Arsenal: In a Spiral of Last-Hurdle Demise
For most Arsenal supporters the end of this current season has a distinct feel of deja vu. In three of the last four campaigns, the Gunners have been within touching distance of the Premier League Trophy only for misfortune and subsequent capitulation leaving them potless.
Perhaps in the 07/08 and 09/10 seasons, Arsenal were unlucky with injuries. In 07/08, Eduardo, who had just found some serious form for the first time in the campaign, suffered a leg-break at the hands, or rather studs, of the inept Martin Taylor. That injury was the catalyst to a series of results that left them finishing third, four points behind champions, Manchester United.
09/10 was as ill-fated, this time it was young Aaron Ramsey who was on the end of the leg-breaking assault, carried out by Ryan Shawcross. Unlike the game at Birmingham, where the Eduardo incident occurred, Arsenal went on to win that match against Stoke. However, more injuries followed with the losses of Vermaelen and Fabregas, on top of the already crocked Van Persie, and this meant the personnel simply wasn't there for the team to finish the season in the best possible way. Instead Arsenal was consigned to winning only one of their last five games, losing three, which left them to finish in third place again.
This season, the injury list has not been as excruciating. Van Persie has been entirely fit for the run-in and the the only major loss has been Vermaelen, although Fabregas has only been in and out of the side. The team, from being in a position to win the league if they beat United and match their other results, has been on a run of two wins in its last nine league matches.
Arsenal's injury record does not excuse Wenger this season. Under his tutelage, the team's form has evaporated when the pressure came. And that has been endemic of the past four seasons. Once again the Gunners are heading for a third-place, trophyless finish despite the fact that the club was still heavily involved in all competitions at the turn of the year. For it to happen three times in four seasons is not coincidence which means there is something fundamentally wrong at the club. It is now in a spiral of capitulation and something must be done, either by the current manager or a new one, to break the chain.Continued on the next page