Arsene Wenger isn’t known for dabbling in the winter transfer window. In fact he deems that it should be “scrapped”. History though tells us another thing. Over the past couple of seasons, Arsenal has entered the winter transfer window needing an extra signing or two. This season is much like the previous. More important, because this year Arsenal desperately need that cover because this season could make or break Arsenal. No exaggeration there.
It’s been in the news for a while that Arsenal needs that extra cover — for positions all over. The loss of their wingbacks has been hotly discussed; much more the reinforcements to cover for lone striker Robin van Persie. Plus the delayed injury to Jack Wilshere means the Gunners are short in the centre of the park. What has been Wenger’s response? The return of a former great; no signings for the rearguard and a “hot prospect with potential” — haven’t we heard that before?
We have, and once again we’ve heard Wenger say that the “squad is good enough”. That’s just Wenger talk. The squad isn’t good enough and if there was one season in which Wenger should have dived headfirst in the transfer window, the 2011/2012 season would have been it. We merely have to go over the positions to witness how badly he needed to purchase (or loan even) some players…
The dilemma upfront for Wenger though is obviously and one that’s happened before you’ll think that ‘the Professor’ would learn from it: Van Persie is injury prone. Wenger in turn has tried to use the Dutchman sparingly, giving the other strikers, Marouane Chamakh and Ju Young Park the chance to impress. Simply: they just aren’t good enough. Wenger’s solution was bringing in Thierry Henry for a two-month loan spell. Hardly a clever move. He might have all the class he had for years, but the fact he’s only here for a short period, what happens if Van Persie gets injured after he leaves? Surely a 6-month loan option for another striker would of been a better option or should Gunner fans rely on the misfiring duo of Chamakh and Park (not to mention the erratic performances of Arshavin, Walcott and Gervinho)
In terms of the midfield, one can sense that Arsenal needs that extra grunt. That’s been well documented, but Wenger was relying on the return of Jack Wilshere. That’s right, Wenger was placing the hopes of the team on a 19 year old to carry the Gunners. Common sense would suggest that experience is required, but where is it? Wenger brought in Yossi Benayoun, but he’s hardly played. Mikel Arteta has been good for the Gunners but he’s injury prone. Alex Song, Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky can hardly carry the midfield alone. Where’s that extra muscle? The latest news is that Wilshere is out for the season. Surely that’s the sign for Wenger to go searching for that signing? He’s name is Thomas Eisfeld a 19 year old from Dortmund, whom Goal.com’s Clark Whitney says that he’s “very raw, entirely unproven player, not yet ready for football at the highest level”. Is this really Wenger’s solution to the midfield problem?
Bad defending and Arsenal are one and the same. This season, once again the Gunners have been dreadful at the back. But that’s not to say that the Gunners don’t have quality personnel. In the centre of the park, they have Per Mertesacker, Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscelny. Problem is after that is where the team suffers. Johan Djourou and Sébastien Squillaci have shown they are not up to it. On the wings is the biggest problem, with Andre Santos, Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson out for a lenghty period (the return of Bakary Sagna is a bright spot). Yet again Arsenal has had to rely on raw talent in the form of Ignasi Miquel, Francis Coquelin and Nico Yennaris who Wenger says “is suited to the top level”. That’s after one game against Manchester United. Shouldn’t Wenger have gone searching for that defender with experience who could help out when required?
No he didn’t. Wenger has stuck to his formula from over the years, leaving Arsenal relying on youthful prospects during crunch time. Is it going to work? History tells us no, but this season it has too. Arsenal is in a dangerous position of no Champions League. Miss that and Van Persie might find the value of playing elsewhere; incoming players might figure its better going to other rivals teams at the prospect of playing at an higher level and what about those young players who figure it’s better to pull a “Nasri”? Get game time and experience at Arsenal then run off to winning team?
It’s breaking point for Wenger. If this backfires on him, he better be prepared for an ambush of criticism. Or we could be wrong; Wenger proving us he’s the man we all say he is. History though doesn’t say so.