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Arsenal Hitting Turbulence With Emirates

Another week, another questionable performance from the Gunners, another string of questionable tactical decisions from Wenger and another possible step towards a new era at Arsenal. Take nothing away from Swansea; their style of fast-flowing attacking football is a breath of fresh air from the usual park the bus attitude of promoted sides. Their style has similarities to Holloway’s tangerine army last season, but the major difference is that Swansea seem to have an impeccable home record, epitomised by the heroics of Dutch newbie, Michel Vorm. Swansea were not by any stretch of the imagination world beaters in South Wales yesterday evening, but Arsenal once again produced an unimaginative, soulless performance. The only positive, which is a weekly occurrence, is Robin Van Persie, who single-handedly appears to be keeping Arsenal out mid-table mediocrity.

It is now nearly ten years since Arsenal have won the Premier League trophy and the last time the trophy cabinet at the Emirates was opened was not much longer, with an FA Cup win in 2005. The dust gathering at the Emirates could be mistaken for a heavy snowfall, but where does the solution in North London lie? For what seemed like the first time in his reign, the summer of 2011 saw Arsene Wenger take out his bank card and seem willing to spend like Katie Price on a trip to Paris. However, after six months reflection, what did Arsene actually sign? Rather than buying the real deal Louis Vuitton handbag, Wenger appears to have signed a cheap imitation off a street dealer. Mertesacker, Arteta, Park, Santos, Oxlade-Chamberlin, Jenkinson, Gervinho and Benayoun made up the list of new-comers, but what have they shown come the mid-way stage?

Admittedly, Arteta looks like an astute buy. He is a proven Premier League player, who can control the centre of the park; something Arsenal have desperately needed with Wilshere’s absence through injury, although, he strikes many as a poor man’s Fabregas. Similarly, Oxlade-Chamberlin looks like, with time, he may blossom into an impressive player, however, at such an early stage he may not hit the heights expected; just ask Theo Walcott. The rest of the list though really does raise questions about Wenger’s transfer policy.

In Per Mertesacker Wenger has signed a player who turns slower than the earth does and would lose a race titled “tortoise and the Per”. Gervinho was supposed to be a real impact player at the Emirates, but is as indecisive in goal as a man with a gun playing Russian roulette and patience is running thin with the fans because of it. The signing of Park has baffled most, with no Premier League appearances to his name and few and far between in other competitions. Andre Santos has had cameo appearances since arriving, but he certainly is a shade of the player that he has taken over from, Gael Clichy, who is firing at all cylinders for a City team looking destined to lift the league title this season. Every game Jenkinson has played in he has been torn apart by the opposition, and although young, he is far from ready to be playing first team football for Arsenal. Finally, Benayoun, although a good option, is a Chelsea reject who only really features from the bench.

Apart from Arteta, the signings really do not ooze the quality you would expect from a top four team. Far from it in fact. If you compare Arsenal’s signings to those the clubs challenging for the European spots have made, it makes for worrying reading for the Gunners faithful. Arsenal’s North London rivals, Tottenham, who are now mounting a title challenge, have left Arsenal in their wake, with much of their good form down to shrewd business from Harry Redknapp. Redknapp has signed three players of real quality for what is minimal money if you compare it to the debatable acquisitions Wenger has picked up. Brad Friedel, Adebayor and Scott Parker are all three immense players, who have been key in seeing Spurs rise up the table. More worrying for Arsenal, Newcastle United are on a tremendous run of form which puts them on equal points in January. Unlike Wenger, Newcastle’s signings have had an immediate impact, with free transfer Demba Ba sitting second in the leagues goal scoring charts and French league winner, Yohan Cabaye providing a creative option that Arsenal seem to lack. Players of Football Manager will vouch for Davide Santon’s quality, which makes up the third and final Newcastle transfer of the window. All of whom seem much better options than Wenger’s array.

It is worrying times for Arsenal, as one could go far as saying a seventh spot finish could be on the cards. Newcastle sit on equal points, while Liverpool are only a point behind. The Gunners still face fixtures against Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Newcastle before May, as well as tricky fixtures away from home at Stoke and the newly promoted sides, who will all be fighting for their lives. What the Arsenal side of 2012 lacks from other sides in Arsenal’s history, is desire, hunger and fight. The Vieira, Adams and Keown type players are nowhere to be seen, and many of the new breed of first time players at Arsenal or young foreigners, do not have the desire to battle out a 1 – 0 win on a cold and rainy evening in Bolton. The players have to be analysed to some extent for their run of mediocre performances, but focus has to be on the manager as well.

Wenger has consistently misspent in the transfer windows and he continues to put his faith in players who are way past their sell buy date. Apart from the obvious choices, in Robin Van Persie and Jack Wilshere, few longstanding players would get a game at the other top five clubs in the league. The likes of Diaby, Arshavin, Chamakh, Rosicky, Squillaci, Djourou, Gibbs and Koscienly are all players who would fit nicely into a mid-table side, not one aiming for Europe at the very least. It is okay though, Wenger has a plan up his sleeve. Thierry Henry, the club legend. Take nothing away from Henry, he is one of the best foreign players to grace the football pitches of England, but he is not the solution to Arsenal’s troubles. His goal against Blackburn certainly created a sense of togetherness around the Emirates which had been long missing, but we should view this as a last gasp attempt by Wenger to keep the fans on board, not a solution to the long standing problems.

I would be worried if I was an Arsenal fan, because unless Wenger really pulls his finger out in this January transfer window, it could be a long Easter period in North London. Sides around Arsenal are improving as clubs and signing the right players to take them forward. Similarly, they have players who want to drive the club forward. Arsenal at the moment seem to depend purely on Robin Van Persie alone, who has scored almost half of all their goals this season, but it is only a matter of time before he leaves for pastures new and Arsenal will be left languishing. The players of real calibre that they recently had; Fabregas, Nasri and Clichy, have been far from replaced and one questions where on earth the money has gone and why it is not being utilised to bolster the club’s future. Wenger’s days have to be numbered and it is only a matter of time before the fans push for his resignation or the six letter word that all managers fear – “S A C K E D” – will be lying on his desk.

David Harrison