Dublin – Arsène Wenger believes the key to solving Arsenal's recent travails lies within his own players. They head to Reading on Monday night in need of a confidence boost following the shock penalty shoot-out defeat at League Two Bradford in the Capital One Cup.
Wenger accepts the atmosphere has been somewhat subdued at Arsenal's Hertfordshire training base last week, but maintains it is now up to the players to show their strength of character.
“There has been disappointment and frustration, but that is normal when you go out in a competition like that,” Wenger said. “However, having said that, we can only look at ourselves, get on with it and look for the future.”
Although there have been plenty of calls for a fresh voice at the helm, Wenger maintains he is the right man to turn Arsenal's fortunes around. He has received a vote of confidence from one of his predecessors, George Graham.
Graham expects Wenger to remain at Arsenal for “a few more years”, but accepts the Frenchman must rediscover his knack for unearthing talent and transforming them into world-class players.
He said: “Let's give Arsène the credit. He brought in players for average prices, Thierry Henry, Nicolas Anelka, Marc Overmars, Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Petit.
“They were all very good players unknown to the fans in England that he turned into fantastic world-class players. That was his strength. He did it on a tight budget so it's not like they are now going to go out and break the transfer record. They have never done it during Arsene's reign so in my opinion he has got to get his magic hat on again and go out and see if he can get players of that quality at good prices.”
Graham added: “Arsène's first period at the club, for seven years was probably the most attractive and attacking football I've ever seen in English football.
“He won three League titles and four FA Cups. He set the standard and unfortunately in the last few seasons the standard is just slowly slipping away. But there is a lot of hysterical criticism about Wenger now. If you want to stay in the top four, he is the man without question. I think Wenger will stay there. He is very powerful at the club and rightly so.”
One of Arsenal's academy products, 23-year-old England defender Kieran Gibbs, believes Wenger's work in developing raw talents such as himself can never be underestimated. “He has built a reputation for signing players for a modest fee and turning them into great players,” Gibbs said.
“I don't think many people in England had really heard of Thomas Vermaelen before he arrived and yet he became an instant fan favourite at the club. The manager has an eye for noticing the potential in promising players.” – The Independent