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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Wenger at a crossroads

It’s no secret that this season could end up being one of the most challenging of Arsene Wenger’s fifteen year tenure at Arsenal, but the fact that there are now certain sections of the Emirates that have lost faith in their manager and actually want to see a change at the top of the club’s hierarchy should be viewed as very worrying indeed. Wenger has always invested in youth, but now there seems to have been too much spending with the future in mind, and not enough thought given to the short-term – and that timescale is now the one which is threatening Wenger’s job.Those who bet on the Premier League certainly doubt the Frenchman's abilities to turn things around.

The fact that Arsenal chose to spend £15m on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – an eighteen-year-old of undoubted promise, but who surely cannot be relied on to offer a consistent supply to the likes of van Persie and Gervinho – speaks volumes of where Wenger’s priorities lie. He clearly envisages leaving some manner of a legacy behind, but in this day and age it is the six years without delivering a trophy that people are going to remember.

Even with Fabregas amongst the Arsenal ranks, there was a feeling that the team lacked a leader in the vein of Patrick Viera, but following their former captain’s departure to his native Barcelona, the armband has been left to Robin van Persie. Despite his obvious talent, he also has some well-documented injury issues and will therefore struggle to lead his team from the physio’s table. Also, by the nature of his role as the team’s star striker, he also plays with his back to his men and will be unable to grab the game by the scruff of its neck when the going gets tough.

So the solution for Wenger seems obvious: buy a striker to cover van Persie when he is injured; buy a leader in midfield to rally the troops – and buy them now whatever the cost.Are Yossi Benayoun and Mikel Arteta the answer? Creative yes, but driving leaders? I don't think so.

In an age of instant gratification, where those who watch live football at the Emirates demand results now Wenger perhaps sees himself as a prophet. But the bad news is that such people are so rarely appreciated in their own time – and should things not improve soon, Wenger could well end up with his head on a plate.

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