Martin Keown, who won three Premier League titles under Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, has claimed that his old club’s current squad face the prospect of leaving the Emirates if they fail to demonstrate their winning potential soon. The Gunners’ current campaign has fallen apart as spectacularly as it has suddenly, and the team are struggling to regain the form they showed before a last-minute collapse against Birmingham in the Carling Cup Final which preceded rapid exits from the Champions’ League and the FA Cup.
Keown believes Arsenal still have a chance to snatch the title from Manchester United’s grasp and has stated that the current squad, “have a chance to be part of history and become legends at the club.” If the north Londoners don’t improve however, the former centre-back has explained from his own experience that “Wenger invests a certain amount of time in you as a player and once he feels you are at the end of the line he gets someone else in to do the job.”
Although Keown’s departure from Highbury came at the age of 37, when his influence had declined due to fatigue, his former manager has previously proved his willingness to release his younger stars who underperform, and nothing suggests that his present charges won’t suffer a similar fate. Jose Antonio Reyes was let go at the age of 23, Alexander Hleb was sold at 27 as well as Philippe Senderos, Mathieu Flamini and Emmanuel Adebayor who have all been sold in the past three years.
Although Flamini left for AC Milan after refusing to renew his contract and Philippe Senderos didn’t represent a dependable long-term option due to persistent injuries, Wenger got rid of the other three based on performance and mentality. Not one of them can legitimately claim to have improved as a footballer since leaving, although Hleb was a bit-part member of Barcelona’s Champions League winning side the season after he left and Adebayor is currently enjoying the limelight on-loan to Real Madrid. But what about the class of 2011? With history in mind, shouldn’t Abou Diaby, Denilson, Nicklas Bendtner, Andrey Arshavin and possibly even Gael Clichy be worried they could soon be leaving the Gunners?
It is widely rumoured that the Frenchman has lost patience with Bendtner whose missed chance in the closing stages of Arsenal’s recent Champions League tie against Barcelona may have been his last opportunity to impress. Bayern Munich are apparently interested in the Danish striker, but the futures of Denilson and Abou Diaby remain less certain. The Brazilian has started less than half of Arsenal’s League games this season having featured 51 times in the 2008/2009 campaign, and although his diminishing game-time is largely due to Jack Wilshere’s emergence, Denilson failed to perform at the required standard during Cesc Fabregas’ absence recently. Diaby, however, represents a different consideration.
The France International remained relatively injury-free throughout last season, having endured an extended absence following a leg-break in his first season with the Gunners, and was arguably one of Arsenal’s best players. Unfortunately, injuries have once again impeded his development and the 24 year-old has only featured 16 times this term, scoring a single goal. I believe Wenger will afford the former Auxerre midfielder more time to exhibit his talents on a more consistent basis, but Aaron Ramsey’s return to the first-team, the irreplaceable position Alex Song has carved for himself and Jack Wilshere’s excellent form will force Wenger to at least ponder Diaby’s place in his squad for next season.
Fans of top teams expect a regular delivery of silverware and Arsenal’s have been deprived for six years, which certainly indicates a time for change in some form at the Emirates. The post-2005 project has to be rendered a failure to a large degree, but Wenger retains one of the most gifted squads in Europe, once he rediscovers a system that best suits their talents or employs players who would immediately fit that system, the Gunners will be back to winning ways.
Josh Sheridan writes for Footbal FanCast.com