A season that started so brightly and full of promise comes to a rather bitter and disappointing close. It's getting to be a bit routine for us Gooners, unfortunately. We have one match left in the season, hosting a likely depleted Fulham squad (in anticipation of their Europa Cup final) on Sunday. Spurs have, to our chagrin and that of European football, secured a birth in at least the qualifying stages of the Champions League, despite next season marking the 50th anniversary since they won the league, and can conceivably finish above us in third if they win and we lose. We need at least a point, and it's telling that I'm rather concerned that Arsenal won't be able to earn a draw with Fulham's 2nd team at home.
There are a great many things wrong with this Arsenal side, but the one thing that currently stands out as an overwhelming negative is the attitude of most of the players. Understandably, it's tough for them to be clicking on all cylinders with the likes of Cesc, Song, Gallas, Vermaelen, and others out injured, but the lack of effort or motivation that is apparent is appalling to me. Now, when it is most important for everyone remaining in the side to give maximum effort, most of the team have gone missing for entire matches, and the feeling that this team thinks that all they need to do to win is to turn up, has once again become the norm. Of the players we've been fielding in recent weeks, only Sol Campbell and Robin van Persie seem to give a damn whether Arsenal win or lose.
There are fighters in this Arsenal squad, but not enough of them, and too many seem to be cashing a paycheck and enjoying the ride. This is not the sort of thing that would be tolerated in the days of Adams and Keown, Vieira and Pires, Bergkamp and Henry. It was understood then that if you weren't giving everything you had when you put on the Arsenal shirt, you didn't deserve to wear it. In my opinion, a great many players in the current team need to find new garments.
Players like Carlos Vela and Armand Traore, who should be chomping at the bit to get out there and work their socks off to impress the manager and win a place in the side, have managed to look uninspired even among this group when given that opportunity. Andrey Arshavin, capable of brilliant football on his day, looks as though he's long since mentally checked out, while others like Denilson and Silvestre and above all Lukasz Fabianski, just aren't up to the job.
There are gaping holes in this side that must be addressed this summer, lest the recent dip in form become a downward spiral.
The Arsenal side that has faced Spurs, Wigan, City and Blackburn seems a million miles from the team that decimated Everton on Match Day One, and while injuries have been the overriding factor in derailing our title aspirations, you can't blame them for everything. Injuries don't explain going from 1-2 up to 3-2 losers in the span of ten minutes at a Wigan side that Spurs beat 9-0 at one point this season. Injuries don't explain the myriad mental mistakes and sloppy play that allowed Spurs their first league win over Arsenal in 13 years. Injuries don't explain the complete lack of dedication shown in a dire scoreless home draw with an equally apathetic City side, and injuries don't explain how only two players on the pitch at Ewood Park appeared to have any interest in a positive result for Arsenal.
Yet for all this, there remain bright spots. Robin van Persie returned from a long layoff as though he'd never been out. Sol Campbell, signed as an emergency backup in January after leaving Notts County Berry Farm, has returned to a form reminiscent of his first term in the red & white. Cesc Fabregas, injuries aside, has had his best season since joining the Gunners and seems to be getting better, if that's possible. Thomas Vermaelen's signing proved inspired as the Belgian formed a solid partnership with Gallas at the back. Gael Clichy rediscovered the form that earned him rave reviews on 2007-2008, and Emmanuel Eboue went from being booed off the pitch last season to becoming an integral part of the team and fan favorite this season. Alex Song established himself as the midfield engine, playing the Makalele role as well as Claude himself, and Nicklas Bendtner showed a flair for the dramatic by rescuing Arsenal with crucial late goals on a number of occasions. This is not a team that is diseased, but it certainly is in need of some new blood. And now that Arsene finally has money to spend, we may indeed get it.
I'm not going to turn this blog into a hits whore by repeating the names of all the players we've been linked to in the press. We still have a very important match to play on Sunday, and there's more than enough time for transfer talk in the summer. We have been title challengers at several points this season, and it is that type of effort we will need. No excuses, no blaming the referees, just all-out, balls-to-the-wall desire, hunger and will to win, because I'll be good and goddamned if I'm going to sit here and watch as spurs finish above us in the table, not on my watch.
In the words of Sean Connery, "Losers always whine about their best. Winners go home and fuck the prom queen."
Let's end the season by running a train on that bitch. COME ON YOU GUNNERS!!!