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Wenger needs to temper obsession with attack
The north London side, imperiously dimissed from the Champions League by Barcelona, lost their last slender hope of winning the Premier League and a first trophy since 2005
with defeat at Wigan.
And now? Disgruntled Arsenal fans complain that their cerebral French manager Arsene Wenger is obstinately refusing to make essential changes to his team while he gazes over the horizon in search of an illusive future perfection.
They instance Arsenal’s notoriously leaky defence and Wenger’s apparent inability to buy a top-class goalkeeper.
Former Arsenal striker Ian Wright is not the only person wondering whether Wenger will extend his contract, which is due to expire at the end of the next season.
Wenger supporters view his stubbornness as a virtue, a commitment to the beautiful game which would have won at least one trophy this season if had not been for a cruel sequence of injuries to influential players.
They concur with Wenger’s musings before the Wigan match finally killed their Premier League hopes.
“I think overall you try to bring a team as high as they can and this year I have done a good job [given] what happened to us,” he said.
“Playing in the top three, with all the competition around us, you cannot say the policy hasn’t paid off. Yes, you cannot parade in the street with a trophy but you cannot say that what we have done and the way we have achieved it hasn’t paid off.”
Wenger has brought two League and FA Cup doubles to Arsenal while transforming their image. But this season it has been more the league’s weaknesses rather than his team’s strengths which allowed them to challenge for the title despite losing twice to both Manchester United and Chelsea.
The Frenchman will never abandon his belief in the glorious possibilities of the world’s most popular sport. But if Wenger is not to lose his way he needs to temper a magnificent obsession with attack with some pragmatic choices in defence.
Then building a fourth Premier League-winning side without the financial resources open to Chelsea and Manchester City would be a fitting monument to one of the game’s great visionaries.
PHOTO: Arsenal’s coach Arsene Wenger kicks a bottle during their English Premier League soccer match against Wigan Athletic in Wigan, northern England April 18, 2010. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis