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Wenger has to wise up...

By Ian Henry

...to his squad building failings

And the board needs to wise up too – and tell the manager to deal with the squad’s problems immediately or tell Ivan Gazidis to do it over the manager’s head. Something like that happened in the last few days of August, so there’s no reason why it can’t be done again.

I’ll leave commenting on the specifics of our sixth league defeat of the season to others; however, as we have reached the midpoint of the season, it’s reasonable to ask whether the manager and the team are doing the business. To my mind, the answer is an unambiguous no. Certainly nothing I have seen in recent weeks makes me think the second half of the season will be any better – at this stage last season we had lost 5 games, with 8 defeats by the end of the season; on that basis we will end up with at least 9 or 10 defeats come May. Progress anyone?

Granted being fifth is a darn sight better than we might have expected after the farcical way the team started the season, but the recent failure to build on 1-0 leads and the apparent return of the tendency to concede late goals (something Wenger’s teams have always been likely to do it has to be said – remember the late goals in Europe conceded to Lens, Bayer Leverkusen, Dynamo Kiev and many others when we had so many of the fabled back four of yesteryear playing?) means that fourth place is yet again going to be the limit of our ambitions this year; however, securing even that will require significant improvements in so many areas of the team that it is far from a gimme. There’ll be no St Totteringham’s day this year, not unless the current deficiencies in the squad are addressed sharpish and the sloppiness which allowed Fulham to score twice and Wolves to score once eradicated.

Bringing Thierry back is merely temporary box office, but it’s papering over the cracks. We have no support strikers of any value. There’s nothing new to be said about the pointlessness of Chamakh and Park. A few weeks ago, Wenger said Park and Oxlade-Chamberlain will have roles to play, since when they have been notable for their complete absence from the pitch, even the substitutes bench. We have 5 defenders injured and none of them is likely to play for the next few weeks at least, and only Vermaelen (if we are lucky) will be back for the ManU game. At least one of Koscielny and Mertesacker will probably have to play against Leeds, unless the centre back pairing is Miquel and Squillaci, in which case the last weekend in January will be a free one. We have no real experienced cover for Song, and such cover that we do have has been sent to Wolves or has to play at left back. We have Diaby who has made just a couple of cameo appearances this season and the manager has no idea if or when he will come back.

The manager says he will look for a defender in the loan market, but until or unless he delists some non-domestic players, any incoming players will have to be English; and who is going to be available? Wayne Bridge, and who else?

Failing to beat Fulham home and away, failing to beat Wolves and scoring just one goal against QPR must tell Wenger that his squad is just not good enough. But as I wrote the other week, he is hamstrung by the structure of the squad. The 25 players rule, and specifically the 17 non-domestic players rule, means that you need to start the season with enough flexibility in the squad to permit additions to the squad in January without needing to create space for new signings first – if you do start the season with 17 non-domestic players, you had better be sure that they are all top notch and guaranteed to remain injury-free. Only a fool would base his strategy for the season on such a premise. But having stocked the squad with non-domestic players of average ability or worse, unless they are sold or delisted (i.e. kept on, but paid and not played), bringing in players like Vertonghen or Podolski is not going to be possible. Park, Chamakh, Diaby, Squillaci, Fabianski and Almunia occupy places in the squad which need to be filled by better players. One of these (or someone like Rosicky) will have to be delisted or sold even for Thierry to claim his temporary place in the squad.

Common sense tells you that there will be more injuries during January and our experience with the length of time our players take to recover from injuries in recent years means the squad needs strengthening, but it also needs to have spaces in the squad to fill. We simply should not have started the season with 17 non-domestic players, especially with so many who are not good enough; the self-sustaining model will do no more than sustain these players in the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed, but will do little to address the weaknesses in the squad.

Arsenal have, we are led to believe, money to spend in this transfer window but they are unlikely to do much. No doubt we will be told that the players the manager wants are not available at the present time. The problem is that we need players, experienced players and we have the money. At this point in my articles, I tend to quote Mr Dylan, but this time Mr Jagger will do – You can’t always get what you want Arsene, and now is the time to look elsewhere.

The manager will no doubt say the team has done very well after our disastrous start to the season. In fact I think he said something like that on the website the other day. Of course, he is right, but why should we have to settle for this? We have to hope that someone will bend the manager’s ear and not let this transfer window pass by without doing what needs to be done. We can still finish in the top four, and if what needs to be done to restructure the squad, we might even catch Spurs. However, I doubt the club will do anything substantive at all. Perhaps we will win “the finishing 5th to qualify for the Europa Cup trophy”; after all, we have won the “finishing in the Champions League qualifying places trophy” for so many years now it’s getting boring and a new “trophy” would look nice in the trophy cabinet. And remember winning “the finishing 5th or worse trophy” will come with added “goodies” like the replacements for Van Persie, Song and Walcott who will be signed in the summer transfer window. Happy New Year one and all.

3rd January 2012 09:00:00

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Comments and Reaction

User comments on this article are now closed. If you want to continue the debate, why not do so on the Gooner Forum.

allybear  12:49pm 3rd Jan 2012

Nice article Ian and very true. Unfortunately excuses can be made about AW being hamstrung etc but to my mind his failings have been obvious for quite a few seasons. He was very good for Arsenal at one time but his time is now up. His interview on MOTD was very poor and as usual the world is against him. Ok it was a clear penalty on Gervinho but Djourou clearly commited fouls and deserved to go as did Lampard in the Wolves game but he got away with it. The weaknesses in the squad are very obvious but AW chooses to ignore them. - Post No. 18183


Ron  14:29pm 3rd Jan 2012

Fair points. The Henry thing leaves me utterly underwhelmed. It shows where we are as a Club. Hes well past it. He was when he left! Its a PR con, though many will rejoice at the sheer reminising value his signing offers. Its clever of the Club to come with it so to deflect from their oft repeated fallibilities and errors, ill give them that much. Again though, its the Club taking the p--s out of the fans. knowing that many will fall for it.Ive got some news for you Arsenal, many havent fallen for it. - Post No. 18197


CT Gooner  15:46pm 3rd Jan 2012

I agree completely. The current squad are performing as well as can be expected IMO. This is a mid table squad on Champions league pay, only Arsenal supports deserve (and are paying for) much more... - Post No. 18202


RED FRED  18:33pm 3rd Jan 2012

I am not exactly overwhelmed by Titi playing although he is a legend but if he plays instead of Walcott i will jump through hoops cos i never been so dissappointed with a player in my 35 years as a gooner, Walcott cant pass, cross, dribble yet shows flashes of brilliance occasionally, sort him out Mr Wenger! - Post No. 18211


jason  22:24pm 3rd Jan 2012

Baines,podolski,jagielka and/or cahill need to be brought in.Diaby needs to go along with Rosicky & Gibbs as they are never fit.Henry is a PR stunt.A proper trophy may not be enough to keep RVP.Spurs could well be 9 points clear of us by the time we play Swansea.Walcott's goal scoring record is shocking this season.Hasn't scored since Chelsea away and not all at home this season in the league.And what has happened to our so called youth policy? What a shambles. - Post No. 18235


Dickie  22:46pm 3rd Jan 2012

Think I should have read this before commenting (about the 17) on the ed's Fulham post! No hope of any squad improvements for yet another window. Thank heavens that Liverpool, Chelsea and even United are doing there bit to keep us in contention for a champions league spot. Let's hope Jack comes back fit and raring to go next month. - Post No. 18240


Noz  7:49am 4th Jan 2012

Much like the editors piece concerning Wenger, this article is also bang on the money. I have been talking about Wenger's and the squads deficiencies for so long now I'm bored. It used to feel like blasphemy to say such things but Wenger has insulted the fans and displayed such arrogance for so long now I just want him out of my club now. We need a football manager not an accountant. Way back at the ****e Hart Lane game I shouted Wenger Out and nobody agreed or disagreed. I shouted the same at Fulham and seemed to have the same reaction. I would honestly have been happier to have been told to 'shut the f@ck up!' rather than have had silence again as it at least shows an opinion. Again, it used to feel like blasphemy but now I am so hurt, disappointed and angered I will finish with these words 'GET THE F@CK OUT OF MY CLUB WENGER! - Post No. 18248


Aaron  10:57am 4th Jan 2012

Aly Cissokho has been made available for loan by Lyon, he should be signed immediately. Wayne Bridge is on £90k a week and was a complete liability at West Ham (he made Walcott look competent at Upton Park). We need someone out wide who can be creative and score goals on a consistent basis. We need to break the bank and show some ambition by buying a Neymar, Gotze or Hazard - Post No. 18268


clockendpaul  13:42pm 4th Jan 2012

Aaron... this club shows no ambition gone are the days we could attract players like gotze or hazard. Gotze's father has already said as much. - Post No. 18286


p0mp0us  23:19pm 7th Jan 2012

Be a millwall supporter for a week - Post No. 18421


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