation mounts. Two F.A Cups have bred success, success that is vital in instilling a winning mentality within the squad. Whereas it could once be said that squad exits weakened our club, with very little outgoing in terms of squad numbers in recent years, this excuse is dead in the water.
That fork in the road that was mentioned earlier – at the end of the season we will face a choice. It is all dependent on whether the recent choices Wenger has made will be the making or ruination of the season. It has come to the time when we cannot keep sating ourselves with what will happen in the future. Our club is geared for glory, we have the squad ( or as near as we have had ), we have the revenue, we have the resources.
No more excuses. No more talk. Lessons must be learned and no matter what promises are mentioned during a super-glitzy kit launch or during a post-match interview, Gooners expect, and rightfully so.
This season will see us right back where we were promised we would be.