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Where Has It Gone Wrong? Comparing Arsenal 2012 To Arsenal 2011

Assessing Arsenal’s sharp decline during the past 12 months, looking at each area of the 2011 team compared to the current side and where things have gone wrong

Arsenal midfielders wilshere and fabregas

The Champions League was never a competition that Arsenal fans envisaged Robin Van Persie lifting the trophy for come the end of the season, but the humiliation in Milan last Wednesday night left a dreadful feeling of realisation in Arsenal fans. Whether you want Arsene out or you would do anything to keep him at the club, AC Milan revealed to more or less every Arsenal fan that we are simply not a very good team any more.

In less than a year, we have gone from one of the best Arsenal sides formed under Arsene’s reign to a side that is probably his worst. The lack of desire, innovation and ability in the Arsenal side on Wednesday night and then again on Saturday against Sunderland was plain for all to see and they were results where for once, you could not begrudge the opposition the victory in the slightest. Both AC Milan and Sunderland were better in every single department and something needs to change at the club.

So how have we got in this situation? How have we managed to develop from a side that was heroically beating Barcelona at the Emirates Stadium to one that was barely able to manufacture a clear cut chance at the San Siro or the Stadium of Light? Last summer was a huge summer of change but the negative effects of that change only became apparent to many Arsenal fans, including myself, in the last week.

This post will take a look at comparing the two Arsenal sides in the past year and take a shot at deciding why the huge fall from grace has occurred from Arsenal.

A year ago, you could expect the Arsenal side to line up like this:

Szczesny, Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy, Song, Wilshere, Fabregas, Walcott, Van Persie, Nasri

Nowadays, an Arsenal side would probably appear a little like this:

Szczesny, Sagna, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Gibbs, Song, Arteta, Ramsey, Walcott/Chamberlain, Van Persie, Gervinho

So what has changed? Comparing the two sides, you can only see three glaring differences in truth. No Fabregas, no Clichy and no Nasri. On top of that, you have the absentee of Wilshere through injury, although that is roughly balanced out by the missing Vermaelen from the side last year, who spent most of the season on the sidelines.

So what is it about the side last year that was so much more effective than this year? Why could a side with Fabregas and Nasri not do what a side with Arteta and Ramsey can? Let’s break the sides in to four areas


Wojciech Szczesny is one of the few players who appears in both sides. So surely that is one area that is just as stable as last year? In many respects, the answer is yes. Szczesny is still a fantastic shot stopper, a commanding presence and by far the best goalkeeper at the club.

However, despite this, you can’t help but feel the enthusiasm and consistency of the new goalkeeper has disappeared from the one we saw a year ago.

During the course of his appearances last year, since his Premiership debut against Manchester United, Szczesny made one glaring error in the form of the calamitous mix up with Laurent Koscielny in the Carling Cup final.

This year though, the amount of errors has risen significantly. Ones that spring to mind are from Kyle Walker, the Fulham game on New Years Day and various goals conceded from free kicks. All of these have created cause for concern but I still don’t think there is any doubt Szczesny will be our number one for a long time.

The lad is a star in the making, but the same repeated errors do need to be ironed out of his game to really cement his position. There is no doubt a slight decline in his game has affected the side massively.


This is one area that is particularly difficult to compare because for the majority of this season, Arsenal haven’t been able to keep the same back four together. However, I would go as far as saying this is the only overall area in which we have improved from last year. Laurent Koscielny in particular has come on leaps and bounds in his development as a footballer after THAT error last year, so much so that I consider him to be our most complete centre back, ahead of Thomas Vermaelen.

Per Mertesacker has also proved to be a decent addition to a defence that is renowned as fragile. His reading and experience of the game has proved invaluable to Arsenal and he has dramatically improved in recent games to prove many, like myself, who criticised him near the beginning of the season wrong. It’s a measure of how much he has improved that he was sorely missed in midweek during that disgraceful performance in Italy.

The one area that I do feel we have decreased in quality in, is the left back position. Whilst Clichy was prone to errors, he was marvellous on his day. Admittedly, I do feel Andre Santos and Kieran Gibbs can be just as good as Clichy, but injuries to the pair across the course of the campaign have left us missing the regularity of a left back we can always rely on to be available. I would take Clichy back in a flash.


This, above any, is the main area that reflects the decrease in quality of Arsenal over the last year. Don’t get me wrong, I believe the acquisition of Mikel Arteta was a superb one and he is a player that is more than competent of filling the midfield area for Arsenal. He has added some much needed experience to our midfield. However, I also feel we desperately miss the abilities of Wilshere, Nasri and Fabregas to change the game in an instant.

Whilst I do admire both Arteta and Ramsey, they don’t at this moment in time strike me as the players who can create a piece of magic that can turn a whole game around. Both are adapt at passing and finishing, but they still miss that little bit of flair that Nasri and Fabregas have.

As a player travelling to the Emirates, I would not feel the same fear lining up against Cesc and Nasri as I would lining up against Arteta and Ramsey. Cesc did it multiple times during his Arsenal career. He’d pick the ball up and produce something world class to completely change the run of play.

Bar Ramsey’s goal last week against Sunderland, I don’t see him as being the sort of player who can do that at the moment. I am still confident he can become that player, however.

Wilshere is also one of the main reasons for Arsenal’s decline. He has been a huge  miss this season. Last year he was an absolute revelation in the Arsenal midfield but without him, we lack a player who can keep the ball in dangerous areas and then distribute it.

Against Barcelona at the Emirates, we matched them in terms of passing, keeping the ball and getting out of danger. I could never imagine this Arsenal side doing the same thing.


Finally, attack. Undoubtedly, Robin Van Persie is the main man for both Arsenal sides I’m comparing and if anything, he has been a lot more prolific and effective this year than last. However, past that, I think we are a lot worse off compared to last year. We are missing a Marouane Chamakh who was still full of confidence and scoring for fun, at least at the start of the season anyway.

Whilst we also have the emergence of Oxlade-Chamberlain who will go on to become an Arsenal great, we have a Theo Walcott who is lost without the supply from Fabregas and Nasri. Theo is assisting Van Persie on a regular basis this season but he is missing the ability of a Cesc or Nasri who can find him in acres of space so he can score goals like the ones he did against Chelsea and Blackburn last year.

In terms of the left wing, we have Gervinho who is a fantastic player. That’s a given. However, his lack of confidence and ability in front of the opposition’s net is something that has cost us thus far this season. Whilst we may be more of a threat in evading players on the wing, with a misfiring Gervinho and Walcott, we are certainly less clinical than last year.

Overall, I believe we are a different side to last year for so many reasons. Whilst we are a more direct, effective side in some departures, we are certainly less effective at keeping the ball and scaring the opposition. Last year, sides knew they wouldn’t get a sniff of the ball at the Emirates.

How different it is this year… For me, there is one overriding reason for the fall in our power. That reason is Cesc Fabregas.

Thanks to and An Arsenal Story for submitting this guest post.



  1. Aran

    February 20, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    “we have gone from one of the best Arsenal sides formed under Arsene’s reign”.
    Not really. I remember everyone saying last year’s was the worst they’d seen; and we needed heavy investment.
    Well how much we speak too soon, eh.

  2. Scravaldio

    February 20, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    Its not AW’s fault its the board insisting he makes profits from player sales to make up for there incompetence in managing the commercial side of the club. Please sign the petition below or google Save arsenal FC as there is a solution which s to get rid of the SOCCER board and bring in a FOOTBALL board.

    Please re tweet or like as we need as much promo as possible. Thanks

  3. Joseph paul

    February 20, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    I think in my own opinion wenger should go to d board so as arsenal should go for barca coach thanks

  4. Mike Gunner

    February 20, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    No manager is indispensable. His position is safe when he can win games.
    You take someone from the championship to manage Arsenal,if he starts winning and make the gunners competitive,he would be as good as those with a good track record.
    The problem is the board will play safe by getting someone who has won trophies.
    By his std ,Wenger would have been axed at any ep[ club. The writing is on the wall.

  5. Godswill

    February 20, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    If arsenal stil had fabregas u wil find out dat they would stil be scaring there opponents away irrespective of whether nasri or wilshere is playing. Any day arsenal replaces fabregas who can stay in his own half and give that incisive pass then opponents wil fear arsenal again.

    • Michael

      February 20, 2012 at 2:42 pm

      Of course I am not surprised by the season so far I knew we were in for a horrid season when Fab left and Nasri followed him out the door as well. We needed more quality before Fab left and if we had that even he may not have left could you see him leaving had we been winning doubles and he was surrounded by Quality players. He deserved to be in a big club sadly Arssenal have become a mid table squad for years now up until now we where hitting above our weight class then we dropped all but RVP when it comes to top quality players. BUT I know it would be great to see huge signings but lest you forget Arshavin is still the record highest transfer to Arsenal even Henry was a cheap signing. The transfer policy has not changed at all it is just lately luck has been against us. Ramsey was supposed to be top talent but when a player looses a complete season of development then there was Eduardo silva we have tried to bering in top talent that is on the rise not buy players after the world is demanding big wages and they have 2-3 season left but they want 5 years deals. People forget look at some of the transfers at Chelsea and how big names did not work out and the later end up unloading them at a loss. Sure it won them a few trophies but where are they now? And can anyone afford to buy their discards now?

  6. Mike

    February 20, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    Hi Arsenal Fans!

    You must understand that Wenger has surfed on his past glories for years now.
    The board allowed him to make young unknowned into stars because commercially it was beneficial, and because Arsene was able to do it.
    Do you remember when Wenger told the world how his team was destined to a great future?
    Well that! .. was when Adebayor just stepped up and AW was explaining trophies were about to arrive to the Emirates.
    Well.. well .. we’ve been tricked!
    And Properly!!!
    I would rather like the attitiude of Alex Ferguson who shut his mouth and speak little but poor his own balls in his management!
    Wenger is today the nose in his own pooh!
    He created that situation.
    When he had Cesc and a working team around him he refused to spend.
    How Gooners if he had spent the money on a couple of stars to partner Cesc,
    I’m sure trophies would smile at us.
    But he didn’t!
    Because AW has the notorious and uncomfortable belief that he knows better than others and that he can outsmart them!
    Well now you look sad and pity but there’s no excuse to build on the overcheap when you have the opportunity to build stronger.
    If you win the lottery woul you still drive your broken car and maybe just replace tires to be ok???
    You’ll buy a shiny brand new car with options!
    Well AW is still trying with its old one!
    Now I can point players who are not good to be at Arsenal,
    last year I could do by saying a few but this year they are too many …
    Where are the fighters?

    to be frank I’m disgusted!

    Wenger knew! And they’d better get their thumb out their arses if any improvement may be seeable!

  7. ezra

    February 21, 2012 at 9:46 am

    the biggest mistake that arsenal did was to sell quality players and replace them with weaker ones.For example can you compare Chamack/park and Squilacci/Djorou to Kolo and Adebayo, Hleb and Flamini to Arshavin Rosicky and Fabregas and Nasri to Ramsey and Arteta?.Arsenal has become weaker over the years and its nolonger the same team that used to be feared by their opponents but if Wenger and the board decides to change then Arsenal will be able to experience the glory days

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