The way I see it - Arsenal v AS Roma

Last updated : 24 February 2009 By Jason Hogan

Having witnessed the best moment of the season on Monday, courtesy of Arsenal's number nine, I was back to being consumed with frustration and an air of resignation by Saturday night.

We didn't exactly make chances every 90 seconds against the Black Cats. But over the course of 90 minutes, we had enough chances to get the job done. Not surprisingly, Arsene was busy laying into Sunderland for their approach to the game. But the truth is, the game was another illustration of a bare fact - we are not bloody good enough.

On Saturday night, I got to thinking back to the last article written by Paul McCarthy at the beginning of last season before he defected from the Sunday People to the News Of The World. Now, as any Arsenal fan should know, the vast majority of journos are honorary season ticket holders at Old Trafford or Anfield but, in fairness to McCarthy, I have always considered to him to be more even handed in his assessment of Arsenal.

Anyway, in this particular article he was giving his views on all the Premier League clubs on the eve of the season starting and I will never forget the way that he dismissed Arsenal as being a bunch of "make dos and maybes". That comment made my heckles rise considerably at the time. But now, I think that he was right in what he said - he was just a year or so out.

Paul Merson was a great player for us in his day. As a TV pundit, however, it's safe to say that he isn't the sharpest knife in the draw and is prone to coming out with some pretty daft statements. But he has actually been right about one or two things though.

At the start of the season, I remember him saying that if Arsenal had any realistic chance of winning the league, then our first choice players had to stay fit and available to play every week. Without attempting to reach deep down inside, I knew full well that he was right.

Even last weekend, Merson made the point that there players in the Arsenal team right now that were not only not good enough to play for us but they wouldn't get into Aston Villa side right now. And again, I couldn't even begin to argue with a word he said.

I'll put the question to all of you, my fellow Gooners. Do you think, hand on your hearts, that the likes of Denilson and Messrs Eboue, Diaby, Song and Bendtner would get regular football, say at Aston Villa or Everton right now? Let's put it this way; I wouldn't put my mortgage on it.

Now, I appreciate that some Gooners might say it isn't their fault that they have become regulars in the team and that because of injuries they have been pressed into action almost by default. Some would say that I am being disloyal to the club and these players who happen to represent us.

Well my reply to anyone who says that is simple. Just because you happen to love something or someone doesn't mean that everything in the world is alright. And, whichever way you look at it, the fact is we are a club that have dealt in doing things in half measures for one reason or another in recent times.

Yet, in spite of this, there was good old Arsene spouting off another pile of hollow rhetoric about the club yesterday, its values blah, blah,blah. He even went on to say this team is two years away from dominating the league!

It was cringe worthy stuff given how things have gone for us in the main this season and I personally thought his comments as a whole were unworthy of him at this particular time.

At this point, I can imagine some Gooners calling me some sort of plastic glory hunter right now but if they did, they would be seriously misunderstanding me.

I was on the terraces watching the Arsenal in the early eighties and, as anyone who was around at that time will tell you, it was often not an altogether pleasant experience. And, as I have said many a time on this website, I have seen us win AND LOSE more trophies than most fans outside of Arsenal can poke a stick at.

I've also been around long enough to know that trophies don't just fall out of the sky and into Arsenal's trophy cabinet no matter how many wishes you make. But, at the same time, if it IS your genuine ambition to win things, major things in this day and age you are not going to do it on the back of idle bluster or rhetoric and half baked theories or practices.

If you're a big game hunter and you want to shoot lions, tigers and elephants in the jungle, you are not going to get very far with a water pistol or a pop gun. But, when you look in general at what we have done in the transfer market over the last 18 months in particular, it's hard to say that we have armed ourselves adequately enough to challenge for the things that Wenger keeps telling the world we are capable of winning and achieving.

Yes, we are still in the FA Cup and yes, we are still in the Champions League. But even if, by some miracle, we win either of those competitions and even if, by some miracle, we end up in the top four at the end of the season, I feel that Wenger, Gazidis and the Board really need to sit down and think seriously about where the club is going.

Because for me, the thing that matters to me most of all is not winning trophies as such. What matters to me is that the club doesn't end up sabotaging all that they have built.

Wenger has been pivotal to say the least in taking the club into a different stratosphere I appreciate that. But what is central to ensuring that what we have built doesn't go to rack and ruin is determined by what we do on the pitch from year to year.

At the moment, we are a big club that is turning into a jumped up youth academy. If we really want to be up there with very best we cannot keep paying token lip service to the pursuit of success.

Now, it's time to briefly look at tonight's game with Roma.

Luciano Spalleti's team are a talented but fairly erratic bunch. In the group stage, they were beaten at home by FC Cluj yet were able to thump the PRF 3-1 later on in the same group stage.

I think they have a talented midfield options. Danielle De Rossi, Simone Perrotta, David Pizarro and Alberto Aquilani are all guys who are capable of providing inspiration and are well capable of doing spectacular things on a football pitch.

We will also come up against our old mate, Julio Baptista. The boy has certainly fitted in at Roma fairly well and is not quite the same drunken bull that used to ply his trade with us. He has been making some bullish statements on Roma's behalf in the media and is clearly looking forward to crossing swords with us.

Then of course you have Francesco Totti, the man who embodies what Roma are all about in a similar way that Gerrard does at Liverpool. The boy has been a great talent for years but hasn't always delivered when it really matters.

The real danger man for me is Vucinic. I have watched a fair bit of him and he is a real talent. Totti may be recognised as the talisman for Roma but I believe if this boy is fit and plays well, then Roma will play well.

It's the sort of game that will go one of two ways for us. If Roma bring their 'A' game they will be a problem and could get themselves in a good position going to the return game. If not, then Arsenal have an opportunity to stake their claim.

In other words, despite our injuries, Arsenal will have to raise their game tonight if they are going to get the job done. Let's hope that they can do just that.