It was a dark Sunday for the Gunners supporters. After enthralling in the pre-season and promising even more in a season that is touted as one to be the difference, Arsene Wenger’s team fell flat on its claims.
These are not just expectations from the supporters. We are also talking about the drummed about hopes from Wenger and all his players. Talks of ‘being there’, ‘challenge for the Premier League title’ etc. were fed daily to the supporters. And when the team lost their first game (that too at home) to West Ham United, the bubble burst.
Sure enough, everyone will say that one match is too soon too early to pass any judgment. In a season where the title is decided over 38 matches, this is a very valid argument. However, at the same time, it is also pragmatic to look at every match as a finale and learn as much as you can – especially from losses.
So, what does the weekend loss suggest to Wenger? Surprisingly, for a team that has looked very much dynamic so far in the pre-season, Arsenal looked subdued for most part of the game.
It is easy to blame Petr Cech for the loss as his mistakes cost the team dearly. But, there are glaring holes elsewhere too – more notably, there was not even one player who could carry the whole team into battle.
Old timers will point out that in difficult times Patrick Vieira or Tony Adams would scruff up and lead the team. Unfortunately, this aspect was missing throughout the match against West Ham. Who can do that in the present team?
Is this a side lacking in experience? Not at all – most of the players are regulars. In fact, the team had 10 full internationals on the pitch, but none were able to ascertain and impose themselves. It was only Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who looked like scoring a goal anytime or taking it to the opposition.
There is some argument on the tinkering done by Wenger at the central midfield to accommodate Aaron Ramsey. But, to blame the loss on this and put the changes by Wenger as culpable takes the light off the real issues.
Arsenal has often been blamed for the soft under-belly; for being that team which satisfies itself on the Champions League qualification and nothing more. This is exactly where characters like Vieira are required. Wenger would be desperate to see someone in his squad take this opportunity and develop into a real leader that can make the team fight for their lives…