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Arsenal fans must keep their faith in Wenger
Mike Collett in London on why Arsenal fans should back their manager
Arsene Wenger is the most successful manager Arsenal have ever had, but unhappy fans have very short memories and incredible as it may seem, some Arsenal supporters were calling for his head on Monday.
Irate listeners to radio phone-ins and message boards posters vented their frustrations at Arsenal’s failure to end their six-year trophy drought after they lost 2-1 to underdogs Birmingham City in the League Cup final at Wembley on Sunday.
The messages said largely the same thing. Why hasn’t Wenger spent money on buying a top class goalkeeper and two reliable centre-backs to provide a stronger foundation for a team brimming with class, talent and invention in midfield and attack?
And, more surprisingly, some said it was time the 61-year-old Frenchman moved on.
That though, would be even more calamitous for Arsenal than the mistake that cost them the final on Sunday. Arsenal still have the chance to win three honours this season — the Champions League, the Premier League and the FA Cup.
A victory in any one of those would more than make up for this setback, devastating as it clearly was to Arsenal’s prone players at the end, although Sunday’s loss does highlight again well publicised weaknesses in the current squad.
The defeat followed a defensive mix-up between centre-back Laurent Koscielny and goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny who failed to clear a speculative header from Nikola Zigic two minutes from time.
The ball ran lose to substitute Obafemi Martins who swept it in to end Birmingham’s 48-year wait for a major honour.
The fact those two players were involved only highlights the fans’ concerns.
Wenger has proved himself a master of unearthing young talented players like Cesc Fabregas, Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Robin van Persie over the last 14 years, and harnessing their brilliance in attack and midfield.
But he has suffered with his selections at the back and with goalkeepers. Few doubt that young Szczesny is a fine goalkeeper for the future, but at just 20, the mistake that cost Arsenal the final was born of inexperience.
As former Arsenal favourite Paul Merson said: “They have class players, unbelievable ability but If you want to be a successful football team you need a good goalkeeper and a solid back four and Arsenal haven’t got that and that’s why they never win anything.”
There have been doubts this season over Koscielny being good enough for the Premier League. Even Wenger appears to have doubts over his other French centre-back Sebastien Squillaci.
The irony is that Arsenal’s failure at the back was highlighted by Birmingham’s strength in their defence.
Birmingham goalkeeper Ben Foster was voted Man of the Match while Roger Johsnon and Martin Jiranek were similarly outstanding.
Meanwhile Arsenal’s six-year wait for a trophy continues and that’s far too long for a club who won three Premier League titles and four FA Cups — including League and Cup Doubles in 1998 and 2002 — under Wenger but nothing since the FA Cup in 2005.
However, Wenger is still the man to lead Arsenal to glory because he is close to getting the formula right again. He knows where the weaknesses lie — and instead of calling for him to leave, Arsenal fans should be hoping he stays around long enough to fix them.
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PHOTO: Arsenal’s manager Arsene Wenger watches his players during the League Cup final against Birmingham City at Wembley, February 27, 2011. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett