Saturday, February 6, 2010

Are Expectations Different At Arsenal?

Over the past five seasons, Arsenal has been marked more by its aesthetics than in it's ability to win trophies and championships.

It is hard not to be taken by the attractive play of Arsenal, but their lack of grit and toughness - coupled with defections and injuries to key personnel - have made them 3rd or 4th in the race to the English Premier League finish line over the past 5 years.

On the heels of a 3-0 defeat to defending champion Manchester United, manager Arsene Wenger has risked ­antagonising his club's supporters by saying that ­finishing third in the Premier League would not be a disaster and, in an apparent dig at Manchester United and Aston Villa, suggested that winning the Carling Cup hardly counted as a trophy.

Though it is hardly the sort of thing Arsenal's fans want to hear as their side once again appear to be found wanting in the chase for the title, Wenger insisted: "When you are fighting with Manchester City, Tottenham, Liverpool and Aston Villa you cannot say that because you finished third it is a disaster. It is very important to win trophies but if you do not, you do not go from being fantastic to zero."

Arsenal take on Chelsea at Stamford Bridge tomorrow desperately needing a win to restore their title hopes after succumbing meekly to United last Sunday, with the Champions League their only other chance of a trophy. But Wenger appeared to indicate that the pursuit of silverware for its own sake was overrated, and that although United and Villa would contest the Carling Cup final the eventual prize was hardly worth the effort.

"If you win the League Cup can you honestly say you have won a trophy?" he said. "We have got out of the group stages in the Champions League for 10 seasons in a row, that is three times more difficult than winning the League Cup five times. And finishing third in the league is more difficult than winning the League Cup."

Finishing 3rd in the most competitive domestic league in the world is certainly nothing to scoff at, but it certainly seems like expectations have changed at a club that went through the Premier League in 2003–04 without losing a single match, an achievement which earned the side the nickname "The Invincibles".

After winning an FA Cup in 2005 and advancing to the UEFA Champions League final in 2006, it seems like maybe things have dried up a little at Emirates Stadium.

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