Thursday, March 1, 2012

Arsenal FC: Why This Summer Will Be the Period That Defines Wenger's Reign

Arsenal romped to a stylish victory against their arch-rivals Tottenham by scoring five goals and it was an excellent performance from the side especially after going two goals down. Arsene Wenger was clearly frustrated when Emmanuel Adebayor scored from the spot and would have demanded a reaction from the players. Their performance after that would have even surprised the manager, who has come under severe criticism this season. It was Arsenal at their best maintaining their attacking passing game at high intensity and also, they were clinical in finishing off the chances.

The players were thrilled by that performance and it was the sort of performance that could turn this season around for the Gunners. It is clearly observable that the players have huge respect for their manager, who have helped several players realize their potential. He has shown immense faith in his players but his faith has been misplaced at times which is why he has come under flak from the supporters and the media. This Arsenal team does not have the quality or the depth needed to win the Premiership title which is why the supporters have been frustrated though they still have the quality to finish fourth at the end of the season.

However, Wenger deserves the patience of supporters and the board and should be entrusted with the task of making them champions again. He has the experience of winning titles and should be given the freedom to spend freely in the next summer. It is clear that he has done an excellent job spending as much as he has but if there is money to spend, then it is imperative that Wenger spends it on quality players who can be the key to winning games.

Arsenal are not going to have the spending prowess of Manchester City or Chelsea but they do have a manager who has the capability to make astute acquisitions and if he adds three to four high quality players, then this team could challenge for titles. However, for them to spend money on players, it is also important for them to be ruthless when it comes to players who are not performing up to the required quality.

Though Wenger has not spend much on transfer fees in the last five years, Arsenal's wage bill is quite high which is due to the inflated wages received by some of the under-performing players. For example, Johan Djourou has been awarded a new contract despite not performing at the highest level for the team. Though he has tried his best, it is clear that Arsenal need better players if they are to stay at the highest level. Another problem with the current transfer decisions made by Wenger is his tendency to make one or two cheap signings just to make up the numbers.

Arsenal have three strikers in their squad out of which one is world class, the other is probably a mid-table team striker and not much is known about the third. Now, if Van Persie was to be ruled out due to a long term injury, then Arsenal fans would shudder at the thought of having to rely on Marouane Chamakh or Park Ju Young for goals till the end of the season. There are some players like Per Mertesacker who have the quality but take time to adjust to the Premiership and the league which is why it is wrong to make judgements on this summer's signings after only eight months in the Premiership.

Wenger has made mistakes especially in this summer's transfer market when they sold key players in Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri and did not sign the players of the same quality. However, the Frenchman did make some important signings for the team who could be a key part of the future as well. Mikel Arteta has adjusted well to his deeper role in the side and is already one of the most important players for the team. Per Mertesacker has shown that he has the quality to be a top defender for the Gunners and did show signs of adjusting well to the Premiership before getting injured. Gervinho might lack the end product but there is no denying his talent and he could develop into a very important player for the Gunners.

Also, the signings of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joel Campbell show that Wenger's eye for spotting talent has not deserted him and those two could develop into fine players who could be regular players for the Gunners. He has the quality to identify the players who could bring in the quality required and the board and Ivan Gazidis must ensure that they sign the player by beating competition and offering what it takes to sign a quality players. Players like Mario Goetze or Eden Hazard do not come on cheap wages or low transfer fees but these are the kind of players who could provide the quality and creativity that Arsenal need.

Wenger needs to be persuaded to be more ruthless in the summer ad they need to free up the transfer funds by selling players who have under-performed. Nicklas Bendtner, Denilson, Sebastien Squillaci, Manuel Almunia, Johan Djourou, Marouane Chamakh, Park Ju-Young and even Abou Diaby needs to be sold in order to provide the manager the funds to sign better quality players. Wenger and Gazidis need to be swift in signing their transfer targets as well and even if it means spending a little extra million, it is important to get the right player for the side.

With Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott also nearing the end of their respective contracts, it is extremely important for the manager to convince them to stay at the club to avoid what happened with Samir Nasri. Walcott has been erratic on many occasions this seasons for which he has come under criticism but he has the quality to be a very good player. Wenger could be important in persuading him to sign on with Arsenal because he will only continue to get better. Also, he will face some excellent competition from Gervinho, Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain and Ryo Miyaichi which could also help him step up his game.

Holding on to Robin van Persie could be the most important thing for Arsenal in the summer because the Arsenal captain is easily the most important player in the current side. He is currently 28 years old which is why it is even more tricky with him because this could be his last chance to make the move to a top club like FC Barcelona or Real Madrid. The Dutchman has shown that he has the quality to break into any side in the world which is why it will be tough for Wenger and the Arsenal board to convince him to stay.

The wages offered to him would not be the major point of discussion because Arsenal would have to offer him world class wages if they were to have strike any meaningful contract extension. It is important to convince him that quality reinforcements will arrive and only that will make him consider staying at Arsenal. He has stayed with Arsenal for eight years and it is evident that he is very proud to be the captain of the team. His commitment and professionalism has been exemplary and though he is currently happily settled at Arsenal, he will want to win trophies before the end of his career.
Though he has always defended his team members as captain of the team, he will know that quality players are needed to help them win the title in the near future. If Arsenal can finish their transfer business as fast as they can in the summer and show their ambition, there is no reason as to why Van Persie will not want to stay at the club because he does share a great relationship with the manager and also prefers Arsenal's passing style.

Arsenal do have a decent core in the likes of Wojciech Szczesny, Laurent Koscielny, Thomas Vermaelen, Bacary Sagna, Jack Wilshere and Van Persie but these players need the support cast which can help them win titles. The likes of Alex Song, Theo Walcott, Gervinho, Aaron Ramsey and Kieran Gibbs can further improve to build on their undoubted potential while there are many promising players like Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain, Francis Coquelin, Emmanuel Frimpong, Campbell and Miyaichi who could be very important for the future.

Though a picture of gloom and ultimate downfall has been predicted by many, it is not the case as Arsenal do have the players who are capable of winning trophies. But they also need some reinforcements in order to win titles. It has been a very difficult season for Wenger and his blame and they have nobody to blame but themselves for their performances. However, there is still time to turn things around and Wenger is likely to have one final opportunity to build a title-winning team in the summer.
However, if he fails to bring the quality that they need, then it will most likely be the end of Van Persie's time at Arsenal and more importantly, it could be the end of an era at Arsenal. However, one would hope for Wenger that he can take the Gunners to the top once more and for all the achievements that he has done at Arsenal, he deserves to go on a high note and by his own decision.

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