Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Arsenal: this week and the future
Five defeats in the league, an unhinged William Gallas, angry fans and a hopeless team of soft youngsters. Beautiful football and nothing else. That's how things stood as of this morning.
By this evening, the young players in question proved that they can provide backbone to an extent. Led out by the new club captain, 21-year-old Cesc Fabregas, the young guns gained a hard-fought but tactically dominant win over a decent Dynamo Kyiv. This was just the midweek tonic Arsenal needed and the statistics from this game will make good reading for the manager as well.
The selection of Cesc Fabregas as captain is monumental. This is someone who skippered every Barcelona side he ever played in from the age of 11, as did a certain Carlos Puyol. To call Fabregas a boy is to misjudge his maturity. He is a man, hardened by the experience, training, tackles, injuries and psychological battles of football.
The patience of Arsenal fans has been tested this week to arguably its greatest extent since the Wenger era began over a decade ago. The youth-first policy, still unfulfilled in terms of silverware, has riled many including myself. As things stand today, Arsenal are not title winning material. A first Champions League trophy is within reach, but the gruelling Premier League is not. There remains the need to invest in toughness in defence and midfield as well as a classy addition up front. Arsenal should also regain the tactical Plan B (winning without playing well) that was evident early last season when the promise of silverware was at its greatest for three years.
The Arsenal machine is moving in the right direction but the team needs fighters (as the now-deposed William Gallas insisted) and the squad has to be improved to fight for honours. Under new refreshing leadership the fight continues at Chelsea on Saturday, where the prospects certainly look better now than they did this morning.