ARSENAL TROPHY QUEST: MIRAGE OR REALITY? (PART 2)


A while ago, I wrote an article titled,  Arsenal Trophy Quest: Mirage or Reality?   where I highlighted some of the plausible reasons for Arsenal’s lack of silverware in recent years. As the football season draws to a close, Arsenal FC seem still be  farther away from lifting any trophy. With the loss of the Carling Cup to Birmingham FC at Wembley, a mouth-watering fixture against Barcelona in the Champions league and an FA Cup Quarter final match against Manchester United, the possibilities of actually lifting a trophy may indeed be more of an illusion than a reality. 






The odds however seem to favor the London club  to win at least one of three possible titles but the Arsenal we know find some special way to disappoint their fans. As you all know, I am an unrepentant Arsenal fan. I have been for about twelve years now and I have been a proud lover of the club. The sexy football, the crisp play, the quick one-two’s, its hard to believe everybody isn’t a gunner. But let’s face it, sexy football alone won’t win trophies. You need grit, resilience, and a lot of luck and over the last five years we have floundered at every attempt. The goodwill and patience of arsenal fans have worn thinner by the day. The humiliation and jibes from our lousy neighbors have become quite unbearable. Arsenal just has to win something this time around.   I had planned to write this at the end of the season but expediency has called for it now. Saturday’s game against Sunderland managed to still any hopes of winning the Premier league this season.  Arsenal had a game in hand and had the opportunity to be one point within sights of Premier league leaders but blew the opportunity. One would have thought the Gunners would have had one thing –MURDER-in mind as they marched out against Sunderland. How does a team that knows it can be a point behind Man U, (given that Ferguson’s side had a crucial clash against Liverpool on Sunday) not do all that is necessary to force a victory through.
Once more, I have highlighted some more reasons this title race may end in disaster.

BUNCH OF LOSERS

Only three players in the current Arsenal squad (Gael Clichy, Cesc Fabregas and Van Persie) have won any trophies with the club. It’s easy to conclude that the squad is young and that there is “belief in the team” (Arsene Wenger’s favourite phrase) but virtually all players in the squad do not know what it feels like to win a trophy thus have not developed a winning mentality. They have gained the reputation of being “nearly guys” and have accepted it. The other two that can lay claim to some laurels (excluding Fabregas who won the FIFA 2010 world cup) have long forgotten what it is to win. The present Arsenal squad have lost two Carling Cup finals, two FA Cup semi finals and One Champions League semi final.  So whenever it seems like things aren’t going their way, all they remember is how they have lost in the past, and there is nothing positive to stir them on.

Am sure most Arsenal fans sometimes cannot understand why their team always seem to crumble when the odds are stacked against them. When Arsenal concedes a late goal, or are losing an important player through injury, they “lose their will to live”. The injury to Eduardo da Silva ended the 2008/2009 Premiership campaign.

We also do not have like a Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), and Christiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) who take up responsibility to bail out their teams when conventional means seem elusive. There are simply no match winners anymore in the Gunners squad. Wayne Rooney scored a spectacular goal for his team against Manchester City winning the game in the final minutes. Until the goal, the game was evenly poised. Samir Nasri did it for the Gunners in the early part of the season but his injury has seemed to stifle the class out of him. We have drawn and lost matches we should have won because we lack the cutting edge in the final third. Every championship side serious about winning a title must have match winners. I hate to use Manchester United as a reference point but see what young Chicharito Hernandez has done for his team this season.  

FREAKISH MISTAKES AND OCCURRENCES

Arsenal is the only team I know that always seem to have something go wrong for them in an important game. The ball could have bounced anywhere in the world other than in the 18-yard box in the Carling Cup Final when we played against Birmingham. A moment of madness from Laurent Koscielny and Wojciech Szczesny gifted Nigerian striker Obafemi Martins an unlikely goal and ultimately the cup.
Has anyone noticed that whenever a player hasn’t scored in a while or is on a bad run, he ends it with Arsenal?  Arsenal has also been the only team that have let go of a 4 goal lead. We were also 2 goals up against Tottenham Hotspur and ended up losing the match that day.
And how come Kieran Gibbs didn’t slip in the center of the pitch during our Champions league semi final match against Manchester United? It had to be where Park Ji-sung was free to pounce. Arsenal was on the ascendancy before Eduardo was hacked down by Birmingham’s Martin Taylor and Aaron Ramsey leg was broken by Stoke City’s Shawcross. Why do these things happen to Arsenal? I can go on and on about these freakish events that usually lend a hand or two in destroying our title hopes every season. Sometimes I think some unseen forces (otumopko) have been conjured against us but God pass them.

TEAM SELECTION
I mentioned this bit in the part one and I believe it is a point worth mentioning again. Wenger has reasons he alone knows  for fielding weaker in important matches. The reason he left Diaby out of the Carling Cup final is still puzzling. He wasn’t even on the bench. Diaby is not one of my favourite Arsenal players, he holds the ball far too long and his misdemeanour in Saint James’ Park against Newcastle cost us a much needed victory. But Diaby is also a player that can change a game at anytime. 


INJURIES



Doesn’t it surprise or rather bother you a bit that whenever it comes to the real important games, Arsenal  always has one or two important players injured. With Barcelona, it was Vermaleen, with Birmingham, it was Fabregas and Walcott, and now in the return fixture at the Nou Camp, the Gunners will be without Van Persie (the only arsenal player that can score), Theo Walcott and Vermaleen. Why don’t we ever hear that Xavi, Iniesta, and Messi are injured at the same time? Does anyone really think Barca stand a chance against Arsenal without this trio.





WE NEED A STRIKER
Since Thierry Henry left, Arsenal have failed to find a worthy replacement.  Van Persie has been our most prolific striker this season and when it looks like the party just began for him, he is out injured once more (the otumopko factor). Arsenal can easily win any trophy they desire because I feel we create more chances than Barcelona but we are incapable of scoring them. We have strikers who should not play for Eyimba’s first team but somehow Wenger has “belief” in them. What goes on in the mind of Marouane Chamakh when he is in on goal is a question I can not answer. I just don’t get how a striker’s first instinct would always be to pass backwards to someone else. Bendtner may lead the pack against Barcelona and I fear the worst for us. A striker that needs ten chances to score one leaves a lot to be desired. My patience in Nicklas Bendtner is wearing thin. He takes everything too casually for the teams good. I would rather Wenger plays him from the wings and allow Andre Arshavin be the point man.
CAN WE DO IT?

The season is gradually edging to a close. The tension is getting to fever pitch. Every game is all important. The Gunners can simply not afford to drop anymore points anymore.   With Man United’s loss against Liverpool on Sunday, another opportunity has been gifted Arsene Wenger’s side to win their own games. As it stands its Arsenal’s league to lose. Mathematically speaking, all we need to do is win our game in hand, which will bring us to par with Man United and then win the rest of the remaining nine games. Manchester United still has to play Chelsea at Old Trafford and Arsenal at the Emirates. Sounds improbable, but not impossible. The odds favour us now.  But we can’t do it with repeat performances like the one against Sunderland. Players like Andre Arshavin, Tomas Rosicky and Samir Nasri have to step up their game to help the team. They have to infuse this “belief” into the younger players.


The only reason why Patrice Evra and Jose Mourinho can make calumnious statements against Arsenal is because they are being proved right over and over again. Its always seems like ten men against ten babies when the Gunners play Manchester United . Great performances on the pitch that end in victories are the only thing that can shut them up.

If Arsenal lose against Barcelona, it would be safe to say the season is over. It doesn’t seem like we are over the Carling Cup hang over and another failure will most definitely put paid to our trophy hopes. If on the other hand we eliminate the Catalan giants, it would amount to resurgence in the “belief”. We can go on to win Manchester United in FA Cup and hopefully win it this time around.

In conclusion, all I can say is that I fear for Arsenal. If we don’t win now, when will we? If not with this team, with which?  And if not Arsene Wenger, who? Its now or never for the Gunners. I believe all we need is a little luck. We need something to go our way for once: an offside, a mistake by the opposing defender, a red card,  malaria fever inflicting all Barca players-anything at all. Something has to begin to happen in our favour for once.


Again I ask, can Arsenal do it? And with a loud voice, I scream, Yes We Can!
©2011 Ewoigbokhan Otaigbe Itua

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