Arsene Wenger ready to dump Arsenal flops after San Siro Champions League humiliation
ARSENE Wenger is considering a major summer shake-up of his failing Arsenal squad after Wednesday night’s 4-0 humiliation against AC Milan.
Wenger was genuinely shocked by Wednesday’s match and, having publicly savaged the performance of his team, there was also a 'clear the air’ meeting at Arsenal's training ground on Thursday.
According to one source, Wenger “went crazy” and vented his anger directly at the players for a performance that he regarded as the worst in Europe during his 15 years as Arsenal manager. There was a general acceptance among the squad that Wenger’s criticisms were justified.
Several prominent first-team players are now playing for their future, including Theo Walcott, Tomas Rosicky and Andrei Arshavin, whose contracts expire over the next 18 months but have yet to secure new deals.
Arsenal will also consider offers for Marouane Chamakh and Sébastien Squillaci, who have barely featured this season, while other fringe players, such as Nicklas Bendtner, Carlos Vela, Denilson and Manuel Almunia, are finally expected to be sold.
The club’s half-yearly accounts will be published this month and, following the sales last summer of Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Gaël Clichy, a likely profit of £55 million is set to prompt disquiet among fans.
Wenger, though, was frustrated in January by the unavailability of his main targets and preferred to keep his budget intact. He is still tracking Cologne’s Lukas Podolski, Borussia Dortmund’s Mario Götze and the Lille playmaker Eden Hazard, but knows that Arsenal would have little hope of competing for such sought-after players if they do fail to reach next season’s Champions League.
Even if they do remain in the Premier League’s top four, Arsenal also face the threat of being outbid by richer rivals.
Wednesday’s defeat was hardly an enticing advert for potential signings and could also only reduce the chances of persuading Robin van Persie to extend his contract beyond 2013.
Van Persie, the Arsenal captain, was said to be forlorn in the dressing room after the match.
Yet while Arsenal are keen to open negotiations with Van Persie, the lack of decisive progress on Walcott, Arshavin and Rosicky suggests an uncertainty on all sides.
Preliminary talks have been held with representatives of Walcott but there is a growing sense that final decisions will be made at the end of the season.
Arshavin is the subject of interest from Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala. With the transfer window in Russia open until Feb 24, he could even leave next week.
Rosicky’s representatives have held talks with Wenger and, although the Czech Republic captain was anonymous on Wednesday, he has been among Arsenal’s better recent performers.
The expectation is that he will be offered a one-year deal.
Wenger’s own position also remains a subject of growing conjecture among supporters.
The Frenchman has regularly stressed that he will honour a contract which expires in 2014, although he would consider his position if he felt that he was underperforming.
Support from the Arsenal board remains solid and Wenger’s position is not regarded as contingent on finishing in the top four.
There remains sympathy from Stan Kroenke, the club’s majority owner, and the other directors at the difficult job Wenger has had this season following the sale of key players.
The hope is that he can secure fourth in the Premier League and then rebuild in the summer with additions of a comparable quality to Fàbregas and Nasri.
It is felt that Arsenal do still have at least the core of a competitive squad in Jack Wilshere, Wojciech Szczesny, Laurent Koscielny, Thomas Vermaelen, Bacary Sagna, Alex Song, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kieran Gibbs, Van Persie, Walcott and Gervinho.
Emmanuel Petit, who helped Arsenal win the Double in 1998, has urged Wenger to get ruthless with serial underperformers.
“I asked myself what has become of the team that I knew,” he said. “It’s worse than I thought. It’s a gulf which is confirmed weekend after weekend. In midfield, there isn’t anything now, the defence is constantly under construction.
"It’s fortunate that Van Persie is up front. Certain young players haven’t done enough to justify the confidence that Arsène has in them. Walcott – somehow he’s going to have to reach the next stage. It’s been years that he’s been at the same level.
“Aaron Ramsey, against Milan, I got the impression it was his twin brother on the pitch. In the way they behave, in their body language, we see they’re not there anymore.
“You have to send out a strong signal. You have to say to Arshavin, and to Rosicky: 'Gentlemen, thank you, but goodbye’. And soon.”