Title pretenders?

Martin Caparrotta
By Martin Caparrotta

To describe Arsenal’s 2-0 home defeat to Aston Villa as a ‘disappointment’ would be an understatement.

For Arsenal fans, it’s unexplainable how their team can go from brushing aside Manchester United with such ease and finesse, to crumbling at home to Aston Villa seven days later.

The difference between the two performances is frightening.

Many fans blame the fact that Arsène Wenger did not bring in enough talent during the summer transfer window; but when was the last time Wenger splashed £15 million on a player? The simple fact of the matter is that Wenger has never been the type of manager to get his chequebook out to sign big-name players. He does things his own way, cultivating young talent like no other. In his 12 years in north London, he has single-handedly turned Arsenal into a modern superclub.

The trouble is, if Arsenal don’t win something this season, that’s four years without a trophy – and that’s simply not good enough for a club of Arsenal’s stature.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, we have already seen some top-quality football in the league from the gunners; the 4-0 demolition of Blackburn at Ewood Park and the 3-0 win over Newcastle, not to mention last weekend’s clash with Manchester United.

This Arsenal side really is like Jekyll and Hyde: for every convincing performance, there’s a distressing defeat. Fulham, Hull, Stoke and now Aston Villa. That’s four leauge games lost before the end of November.

Arsenal only lost three games in the league all season last year, two of which came away at Manchester United and Chelsea.

On the face of it it’s clear that this current Arsenal side is lacking consistency, but look deeper and many Arsenal fans say that their team is lacking leadership on the pitch. There doesn’t appear to be anyone who is prepared to rally the team after going a goal down, nobody to lift spirits.

William Gallas is captain, but his credentials for the role are not convincing and his strop at Birmingham last season must have left Wenger wondering if he’d made a mistake in appointing him.

Then of course, there’s the talk of a club in ‘transition’: this team will make it, just not yet – but can a club as big as Arsenal really afford to be in ‘transition’ for four years? Probably not.

Speaking after Saturday’s defeat, Wenger described his discontent with the timing of the International break that’s now upon us.

“It is particularly not welcome at the moment because it is at a period where you want your players to recover a little bit. And the week after is Champions League so it’s not well positioned.

“I don’t see what you gain from this friendly because there is no game. You can explain a friendly to prepare for an official match but after this there is no international game for four months.”

Arsenal’s up and down season has left fans at the Emirates powerless to predict which side will turn up at the City of Manchester stadium on Saturday. The free-flowing stylish side that beat Manchester United, or the lacklustre and seemingly exhausted team that were so easily outplayed by Villa?

Time will tell.

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