Wednesday 20 November 2019

Gunners don't need major rebuild, just a bit of extra steel to close the gap

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will have around £50m to spend in the summer, and a new centre back, central midfielder and goalkeeper are under consideration
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will have around £50m to spend in the summer, and a new centre back, central midfielder and goalkeeper are under consideration

Jeremy Wilson

"Insanity," Albert Einstein said, "is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." It was once put to Arsène Wenger, who predictably offered some alternative wisdom.

"Keep changing and you achieve nothing in life," the Arsenal manager replied.

It would have been a convincing riposte if we were now seeing a clear and tangible advance in Arsenal's journey. Yet for the fifth year in succession, we have arrived at the same destination and are dissecting a European campaign that has ended at the first knockout stage, this time against Monaco.

Arsenal have had 17 consecutive years in the Champions League under Wenger but just how near are they to lifting club football's most prestigious trophy?

"Far," admitted Gunners captain Per Mertesacker. "Monaco were very underestimated. We had one bad game and that was enough. We didn't deserve it because we played so poorly in the first leg.

"We missed in the first game that mental level you need to compete at the highest level. You could see in the second leg how good we are. We need to consider that every single day in training and in games. That's why we are so far away."

There will now be a huge focus on the changes that Wenger should make to his squad in order to improve next season. He will have around £50m to spend, and a new centre-back, central midfielder and goalkeeper are under consideration.

Southampton's Morgan Schneiderlin and Borussia Dortmund's Neven Subotic are among those being regularly scouted but what Wenger needs most are additions with the on-field instinct to manage a situation like the first leg against Monaco.

He also needs to insert into his team something closer to the 'win at (virtually) all costs' mentality that seems to pervade the Chelsea dressing-room.

Mertesacker, Mikel Arteta and Jack Wilshere are the closest in Wenger's team but there are not enough.

The frustration is that Arsenal largely do now have the quality to compete with the elite.

A huge rebuilding job is not needed. Two wins in Manchester since Christmas tell you that. So too a squad that contains Alexis Sánchez, Mesut Özil, Danny Welbeck, Ramsey, Olivier Giroud, Santi Cazorla, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott and Laurent Koscielny.

Taken individually, there is also nothing wrong with the mentality of the players. They are mostly diligent young professionals who are still maturing and growing into potential leaders.

The problem has been the collective blend. Yet if Arsenal are to deliver when it really matters, it is this subtle but hugely significant imbalance that Wenger must redress.

If he does not, further seasons of only very qualified success beckon. That really would feel like insanity. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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