London – Where does Arsene Wenger go from here? If a number of Arsenal’s angry supporters had their way, he would be as far away from the Emirates Stadium as possible.
Arsenal’s deficiencies were laid bare on Saturday as they slumped to a shock FA Cup defeat against Blackburn.
But Wenger does not have to look too far for the reasons why his side are looking down the barrel of an eighth consecutive trophyless season. There are several.
In 2009 Emmanuel Adebayor left for Manchester City in a £25million deal. He was replaced 10 months later with Marouane Chamakh, who arrived on a free transfer from Bordeaux.
William Gallas left for Tottenham on a free transfer in August 2010; four days later Sebastien Squillaci arrived from Sevilla.
At the start of last season Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy departed; their direct replacements were Mikel Arteta, Gervinho and Andre Santos.
This season Robin van Persie left for Manchester United for £22m, and in came Olivier Giroud from Montpellier for £13m.
From those incomings, Arteta has been the only bona fide success.
Giroud has made a promising start to his career in England, while Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski, Thomas Vermaelen, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Per Mertesacker have gone on to establish themselves as important players for Wenger.
But in a nutshell, the Gunners manager has lost world-class players and, on the whole, brought in substandard replacements.
Holding midfielder Alex Song left for Barcelona in the summer. He is yet to be replaced adequately. Only now are the club acknowledging their failure to replace goalkeeper Jens Lehmann, who left in 2008 before returning on a short-term deal in 2011.
Manuel Almunia, Lukas Fabianski and current custodian Wojciech Szczesny have all been given a chance to make the No 1 jersey their own.
But all have failed to convince Wenger, who will now make a summer move for a top-class goalkeeper a priority. It seems the repercussions of failing to replace quality with quality are finally dawning on the Frenchman as he prepares to sign ‘three or four’ world-class players this summer.
Wenger would have arrived at the club’s Hertfordshire training base on Monday morning with his eyes open wider than usual.
Preparing his crestfallen team for the visit by Bayern Munich on Tuesday will see to that, but so will the realisation that a number of his squad are now playing in the last chance saloon.
There is still time for those players to change Wenger’s mind, and a positive result against the runaway Bundesliga leaders will certainly help.
But Wenger has now reached breaking point. There was no staunch defence of his side, as there has so often been during his 16-year reign, after Saturday’s defeat by Blackburn.
There is a reason for that: he knows he can no longer excuse the inexcusable.
Summer casualties look an increasing formality. Not just because of what happened this weekend, but because eight years without silverware is simply not good enough for a club the size of Arsenal.
“Everyone said that the FA Cup was our best chance of a trophy. Obviously it wasn’t,” said a forthright Jack Wilshere after the deflating loss.
“We have to regroup now. We have a big game here Tuesday. We need everyone behind us. We need the fans behind us.”
The fans certainly were not behind them on Saturday. Cries of ‘Wenger out’ bellowed from the stands after Colin Kazim-Richards notched the shock winner in the 72nd minute.
Those sentiments were replicated at the final whistle, as boos rang around the Emirates with another trophy chance blown.
Defeat by Jupp Heynckes’ Bayern tomorrow is unlikely to provoke such derision. Even the most optimistic of Arsenal fans know they are unlikely to progress to the Champions League quarter-finals.
But Arsenal fans are tired of precisely that sort of resignation, and so is Wenger. – Daily Mail