EPL 2007-2008: Arsenal 1 – Liverpool 1

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football, Macintosh
April 5th, 2008 • 1:55 pm

That is, in all likelihood, the final nail in the coffin of Arsenal’s EPL season. Regardless of what happens tomorrow, it is simply far too much to hope that both Manchester United and Chelsea will drop that many points and that Arsenal will win all their remaining fixtures.

Of course, Arsène will claim that it is not over, but he knows as well as everyone else does that it is. There is just no realistic way that the Gunners can find the moral and physical strength to reverse the tide now. The focus will now largely be on the Champions’ League and on that game at Anfield on Tuesday. If they can win it, then there will still be hope of a trophy in 2008. If they don’t, the entire season will be over, and lots of questions will need to be asked.

The first question I would ask, however, would be about today’s team selection. It was quite clear during that game at Old Trafford in the FA Cup that a second fiddle team would not be good enough in a game of such importance, yet Wenger still made six changes. Wasn’t this a clear admission of defeat in the title race?

Sure enough, in spite of their own multiple changes, Liverpool dominated the first half and deservedly took the lead. They might not have many spectacular or highly talented players, but they clearly have more depth in their squad and it showed.

Even in the second half, while the Gunners played better, there were still far too many openings for Liverpool. If Wenger was willing to take a big gamble, he should have done so earlier on, possibly from the very beginning of the game. The first-team regulars came on too late in the game, and there was not enough impetus to really change the game’s outcome. Too many players still looked too tired and static to me.

It really is a pretty sad end to this season, but I strongly believe that Wenger can only have himself to blame. The excellent position early in 2008 fooled us into believing that this team had the potential to actually win things, but the reality is closer to what the pundits had predicted at the start of the season. It might not be as bad as they predicted (a finish outside the top 4), but it will most likely be another trophy-less season, with little hope of things changing in the near future unless Wenger finally agrees to spend some money and strengthen the squad.

The “nurturing” approach is just too idealistic in today’s world. We need a hybrid approach, with a combination of youth and experience in all areas of the pitch. I still believe in the overall emphasis on playing elegant, fluid passing football, but I also believe that this type of play can still be achieved even with the addition of more stamina and depth.

Without a change in the approach, I just see more false hopes and more disappointment in the near future. I like most of the current players (except Éboué, for obvious reasons), but we simply need more depth, a bigger squad, less collective vulnerability to injury, fatigue, etc.

I certainly will not bother to get my hopes up for Tuesday, like I did for the return leg of the tie with Milan. While the outcome of that tie was ultimately one of the highlights of the season, it was too costly emotionally. The higher the hopes, the bigger potential for excitement and elation—but I just won’t take another crushing disappointment. I’ll be pleased if they go through, but I will not be too affected if they don’t.

I too would love a replay of that 2006 final, but there are Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester in the way, and frankly I just can’t stand the sight of any of them. If it happens, great. If it does not, let’s just hope that Barcelona can put the other English teams in their place.

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