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Life President
May 29, 2005
Such is this success of the Arsenal Ethos under Arsene Wenger that those who question him are instantly vilified by the Gunner’s faithful and, believe me, they have a point. No other Premier League manager can boast an unbeaten season, or even claim to have attributed so much to the progression of youth development. One thing Wenger is lacking, however, is a trophy… And yesterday’s London derby provided all the answers.

Coming into the game, Chelsea were looking to steady a ship that had the potential to throw men overboard, rocked by the John Terry affair(s) and an unlikely draw ar Hull with Manchester United bearing down on them. Arsenal had already bore the brunt of the United war engine, Wenger admitting to having seen boys pitted against men the previous Sunday. Both teams laid it on the line, and a Didier Drogba inspired Chelsea snatched the impetus.

Only the collective efforts of Sam Allardyce’s Bolton could claim to be more of a thorn in Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal, with the Ivorian scoring twelve goals in as many starts against the North London side. Compare this to his record against the other “big four” sides, just the one goal in extra time against United and an equally fruitless record against Liverpool, and it goes some way to explain the frailties that Drogba is so keen to exploit.

Chelsea found themselves two goals to the good inside the first 25 minutes yesterday, Gael Clichy criminally leaving the back post for a wander across the goal line for the first, leaving Drogba free to pounce on a ball John Terry had nodded back across the box, while the rest of the Arsenal defence ran around in a state of panic as Frank Lampard, Nicolas Anelka and, of course, Didier Drogba bore down on them in a fleet-footed counter attack worthy of winning any game.

The result was settled then, but it will mask a game that Arsenal, in truth, dominated. They had the lion share of possession, spread the ball well from flank to flank searching for that incision and had the opportunities to draw level. It just so happens that, with Robin Van Persie absent through injury, they look distinctly ordinary going forward. Arshavin is being forced to play out of position and out of his depth, the diminutive Russian forced to toil against the boisterous Chelsea defence with nothing to show for it except a battered torso and a bruised ego.

Sadly, this is indicative of Wenger’s apparent transfer policy: Don’t spend a ton, buy them young.

Adebayor’s inevitable departure provided the club with ample time in order to identify a suitable replacement and the failure in doing so is costing the club dearly. Until last week, Arsenal were mounting a serious challenge for the title amongst a faltering United side and a Chelsea side that could have rotted from the inside out. Just a week and two losses to title rivals later, and they’re back to square one.

Wenger was right last week and the same has to be said again, it is boys against men out there. They drastically need a centre forward capable of putting it about and holding the line, someone to ruffle a few feathers and to allow the likes of Arshavin and Fabregas the space to work their magic. Marouane Chamakh could be the solution, but the problem has been posed for some time now and Wenger is still pondering with his calculator.

Arsenal are a side deserving of some kind of silverware, while the big spenders have been living lavish lifestyles courting the likes of £20m Alberto Aquilani, £18m Yuri Zhirkov and £30m Dimitar Berbatov, Arsenal spent what they could in bringing Andrey Arshavin to the Premier League and he’s been a joy to behold. They play football the right way, but have suffered for their sins.

Wenger is so near, yet so far with this.