How do Arsenal revive the era of ‘The Invincibles’?

Wenger will need to make some changes this summer if Arsenal are to compete for trophies againFollowing today’s 2-1 defeat at the Reebok Stadium, Arsene Wenger has concluded that the Gunners 2010-11 trophy cabinet shall remain empty. The only result which would have kept the Frenchman’s title hopes alive was a win over Owen Coyle’s Bolton. As it was however, Daniel Sturridge and Tamir Cohen respectively put the Trotters ahead twice, as the North-Westerners struck late to deny the visitors even a point. Whether it is the squad or the managing, wherever the fault may lie, the fact is there is just that: faults.

No matter how much Arsenal fans adored the unbeaten league campaign of 2003-04, they may just have to accept that the Arsene Wenger reign spanning almost 15 years is in need of refreshing. When the Frenchman announced his bemusement at Arsenal fans not being happy with a second place finish, he came under fire from the public and media alike. To a degree, you’d like to say you understand where the manager is coming from, but even considering the club’s low spending policy, if you’re not winning, perhaps it’s time to go with a new policy.

Whether or not the club hierarchy ultimately decide to part ways with Wenger this summer is, for lack of a better term, a complete toss-up. Rumours have sprouted that should Jose Mourinho leave Real Madrid this year, the Spanish giants would be a possible exit strategy and I’m sure other teams would welcome his services.

The upper echelon of the London team may stay loyal to the 61 year-old as he has them. Or, in another direction, the decision could be made that a manager lacking the necessary enthusiasm and need to win, is simply surplus to requirements. Either way, should Arsenal begin the 2011-12 season without Arsene Wenger at their head, it wouldn’t be an utter surprise.

Secondly then, comes the squad responsibility. The youthful outlook of the Gunners has always been an admirable quality that they persist in upholding. For ages, they’ve claimed to be a team for the future, choosing to trust younger players that will evolve into world superstars. Well, it’s six years without a trophy now and while the team continues to revive itself with younger and younger players, they’re simply not doing the job. Hopefully, with a change in ownership, the club will see an increase in transfer spending, choosing to buy proven players whom they know they can trust in a title race. Stan Kroenke has claimed this will happen, however as we’ve all become accustomed to in football, we’ll have to wait and see.

One area of the pitch that has needed a change for some five years now is arguably the most important. Why Wenger has chosen to neglect the issue that is the need for a new goalkeeper for so long is beyond me. Blind faith in the likes of Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabianski has led them down a bleak path of goal concession and defensive calamity. Instead of entrusting the Aresnal goal difference to 21 year-old Wojciech Szczesny, I feel that bids for the likes of Shay Given, Pepe Reina and David de Gea all need to be considered. It may mean a hit on the finances of anywhere up to £16m, but in the end an extremely necessary one.

Despite spending £12m on the position last summer, Arsenal also need to consider spending big at centre-back. The team has never really replaced William Gallas and although Laurent Koscielny looks like yet another ‘promising prospect’, he and Sebastien Squillaci don’t really look up to the job of becoming world champions. When Thomas Vermaelen does finally return from injury, he’s sure to bring some much needed stability to the back four, but should he continue to be plagued by injury, an additional central defender is needed.

Among the possible candidates to fill the hole are Belgian Jan Vertonghen, German giant Per Mertesacker and one of the contributors to their latest defeat, Gary Cahill. Vertonghen is a hot prospect who fits Arsenal’s bill perfectly. He’s currently playing for Dutch side Ajax, is only 24 years-old and supposedly looking for a move away from the Eredivisie. Mertesacker on the other hand is slightly more proven. He’s played for Germany over 70 times and at the age of 26, doesn’t look to stop any time soon. The 6ft 6in defender currently represents the colours of Werder Bremen, but following a disappointing mid-table finish in the Bundesliga, could be looking for a move away.

Finally, we come to Sheffield-born Gary Cahill. The ex-Aston Villa centre-back assisted Daniel Sturridge’s goal against Arsenal and has been linked with a move away from Bolton for some time now. The defender would cost the Londoners around £15m, but I feel an English infusion is exactly what the team needs. While the team’s offensive play can sometimes be mesmerising, there is occasions when the defence simply lacks the brutish edge which is sometimes necessary to succeed, especially in the Premier League.

Djourou and Koscielny might be big names in a couple of years, but Arsenal need to stop thinking about ‘in a couple of years’ and think about the here and now. At the end of the day, it’s the fans that fund the success of this club and as such, need to be rewarded with exciting football and even more exciting results. I think if Kroenke is willing to inject the money into the squad, Arsenal could get back to winning ways next season and really replicate those Invincibles from eight years ago, that now seem so far away.

Tom is one of our most experienced contributors, with over a decade of online publishing. A Man Utd fan, Thomas brings you all the latest news from UK football.

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