David Showell

As the 2010/11 season came to an end, the suits at the Emirates Stadium will have been looking to assess Arsenal’s campaign, and to decide whether it has been a success or a failure. The likelihood is that their end of term report will be mentioning the words could, do and better.

This time last year, there were plenty of people suggesting that The Gunners would be edged out of the top four for the first time since way back in 1996, and that they would be replaced by their much-loved rivals at White Hart Lane. While most of those people were probably Tottenham fans, there was indeed a genuine concern for Arsenal’s prospects.

And while Spurs did indeed break into the previously exclusive club, it was at Liverpool’s expense rather than Arsenal’s. But although The Gunners’ third place in the league looks a good achievement on paper, it should be pointed out that they could have managed one or even two places higher.

Arsene Wenger’s side had twice managed to put themselves into the driving seat, but the sat-nav they were using wasn’t programmed to go all the way to the finishing line. While Chelsea and Manchester United fought it out for the ultimate prize, Arsenal were left treading water in third place as their season fizzled out like a damp firework.

The absence of Cesc Fabregas for the last few matches of the campaign proved pivotal, although that the team managed to get through to those last few fixtures is to their great credit. And while Arsenal picked up points without their very own Batman, when it was combined with a long-term injury for Robin (van Persie), it proved too much in the end.

The Dutch forward’s ankle injury kept him out of the side for several months, and happened just a fortnight after he had been named the Premier League’s Player of the Month. By the time van Persie had been given a clean bill of health by the physio, the season was all but over. The fact that it happened in an international friendly only made it less palatable for Arsene Wenger.

But even with the odd injury, the campaign may still have been a successful one if the club had managed to sign a player or two in the January window. While the midfield of any four from Fabregas, Samir Nasri, Theo Walcott, Andrei Arshavin, Abou Diaby, Emmanuel Eboue, Tomas Rosicky, Denilson and Alex Song formed an effective coalition, the decision to play Nicklas Bendtner up front on his own was more Monster Raving Loony Party.

With summer transfer window nearly upon Arsene Wenger, the club are apparently in the market for around two dozen strikers, of which they’ll probably sign two – one of whom is certain to be Bordeaux’s Marouane Chamakh. However, many fans are left wondering about what might have been this season, if only those two had come in January instead of July.

More worrying still is the constant speculation linking Fabregas with a move to his homeland. If the Spanish midfielder was to jump ship and head to Barcelona, Wenger would have to unearth a real gem in the summer to paper over the mighty large crack this would leave. It is a scenario Arsenal don’t even want to dwell upon.

With Chelsea and Manchester United dropping more points than expected in 2010/11, it may be that The Gunners have missed out on a golden opportunity. With both the Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge clubs sure to strengthen over the summer and Manchester City ready to splash out too, it may be that Arsenal’s first Premier League title since 2004 will take a little longer coming.


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