Principled or plain stubborn? Arsene Wenger has no Plan B
1. It's five years without atrophy for Arsenal. Howhas that happened? AT: They tore up that team of'Invincibles' overnight, the menwho had gone a whole seasonunbeaten, and replaced themwith potential. In some cases,brilliant young players, but theylost so much experience. On topof that, they built a marvellousnew ground and so they weren'table to rebuild the team usingthe cheque book. Wenger had tobe more selective and he replacedthe Invincibles with inferiorplayers.
JR: You have to look at thespending power of Chelsea,especially. They changed thegame forever and were able toattract the best players. Arsenalcan't compete on fees or wages.They have been prudent andhave gambled mainly on youth.They are more like a selling club,losing players such as Kolo Toureand Emmanuel Adebayor andthey have relied on producingyoung talent. Bad luck has playeda part this season, losing Robinvan Persie and then CescFabregas at pivotal moments.
Goner: Emmanuel Adebayor left the Emirates last summer
2. What should Wenger havedone differently thisseason? AT: There is a lack of firepower.They are lightweight in attackand, once they lost Van Persie toinjury, it left inadequate goalscoringoptions. Nicklas Bendtnerhas thrived on the responsibility,but are defenders scared of himin the way they were facingThierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp?Manchester United haveWayne Rooney, Chelsea haveDidier Drogba, but where is theArsenal goal machine? The list oftop scorers this season includesRooney, Drogba, Carlos Tevez,Darren Bent, Jermain Defoe,Frank Lampard and FernandoTorres, but no Arsenal player.
Missing: Gunners legend Thierry Henry
JR: When I played against theInvincibles, they could play youoff the pitch or they could poweryou into submission. They hadbig, physical players; the modernArsenal is on the small side.Really, they have overachievedthis season. If I was an Arsenalfan, I'd be proud of their achievements,because they have stayedin the title race until Sunday.Maybe that is because Chelseaand Manchester United haven'tbeen exceptional and pulledclear, but Arsenal have hung inthere against all the odds.
3. Do we still admireWenger's footballphilosophies? AT: Anyone who loves footballloves watching Arsenalin full flow, but while theyhave their principles, are theymaking progress? There is astubborness about him, he won'tchange his ways, but there is aningredient missing. If you look atBarcelona, they play the beautifulgame, but it is mixed withhard work, the ability to pressthe play, hunt in groups and closedown the ball. When Arsenal'sfootball isn't working, there is noplan B.
JR: Of course! How could younot? He's had some setbacks, likebeing outplayed by Barcelona.That will have hurt, because hesees Arsenal as the Barcelona ofEngland. But I would have lovedto have played for Arsene andmost players will say the samething; to work with him on thetraining pitch and to have playedin his midfield, passing teams todeath. It's wonderful to watch.All that is missing is balance andexperience. And he is stubborn,too. He won't change.
4. And anyone whoquestions if he is the rightman for the job should belocked up, right? AT: On the talkSPORT phone-ins,views range from when Arsenalare on a hot streak, so Wengeris the high priest of football toArsenal losing a game and themanager has lost the plot. Personally,I like to see managersgiven time to develop and build.Wenger has a control of Arsenallike Sir Alex Ferguson at ManchesterUnited and changing thatdoes not guarantee trophies. Hehas to stay.
JR: Lock them up and throwaway the key! Look, Arsene is agenius and he has produced aspecial team. The club needs tospend money now, because whendid they last sign a superstar?Manchester City's money willmake it harder and so Wenger willhave to rely on his knowledge ofthe market. He's fortunate tohave Steve Rowley, his chiefscout, who can spot talent. Hewas there when I went for a trialas a kid and he knows his wayaround the scene. It's difficult toattract the best continental players,because of the 50 per centtax laws compared to other Europeancountries and the spendingpower of Arsenal's rivals.
Like for like: Wenger has similar control at Arsenal as Ferguson does at United
5. In which areas does heneed to strengthen theside? AT : He needs experiencethrough the spine, but the biggestissue is in goal. You can gothrough the Barclays PremierLeague and find too many goalkeeperswho are better thanArsenal's. United, Chelsea andLiverpool have better keepers, sotoo is Shay Given at ManchesterCity and Tottenham's HeurelhoGomes. You can also add BradFriedel (Aston Villa), MarkSchwarzer (Fulham) , TimHoward (Everton), Craig Gordon(Sunderland), Robert Green(West Ham) and David James(Portsmouth). Arsenal need oneof the best three goalies in theleague.
JR: Yes, he needs another goalkeeper.Manuel Almunia is notthe worst, but Wenger needsanother option. He'll also need tobuy a centre back to partner theexcellent Thomas Vermaelen,who has been one of the signingsof the season. One of the biggestfights this summer will bekeeping Robin van Persie andCesc Fabregas.
Not good enough: Manuel Almunia
6. Liverpool have beencaught and overtaken byManchester City andSpurs. Are Arsenal vulnerablenext season?AT: They are at risk. Spurs needmore consistency, but they areserious players now and HarryRedknapp has done a brilliantjob, when you think that Cityhave so much spending power.City will spend again thissummer and they will attractbetter players if they finish fourththis time.
JR: If they'd kept Van Persie fitthey would have had at least 10more points. Wenger will have towork his magic now. He hassigned too many similar players,small technicians such as AndreyArshavin, Tomas Roskickyand Samir Nasri. They needheight and strength, but this isno time to panic. Lose Wenger .and that would be a timeto panic.
What might have been: The Gunners have missed Robin Van Persie
Arsenal defender Mikael Silvestre admits: I don't know how we lost our two-goal lead at WiganArsenal win was massive but we're not safe yet, insists Wigan's McCarthy Arsenal crock Gallas expects to win fitness fight and join France squadAs Arsenal's title hopes collapse at Wigan, Sportsmail asks: Where do the Gunners go from here?