I was reading an article on the Arsenal Website in which RvP talks about the Tottenham game and how the saves from Gomes made a difference. Towards the end he said a couple of lines that are the perfect summary of this season.
Definitely, if you look at last year, no one really expected this. But when you are this close you really want to win it. When you don’t do that it is frustrating.
I’m convinced most rational fans will completely agree with that statement. It has to do with the way expectations from this squad have changed over the course of the season and to fail once it seems that the title is genuinely achievable is the most frustrating experience. So near yet so far!
If we look back to the beginning of the season, almost everyone wrote us off. We weren’t supposed to be in the Champions League places according to the “experts”. No strength-in-depth and all that nonsensical punditry.
No one can deny that Arsenal have made significant improvements and the strength-in-depth of this team cannot be matched by the other top teams in England. Should Arsene have factored in our injury problems and should we have more cover is a different issue and a relevant one.
Similarly, there is a clear problem with a certain type of opposition. Our recent results against strong defensive teams with clinical counter attacking abilities are sufficient proof of a particular frailty in this squad. Barcelona are in a different league and have previously defeated United and Chelsea in Europe so I’m deliberately ignoring the performance against the reigning champions of everything.
At the same time the improvements we’ve made and the victories achieved away to the likes of Stoke cannot be forgotten or denigrated. I think most Arsenal fans are sensible enough to see how well this squad has developed and know that we are on the cusp of greatness.
If we put aside our problems with some individual players (all of us have some we don’t like) and just think about the points we’ve dropped, we can see there were some games where we should have picked up the points even with the players that we had. In effect, even without a single change to the squad, we could have been in pole position but for some minor, yet ultimately, season defining mistakes.
I know the temptation is to point the finger at a position and say if that particular position had a better player we’d have won. Trust me, it’s easy to argue either way and the opinion vs opinion battle just defeats the whole purpose of rational discussion.
I’m not trying to defend any player, that’s the reason I’m talking in general terms. And I’m definitely not claiming we don’t need improvements to the squad. We most certainly do. The point is we could have and should have won with the squad that we have. And that’s the reason I can understand why Arsene believes in the squad and his approach in spite of so much criticism. We are much closer to the top than most experts and some Arsenal bloggers would have us believe.
The issue is that with the present squad we needed a near perfect season from everyone. Proper additions to the squad would mean that we could afford to have a couple of players out of form, a few out injured, and still look favourites. I’ll do a detailed autopsy of the season in the summer.
Right now it’s a difficult time for everyone. Most of our players have fought hard this season but will end it without a medal. The fans have played their part but the wait continues. Arsene, I’ve no doubt, feels just as bad as any fan or player.
Let’s play this season out as best as we can. We have all summer to find the cause of death and set things right.