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Is it time for Arsene Wenger to throw in the towel on his Arsenal project?
Six matches in the Premier League campaign and Arsenal sit thirteenth in the table. After a disastrous start to the season, losing three times, winning twice and drawing once, the team have shipped fourteen goals- an average of over two goals per game conceded. In all honesty, the season could have started much better.

The terrible start turned in to a “crisis” after League Champions Manchester United battered the London club 8-2 on August 28th, this came off the back of a 2-0 loss to Liverpool on 20thAugust and then a 1-0 victory against newly promoted Swansea on 10th September.

Indeed, these results sent the media in to meltdown and it became obvious Arsenal required their squad to be replenished and bolstered after the sales of Samir Nasri to Manchester City and Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona.

Arsene Wenger then rushed through a late transfer policy and signed Per Mertesacker, Andre Santos and Mikel Arteta all on 31st August. Prior to these investments, Wenger continued to pursue youth over experience and signed relatively unknown younger players- Carl Jenkinson for example from Charlton Athletic springs to mind.

What worried me the most regarding Arsenal and their manager, who has been at the helm for fifteen years, was that only after Manchester United’s demolition of Arsenal did Wenger deem is necessary to delve in to the transfer market to replace players he sold. The club had a kitty of around £60 million to spend over the summer transfer window to improve the side, but there appeared to be some hesitance on Wenger’s part.

Regardless of losing Captain Cesc Fabregas and exciting playmaker Samir Nasri, it was evident that the club were already way behind Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea. Both Liverpool and Tottenham were also arguably on a par with Arsenal, and the team needed strengthening regardless of summer sales.

Instead Wenger- or Arsenal’s executives- sold players and never replaced them. It seemed stunning to even contemplate Arsenal finishing in the top five come the end of the season, and it was evident by the end of last season Arsenal needed to invest in order to compete domestically and on the European stage.

I would also argue that Arsenal’s rushed signings in August also appear to be rather redundant. These players must be considered a ‘stop gap’ as with these players the side will not win the FA Premier League or the UEFA Champions League. German defender Per Mertesacker is error and injury prone, this was evident when playing for Werder Bremen in Germany, and he can offer no long term solution to Arsenal’s back four.

The Brazilian full-back Andre Santos is arguably Arsenal’s signing of the summer- along with the Ivorian Gervinho from Lille. However, the player is twenty-eight years old and has been linked with big moves each summer for the past four to five years. Nonetheless, the rumours never held any fabrication until this summer when Arsenal spent £6.5 million on the Brazilian. I fear his best years are behind him.

Mikel Arteta was an odd signing. He was brought in to bolster the midfield, after the departure of Nasri and Febregas, but at the age of twenty-nine he is not a player with the world at his feet, and in the long run needs to be replaced.

These players on top of a declining Andriy Arshavin, the lack of a solid goalkeeper and no clear affective centre-forward the club will not compete for trophies this season, and most likely for a while. The question to be asked however, is should Arsene Wenger’s long-term tenure at the club now come to an end? I think yes.

After fifteen years, the club clearly need a new approach. Wenger’s policy of promoting youth, rather than experience is a policy that never fully worked. The club never replaced Patrick Viera or Thierry Henry, yet alone Cesc Fabregas or Samir Nasri. Ultimately change is essential in order for the Gunners to challenge once again in Europe and in the Premier League.


                                                                      Stephen Donaldson
 


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