Monday, April 25, 2011

Arsenal: The Last Supper

By Bagga Wilks

Bolton broke Arsenal’s back with a 2-1 defeat on their home turf where they have been more than resilient for most of the season. For Arsenal, this was the last supper. For 2011, there would be no resurrection. Not winning vital matches, giving up goals from set pieces, giving up goals in the last minute of games, failing to close the show has been the club’s “bugaboo”.

By some standards, Arsenal had an excellent season. They have played great football. Nasri has emerged as a fine creative player. Fabregas is ending the season unhurt. Walcott has shown flashes of brilliance. Wilshere is a great player in the making. Song has become an indomitable defensive mid-field player. Van Persie is a great goal scorer. But the team lacks certain essential defensive ingredients.

As the season ends, Wenger has to take stock. He must release the useless players and spend some money on shoring up the defensive line. Arsenal will not get to the mountain top until they bring in central defenders who are able to take care of business on corner kicks and set plays juxtaposed to the penalty box. Wenger needs to look beyond France.

Manchester United has not had an easy time. Against Everton this weekend, they were not able to score until the 84th minute. Sir Alex Ferguson went to his bench and brought on his kingmaker, Ryan Giggs and Michael Owens. Manchester attacked in waves and from a Valencia cross, Chicharita was instrumental in maintaining the momentum necessary to get across to the finish line.

The Manchester United vs Arsenal this weekend should produce great football but Arsenal’s defense will not be able to withstand Manchester United shooting prowess. Arsenal’s attacking wave will be blunted by Vidic and Ferdinand. The title is no longer at stake but Arsenal needs a win to end the season in style. Chelsea is still hoping for a miracle.

One of the conundrums of modern football is the need for depth but with outstanding players on the bench, it creates the conditions for discontent as is the case in Manchester City and is the case in making at Chelsea. Ferguson does insert maximum rotation but that sometimes does not thwart discontent. Players of the caliber of Kaka (Real Madrid) and Berbatov (ManU) should not be benchwarmers. It is a true conundrum. The length of the season and injury to players make depth essential but invariably unleashes discontent.

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