Why didn’t we win the title? The million dollar question.
Ask people and you’ll get different theories. Some of them will tell you it’s all Adebayor’s fault (seems to be the in-thing at the moment ). Some will say it’s because the squad was too light. Others will say we’ve had defensive problems all season. And so it will go.
William Gallas reckons it was down to bad luck. Honestly. He says:
You can play well, but if the luck is not there, then you will win nothing. The luck went from us a few months ago. People have to understand that. We drew too many games at home, and away we lost important points.
Now, while I fully accept we haven’t exactly had the rub of the green in terms of referee’s decisions in a couple of games I think it’s a bad idea to start saying it was just a lack of luck that cost us the title. It masks where the real problems are. Birmingham away, that was a game where we had some bad luck all right. But then how to do you explain the subsequent draws against Boro, Wigan and Aston Villa (a game where we scored so late you might suggest we had a bit of luck ourselves)? Bad luck played a part but it wasn’t the main reason.
We had some bad luck with injuries. What happened to Eduardo was dreadfully unlucky but is it really unlucky to see Rosicky and van Persie out for long periods? Looking at their injury records would suggest that not to be the case. Maybe we were unlucky that this summer is Euro2008 and Lassana Diarra had to kick up so much he was sold just a few months after he joined. Had it been a normal summer he might have been more patient. But that’s not really the point.
The reason we didn’t win the title was our form since the Birmingham game. The draws cost us. Our uncanny abilility to concede a goal from nothing, a habit we’d managed to rid ourselves of for most of the season, came back with a vengeance and it hurt us. Badly. Gallas does make the point that the defensive lapses were costly but that’s not bad luck, that’s just bad defending. That’s where we should be focussing and not trying to make excuses because that’s what it sounds like.
However, he did have a message for the fans:
The fans have helped us a lot over the season â€” at home and away. I want to say thank you and I hope next season we will get something â€” we will give everything. They are disappointed but so are we.
For me the most important thing is to win â€“ not playing well and still losing. For me, for everyone, for the fans, the most important thing is to win something.
Lee Dixon, however, has been critical of Gallas and doesn’t think he’s the man to the lead the team. Talking on Match of the Day 2 on BBC he said:
When the tide turns and it starts to get hard, you need a leader – and William Gallas is not what I call a leader. He can play well defensively but you need him to be at his best when the team is under pressure – and once again he wasn’t.
Harsh words but sentiments shared by a not insignificant number of Arsenal fans. I think the Gallas captaincy was an experiment by Arsene and not one that I think has been a real success. It’s something I’ll cover in the weeks ahead, perhaps in a post-season review, but when someone like Lee Dixon starts talking like that then I think you have to listen.
Emmanuel Adebayor thinks we need to develop a killer instinct but really scoring goals this season hasn’t been our biggest problem. We’ve scored 64 in the league, a little less than 2 a game on average, only United have scored more. But we’ve conceded 29, 11 more than United and 5 more than Chelsea. Now, I don’t dispute that extra goals can make up for those defensive errors. The old Ossie Ardiles school of defending, just score more than you let in. I think most people realise that and I think that’s possibly why people slate Adebayor for not taking his chances.
I’ve given up trying to convince people he’s a good player, so entrenched are the opinions about him at this stage, but 26 goals in a season for any striker is a good return. It’s only 3 less than Torres who everyone is raving about. What we don’t have are the goalscorers to back up Adebayor. I’m sure Rosicky and Eduardo would have scored more goals had they stayed fit, Cesc weighed in with a good total but we didn’t get enough from Hleb, just four in the season is a very poor return (strangely you don’t hear too many people giving him a hard time about it), three from Flamini in a defensive midfield role isn’t bad, none from Eboue who played a lot of games on the right of midfield and just one goal from Abou Diaby meant the chances Adebayor didn’t take cost more. But keep on blaming the big man and throw in that hilarious line about him having the first touch of a rapist again, seriously, that never fails to raise a smile.
So for me it’s more important that we sort ourselves out defensively than offensively for next season. You only need to score one goal and be able to defend it to win a game. Fact is we never look too comfortable with a lead, be it one goal or two or three. I know we’re never going to have that George Graham style solidity under Arsene but would it be worth bringing somebody in alongside Arsene to take over the defensive coaching? Could the lads benefit from the experience of Keown, Bould or even Tony Adams? Would a signing on the coaching staff be as beneficial as one on the pitch? Something to think about.
Before the boss starts thinking about who he needs to bring in during the summer he’s got to find out who’s staying. The main issue is around Mathieu Flamini and Juventus yesterday revealed their interest in him . Not a surprise and I have to say the longer it goes on the more pessimistic I am about him signing a new deal with us. I really want him to, I’m just not convinced any more that he will. And I don’t think it’s a question of money. Arsenal will have made him a very good offer, at 23 years of age he can do 4 years with us and then make a big move elsewhere or sign a new ‘megadeal’ at Arsenal if he’s that established in the team.
The figures we’ll be offering will be substantial. I don’t think it’d be unreasonable to assume we could offer him Â£45,000-Â£50,000 a week. Maybe even more. That would be a massive increase on what he’s earning at the moment and you can be sure there’ll be incentives and percentage rises and bonuses on top of that so another Â£10,000 a week in Italy isn’t going to be the deciding factor. Flamini said while he was concentrating on playing there wasn’t time to sign a new deal. He’s out for the next couple of weeks, should those couple of weeks pass with nothing signed then I think we can safely assume he’s on his way. With Diarra having left in January and Gilberto likely to go in the summer we could find ourselves light in the middle of the park. Anyway, we’ll see what happens. Hopefully the Flamster will stay.
The Sun reckons we’re going to spend Â£12m on PSV keeper Heurelho Gomes. With Almunia having just signed a new deal, the ambitious and talented Fabianski waiting in the wings and young Italian Vito Mannone as back up I think a keeper is going to be the last thing on Arsene’s shopping list this summer.
Right, enough. More tomorrow.