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Wenger's £40m war chest proves he knows best

Arsene Wenger has been promised around £40m to spend in the January transfer window and believes that provides further proof he knows what he is doing.

But there remains a growing sense that Arsenal's previously bullet-proof manager is approaching a critical stage in his tenure, with more and more supporters seeming to openly question him.

Days after comprehensively defeating Tottenham Hotspur and reaching the last 16 of the Champions League for the 13th successive year, Wenger still endured criticism from his own fans after this stalemate and, at the moment, appears to be one adverse result away from an uprising.

The chants of "We want our Arsenal back" have been frequently heard in recent times but it was a refrain of "You don't know what you're doing" that will have hurt Wenger more as he departed the west Midlands on Saturday.

The frustration boiled over with four minutes remaining when he replaced Olivier Giroud with defensive midfielder Francis Coquelin.

Wenger's decision to leave Jack Wilshere on the bench was also a major bone of contention, even though the midfielder has only recently returned after 14 months out injured.

But this is the tightrope on which Wenger is currently walking.

His position is not remotely under threat, with Arsenal's board even discussing the prospect of extending the Frenchman's contract that expires at the end of next season.

Arsenal extended their shirt and stadium sponsorship with airline Emirates in a deal worth £150m last week and Wenger can expect substantial funds to strengthen his squad in the new year. How Wenger spends the money could be crucial in quelling the unrest.

"I knew about the money before. It means the people who invest in us believe we are doing things in the right way," he revealed.

"So it's first a credit in the way we do things and after that, we try to use the money intelligently."

When asked if that proved someone did believe he knew what he was doing, Wenger replied: "Not so much. I only managed 1,600 games, 200 Champions League games. So I'm a bit lucky."

Wenger has instructed his scouting network to find a new striker, with Schalke's Klaas-Jan Huntelaar an early target. Despite the improvement of Giroud, more firepower remains a necessity.

Villa's deserved point inched them out of the relegation zone to ensure tomorrow night's clash with Reading already has a season-defining feel about it.

For Villa manager Paul Lambert the Darren Bent debate continues to dominate his team selection. Bent did not even make the squad and Lambert's insistence that there is no problem with Villa's record signing appears difficult to believe.

"He's fine. The most important thing is Aston Villa," said Lambert.

"It's my choice and I've 27 lads that I have to look after day in, day out. I was dropped about five million times, but that's the nature of the game. Darren's still part of my plans." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent