Arsenal now define the future of the club game by game
Arsenal’s future hangs in the balance. Successive seasons of disappointment, and a slowly weakened squad are now playing out as the team struggles after another difficult and inconsistent start to the season. Spirits will have been lifted by the manner of last night’s 5-2 victory against Reading, but the key to a successful side will be the ability to develop consistency.
December 18th, 2012
Each game this team play is now critical, that much is clear to most observers; Arsenal are at the edge of the black hole of mediocrity, moving rapidly to the point where escape is impossible. This is not simply the matter of one season, but of a general trend within the club.
In the short term Arsenal is mathematically still able to pull themselves into the top four this season, and at least guarantee another year of Champions League income, and prestige – which plays a key part in attracting and keeping top talent. Though this in itself might be questioned as a legitimate aim, a top-four finish is probably the most realistic achievement the club can hope for this season.
However, from a long-term perspective, each match this season now holds a greater significance. Arsenal’s current situation is a downward spiral in which the best players have drained away from the club without being fully replaced. This has been ongoing since the break-up of the Invincibles side. Though the team have brought excellent players through the academy and on the transfer market, slowly but surely the talent drain has been higher than that coming in.
What remains is a club not as strong as it once was; whereas Arsenal were the most consistent club in the top two of the league in Wenger’s early years, they have been consigned to third or fourth since 2006. This is a downward spiral which is increasing in speed. The landscape of English football has changed considerably since Arsene Wenger’s last title win, and Arsenal have not kept pace.
With Santi Cazorla’s hattrick at the Madejski, Arsenal are suddenly in fifth place and within two points of the top four. This is an excellent platform to build on and they are certainly in a position where they have players of quality whom Wenger must be looking to build the new team around. However, one win against the lowest placed team in the league is not necessarily season-changing. There is much hard work and effort which must be invested in this campaign, otherwise the downward spiral would only steepen.
The danger of missing out on European football is twofold. Firstly, the drop in income could negate much of the hard work the club has done to build a more sustainable model – though they claim this is proofed against such an outcome – and secondly, the drain on talent might continue, as top players leave for Champions League football, and suitable replacements cannot be attracted without it.
Arsenal are not the club they once were, but this team still has time to turn the situation around. Just as a few losses could push the club further down the path to mediocrity, a good sequence of results which build on the excellent three points gained at Reading could contribute to a strong final position. With continued organisation of contracts for talents such as Wilshere and Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arsenal could ensure that the future is rather brighter than the present. Each game now dictates the future for the club.
James writes about Arsenal onArsespeak.com where you can find many more in-depth analytical articles on tactics, statistics and players.