Wenger has a few days to rescue Arsenal’s season before it has even begun

by Charlie Coffey

Thursday, August 11th, 2011


Arsene Wenger has had 41 days of the transfer window to bolster Arsenal’s squad, yet just three days until the start of the Premier League and six until their Champions League qualifier against Udinese, he has failed to address any of the important issues facing his team.

With Arsenal’s monumental implosion at the business end of last season, much was made of their need to purchase experienced players with the mental grit to set an example to the horde of talented youngsters in the squad. No such players have been signed so far.

By not address their problems early, Arsenal have carried the shakiness of last term into their pre-season and were even booed off as they suffered the same old problems and failed to win the Emirates Cup, a tournament that has represented a confidence boost for them and a chance to showcase the latest wunderkinds in previous years.

Although Arsenal were impressive going forward as always going forward last year, they were equally shaky at the back and Gunners despaired of the elementary defensive errors that caused the team to drop points against technically inferior opposition. Wenger has responded by selling French international Gael Clichy, one of the most settled players in his back four with five years of regular Premier League football behind him, and signing 19-year-old Carl Jenkinson, with only seven professional appearances to his name.

Kieron Gibbs and Armand Traore (both 21) may have the talent to replace Clichy between them, but they have not had the necessary experience to develop the kind of mental steel needed to reinforce Arsenal’s often flimsy defence.

At times the defence can perform to their potential, as they did when defeating Manchester United 1-0 in May, but they need to do this consistently over the course of the whole season if they are to compete with rivals who have all strengthened their squads significantly since finishing above Arsenal last season. At present perhaps only Thomas Vermaelen and Bacary Sagna would compete for a place in the starting eleven of Chelsea or the Manchesters United and City.

Wenger has shown vague interest in both Bolton’s Gary Cahill and Everton’s Phil Jagieka, but as yet has not matched their clubs’ respective valuations. He has been told that there is money to spend, but prides himself on his financial frugality and will not pay over the odds for players. Unfortunately such austerity will not take Arsenal forward, away from their current flawed status. It certainly will not win titles.

While he continues to scrimp in defence, Wenger has been decisive in buying a new striker, spending over £10 million on Gervinho. The Ivorian has looked impressive in Arsenal’s warm-up matches, scoring two in the first 15 minutes against Koln, but attack was not the problem that needed a quick fix. It seems Wenger still has his priorities mixed up despite it being obvious to Arsenal fans, and everyone else in the footballing world for that matter, as to what they should be.

In midfield both Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas, Arsenal’s two most creative players, look likely to leave the club, with Marouane Chamakh saying as much to L’Equipe just yesterday. Wenger may be holding out for the best prices for the two, but the proximity of the season opener demands that the issue is resolved soon.

If either player is selected for the Champions League play-off game against Udinese next week they will be cup-tied for the competition for the whole season. The effect will be that either their moves will be cancelled and the players will be unhappy for the whole season (with Nasri able to walk for nothing as a free agent next season), and Fabregas’ value will drop along with his head having missed out on his ‘dream’ move for the second season running.

If the players do leave, Wenger needs to quickly replace them with quality if he has any chance of competing for the title this season. Does he have such players in mind? If he manages such deals, which seems highly unlikely, the players will have to go straight into an unfamiliar team without the benefit of pre-season bonding or fitness with their new team-mates. Such transfers should have been made earlier in the transfer window to avoid this problem.

Arsenal have signed 17-year-old Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. As usual he is ‘one for the future’. Clubs must invest early if they are to secure the best talents for relatively low prices, but Arsenal also need experienced players next to these talented youngster to bring them through. If Fabregas and Nasri go they will be left an extremely talented but young and inexperienced midfield. Deja vu?

There is no point in bringing through young talents such as Clichy, Nasri and Fabregas if they are to be sold just as they reach their peak and replaced with younger models that must then go through the learning process again. Such a team is perpetually stuck in a loop; never quite reaching their potential, and so it has shown at Arsenal over the past five barren seasons.

Udinese are no pushovers, even though they have lost the talent of Alexis Sanchez to Barcelona and star midfielder Gokhan Inler to Palermo. They still have Antonio Di Natale, top-scorer in Serie A for the last two season despite his advancing years with 28 league goals in 2010-11 and 29 in 2009-10, and have the ability to punish Arsenal if the club is still in turmoil over potential transfers and are not settled on the pitch.

For Arsenal to lose the two-legged tie against Udinese would be devastating. It would be the cherry on the top of a situation they are only in because of their collapse at the end of last season, which meant they finished fourth and have to go through this qualification process in the first place. Their nightmare would continue into 2011-12. Top clubs such as Arsenal simply do not budget for the eventuality of missing out on Champions League revenue, and it would be a massive blow for a club already short on confidence. Wenger has just a few days to rescue Arsenal’s season before it has even begun.

Read Charlie Coffey’s brilliant blog at my11.com.

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  • darren

    I think Wenger needs to go upstairs, the man is completely deluded if he honestly thinks this squad is capable of winning anything, even with Fabregas & Nasri!

    We were promised experienced players, it hasnt happened. We were promised he will be active in the transfer market, it hasn’t happened.

    So far we’ve sold or loaned out 6 players and brought in 3, NONE of these have any Premier League experience.

    Where was the clear out? And why are players like Squalchi, Diarby, Eboue, Flapinaski, Bentner still at the club. THEY ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

    Catch 22 – I fear for Wenger and his stubburn ways. I was a Wenger fan but now I’m beginning to lose patience.

    All I can say is, I look forward to watching pointless Channel 5 matches next season.

    3 days left. We need to sigh Mata or Hazard, Cahill, Samba & Parker. Will it happen? No chance

  • mike

    Wenger has wasted a whole pre season on worrying about Fabregas. We should of signed new players first instead of waiting for Barcelona. I’m pissed off and have no faith in the way the club is being ran at the moment.

  • charlie coffey

    Christ Arsenal fans are agreeing with me! It must be bad!

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