When Arsene Wenger arrived at Arsenal in 1996, critics raised many an eyebrow. But as the trophies rolled in and he transformed Arsenal into one of the most skilful teams in the world, the same people began to laud him as a genius. Now, after a sixth consecutive season without a trophy, it seems that the eyebrow-raising has justifiably returned.
One problem for Wenger is that it seems obvious to everyone what Arsenal’s problems are and obvious how to sort them out. Obvious to everyone except him that is.
Firstly, Arsenal’s goalkeeping situation has been a farce for years. Following David Seaman’s departure, Jens Lehmann, Manual Almunia and recently Lukasz Fabianski – despite periods of good form – have all been laughingstocks. One appalling mistake after another cost Arsenal dearly and Wenger’s refusal to buy Shay Given and Mark Schwarzer cost them even more. Admittedly, Wojcich Szczesny is the best of a bad bunch but the Carling Cup debacle was all too familiar. Maybe it’s time for Wenger to bite the bullet and buy a world-class keeper.
Beyond this, there is no bigger problem position for Arsenal than at centre-back. Granted Thomas Vermaelan was out for the season – not only is he the best defender at the club but also one of the best in the league. But to be in a position where Laurent Koscielny and Johan Djourou were your regular central defenders, with Sebastien Squillaci as first reserve, is frankly bad management.
Christopher Samba and Gary Cahill are being mooted as potential singings and whatever it costs, Wenger should pay it. The stability and more importantly the leadership these players can bring will be invaluable for the current side.
Arsenal clearly have not replaced Henry or Adebayor. It is simply laughable that the nearest thing to a tall, powerful striker the club has is Nicklas Bendtner who despite his embarrassingly misplaced confidence, is not and will never be a quality striker. He is one who must be sold and replaced with someone of the Henry/ Adebayor mould: powerful, skilful, pacey goalscorer.
Aside from the useless Bendtner, Wenger should be more ruthless. There are too many average players at Arsenal – Denilson, Chamakh, Clichy, Djorou, Koscielny, Rosicky, Eboue, Almunia. All of these players hold back a squad laden with talent. They ought to be sold and replaced with world-class players, players who Arsenal can still attract.
Undoubtedly, Wenger is a genius and his football philosophy deserves to be rewarded. However, at the risk of sounding like Alan Hansen, he will simply never win anything with kids. Two essential features of his successful Arsenal teams were experience and power. Vieira, Adams, Seaman, Wright, Bergkamp, Henry, Campbell, Pires – all of these essential players possessed at least one of these qualities and as skilful as this team is, you will never win the league with 11 Nasris or the Champions League with 11 of Cesc Fabregas.
Arsenal crave stability, power and leadership and this simply cannot be instilled in youngsters automatically, it takes a long time to develop and to put it simply, Arsene Wenger cannot afford to waste any more.
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