There’s no doubt about it, the cup run which eventually ended in capitulation against Manchester City in February typified Arsenal this season.
The Gunners were far from convincing for much of the tournament, scraping part Doncaster, Norwich and West Ham in a trio of favourable home ties, before finally putting in some positive performances against Chelsea in the semis in order to secure our spot at Wembley.
So, while the build-up to the final was quite impressive, especially in the final third, the execution at the end was nothing short of woeful. For all the promise, there was nothing to show for it. Sound familiar?
What Went Wrong Against City?
Unsurprising, there was not a great surge in Arsenal markets for those betting with Mr Green ahead of the match. City have been imperious this season and are one of best teams the top flight has seen in a long time.
However, to show so little fight and ambition is inexcusable. Accepting a result as inevitable isn’t acceptable, especially for one with the stature of Arsenal.
Indeed, just a few days earlier, Arsenal were given an exhibition in what it takes for an underdog to succeed as Swedish minnows Östersunds came to the Emirates as and went toe-to-toe against the Gunners, and only did they win the match, they outplayed us for long periods – with a fraction of the supposed talent and a fraction of the playing budget. Indeed, Östersunds’ players earn around £600 per week – meaning their entire weekly playing budget comes in below even Rob Holding’s weekly wage.
Despite what seemed a David v Goliath imbalance, Östersunds arrived at the Emirates with a plan, with belief and with a harmonious team spirit (as well as full faith in their manager). So for Arsenal’s starting eleven – compiled at a cost of around £200 million – to not even compete with City in a cup final is disgusting. To be outplayed and beaten is one thing, but to not have the guts to try and win the game for 90 minutes and subsequently blame bad refereeing decisions perhaps shows Arsenal are not competing anywhere near the level they should be at mentally.
Can Wenger Re-Build Arsenal’s Winning Mentality?
One of Arsenal’s greatest concerns probably lies in the fact that their “good days” are increasingly becoming few and far between. For every Everton demolition and positive performances against Spurs and Chelsea when everything clicks, there are too often unnecessary collapses, think: Östersunds, Forest, Bournemouth, Swansea, Brighton. Simply put, the “shock” results are occurring at such a frequency, that they’re no longer shocks.
The re-build job for Arsene Wenger (or his potential replacement) lies in the rebuilding of defence. Both in terms of personnel at the back and the defensive mentality – that is the minimum standard you can expect from Arsenal, so that when the Gunners don’t play well, they at least have a foundation in places that makes them hard to beat.
Is There Still Hope?
Of course there is still hope for the Gunners, you can’t completely lose hope that boasts the attacking prowess of the likes of Özil, Aubameyang, Ramsey and Mkhitaryan. But it certainly is time that a new foundation is laid.
Let’s not forget, that Arsene Wenger’s success at Arsenal was built on the perfect combination of attacking mastery through Henry, Bergkamp and Pires, but built on the rock-solid base of Seaman, Adams, Vieira and Petit.
But maybe all isn’t lost… after all, Arsenal were knocked out of the FA Cup by Nottingham Forest. They lost the League Cup final. They finished sixth in the league. But the year was 1988. They stuck with their manager that summer (George Graham) and one year later they won their first league title in over a decade. So could history be set to repeat itself? Probably not.