Five reasons why Wenger's losing his grip at Arsenal
1 FAILURE TO KEEP STAR NAMES
Published 24/01/2012 | 05:00
On July 11 last year, Arsene Wenger said this: "Imagine the worst situation -- we lose Fabregas and Nasri. You cannot convince people you are ambitious after that."
To say such a thing, the Arsenal manager must have strongly fancied his chances of keeping the pair. Why else would he risk labelling the club as unambitious? But label it he did when Fabregas subsequently joined Barcelona and Nasri left for Manchester City.
Before that happened, however, a chance still existed to at least soften the blow. When it became clear the two players were off, when the club were rightfully bargaining hard to get the best deals, Wenger should have made provisions by bringing in quality replacements.
Instead, he delayed and was eventually forced into panic buying at the last minute, hence the imperfect solution of signing Yossi Benayoun.
2 LOSING HIS EYE FOR A PLAYER
On the subject of quality, Wenger's reputation gets damaged when he is seen to persist with substandard players. Think back to how long Philippe Senderos stayed around when it had been clear for some time he wasn't quite good enough.
The same was true of Nicklas Bendtner and maybe Johan Djourou now. Yet Wenger keeps faith in a way other managers might not. How many more chances will Andrei Arshavin get? Park Chu-Young is different in that he was fortunate to win a contract in the first place.
One player, who lined up with the South Korean at Monaco, could not quite believe that Wenger actually rated the striker, so average had he been in France.
So, having been enthralled by Henry, Bergkamp, Vieira, et al, the supporters revolt when mediocrity turns up.
3 REFUSING TO SPEND BIG
If one thing frustrates Arsenal fans more than anything else it is Wenger's reluctance to go the extra mile when pursuing a transfer target.
The Frenchman seems fixated with buying at the right price, rather than paying a little more to tie up the deal and secure players who can make a real difference. Gary Cahill looked to be in that category when Wenger made a bid last summer.
Bolton wanted more money and negotiations fizzled out, all for the sake, it seemed, of a few million pounds.
But Wenger backed away, before eventually signing Per Mertesacker at the 11th hour. The big German, as yet, has not justified that faith.
4 TACTICAL NAIVETY
Wenger has never been a tactician. His gifts always lay elsewhere, like earmarking talent and giving it the platform to shine in an open, attacking style.
Sometimes, however, caution is required and never more so than when Arsenal travelled to Old Trafford in August. Injuries and suspension forced Wenger into fielding a vulnerable-looking side.
Under the circumstances you could have forgiven the manager for trying to keep things tight. But no.
The visitors tried to play their normal expansive game and got thrashed 8-2. It is difficult to forget humiliations like that, especially when it could have been avoided with a different game plan.
5 THE CARLING CUP DISASTER
Last year's Carling Cup final must still rankle with Wenger, the way his team threw away a great chance to end their trophy famine.
On that February afternoon, it was Birmingham's impressive veterans who ended up celebrating following a disastrous mix-up between defender and goalkeeper. Some might say it was 'only' the Carling Cup, but that trophy would have lifted some pressure off manager and players and perhaps changed the atmosphere at the Emirates.
Instead, the fans trooped away from Wembley wondering how their team had blown it. Even worse, those players couldn't recover. A worrying mental frailty caused their season to implode. More worrying still, Wenger was powerless to prevent the collapse, prompting a swell of doubt that is beginning to grow. (© Daily Telegraph, London)