Arsenal's new season starts now

Wembley v West Ham (1980); Wembley v Luton (1988); Parc Des Princes v Real Zaragoza (1995); Villa Park v M*nure (1999); Stade de France v Barcelona (2006)...and to that list I’ll now add Emirates v M*nure (2009). All devastating defeats.

The sad fact is that we were never in the Champions League semi-final.

Blame it on individual errors, injuries to key players, the formation, the manager, the referee, the watering of the pitch...the sad fact is, that over two games, against one of the two best and most consistent sides in Europe (much as it pains me to say it), Arsenal were shown up.

We simply were not good enough.

I recall the end of the transfer window in August last year and the feeling of doom and gloom felt by so many Arsenal fans that without reinforcements, we were not going to be able to compete.

In some ways, we were wrong. We reached the last four of the Champions League despite all manner of setbacks and hurdles and that HAS to be applauded. Thousands of other clubs would kill for our comparative lack of success.

We’re on a long unbeaten run in the Premier League and that too is cause for optimism.

But when it really counted, in the big big matches that define players, define eras and define football clubs, we were caught lacking too many vital ingredients...

I don’t blame Arséne Wenger entirely. He is a great manager and someone I am proud to have as our coach. The look on his face on Tuesday said it all – he was devastated that his confidence and optimism had been so misplaced, that his side had been shown up as minnows against might.

I can already see what will happen this summer – we’ve been there so many times before with big names such as Manu Adebayor, Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie linked with moves away, not to mention Theo Walcott’s uncertain contract situation.

We will be linked with all manner of players, 99% of which will be nothing more than journalist fantasies.

But, with the pressure almost totally off now (whatever some say about still chasing third, which is nothing more than a pipe dream), now is the time for Wenger to start planning for next season and a serious assault on silverware.

This is the time to blood young players. Let’s see Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Carlos Vela, Kieran Gibbs and even Kyle Bartley given an extended run in the side. Let them learn and fail and frustrate and entertain and do all the things young and inexperienced players tend to do.

Wenger must use whatever time he has now to identify the new, established players who can take us from nearly men to really men.

 

The example of Andrei Arshavin should remind Wenger that quality is the most important thing. It is all very well nurturing talent but without success and consistency, each new crop will simply move on. Buying talent like our little Russian has been a revelation, his class is outstanding and a couple more players with his class and experience could be the difference between delight and dismay.

 

I hate losing. I hate coming second or third or fourth and I sometimes wonder if Arsenal has what it takes as a club to push themselves to the level of domination Liverpool or M*nure have established in recent eras.

But being a supporter means having hope, believing in the possibility of success, or there would be no point in turning up, whoever we support.

I’m sincerely hoping that Tuesday was a wake-up call for Wenger, and for those on the board.

We need to decide who we buy, who we sell and do it early, in order to ensure we do not have another unsettling summer, which Wenger himself admitted had had the adverse effect on the team that we all feared it would.

Let's hope Wenger and the Club move forward and quickly, and that this time next year, we're anticipating glory, not grief.