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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Arsenal at the crossroads

Arsenal are seen as a club in crisis. The expected departures of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, soon after the exit of Gael Clichy, the last member of the Gunners' 2003/04 'Invincibles', would leave a huge hole in a team that is already under pressure to deliver. Boardroom uncertainty and unrest amongst senior players does not help matters.

However, there is more to this current state of flux at the Emirates Stadium than meets the eye. It is supposed that a six-year trophy drought and associated itchy feet of his top players is forcing Wenger to abandon the self-sustaining transfer model and youth-based recruitment policy that he cherishes. Everyone is saying the manager must splash the cash in the form of massive transfer fees and huge wages and those looking at the Premier League betting odds will agree.

It is true that the Gunners have a tighter wage structure than their main Premier League rivals. The fact that they have made a £27m transfer profit in the last five years, compared with expenditure of £380m at Manchester City and £98m at Chelsea, is indeed admirable.

Nonetheless, they are not averse to making big money signings, most notably Andrey Arshavin and Samir Nasri. It is just that Wenger is adept at making huge profits by moving players on at the right time. The big purchases will inevitably increase in the forthcoming weeks, as Clichy, Nasri and Fabregas are core parts of the current team.

It is no bad thing to replace unmotivated talismanic senior players who dominate the changing room with fresh talent. A transition period will of course ensue, but as Wenger proved in winning the title in his first full season, he can gel players quickly.

If Arsenal are at the crossroads, it might just be that they continue on the same course rather than making a major turning down a different avenue. The cut-price starlets, intermingled with household names will continue to arrive, with the end of season trophy haul the only thing that Wenger will want to change.

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