Those Doubting Arsenal are Missing a Point by Ssekatawa Patrick
Since time immemorial, the English media have always had something to pick on Arsenal. When Arsenal finished 5 points adrift of Man United in the 2002/03 season having been top of the league by 8 points in March, many a pundit claimed that Wenger’s team needed an overhaul, and that if such an overhaul didn’t happen, Arsenal would be doomed! Fast forward to May 2004 and the Gunners were champions of England, completing the season undefeated.
Arsene Wenger paid a deaf ear to the so-called experts, brought in German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann following the departure of David Seaman, as well as the then 18-year-old Gael Clichy from Caen. There was no overhaul, Arsenal made history by going the entirety of the 2003/04 season without defeat.
Three years ago when Mikel Arteta was appointed manager of Arsenal, pundits were at it again criticizing the appointment. They claimed Arteta was too inexperienced to manage a club of Arsenal’s stature. Some like Paul Merson claimed that Everton, who had just hired Carlo Ancelotti, had made the better appointment. The Italian underwhelmed at Everton and left the club the following season for Real Madrid.
Following Arsenal’s 2-0 loss to Brentford at the start of last season, Gary Neville told Sky Sports: “I don’t know what the plan is at Arsenal.
“The recruitment has been really poor. They are just poor at it compared to other clubs.
“I don’t get the strategy and l don’t get the direction…..”. On the evidence of results as the season continued to unfold, Neville’s criticism was clearly misjudged, misdirected and rushed. By the time the season was drawing to a close, Arsenal were clearly in pole position to finish 4th and only missed out by a whisker. Was the recruitment poor as Neville had put it? Absolutely not! Actually, if we compare what the media has had to say, for instance, about the recruitment of, say, Manchester United which has been nothing short of scattergun since Sir Alex Ferguson left; and what the likes of Gary Neville have had to say, you would see how unnecessarily motormouthed they’ve been about Arsenal.
Today, Arsenal are leading the Premier League table and have clearly been the best team in the league so far. Being where they are is no fluke. Instead it’s a result of excellent scouting, recruitment, proper coaching and organisation by one of the best young coaches in the game. Mikel Arteta’s boys have almost been perfect, skipping past every huddle bar Man United and Southampton, dropping the fewest number of points in the league so far. But even after all that, people are still dismissive of Arsenal.
Gary Neville said Man City will win easily and by as many as 15 points! Roy Keane said Man United will finish in the top 4 and Arsenal will not! Paul Merson claimed he’ll be shocked if Arsenal finished in the top 4 after Gabriel Jesus picked up a long term injury in Qatar! Chris Sutton and Mark Lawrenson gave Arsenal no chance against West Ham, predicting that the Gunners would lose to the Hammers at the Emirates, pointing to the injury to Jesus as the cause despite West Ham not having a good number of their players through injury too! Paul Merson said Nketiah was too poor a striker to be bought by Wolves who ‘can’t score a goal’! Well, Arsenal won the game, Nketiah played very well, scored a great goal and none of them said anything!
All that they continue to say is clear indication that there’s a ploy by many to derail, detract, deflate and disorient Arsenal, but the good news is that the more they naysay, the more determined Arteta’s boys become to prove them wrong. Yes, Arsenal don’t have the resources that Man City have. They don’t have De Bruyne or Erling Haaland. Their squad isn’t as deep as City’s, but look, to win the league simply having a squad of superstars is no guarantee for success. A team must have the luck to go along with squad depth and Arsenal have the former in abundance. Without luck a team has nothing, absolutely!
Arsenal’s last team to win the Premier League wasn’t the deepest, but they had luck in abundance. They avoided injuries and got some results purely due to luck. The games against Man United at Old Trafford, in which Ruud van Nistelrooy missed a penalty, and that game against Portsmouth where Robert Pires dived to win a penalty after Teddy Sheringham had put the Potters ahead are testament to that.
Come to think about it:
Arsenal lost Jesus to injury, a huge blow, but it happened at a time when there was no club football, allowing Mikel Arteta to figure out how best to play without Jesus. Luck!
There’s only one game left to the winter transfer window and the manager has the opportunity to address the problem then. Why didn’t the injury come after the closure of the winter window? Luck!
Arsenal defeated Liverpool 3-2, a game in which Liverpool should have been awarded a penalty after Gabriel clearly handled in the forbidden area. Why didn’t Michael Oliver award a penalty or at least visit the pitch side monitor to review the incident? Luck!
Arsenal defeated Leeds United 1-0. Leeds got a penalty and Bamford missed it. The ref then awarded Leeds a second penalty after Gabriel had retaliated by bringing down Bamford. Gabriel also received a straight red card for violent conduct. The ref, upon review, decided to rescind the two decisions. Why was Gabriel not punished for his foolish reaction? Luck!
Finally, any team that is delicately assembled, carefully and rigorously coached and organized over an extended period of time grows. Jürgen Klopp did that at Liverpool and reaped the rewards. Mikel Arteta has done just that, and is now reaping the fruits of his hard labour. Those who’re predicting doom are either ill-hearted or are too blind to see what has been happening at the Emirates for the past three years.
So, make no mistake, Arsenal, like Thierry Henry said, are here to stay and whoever thinks otherwise should prepare for a huge disappointment.
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