The title challenge may have lasted a few weeks longer than expected but the faults and downfalls this season were as familiar as ever.
Being outmuscled and outclassed by the best sides, squandering our chances in the FA Cup when squad rotation produced no benefit, being blown away by superior opposition in the Champions League, a lack of defensive awareness, some stunningly naïve performances, players claiming they must be willing to ‘win ugly’ after another ineffective display, goalkeepers who aren’t up to the job. These are the stand-out features of the season – things I could have written, at least in part, at the end of the last four campaigns too. In sum, the past 10 months represent another failure to address our weaknesses and allow our strengths to lead us to glory.
Wenger's words don't help
In looking back on the season, it feels like a very negative one. This is partly because of Wenger’s assessment. Although he says he is disappointed with missing out on silverware, he has - understandably - riled a great many fans by saying coming third was the equivalent of winning a trophy.
The claim that injuries were a major factor also grates: who would not have predicted that Van Persie will probably never complete two-thirds of games in a season? Who didn’t realise that Silvestre could not provide adequate cover for Gallas and Vermaelen when they picked up knocks? Who could not realise we are over reliant on Fabregas?
And Wenger’s declaration that there will, at most, be only three players arriving this summer adds to the disappointment. With the striker Marouane Chamakh expected to be one of those (possibly next week once the French season ends) and one, surely, a centre back to replace Gallas who is almost certain to depart on a Bosman. That leaves room for either a better-than-a-liability goalkeeper OR a defensive midfielder.
The need for both is equally critical to us improving next season and Wenger’s stubborn refusal to accept the flaws in his squad creates another element of déjà vu about this season. While I still believe Wenger should remain as manager for at least another year, it does become wearisome to hear the same comments about the quality of the squad, how much he thinks they have improved and his unwavering belief that they will achieve greatness. A dose of reality would make me much more optimistic about what will happen in the summer and next season – and it must be a feeling shared by much of the squad.
But let us remain positive! Think of Ramsey’s development; don’t think about him possibly not returning to that level after his dreadful injury. Think of Van Persie’s surprising success as a lone striker; don’t think of him still being unable to kick with his right foot. Think of Vermaelen’s impressive introduction to English football; don’t think of Arshavin’s regression. Think of Bendtner learning to head; don’t think of Walcott’s continued inconsistency. Think of all the debt we’ve managed to shed; don’t think about the looming battle for control of the boardroom.
Right now, I’m desperate for the right transfers in and out to keep upbeat and hopeful that next season the positives outweigh the negatives and we haven’t fallen victim to the same problems again.