Liverpool had a shocking start to their season last year - are Arsenal going down the same road?
Liverpool's start to last season is vastly similar to Arsenal's this season. Both teams shaky at the start, both lost some of their best midfielders and both brought in some signings that weren't entirely the ones the fans envisioned. Before you begin to shout at me, which no doubt some of you will anyway, I would prefer it if you read the entire article. All I simply want to do is compare Arsenal and Liverpool - and whether Arsenal will suffer the same fate that the Reds did last year.
Liverpool last year started abysmally - and as a Liverpool supporter myself, I was, I admit, calling for Hodgson's head by October. Going back to the summer, I wondered why people didn't question it immediately. Hodgson said the desire for Liverpool was to get back in to the top 4 - and so he signed players who he felt would achieve this. And the first of those was Joe Cole. At that instant, Liverpool fans across the country felt a wave of hope, happiness, joy... You get the idea. Joe Cole had been a great player for Chelsea for years, and that was what we all thought of... Of course forgetting the fact that towards the end of his time there he was nothing more than a squad player barely able to break in to the team. Yes, he had injuries, but even when he came back from those, he still just wasn't quite the Joe Cole of a few years ago. I remember seeing that moment it was announced on Sky Sports and felt absolutely delighted. Congratulations to Hodgson was in order. But then... Well, his signings just got worse. Christian Poulsen, Paul Konchesky and Brad Jones all spring to mind. They were shocking. Poulsen couldn't tackle to save his life. Konchesky was utterly useless and had an inability to do anything even remotely right, and Jones, while he only played a few games, was still shocking in all of them. His other two signings were the only two that may actually be worth it. Wilson, supposedly a bright prospect, came in from Rangers, hoping to be the future of the defence. But Hodgson's best signing by far was that of Meireles. He started slowly, but began to pick up around December, and by the end of the season, was a rather focal point in the team, and we missed him badly against Spurs and Aston Villa in the last two games.
Now this all seems irrelevant. But now look at Arsene Wenger's signings this summer. Now before you have a go at me, and begin to say how great they all are and that I'm an idiot and I should stop writing now, I am not, in any way, saying his signings are bad. Some of them have been very good. But there are a couple that really aren't worthy to be playing for one of England's best teams. The standout is Carl Jenkinson. And I'm sure most Arsenal fans would agree with me here. Jenkinson could barely make it into the Chalrton first team as it was, and Arsenal signing him just bemused everyone. Park Chu Young is another. I rate him very highly as a player, but I would never want him in the Premiership, he just couldn't hack it. I just don't see him being strong enough to compete with English football. Again, his signing confused me, and a lot of Arsenal supporters I know feel the same way. But then there are the good ones, or so it appears. Arteta, proven in England, Gervinho, a very good goalscorer, Chamberlain, looks better than Walcott already... The others, you ask? Well, I'll be honest, they aren't the best Arsenal could have done. Is Andre Santos the best player Arsenal could have signed? After all, there was one specific left back on the market who Liverpool signed, and he has appeared as one of their best signings so far.
Jose Enrique has been a steal for Liverpool, and probably would have been for Arsenal too. I know that Gibbs is now the regular left back, and Santos is probably going to be back up if Gibbs gets injured, but Enrique may have been the defender that Arsenal should really have strived for. Yossi Benayoun is another that makes me wonder. He was good - not great - at Liverpool, and didn't even make the slightest impact at Chelsea, so why would Wenger sign him? Why go for a player who is old, barely played for the last year and beginning to look worse for wear? Creativity, I hear you say. He's started well, I hear you say. But, and here's the big question; as an Arsenal supporter, or any supporter of a club in fact, would you rather have Benayoun... or Mario Gotze? Alright, Gotze may be a bit of a stretch. 'The German Messi' must be worth a lot of money. A LOT of money. But I have it on good knowledge that Arsenal did in fact want Gotze. But, because of Wenger's stubborness and his refusal to pay a lot of money for players, they pulled out. Fine, he may have a Master's degree in Economics from the University of Strasbourg, but that doesn't mean that he knows more than everyone else. Because of the ridiculous fee that Real Madrid payed for Ronaldo a couple of years ago, the whole transfer market is messed up. To get the best, you have to pay a lot. Which is something Wenger finally realised on the last day of the transfer window. Mainly with his other major singing, Mertesacker. The point with Benayoun is, while he is on loan, and appears to have started well, he just isn't worth it. Paying £40m for someone who you could theoretically have for the next 10 years who is one of the best young players in the world, while it seems ridiculous, just appears to be the better idea to me. But I guess we'll have to wait and see on that one.
Finally, Wenger made one more major signing. Per Mertesacker. Arteta, in my opinion, is Arsenal's best signing, Chamberlain not too far behind. Mertesacker would then slot in next to Gervinho. Mertesacker was an interesting one. I don't deny Mertesacker is a good player. But... There are better. Mertesacker was clearly not Arsenal's first choice. Their first choice was most definitely Phil Jones. He met with both Wenger and Kenny Dalglish the day before he signed for United. After that, their next choice was a toss up between Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka. It appears that Mertesacker became his main centre back target only after his three main other targets were deemed overpriced. However, as I say, Mertesacker is a very good player, and could prove to be a real rock for Arsenal in their defence. But it just seems as though had Wenger splashed a little more cash, they would not be in the mess they are in now. It's similar to Liverpool and Hodgson's one and only summer there, in that the signings that he originally wanted, he couldn't actually make as he was too slow, and ended up going for the cheaper options that were disgracefully awful.
But it doesn't end there, oh no. Now we have to look at what most probably are the reasons these two fantastic teams began a slow decline - the sales of their best midfielders. For both teams, it's obvious who ran the games. For Arsenal, it was Nasri and Fabregas. For Liverpool, Alonso and Mascherano. These players were the keys to the midfields of their teams. For Arsenal, it is arguable that Nasri didn't make a massive impact except for a short 3 or 4 month spell before he got injured last season. But still, if he wasn't amazing, why were Man United and City after him? Must mean he at least has some talent. And Fabregas? Well, it's obvious to everyone how brilliant he was at Arsenal and how key to their team he was. The midfield just looks lost at times now without him. Again, it's similar to Liverpool. While Alonso did leave the season before, after he left it became clear how influential he was. Whilst everyone was ranting and raving about the magnificence on the Torres-Gerrard partnership, Alonso sat back, making that partnership tick, and getting next to no credit for it. When he left, it was obvious how much he was needed. And Mascherano is another one. He was a great player. No matter what you say about him and his back chatting and attitude towards referees, he knew how to make a tackle. And he held that Liverpool team behind Alonso. Things then went down hill, he wanted to leave, refused to play (The Joorabchian effect) and left in an awful manner. But the influence he and Alonso had is the same as the one Fabregas and Nasri had. They made the team tick. They made their teams strong. I'm not saying it was all them, but they had an enormous impact.
Then there are the vast similarities between the starts to their seasons. Last year, Liverpool started with a home game against, funnily enough, Arsenal. A 1-1 draw was the result, but let's be honest, Liverpool deserved to win. They were just better, Mascherano was fantastic, and they defended well. Then he got taken off, Agger got injured, and then Reina spilled the ball into his own net under pressure from Chamakh. Disappointing, but the performance gave us hope. At least, it did until we played Man City the next week, and were totally outclassed, losing 3-0. And things just got worse. We ended up in the relegation zone after a few games, and that was about the point I started to want Hodgson sacked. We had the odd win here and there, but they simply did an awful job of taping up the cracks. Each and every time we won, the question was asked; 'Is this the result that kick starts Liverpool's season?' And each and every time, the answer was no. Things got too hard to take after losing to Wolves and Blackburn, and eventually, Hodgson was sacked, and every Liverpool supporter ran out dancing in the streets. Naked. Probably. Compare that to Arsenal's start to this season, if you will. A draw at Newcastle, which doesn't seem so bad now, seeing as Newcastle are unbeaten so far. But then a defeat at home to Liverpool, and things began to look bad. Whilst they are unbeaten in cup games so far, their performace in the League has been below par, and that's being kind, to an extent. After the Liverpool game came that fateful game which led to jokes and fun galore. Manchester United. At Old Trafford.
Since then though, Arsenal finally have some wins on the board. An unconvincing victory over Swansea, and a good solid win against Bolton, the team that United and Chelsea tore to shreds, have given Arsenal supporters a faint glimmer of hope... Despite the losses to Tottenham and Blackburn. It just seems as though Arsenal are going the same way Liverpool did. However, we sacked Hodgson. Will Arsenal do the same? I highly doubt it. Wenger is a fantastic manager, and his record speaks for itself. If anyone can pull them out of this situation, it's him.
Lee Dixon said earlier today that he felt the top 4 was out of Arsenal's reach, and that top 6 may be a push, saying finally that they may even find it difficult to reach the top eight. To that, I say, Dixon is... Perhaps true? Again, hear me out. If Newcastle can carry on their form, which is unlikely, but theoretically if they did, could that push Arsenal lower? Plus if Stoke can manage the Europa League hangover, could they push? Everton? Villa? There are a few teams who could push Arsenal for their European spot if they don't buckle down soon. They're already behind those teams in question. And yes, I know, 7 games in, too early to tell, yaddah yaddah yaddah... But I'll go back to the point. Repeating Liverpool's season. That's exactly what we were saying after 7 games, that it's too early to tell and we could still manage it, and yes, we almost did. But that was thanks to Dalglish breathing a new life in to the team, selling the bad egg in Torres and buying the completely controversy free Suarez and Carroll. Whether Wenger is about ready to admit to his failures and go and spend £35m on an unproven striker and £22m on one that has proved to be a bargain in today's climate is yet to be seen. But still... Gotze is still out there...
I am not writing Arsenal off for anything. Hell, I could look like a complete idiot come May, and Arsenal could have won the quadruple. We'll just have to wait and see. However, until then, I would say to Arsenal fans, if it is what I'm predicting, and things are going to go badly, I feel for you. It's going to be a long road, but eventually, things will get better. That's all I have to say on this matter.
Finally I would just like to say thank you to all of you who have sat down and read this, and actually understood my opinion rather than just completely slated it. If you could leave some feedback I would be very, very grateful.
Thank you for reading.