In private conversations, I have been saying for a while that I believed Arsenal are on a downward spiral and that serious changes are required at the club, otherwise they are in danger of being cut adrift from the Champions League challengers.
Joe Montemurro’s side has had many high points over the season, including 6-1 and 9-1 wins against Reading and West Ham United respectively. The Gunners have scored forty goals in the league and have only been outscored by Manchester City and Chelsea (thanks to Wednesday night’s 3-0 defeat).
However, its Arsenal’s head to head against their rivals for the Champions League places that has led to questions being asked of the club’s ambitions. November’s 1-1 draw with Chelsea is the only point they’ve taken in a run which includes two defeats at the hands of the resurgent Manchester City and defeats away at Manchester United and Chelsea.
Arsenal are currently marooned in fourth place and look destined to finish the season in that position. Despite having a good set of winnable fixtures between now and the end of the season, they look unlikely to compete for one of the three Champions League spots, making next year the second season in a row without Champions League football.
I spoke to our Arsenal correspondent, Josh Bunting, about the side’s worrying form, he told me, “I think there’s a few factors, injuries, mentality in those big games. When teams press Arsenal they really struggle to adapt to that. It’s a weird one at Arsenal injuries, the big games and maybe a lack of investment but they signed six new players this season. They haven’t had a consistent enough team this season due to the number of injury problems.”
For me, there seems to be a general malaise at the club and while I rate Joe Montemurro, I am starting to believe a change at the top might give the club the boost that it needs. If the two were to part company then I would suggest that Jayne Ludlow is brought in straight away, the former Arsenal legend would be a great fit and after her stint with the Welsh national team has come to an end she would slot in nicely.
I never like to advocate the sacking of a manager so if Montemurro is to remain at the club next year then investment in the squad is needed.
Back in January, there were rumours circulating that European Champions, Lyon, were looking at signing Vivianne Miedema. It is vital that Arsenal hang onto their top scorer but in order to do so Arsenal must match her ambitions. Arsenal still possesses one of the strongest squads in Europe so wholesale changes are not needed, just more of a refresh.
The stature of the signings is also important. Arsenal need to make a statement that they are serious about winning the biggest trophies in women’s football. I believe that versatile US international Crystal Dunn, Atlético Madrid’s lightning-quick forward Ludmila, or maybe Barcelona’s Mapi Leon are the calibre of players the club should be targeting. They would compliment the squad well and bring excitement to Borehamwood.
With the FA Cup paused indefinitely Arsenal must focus on readdressing their league form which has seen one win in their last five games, starting today against Aston Villa. Wins against Villa and the following weekend against Birmingham City would add a much-needed confidence boost for the Gunners, but in the long term if changes aren’t made at the club these wins will just be papering over the cracks and they will get left behind at those at the top of the WSL.