On Sunday Supplement the topic of Arsene Wenger inevitably came up after a 2-1 home defeat to Manchester United. Arsenal are now eighth in the Premier League and have had their worst start to a Premier League season in 32 years, with 17 points from 12 games. Dismal. Henry Winter came out on Sunday Supplement and harshly rebuked Wenger. Winter argued that Wenger has taken Arsenal as far as he can and that this should be his last season.
Harsh? Probably not. Wenger, as was pointed out by Winter, is guilty of repeating the same mistakes over and over again. The side he has has not done the job, yet he has persisted with it for some time. They have lacked a top class defensive midfielder since Patrick Viera departed, yet repeatedly this hasn’t been dealt with. They’ve also lacked a top class keeper and a top class defence more generally. The back five is not good.
Wojciech Szczesny is not a top class keeper. He’s nowhere near the standard of Thibaut Courtois or Petr Cech at Chelsea, David De Gea at United or Joe Hart at City. He’s not that keeper who is worth ten points per season. He’s good, but nothing special and not the man to organize or carry an Arsenal back line. The defensive organization of said backline has been so bad for a while now. Arsenal had an OK record on paper last year defensively but against top teams they leaked a lot of goals, including, 20 away at Everton, Chelsea, City and Liverpool. Embarrassing. They’ve failed to do well versus the top teams for years. They don’t set up effectively which is on Wenger. The side are set-up in a way that is easy to beat by a top team. They push the full-backs forward, relinquish possession in midfield under pressure and are easily counter-attacked because of their lack of a top defensive midfielder.
In terms of their transfer strategy Wenger also has to take blame. He signed Mesut Ozil for £42 million which appears to have been badly spent. He also could easily have signed a new defender and gone into the season with more than six first team defenders. He should have signed a centre back plus a full-back. He didn’t. They also used to be bad in defence even with a full array of defenders so injuries can’t be blamed exclusively. Further to this his refusal to sign a top holding player and insistence of continuing with a current, poor midfield dynamic is a part of the problem. Arsenal’s attacking players do well versus weak sides but are regularly lacking in cutting edge versus the best teams, or even the slightly better teams. Arsenal are as Winter said a languishing force who are in decline. Wenger deserves a lot of the blame. Yes, he has got them to the top four so consistently, but he may not this year. He has also claimed they can challenge for the title, but they have been woefully short. Arsenal are nowhere near the elite clubs. They might offer Jack Wilshre £150,000 per week, they have the third highest wage bill in the league (higher than Chelsea) yet are consistently off the top. Wenger is running out of excuses and probably needs to be replaced if Arsenal are to go up a level. Right now it’s just not good enough. Like Winter I feel this should be his last season. The current side needs a complete overhaul and the idea that Arsenal are attractive to watch is also a bit of a myth now.