Arsenal need a tough nut to shield their prized possessions
Even manager Arsene Wenger has no clue which version of Arsenal will turn up to matches at the moment.
The one that swept aside Manchester United last week with a dazzling brand of football, thrashed Blackburn Rovers 4-0 away and dismantled Fenerbahce in Istanbul or the one that lost at home to Hull City, got bullied into defeat at Stoke City and was well-beaten 2-0 at home by Aston Villa last weekend.
Wenger moaned about a lack of consistency, while goalkeeper Manuel Almunia said that changes were going to be needed if Arsenal are to mount a serious challenge for the title.
While on their day they are the best team to watch in England, they are also extremely fragile.
The chant of “1-0 to the Arsenal” used to accompany the team of old, the one that ground out results while sending half the stadium to sleep. No right-minded Arsenal fan would want a return to those days but watching their side’s title challenge burn out almost before the Christmas lights go up in Oxford Street is hard to take.
Cesc Fabregas has been a shadow of the player that began last year so well, scoring goals for fun and pulling the strings in Arsenal’s midfield. But then, the young Spaniard had Alexander Hleb and Mathieu Flamini doing his donkey work. The experienced Brazilian Gilberto also provided an alternative when a more defensive approach was needed.
With that trio all gone, Fabregas is sinking under the burden of responsibility. Denilson, Theo Walcott and Samir Nasri are beautiful footballers, but when things turn ugly, they go missing.
Even Wenger’s much-hyped youngsters, so impressive in the League Cup, come from the same mould — plenty of tricks and great for one-off games.
What Arsenal need now is a touch of steel and fans of the club will be watching carefully to see what Wenger does in the transfer window. The stubborn Frenchman is the club’s greatest ever coach but he may need to suppress his desire to create a thing of beauty when a bit of old fashioned brute force is required.
Wenger’s European scouting network is probably working overtime looking for a new Patrick Vieira….Find one and this current crop of Arsenal pedigrees could re-emerge next season as a serious title threat. Fail, and Arsenal will continue flattering to deceive while Fabregas, along with others, may start looking elsewhere.
PHOTO: Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger looks puzzled during their Premier League defeat by Aston Villa, Nov. 15, 2008. REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico