By Avenell Dave
As the dust settles on Wednesday night, we saw a rare glimpse from Arsene Wenger that he now accepts that his make-do-and-mend strategy has not worked.
Even if we win the title by some incredible freak, which I will cheer as loudly as the next Addict, the fact is that this is one of the weakest Arsenal sides since Wenger took over.
The current crop of players don't know how to give up, that's true, and the way we have mustered wins against Hull and Wolves in the last seconds says much about our determination.
But it could also be argued that a top class side wouldn't have needed to take until the last minute to win games against poor sides who were down to ten men.
And while we've stayed in the hunt for the Premier League title for far longer than any of us expected, we have been found wanting against our main rivals both at home and away (notwithstanding the freak defeat at Gold Tr*fford that we should have taken something from!).
We all know that Wenger has continually turned pigs ears into silk purses ever since we moved from THOF to Emirates but that sort of brilliance can only go on for so long.
If Ivan Gazidis is to be believed, second place or also-rans is simply not good enough for Arsenal. The marketing of Club Level hints at a drop in take-up for the middle tier seats and while fairweather fans are not to be welcomed, their cash is vital for Arsenal to maintain their impressive turnover. And that means we have to start winning trophies again.
Quite simply, the board have to back Wenger with a generous war chest after years of penny pinching.
So what now for Arsenal?
Here's a few questions Wenger may contemplate over the next few weeks as he seeks to turn us from everyone's favourite team to watch to a truly competitive outfit who can win titles on a consistent basis.
* Can Tomas Rosicky, Eduardo or even Robin van Persie be trusted to play at the top level throughout a season?
The fact is that while Rosicky and Eduardo have had career-threatening injuries, neither of them is even close to being an automatic name on the teamsheet and don’t strike fear into opponents. Was it wise to give them new contracts in the summer when they’ve shown they’re not up to it any more?
RvP is a fantastic player but when was the last time he played a full season? If we can’t rely on him to put in a full season shift now, he is only going to get worse as he gets older, so is now the time to move him on?
* Can Arsenal ever win titles with a sub-standard goalkeeper?
Last week’s impressive performance by Manuel Almunia in the first half against Barcelona was conspicuous by its rarity and the fact that he hasn’t ever represented Spain at international level – not even the youth team – says it all. The defence doesn’t entirely trust him, his decision-making and distribution are shocking and he is, quite frankly, just not good enough. It’s time for Wenger to invest in a new Number One.
* Even if we sign Marouane Chamakh in the summer, will that be enough?
Theo Walcott is improving but as indicated above, RvP never lasts a season and Eduardo isn’t half the player he used to be. We need more firepower, someone with pace and skill who can beat players and has an eye for goal. They don’t grow on trees. Wenger needs his scouting network to find us someone. M*nure have Shrek R**ney, the Ch*vs have Dr*gb* and Liverpool have Torres. We are the odd one out.
* Why does our defence continue to leak goals?
Wenger said last season that if we conceded at the rate we did last year, we could not win trophies and yet we have been just as generous at the back this year and it can’t all be placed on Almunia’s shoulders.
Bacary Sagna was guilty of not playing the offside trap at the Nou Camp and allowing Barca to break on more than one occasion while the Vermaelen/Gallas combo hasn’t proved to be any more robust than when Kolo Toure played. Isn’t it now the time to sign a younger version of Sol Campbell, a tall, aggressive and determined centre-back who isn’t afraid of putting his head where it hurts, wins headers and knows how to lead the backline.
* What is the point in fringe players who never play?
I was shocked that Wenger admitted ahead of the Barca game that Carlos Vela was fit but not selected for the squad – and it must have been a big blow for the Mexican, especially after his fine showing in La Liga a few years ago. Does that mean that Wenger has lost faith in him as he seemed to have done in Mikael Silvestre until all other options were exhausted? Armand Traore must be another who wonders where his future lies after being omitted at Silvestre’s expense against Wolves last weekend. If Wenger doesn’t trust these guys, let’s get in players who can make a difference rather than carrying deadwood.
* How many of the players out on loan are going to push for the first team?
It has been written by bloggers and Arsenal ‘experts’ that as soon as Wenger lets a player go out on loan, that’s the end of his Arsenal career. While C@$hley Hole was certainly on his way to Crystal Palace before Sylvinho’s passport issues became apparent, the likes of Nick Bendtner, Kieran Gibbs, Alex Song and the soon-to-return Jack Wilshere all put paid to that argument.
But are the likes of Lansbury, Randall, Hoyte, Simpson, Gilbert, Barazite, Nordtveit or even Bartley (who I personally rate) ever going to make themselves first choice players or are they just costing us wages and taking up space and funds that could be better used on players Wenger actually trusts?