Home / Sports / News Tools: Save | Print | E-mail | Most Read | Comment
Wenger Seeks Cure to Arsenal's Growing Pains
Adjust font size:

Arsene Wenger faces his biggest challenge in a decade at Arsenal as he tries to stop his club slipping into Premiership obscurity.

A season of under-achievement has been followed by the departures of Thierry Henry and Freddie Ljungberg and the harsh truth for Wenger is that Arsenal have never been further from being a title-winning side since he arrived in north London.

With Wenger's future far from settled and a potential hostile takeover from American tycoon Stan Kroenke in the pipeline, signs of improvement are thin on the ground as the new campaign looms into view.

Henry and Ljungberg's exits meant just a handful of the 'Invincible' 2004 title-winning team remain and that dramatic turnover is the root cause of Arsenal's troubles in the last two campaigns.

Wenger has been forced to take a long-term view of the team's progress due to a 390-million-pound millstone around his neck.

That sum was the cost of the club's Emirates Stadium which opened last season and the investment in bricks and mortar has left Arsenal grateful just to finish in the top four.

Wenger's spending has been curtailed and as a result he has been forced to use raw rookies to replace the likes of Henry, Sol Campbell, Robert Pires and Dennis Bergkamp.

The Frenchman's eye for unearthing a gem has at least ensured Arsenal remain competitive in one-off matches against Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool, but last season's League Cup final appearance was hardly the summit of their ambition.

The Gunners' faithful have got used to savouring the spoils of title success during Wenger's reign, but it is hard to see the Premiership trophy coming to the Emirates Stadium any time soon.

Wenger's competitve fire means he will never concede defeat before the race has begun, but there is more than a hint of hubris about his assessment of the current team.

"An acceptable season is, first of all, for Arsenal football club to fight for the championship," he said.

"Last year, in the end of October and beginning of November when we were 16 points off the leader, that wasn't acceptable for us.

"I want my team to fight for the championship and to do well in the Champions League.

"Last year we showed in spells - in the League Cup - what we could do, but the League Cup is not a major trophy. The major trophies are the championship and the Champions League."

It will be fascinating to see how the loss of Henry affects the club because his move to Barcelona has deprived Arsenal of their talisman and one genuine superstar.

At least the young guns have a chance to step into the spotlight now. Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie, Tomas Rosicky and Emmanuel Adebayor all have the talent to become superstars and now they have the stage.

Newcomers Eduardo da Silva and Bacary Sagna look like prototype Wenger players. Neither are household names yet but possess enough potential to suggest they could be sooner rather than later.

Whether Wenger will be around to see his signings bear fruit remains uncertain.

He was hurt by the way his friend and vice-chairman David Dein was forced out and has yet to sign a new contract as he enters the last year of his present deal.

The prospect of relentless speculation about the Frenchman's future is not an appetising one for the Gunners, but they will not pressure Wenger into a decision for fear of provoking him to leave.

Publicly at least Wenger refuses to make excuses, but he knows the time will come soon when he has to decide whether he has taken the Gunners as far as he can without major investment.

"We knew we were facing major competition in England with clubs who invest a lot of money," he said. "We knew we wanted to go a different way and be a little bit patient.

"But, while we have a young team, we have experience. Cesc Fabregas has 100 games in the Premiership. I believe we have the quality and we must show it."

(China Daily via AFP July 31, 2007)

Tools: Save | Print | E-mail | Most Read

Pet Name
China Archives
Related >>
- Soccer: Saudi Arabia, Iraq Set Up Asian Cup Final
- Henry Scores on Barcelona Debut at Dundee United
- Yeung Wants Chinese Players at Birmingham
- ZZ's Homemade Premier League Lifeline
- Iraqi Players on Emotional Rollercoaster
- Iraq Completes Fairytale at Soccer Asian Cup
- Ronaldo Primed to Sack More Silverware
- Beckenbauer Backs England to Host 2018 World Cup
- Iraq Soccer Team Set for Heroes' Welcome
Most Viewed >>