10 Bold Decisions That Will Take Arsenal Past Their Premier League Rivals
Despite an impressive draw with Manchester City, Arsenal's title hopes for this season appear extinct. Come the end of the current campaign, it will have been 10 years since the Gunners last lifted the Premier League title.
The problems that have undone Arsenal's challenge have been depressingly familiar. All too often, they fall short when the season approaches its climax. The culture of winning has dissipated.
It will take some drastic steps for Arsenal to overhaul their rivals. In this piece, we look at 10 possible changes that could revitalise the team.
Make Arsene Wenger Accountable
For too long, Arsene Wenger’s position at Arsenal has been guaranteed. In the last few years, it has occasionally felt as if his historical achievements with the club would protect him from mediocre performances in the present day.
If Arsenal fail to make the top four and lift the FA Cup, Wenger must be held responsible. For the club to progress, the manager needs to be accountable for what happens on the field.
Most Arsenal fans want to see Arsene Wenger stay at the club. However, omnipotence is a dangerous thing for a manager to have. The club’s ambition must be to win silverware and now is the time for Wenger to deliver.
Give Bacary Sagna What It Takes
Bacary Sagna is one of the best right-backs in the world; replacing him would be an enormous task.
Arsenal should push the boat out to keep the Frenchman. If he wants a three-year deal, then the Gunners should grant it. It might be a break with club policy, but Sagna is worth it. His experience and versatility mean he will continue to be a great asset to the squad, even after he loses the physical capacity to play in every single game.
Bring Back the Old Guard
All too often, Arsenal seem to come up short in the big games against their major rivals.
However, it’s a relatively new phenomenon. Arsene Wenger’s early sides didn’t share that capacity to self-destruct on the grand stages of English football. Adding players from that era to the coaching staff might help foster a more combative atmosphere in the Arsenal camp.
The likes of Dennis Bergkamp simply wouldn’t have stood for the 6-0 capitulation at Stamford Bridge. Working alongside someone like Bergkamp on the training ground might teach the current Arsenal players some of the values that made the Dutchman a three-time Premier League winner.
Arsenal have a tradition of great success, and recruiting some of their former stars as coaches could help the current squad make their own mark in the history books.
Get Julian Draxler
In the January transfer window, Arsene Wenger was strongly linked with a move for Schalke's attacking midfielder Julian Draxler by John Cross of The Mirror.
Arsenal should look to secure the German's signature in the summer. He has enormous potential and could develop into a genuine star of world football.
Play Two Strikers
The great Arsenal title-winning sides tended to play with two strikers.
Arsene Wenger abandoned that philosophy when Arsenal moved to the Emirates Stadium. Wenger instead chose to build his team around Cesc Fabregas and opted to replicate Barcelona's 4-3-3 system to do so. That formation has evolved into more of a 4-2-3-1, but the constant remains a solitary central striker.
This season, Manchester City and Liverpool have shown the benefit of playing with a front two. Wenger should occasionally try to reintegrate the system at Arsenal.
Replace Mikel Arteta
Mikel Arteta has been an excellent signing for Arsenal since he arrived at the start of the 2011-12 season. However, he isn’t getting any younger.
In the last two years, he has played an enormous amount of football. Now, it seems to be catching up with him. His speed and stamina appear to be on the decline.
If Arsenal are to reign over English football, they may need to recruit a midfield destroyer in the mould of Nemanja Matic.
Improve the Depth
At left-back, Arsene Wenger has a wealth of options. In Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal, he has two international-class full-backs. Should they both be out, Wenger has the option to field one of Thomas Vermaelen, Bacary Sagna or Carl Jenkinson in the role. Even Mathieu Flamini is capable of putting in a shift there.
However, that degree of depth is unusual in the Arsenal squad. Arsenal’s persistent injury problems mean they need to add more options to their squad in order to sustain a prolonged title challenge.
Scrutinise Treatment of Injuries
Arsenal pick up too many injuries for it to be mere coincidence. At the moment, they are without Laurent Koscielny, Abou Diaby, Jack Wilshere, Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott.
Arsene Wenger and his team must conduct a root-and-branch investigation to discover where they have been going wrong. A club with Arsenal’s resources should be at the forefront of sports science, not helpless victims of an annual injury crisis.
Since losing Theo Walcott to a cruciate ligament injury in January, Arsenal’s team has suffered from a severe lack of pace.
That was particularly evident during the recent 1-1 draw with Manchester City. The Arsenal player with the most-effective acceleration appeared to be Tomas Rosicky. However, Rosicky is now 33 years old and can’t be relied upon to be turning on the fuel burners on a regular basis.
If Arsenal are to race to the top of the Premier League, Arsene Wenger must add speed to the Arsenal attack to complement the lumbering Olivier Giroud.
Recognise the Value of Sports Psychology
Arsenal seem to suffer from anxiety. When it comes to the crunch, they tend to crumble.
Sports psychologist Andy Lane believes embracing a different approach could make the players more resilient. He told The Guardian:
A strategy that Arsenal should adopt is called If-Then Planning. We know Arsenal have been thrashed three times this season, so the psychologist would ask them: 'What if you go 1-0 down early on against City, what will you do?' The 'then' part should then kick in.
In top-level sport, such attention to detail can make all the difference.