NAIROBI, May 6 – Over the past few months, Arsenal and Manchester United fans have engaged in heated debates over which is the better team.
The argument levelled by most Gunners’ fans was that while United was doing most of the winning, Arsenal was doing most of the entertaining. Beautiful football they said.
But Tuesday’s champions’ league match provided the perfect set up resolve that argument.
United produced a master class thrashing Arsenal 3-1 to qualify for their second consecutive Champions League final while for Arsenal it marked the end of their season-the fourth they have ended trophy less.
What really stood out was the utmost ease with which United dominated. Starting with two 30 million plus strikers on the bench (Berbatov and Tevez), and with Rooney stationed wide left, United still managed to tear apart the Gunners defence.
So while Red Devils fans can wait for May 27, it’s another trophyless year for the Arsenal.
Arsenal has the nucleus of a very good squad. In Cesc Fabregas they possess one of the game’s most gifted midfielders- a player capable of running matches with his vision and technical ability.
Robin Van Persie when fit is as good as anyone and Andrei Arshavin has already proven that he is a top class player who will have a huge say in next season’s premiership season.
Add the burgeoning talents of Theo Walcott who is coming to fore, Kieran Gibbs, Aaron Ramsey, Carlos Vela, Alex Song and Denilson and you have a squad brimming with talent.
But am afraid it ends there. This is because to compete at the top level you need more than talent. You need mental strength, power, pace and guile and know how.
Despite his heroics in the first leg, Manuel Almunia falls just short. There is a feeling that Arsenal still misses the presence of David Seaman or even Jens Lehmann. A goalkeeper who commands presence and leads from the front.
At the back, a non nonsense defender should be top priority. One in the mould of Tony Adams or Sol Campbell because no matter how good Toure is, he needs an organiser next to him sort of like the way Vidic needs Ferdinand.
However it is in the middle of the park where Arsenal needs huge input. Losing Mathieu Flamini and not replacing him was suicidal because Fabregas needs cover to roam forward.
Song and Denilson have manfully tried to fill in the void but they lack the necessary bite and tenacity. In truth Arsenal have never replaced Patrick Vieira-that gladiator of the late nineties.
Upfront, Wenger must be thinking he made a mistake by not offloading Sheyi Adebayor in the summer. The lanky Togoloese may have scored 30 odd goals last season but he has looked so off the pace that the 30 million reportedly offered by AC Milan looks like a good bet.
A proper target man would hold the ball up providing the perfect foil for Van Persie who has shown his abilities this season.
Most importantly, Arsenal need to replenish physical power in the side. The days of powerful muscular players are long gone.
Remember the days when Vieira, Lauren, Campbell, Kanu, Henry, Edu squeezed the life out of opposing teams with power and speed?
That is no longer possible as Chelsea and United have demonstrated in the last few weeks. They are easily overran whenever a team applies brawn.
Arsenal also need to sort out their medical department. Is it just me or do Arsenal suffer the highest number of injuries in any given season?
How many players in Arsenal have not been pout injured this season? And how many came back from injury as scheduled?
The Thomas Rosicky case stands out after Wenger said he would be back last September but hasn’t returned to date. Eduardo back the out then now out for the season-could his return have been managed better?
There is need for a more efficient medical team.
Oh and Wenger must stop signing players who are almost always knackered-susceptible to injury. Samir Nasri, Mikael Silvestre was signed when injured!! Not making his debut for the next two months! Whatever happened to checking the past record of a player?
With tweak here and there, Arsenal could go on to dominate football for the base is there But they need to move in that direction and quickly, otherwise, the winning habit will disappear and winning will be as tough.
Just ask United who spent 26 years waiting for a trophy or Liverpool who are desperate to end a 19 year wait.