Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Window of Opportunity for Arsenal

It's been more than six years since Arsenal last won a trophy. Whether its been down to a desperate case of the  unlucky's, lack of desire or lack of commitment - nobody knows. What we do know is that Arsene Wenger has chosen nurturing talent ahead of competing for major trophies. We know what Wenger's trying to do and he's won many plaudits with his Barcelona-like approach to the game but there comes a time when you haven't won a trophy in over six years people start to doubt your ability to manage at the highest level. I know I have.

Since 2005, we've seen a steady decline to the Gunners' challenge for silverware and its mainly been down to the loss of several major players. Often, when a major player parts the club that they made the biggest contribution at, the result usually sets their fans into a state of frenzy. But on more than one occasion they - the club - seem to pull through. Just look at Marseille post Jean-Pierre Papin or Juventus post Zinedine Zidane par example. Incredibly, Marseille won the inaugural Champions League following Papin's departure and Juventus won successive Scudetto's when Zidane left. Although for Arsenal, when Viera, Pires and Henry parted terms with the Gunners, their one-time dynasty had come to an abrupt halt. It was a sad end to what was a team labelled the 'invincibles' back in 2003/04 but it was time to rebuild and reshuffle for coach Arsene Wenger. He had a difficult job on his hands. He was given the unearthly job of rebuilding - and somehow topping - a squad that had gone 49 league games unbeaten - a near impossible task for the Frenchman. He chose not necessarily to dive into transfer market head-first but to build his squad by terms of indulging in the youth team. 

Of course Wenger decided to dip into the transfer market, excuse the contradiction, - mostly reinforcing his front-line with players such as Eduardo, Andrey Arshavin and Samir Nasri -  but he had other ambitions of how his Gunners could pursue silverware. That season prior to the purchase of Samir Nasri, 2007/08, had seen Arsenal finish an agonising three points behind rivals United and if they could find an apt replacement for the great Henry we could've seen them go the extra mile and reclaim what was rightfully seen as theirs. Cue the arrival of the youthful Mexican Carlos Vela. Unfortunately for him, a work permit was rejected and he was left out in the cold.

That next season the Gunners finished 4th with a total of 72 points - 18 points behind winners Manchester United - and were an abysmal 11 points worse off than the previous season despite the recent acquisitions. Arsenal couldn't seem to get a break and although they held a Champions League place the fans weren't happy. Neither were the players. They shared the disappointment at not having won a piece of silverware on more than one occasion, most recently captain Cesc Fabregas voicing his frustration on just going out and winning trophies instead of nurturing young players. He said, back in February in an interview with Spanish magazine Don Balon: "You enjoy yourself, during a phase of the championship - like this year, for example, when we were still in four different competitions. And you say to yourself 'here I have everything!' But then that final point is missing and it's then when you have to make a decision: either go out and win or develop players."

This summer could be the summer that Arsenal reverse their misfortune. But they must keep the selling to a minimum - most notably Cesc Fabregas. The La Masia graduate is an integral part of the club and he's facing the daunting prospect of leaving Arsenal and joining home team Barcelona in a bid that could be in excess of £30 million. We've heard continuous appeals from Barca players on why Cesc should rejoin the Blaugranas. Fabregas isn't the only player that's essential to keep at the Emirates this summer. Playmaker Samir Nasri has attracted a vast amount of interest from clubs abroad including, and most notably, Manchester United. The French international is creeping towards the last year in his contract and if both parties can't agree a new contract by the time season 2011/12 rolls around, the Gunners could face losing him for next to nothing next summer.

When those two scenarios are done and dusted, Arsene will then make his move in the transfer window. The Gunners are in dire need of a partner to assist Robin Van Persie as well as a central defender to cover for anybody that may become injured / sold. Their targets are rumoured to be, in defence, Blackburn's Christopher Samba, who handed in a transfer request in January, and Bolton's very own Gary Cahill, who picked up his first England cap in last year's 4-0 win over fellow Europeans Belarus. Up front, there's been rumours flying all around the place and Gervinho has been in the thick of things these past few days. There was even talk of him in London for a medical last week. Unfortunately, the rumour never materialised and all hopes of signing of Ivorian were dashed after there were reports that Lille had apparently agreed a fee with Newcastle to sell him late last week.

Say they do sign Samba, Cahill and maybe an attacking player capable of lending a helping hand to RVP,what will their fans expect? Well, primarily, as I've already stated, Champions League qualification is a must an what follows could be unprecedented. A title challenge would be welcomed as would a decent cup run but what's wanted more than anything is the capture of a major piece of silverware and it could very well happen this season if Arsenal can collect a few signings and somehow forge their way past the big guns.

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