After finishing in the top four for a 20th consecutive season, Arsenal and in particular their manager Arsene Wenger are facing their most defining crossroads since the pertinacious Frenchman seized the managerial reigns in 1996.
Famously labelled a “specialist in failure” by longtime rival Jose Mourinho, the 66-year-old is running out of time just as hastily as the spectators are running out of patience. This summer’s transfer window will have taken these levels of vexation to new heights, with the club appearing motionless in comparison to their fellow title contenders who have all stolen a march on the Gunners.
Jamie Vardy’s decision to turn down a move to the Emirates was bordering on humiliating and yet since then there has been no apparent urgency to rectify their shortcomings in the striking department. With Danny Welbeck sidelined until 2017, their lack of depth up top is a genuine flaw that needs addressing.
Despite his impressive form at Euro 2016, Olivier Giroud is not the world-class talent that Arsenal fans dream of leading the line and will never grace the superlatives of Thierry Henry or Dennis Bergkamp. High-profile names such as Michy Batshuayi and the mercurial ability of Zlatan Ibrahimovic were available, but overlooked.
This constant pondering and contemplating often sees top-drawer players go by the wayside. You wouldn’t bet against the likes of Gonzalo Higuain and Alvaro Morata plying their trade elsewhere, through either being deemed too expensive or not quite fitting the mould of a quintessential Arsenal player. Perhaps Lacazette or Icardi maybe more what Wenger is looking for.
Last year saw the arrival of a proven top-class Premier goalkeeper in Petr Cech, but Wenger decided against boosting his options outfield. On the other hand, he has already made two additions to his squad with the signings of Japanese starlet Takuma Asano and Swiss star Granit Xhaka.
Xhaka is just 23 years of age and already named in the Bundesliga team of the year back in the 2014-15 season when he started all 34 league encounters for Borussia Monchengladbach. However, the youngster must overcome the setback of being the only player not to the score in the shootout as his country lost out to Poland in the last 16.
In spite of this, both recruits are untested in the frenetic and furious pace of the Premier League. With Per Mertesacker on the decline, surely enlisting a high-quality centre-back would provide cover and competition to the first-choice pairing of Laurent Koscielny and Gabriel?
Many will remain perplexed by Wenger’s desire to bring in yet another midfielder to enhance his wealth of riches in the centre of the park, when other positional amendments are clearly more of a pressing issue.
Sky Bet and Coral are offering odds of 11/2 on Arsenal ending the season top of the table for the first time in 12 years since their ‘invincibles’ stormed to the title. Breaking this barren spell is going to be extremely difficult and uncertainty will continue to plague Wenger should his side falter again.
My predictions are for the title aspirations of the Gunners to be shot down in flames once again. Not even a top four finish is a guarantee this time round and this is reflected in the 11/8 odds being offered for the North-London club not to qualify for the Champions League for the first time under the Frenchman’s leadership. However, they are always a certain in a weekend accumulator. You can get all the best football accumulator tips from That’s A Goal.
Last season was undoubtedly their greatest opportunity to be crowned Premier League Champions in recent memory, but with the eye-catching arrivals of Pep Guardiola and Mourinho in Manchester and the appointment of tactical mastermind Antonio Conte at Chelsea, the top-flight of English football has never promised to be so cut-throat. Its do-or-die.