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Monday 15 September 2014

Five things Arsene Wenger must do this summer

Jeremy Wilson

Published 30/05/2014 | 14:19

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Arsene Wenger has reportedly agreed a new Arsenal contract
Arsene Wenger has reportedly agreed a new Arsenal contract

With Arsene Wenger agreeing to stay at Arsenal for another three years, Jeremy Wilson reminds the Frenchman what he must do to ensure they build on FA Cup

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1. Be bold in the transfer market

The year 2014 has always been looked upon as some sort of Promised Land for Arsenal due to the expiry of a series of long-term commercial contracts that were secured to fund The Emirates Stadium.

Over time, they fell behind the value of their rivals but the ability now to renegotiate these deals will result in an annual £70 million increase in income. That will be available to Wenger for squad strengthening.

The first sign of this added wealth was evident in the £42 million purchase of Mesut Ozil but, if the club want to again win the Premier League, it is imperative that this excellent core of young players is supplemented with more established talent.

A central midfielder and striker are the priorities. If Wenger is really convinced that Bacary Sagna has another three years left in him, he should also consider competing with any offer that Manchester City put forward. It would surely represent better value than needing to buy a replacement, especially as Sagna effectively covers two positions for Arsenal.

Wenger has the money. He must now use it with sense and care, but also feel emboldened. There is now no reason why Arsenal should go into key matches - as they did this season - spearheaded by a striker of Yaya Sanogo's limited experience.

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2. Adapt and evolve

One of the great factors in Alex Ferguson's longevity, and sustained success, was a willingness to delegate and absorb new ideas.

This is not to say that Wenger should step back from the lead role he takes in training - a great strength is his hands-on approach - but the expertise that surrounds football is growing all the time.

Wenger was rightly acclaimed as a visionary when he arrived in England.

His methods, particularly in the physical preparation of players, have since been followed but sometimes also taken forward by his rivals. Wenger's stubbornness is legendary and there is the danger of Arsenal simply being overtaken if he is not sufficiently open to new ideas, advice and help from outside experts.

At nearly 65, it will only become more difficult for Wenger to physically undertake all the roles he currently does.

He is effectively now the head coach, manager, psychologist, father-figure and sporting director at Arsenal.

He, and Arsenal, can benefit if he can tap into all the vast expertise that's available and is open to evolving some of the ways in which he works.

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3. Get ruthless with under-achievers

This is a difficult balancing act. Would Aaron Ramsey, Jack WIlshere, Theo Walcott, Wojciech Szczesny and Kieran Gibbs be the players they are now without Wenger giving them their chance at a stage in their careers when mistakes and inconsistent performances were inevitable?

Similarly, as the likes of Yaya Sanogo, Serge Gnabry and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain now make their way for Arsenal, there are moments when Wenger sacrifices what might be the best immediate result in favour of the long-term development of players.

No-one wants Wenger to lose this faith and foresight in handling young talent.

The alternative would be to follow the path taken by Chelsea or Manchester City where so few young players ever get a sustained first-team chance, regardless of how promising they are, because of a manager's perpetual concern with the next result.

The issue for Wenger, however, has been that it is possible to take this faith too far.

Denilson, Nicklas Bendtner and Manuel Almunia are examples of players who were indulged beyond a point at which it was clear they were not quite good enough.

It will now be fascinating to see how Wenger now deals with Lukas Podolski - a reliable goalscorer but someone who should work harder for his left-back. Wenger must be ruthless over these next three years.

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4. Review preparation and medical set-up

Wenger has blamed the team's failure to maintain their Premier League title challenge on injuries to key players and it is clear that the final table would have looked very different had Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil not missed long periods of the season through injury.

Alex Oxlade-Chamblerlain, Kieran Gibbs, Jack Wilshere, Yaya Sanogo and Abou Diaby were other potentially important players who were injured for sizeable parts of the season.

Injuries happen to all teams. But several studies have suggested that Arsenal suffer disproportionately.

It has certainly seemed that way during the last five years. There are many theories. Is it the training methods? A style of football that invites dangerous tackles? An over-reliance on certain players because of the size of the squad? Or perhaps a transfer policy that favours technically gifted but more fragile players?

The answer clearly requires detailed and expert analysis but, as Arsenal discovered this season, improving this will be utterly crucial to the club's chances of building on Saturday's FA Cup win.

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5. Address captaincy issue

A common critique of Arsenal is that they lack leaders, big personalities and players with the dressing-room authority to inspire their team-mates in the most important games.

This theory was partially undermined by the comeback against Hull City on Saturday, but still surfaced at different stages of the season.

It would, after all, be impossible to imagine Chelsea, with John Terry and Frank Lampard in their squad, succumbing to the sort of defeats that Arsenal suffered this season at Stamford Bridge, Anfield and The Etihad.

Arsenal do have leaders but Wenger could do more to push some of them forward.

Captain Thomas Vermaelen is an impressive personality but is now the third-choice centre-back and must simply focus on regaining his place in the team.

Mikel Arteta has been a brilliant vice-captain and role model but will also find himself fighting for his place next season, particularly if another holding midfielder is signed.

Jack Wilshere remains a long-term candidate for the captaincy but is also uncertain of his starting place. It all leaves one very obvious candidate.

Per Mertesacker now has the look of Arsenal's on-field leader and should be given the armband from next season. Arsenal could also still benefit from a few stronger and more vocal characters in the dressing-room. It is something that Wenger should consider when he goes shopping this summer.

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