Why Arsenal's cyclical seasons reflect poorly on their players
Written by: Uttiyo Sarkar
The Gunners repetitive spurts of good form towards the end of a season sit at odds with their failure to mount a meaningful title challenge in recent years ...
Arsenal capped off another disappointing season on a high, with the Gunners making history in the FA Cup by winning the trophy for the 13th time, which is the highest for any team in England.
But despite another impressive run of form in the domestic run-in, they crumbled midway into the season and faltered to a 5th-placed finish in the Premier League, meaning that they will not play in the Champions League for the first time in manager Arsene Wenger long reign. This is not anything new, as they have had the tendency to fall away from the pack at the business end of the season for the last few years.
While everyone is quick to point fingers at Wenger for their inconsistency and failiure to win a league title for 13 years, the players must also foot part of the blame. As their recent spell of form in both league and Cup has shown, these players have the ability to compellingly defeat any team in the world on their day, but when it comes to grinding out results and putting pressure at the top of the table in the course of a long league season, they have flattered to deceive all too often.
A few statistics prove how Arsenal seem to have the same problem of imploding through crucial phases in the season only to recover ground in the final sprint, by which time the horse has boulted at least as far as winning major trophies is concerned. After initially always having strong starts to the season, the players really fall off in the months of November, December, and January and tend to lose so much ground at the top of the table that the title is well beyond them when they regain their form in the later stages of the season.
Arsenal are woeful at the business end of the season
This table shows just how awful they are in the crucial month of November, as Arsenal's average points per match just drop off from the earlier months. As it can be seen in this picture, they have a massive drop of average points per game from 2.2 to a shocking 1.6 points per game, which shows how woeful they are in that month. The team takes another nosedive in the month of January with only 1.9 average points per game, before it rises again when they have already lost the opportunity of competing for the Premier League title.
Wenger has himself accepted this problem of his side faltering midway through the season, stating in interviews how weird he finds it. This season, Arsenal only managed to get 2 wins in 5 games in all competitions in the month of November, despite the month being interrupted by an international break. Things got worse over the next month, as they looked promising in early December but began to crumble once the New Year kicked in.
While the "Wenger Out" signs have begun to double up in numbers over the past few years, one can't really blame the manager for the players' lack of stability in their game. The team manages to bring out extraordinary displays on its day but cannot seem to sustsain the same level of performance throughout the whole campaign.
The 'Professor' continues to defend the 'students' who never seem to learn the winning mentality which Wenger has been trying to instill into the club for years now. These players dominate the best teams around the world on their day, so why can't they show the same "beautiful football" throughout the season and at least challenge for the Premier League title?
Arsenal have the tools they need to win the title
Arsenal certainly have all the tools they need to mount a genuine title tilt. A manager in Wenger who has seen and done it all in English football. quality players like Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez and a well-rounded squad that should in theory equip them to grind out results week in week out.
There is ofcourse the scourge of injuries that continues to hang over Emirates Stadium and which consumed the likes of Sanchez, Ozil, Danny Welbeck, Arron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla and others at crucial points this season. But, that aside, there is little to reason for the Gunners' recurring implosions. Certainly, with a squad of their size abd depth, not to mention little interest in the Capital One Cup from the outset, they should be able to compete on three fronts deep into the campaign on a regular basis, like most oi their rivals.
Its no secret that the London club's form is more fickle than the English weather and yet it is their imperious showings at the backend of a season that make their inconsitency even more perplexing. With the one plausible factor injuries accounted for, it leaves us to look at the players themelves. Indeed, in certain games this season, like the 1-2 home defeat to Watford or the now customary mauling at the hands of Bayern Munich in the Round of 16 of the Champions League, the players looked like they weren't ready for what the opposition would throw at them or the way they would play. It is frankly, embarrassing to be able to make that contention against highly-paid professionals, at one of England's top clubs. Let's not forget the Gunners' squad is made up of seasoned internationals for some of the world's best teams. Yet, when it comes to their club, it seems they only turn up when it's convenient to them.
It must be pointed out that we are in no way trying to absolve Wenger and the club's management of their failings over the years. But with that said, the fact that the players have also let the fans and themselves down on numerous occasions. To put it simply, while Arsenal will rejoice in their third FA Cup triumph in four seasons, a club of their stature should be doing more, both domestically and on the continent. While the manager remains a convenient target at every club, the players must look themselves in the mirror too.
The stats prove that there's something wrong with the players' mindset rather than that of the manager and it's high time these players realize their flaws and repay their manager for dressing over their shoddy displays throughout the years. The Ozils, Ramseys and Olivier Girouds might be amazing on some days, but they lack the mentality to perform consistently and go all the way to win the Premier League. As long as the players themselves aren't pushed out of their comfort zone, triumphs like Saturday's will prove to be yet another false dawn.
Published: Mon May 29, 2017 01:29 PM IST