2007-2008 Season –The watershed year? (Eduardo and Diarra)
When I see newsfeed comments that all the last year 10 years were a failure, I do not consider that’s fair on Wenger. There can be frustrating seasons that end without calling in the chippy to extend the trophy room, but that does not mean calling in the boss’s chips. It’s only the likes of Real Madrid and Roman (who thinks He should act like a Real) who bin a manager even after he has won a Champions League or a league title.
In 2006, we were Thierry Henry’s heavy legs in a thunderstorm away from going 2-0 up in Paris with less than 20 minutes to go. There were no serious calls on Wenger to go then. 2007 was a poor season. The old team breaking up, a new stadium for a team to bed into, but Wengers stock was such that he largely got away without criticism for putting out a scratch side out for the League Cup final against Mourinho’s Chelsea. If Diaby hadn’t hurt his leg kicking Terry in the head, who knows what, would have happened?
The ”sliding doors” year for me is 2007/08. Henry had gone and a new young team starts the season.
Van Persie, Adebayor and Eduardo are Bendtner are our four strikers. Gilberto is benched for a midfield of Flamni, Cesc, Hleb, Rosicky and we sign Lassana Diarra from Chelsea as a right back /DM back up. A young Walcott is introduced gradually.
We play sensational football for the first half of the season. Pass Move, walk the ball in .Even when we lose Van Persie to his perennial injury after 10 games, Adebayor steps up. The Greatest Striker To Ever Live, Lord Bendtner, wins us the North London Derby and we are clear at the top. Eduardo chips in with goals in the cups and gets a few starts in the league. His is Gerd Muller like in the six yard box. Hleb has the ball glued to his feet, except it stays there when he has an opening on goal!
Diarra has impressive cameos in the cups and in the league when Cesc misses a couple of games. But something is stirring there? After an outstanding game in the League Cup at Blackburn, Diarra is not retained for the following weekend home to Chelsea, (which we win 1.0!). Diarra is not called up over Xmas and then we hear he has refused to play in the FA Cup at Burnley. It seems he criticised that there is a Wenger hierarchy. However, well you play; you have to wait your turn!
In his Defence, Wenger may point to the success of the Flamini-Cesc combination during the season, where we had only lost one game to date. But, surprisingly, Wenger lets Diarra go to Portsmouth in the January window.Diarra must have done something bad to be let go after three months? Does this show cracks in the great Alsacion? Can he not manage unruly players? Did Diarra have a point re the Wenger hierarchy?
To me, this was poor decision and as fundamental to our failure as the emotional trauma of that day at Birmingham! We lost a right back and DM cover. We lose Sagna to injury and go to Liverpool in the Champions League QF with Toure at right back and Senderos centre half. Flamini also runs out of steam (with a Milan tap up, a factor?). Diarra could have fitted in for either Flamini or Sagna.
The Liverpool loss hurt me as much at the Semi Final replay of 1999. Walcott’s sensational run that set up Adebayor for us to take the lead on away goals, yet Toure gives away a harsh penalty almost immediately.
We lose Roscky in January and then the black day at Birmingham and Eduardo’s injury. We are down to two strikers and the emotion of the draw at Birmingham casts a cloud over the team who stutter through the next few games.
Wenger can be criticized for failing to pull the players out of their collective slump. We were unlucky in some of the following games. At home to Boro, a Boro player passes back and the ball goes straight to Ade who his flagged for offside, but the ball had come from their player!
The Centre half situation was a portent of the future.Wenger thought he could get way with centre backs of Gallas, Toure and Senderos and only brought back an unfit Djourou back from loan in January.
We lose the big games against Chelsea and Manchester United, both after taking the lead. The team shows signs that it does not play the pressure on games well. Further evidence is shown when the title is gone and we win our last four games at a canter in pressures off football!
As Phillip Auclair says, it was Wengers unrequited team in a season that got away. We still achieved 83 points; a total we have not exceeded since. We were beaten to the top two by the teams that contested the Champions League final in Moscow. We also had our main striker missing for most of the season.
This was the watershed season for me for in terms of what happened after this season.
The midfield was dismantled with Flamini. Hleb, Gilberto all gone and Rosicky out for, most of the next season. The replacements of
Denilson, Diaby, Song & Nasri never gelled in the same way to put it mildly. We have not come as close in the league since.
It was a “sliding doors” season. Wenger was almost a genius with the young side of that year. He wins the league that year and it’s up there with the rest of his achievements. My questioning of the boss, started that summer for breaking up the midfield. He made a judgment call that the next batch coming through would suffice. They did not and that’s a discussion for another day.