It was a sobering day for Arsenal’s fans at Old Trafford today as they witnessed the systematic dismantling of their “talented” team at the hands of a group of players who have taken over their mantle as the best young team in the Premiership. The final score of 8-2 savagely exposed all of Arsenal’s shortcomings that have been simmering under the surface for a couple of seasons now. United were faster, tougher, and vastly more talented and as a result, have given their manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, the ultimate “headache” in, who plays now ?
Earlier this week, I watched silently as Wenger was skewered by the media prior to the away leg of their Champions League qualifier against Udinese, with many people suggesting that if Arsenal crashed out, then Wenger would soon follow. A convincing win put those unbelievers to bed, until today. You could say that I’m an unbeliever, but from a different perspective. I can’t believe how much both of these teams have changed in a little under 4 months. Arsenal have declined so much, through internal strife over transfer rumors and criticism of their manager, that they are almost unrecognizable from the side that beat United at The Emirates in May of this year.
United have emerged from the pre-season with a totally revamped squad, a lot of whom came from the fringes of the senior team. The average age of 22 casts memories back to those days of Matt Busby and his Babes who delighted Old Trafford fans with their youthful approach. They have worked the transfer market shrewdly, buying Young, Jones, and De Gea, with the goalkeeper being the only question mark. In house players such as Anderson, Smalling, Cleverley and Welbeck emerging as stars of the future. For Arsenal, it’s been a different story. The loss of Fabregas, Nasri, Clichy to transfer and others such as Gervinho, Song and Vermaelen to indiscipline and injury have shorn the London club of their quality and depth. Five of Arsenal’s bench players today I’ve never heard of. It’s simply just not good enough anymore.
The major question now for Arsenal is what to do. They are three days from the transfer deadline with no real hope of bringing in any top players in except for unproven talent. Wenger now has to realise that the demands of the modern day game in Europe do not allow time for rebuilding on the fly. You have to compete regularly at the highest level and if necessary, spend money to get there, but you have to compete NOW, not in 1-2 years. The Frenchman’s philosophy is under siege right now and it’s questionable whether he will survive this. He has always been stubborn and forthright, and up to today, it has always worked. I think those days are over. With Manchester City, Chelsea and now Liverpool completely re-tooling, Arsenal are being left in the dust. When we talk of Wenger being replaced, consideration must be given to what Arsenal’s board have always insisted on. Profit and a competitive team. Contrast that with Old Trafford, The Nou Camp, and Stamford Bridge where winning is the goal and profit is a secondary goal. We must also look to see who might replace the Frenchman. The only two managers who come to mind for me would be either Martin O’Neill or Rafa Benitez. Without funds to rebuild, neither one of these two will take the position.
When looking back, Arsenal teams of the past have always had hard, tough players amongst their talented squad, but they are bereft of those with this group, despite a horrendous disciplinary record. They are weak-willed, and totally lacking in the physical aspects of the Premier League game. Both Chelsea and Manchester City will steamroller them and It remains to be seen how the next two to three weeks progress but changes are necessary.
Whether it’s with Wenger at the helm, only time will tell.