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Arsene Wenger Faces His Most Important Preseason Yet

When the final whistle went after Sunday’s match, Arsene Wenger could possibly view the previous 7 days as one of his worst weeks since he began his 13 year tenure in charge of Arsenal. In two massive matches, Wenger has seen his side start fantastically well in both games, get caught by a sucker punch and then collapse, his players heads dropping with a collective “Here we go again”.

There’s no doubting that this has been Wengers toughest season, with probably more criticism than he’s ever received since he came to North London back in1996. His signings have been questioned constantly, his buying policy questioned at every turn, having his tactics poured scorn upon week in, week out, even his future has begun to become a point of speculation. Yet, his response to a question about fans leaving early for the second home game in a week was unusual to say the least, “Everybody is free to leave the stadium when he wants, I don’t believe we put in a bad performance today”

I hope he’s trying to deflect criticism from his players, but he’s got strikers that can’t score, defenders that hate each other, a captain that leaves young players to try and get their own head together after making a mistake and midfield that all want to play through the middle. Of course, there’s not too much wrong with Arsenal, but Wenger really needs to bring a little bit more steel into the side and more togetherness. This is a side that seems to be pulling away from each other, rather than together.

Once Arshavin settles in and Eduardo gets a full preseason under his belt, the options upfront seem a whole lot better. The loss of Clichy and Gallas has been a big blow recently but they’ve still done well in the league, until Chelsea picked them to pieces on Sunday, Liverpool ripped them apart at will but met two players on a mission to keep Arsenal in the game. Walcott will keep improving but needs more games and to get through this injury hampered spell, Fabregas will always give you quality in the middle.

The key question is if any of his stars actually try and leave or even if one of the suitors finally comes in to take Fabregas/Adebayor/Toure away from the Emirates, what will Wenger do? Will he get the money to reinvest in more rough talent that simply needs a couple of years of polish or will he go for real top quality? Or as some are beginning to speculate, Wenger has gone as far as he can at Arsenal and the lure of AC Milan, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich will finally be too much for him to ignore as he comes up to his 60th birthday?

Next season Aston Villa, Tottenham, Everton and Manchester City will all be more consistent, all will have more experience and will look to fill the gaps in each side over the summer. The three sides above them will all strengthen with top level reinforcements and Wenger will have it all to do keeping Arsenal competitive in the 3 big competitions next season along side the other Premiership big boys. A bad draw in the Champions League qualifiers could see Arsenal dumped out before August and crucially, before the transfer window shuts.

Beautiful football is all well and good, but if it keeps leaving nothing in the trophy cabinet, what price a bit of blood and thunder if it brings home some silverware? This Summer will be Wengers most important since he joined Arsenal, let’s hope he manages it.