Friday, February 5, 2010

We Must Be United: Fabregas - We Can't Win the League: Arshavin

In the run up to this Sunday's crucial clash against Chelsea, Arsenal's captain, Cesc Fabregas, has called for the team to show unity as they strive to get back into the title race, only for Andrei Arshavin to say they can't win the league with him playing as striker.

Six points off Chelsea with 14 games to go, the importance of this game should not be lost on anyone. Should Arsenal lose, their title ambitions will be gone for yet another season.
Knowing this is true, Cesc Fabregas has tried to rally his team by calling upon them to improve upon their poor performances against the top two.
"It's very easy to say, 'we lost to Manchester United' and get down. That would be crazy. It's up to us to show what we can do," he said.
"It's never a good time to play Chelsea. We have to beat them to stay in the title race. We are still there definitely. I am always realistic -- I'm not going to lie to myself. Chelsea were better than us, United have been better than us.
"It's something we have to make sure doesn't happen again."
While Arsenal's fans may gloat over Spurs' inferiority complex against the top four away from home, some 65 games without a win. The Gunners are now beginning to settle into an inferiority complex trend of their own against Chelsea and Manchester United.
In their last 10 games against the Pensioners and United, Arsenal's record reads: Played-10 Won-0 Draw-2 Lost-8, conceding 18 goals and scoring only five times. And in each of their last four games against their rivals they have conceded three goals per game.
These are worrying developments and statistics for Arsene Wenger. The French manager has long championed the cause of youth in the Gunners first team, but it is now five, almost six years since they have won a trophy.
At the beginning of the season, many pundits dismissed Arsenal's title ambitions, saying that the young Gunners squad were mentally weak and lacked the steel needed to become champions. Despite being still in the mix in February, the Gunners have shown little progress from that initial assessment.
Wenger is acutely aware of such a dreadful sequence against United and Chelsea and, after watching his team concede three or more goals at the Emirates last weekend and be taken apart by United yet again, he delivered a blunt assessment of his young team. Wenger described his team as being "off-the-mark completely", calling his players "naive" and then pointed to "mental reasons" for losing against their direct rivals again.
He went on to say that the loss was, "Difficult to accept but easy to explain. We were poor defensively and offensively. We always gave them too much room. We were naive. Maybe too inhibited and tense."
Throughout those last four defeats, it is very noticeable that United's and Chelsea's teams have been bigger, stronger, faster, and had more desire than the Gunners. Not only have they dwarfed Arsenal in physical stature but their play has eclipsed them too, tactically, physically, and technically.
Players like Denilson, Samir Nasri, Tomas Rosicky, William Gallas, and Manuel Almunia have come across as looking feeble against the men of their rivals.
Is Wenger losing patience with some of his players? The Gunners boss has always defended his team, and has constantly talked them up while going through bad patches.
Many Gunners fans have grown frustrated with Wenger's lack of movement in the transfer market. It is plain for all to see that the Gunners lack a focal point up front since being robbed of Robin van Persie through injury.
With some £30million to £40million sitting in his transfer kitty, Wenger was expected to at least address this problem in January. However, the best the Gunners boss could come out with was that the club were interested in Valencia's David Villa, no bid was made.
That frustration has been passed onto Andrei Arshavin. The outspoken Russian international has called upon Wenger to buy big since his move last year and is said to be very upset that his manager has failed to bring in a proven striker.
With Robin van Persie absent, Wenger has had to rely upon his diminutive play-maker as a make-shift striker. And in a move that is sure to upset his captain who called for unity and his manager, Arshavin has said they will never win anything with him upfront.
"Third place is where we stand today, and that is already a great success for Arsenal when you take into account the class of our eleven players,' said Arshavin. 'Of course, we try to win every match, but class is class...
"If Arsenal want to become champions, how can they select Arshavin as centre forward?' he said
When pushed on what prompted him to speak so freely about the Gunners title chances, Arshavin said "It's from frustration.
"Van Persie is injured and unlikely to play again this season.
"Eduardo is injured too, but he may be ready to face Chelsea. We are in a difficult situation when it comes to recruiting players."
Arshavin's comments will not be welcomed by Wenger or Fabregas. The Gunners are in the middle of their most crucial part of the season. Having lost all their momentum thanks to a 3-1 reversal to Stoke, Arsenal then drew 0-0 with Villa.
A frustrated Arsene Wenger then tried to cover his teams poor performance by labelling Martin O'Neill's team as being a "physical long ball team." This drew the ire of the Villa manager, who then launched his own furious tirade against Wenger.
Following on from that result Arsenal were comprehensively beaten 3-1 by Manchester United at the Emirates. Earlier this season when Arsenal lost at Old Trafford, Wenger was prompted to accuse Manchester United of playing "anti-football."
The Gunners must now travel to Stamford Bridge before taking on Liverpool at the Emirates knowing that one defeat will end their slim title chances.
Winning the title has always been a distant dream this season, it now looks as if the dream will roll on to next year.