By Avenell Dave
It's so easy for us to point the finger at Arsene Wenger.
He's the manager, allegedly the most powerful man at any football club in the world with a huge salary and only interested in getting his financial bonuses for making the club a profit every season, right?
He's old school in a modern world, the game has passed him by and his refusal to listen to anyone is at the heart of Arsenal's demise.
I don't deny that some of his purchases, some of his team selections and the lack of transfer activity sometimes leaves me confused and frustrated.
We can all be managers from the sidelines or the sofa, we can all pick players the club should or shoudln't sign.
We can all be experts. We can all suck in what we hear from 'experts' with an agenda, pundits trying to make a name for themselves or the media looking for a headline.
But none of us really know how easy or difficult it is to manage a football club, particularly one as high profile as Arsenal.
It's clear that at the very least, Wenger had his budgets constrained for five to six years after we moved into the new stadium with the need for upfront, uncompetitive deals and to repay the stadium debt hampering his plans.
Only now, as new commercial deals are coming in, will we be able to compete in the transfer market and resist sales of our best players.
We simply cannot be a club in transition forever.
For all his faults, Wenger has battled to resist the competition from clubs who have thrown much more money at their transfer budgets and ever season he has managed to get us into the top four.
It is not enough. But it is something. And it is something Liverpool and T*tt*nh*m would dream of doing and have not been able to emulate. It is a credit to the manager.
After losing quality players like Flamini and Edu on free transfers, we overpaid on wages to players who did not justify it and hopefully the club have learnt from that naivety.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing and that some players have not lived up to their reputations or grown into the players we would have hoped they would become (Arshavin, Gervinho, Chamakh, Squillaci, Bendtner) is as much down to their own shortcomings and lack of determination as it is the manager's coaching, selections and their pay packets.
It speaks volumes that Arshavin and Squillaci, for instance, refused to take loan moves that would have given them some playing time. Their attitudes stink.
And personal and professional pride is what it comes down to, to a certain degree.
We have some decent players.
Yes, some are not performing to their potential and we all know the squad needs strengthening but that can't happen until the summer now.
What really gets me angry is seeing players not giving their all, not chasing down every ball and not realising that 60-odd thousand fans in the stadium and millions around the world would give anything to swap places with them.
Only Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey consistently show the fight that every Arsenal player should show.
You can argue all you like about the virtues of some players but pretty much all of the first team are capable of world class performances.
Arsene Wenger has made the careers of so many players and this curent crop - especially the younger core who could be the future of the club for a decade such as Walcott, Szczesny, Gibbs and Jenkinson - need to follow Jack's example and realise that without exerting every drop of sweat and fighting for every ball (see Bayern, Barca), they will never be more than good players. And they're capable of being so much more.
They owe that to Wenger, the Club, the fans and themselves.
Villa have such a decent record at our place and despite their recent slump, will no doubt put in a decent performance. Anything other than three points will be a disaster.
We have 12 games left this season and I still feel we can aim higher than fourth, however much of a consolation prize that may feel right now.
Jenkinson Mertesacker Koscielny Monreal
Walcott Giroud Podolski