EPL Betting: Wenger - penny wise or foolish?
the Frenchman's naïve underestimation of Nasri's and Fabregas' desire to leave undermined the campaign from the start.
With Arsenal in desperate need of leadership and more talented players, Richard Aikman asks the question: why is Arsene Wenger so reluctant to do something about it?
Not content with overseeing a rollercoaster league campaign in which his side toyed with Champions League non-qualification, Arsène Wenger made another declaration of title disinterest on Friday by announcing that he would not be looking for reinforcements in the summer, regardless of where his side finish in the table two days' later.
"I feel we will have a very quiet summer on the transfer market," he said, to the collective groans of Gooners throughout the nation. "There is a huge crisis that is hitting Europe and there will be very little movement. In England, it will be quiet because of the 25-man squad rule and if you cannot move the players out, you cannot buy."
So why can he not move players out?
The north Londoners have hardly set the English top-flight on fire this term, and surely by clearing out the deadwood Wenger can make room for some much needed reinforcements that will help his side make the next step up in quality.
Arsenal are crying out for leadership; for players with the experience to turn a match that is running away from them and - more importantly - for players who are tactically proficient enough to know what to do in order to hold on to a lead.
It may be exciting to see Thomas Vermaelen marauding forward in a bold bid to carry the fight to the opposition, but such a gung-ho approach is ill-advised when he is a central defender and his team just need to cling on to a 3-2 lead for five minutes in order to secure Champions League football.
The trouble is, Arsenal have a surplus of sub-standard players enjoying highly lucrative contracts at the club. For every Robin van Persie, Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky there is a Johan Djourou, Marouane Chamakh and Park Chu-Young - and they are about as likely to move on as a squatter who has been living for free in Mayfair for the last three years. Worse still, the likes of Denilson, Andrei Arshavin and Nicklas Bendtner are due back in the capital this summer and those are three players not even Manchester City will be prepared to take off their inflated wage bill.
It has not all been bad news for Arsenal. One could argue that considering how late in the day they lost Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas and how many key and long-term injuries blighted their campaign, finishing where they did has been one of his Wenger's crowning glories. But the Frenchman's naïve underestimation of Nasri's and Fabregas' desire to leave undermined the campaign from the start - and even the players began to question the wisdom of Le Professeur when the season began so desperately.
And they were right. Mikel Arteta's signing proved to be a long shot that paid off as the Spaniard is the only tactically astute player in the side. Unlike Alex Song, who is prone to wandering upfield in search of the killer chip to Van Persie, Arteta reins in his offensive instincts and provides cover. It is no coincidence that Arsenal's end-of-season slump began when the former Everton midfielder was sidelined with an ankle injury.
A defensive midfielder who can shield the back four is what Arsenal need above and beyond everything else. Lukas Podolski is an exciting signing but he will not prevent the goals going in at the other end any more than he could at relegated Cologne this season. Not since the days of Gilberto Silva have the Gunners enjoyed the benefit of a central guard dog - which is why the purchase of Rennes' enforcer Yann M'Vila would have been so warmly received at the Emirates.
But instead Wenger insists that the returnees from the treatment table will be as good as new signings. "One way to strengthen for us is to get Jack Wilshere and Abou Diaby back," he said, clearly forgetting that Diaby is more injury prone than Michael Owen. And so it goes on...