Arsenal legend Alan Smith has criticised current manager Arsene Wenger’s recruitment policy, which he believes could cost the Gunners a UEFA Champions League spot at the end of the season. The retired striker, who has now turned to commentating, also believes that Wenger should have pursued central defender Gary Cahill more aggressively before he was signed by their London rivals Chelsea earlier this month.
Arsenal were interested in signing Cahill last summer, but they were put off by his former club Bolton Wanderers demands. As a result, they turned their attention towards alternate targets and eventually settled for German international Per Mertesacker.
Smith believes that Cahill is a superior defender than Mertesacker and therefore, Wenger should have insisted on signing him instead of going for plan B.
In a recent interview with talkSPORT, Smith said, “With the Cahill thing, we don’t know exactly how it happened but we do know Arsenal made a bid which Bolton rejected, so why not go a bit higher, pay the asking price and get the player?”
“Now he’s gone to Chelsea and he’s a good signing for them, and he would have been a good one for Arsenal, and better than Per Mertesacker, in my opinion. Cahill knows the league, he’s an England player and he could be an England player for the next few years and would have had a good re-sale value even at 30.”
“Sometimes Wenger thinks clubs are asking too much and that he wouldn’t get a return. It’s almost like it’s his money and he’s careful how he spends it. Then there is the wages of course, and Arsenal don’t pay £150,000 a week, but Cahill wouldn’t have wanted that and I think they could have got him”
Smith, who played 265 matches for the North London club during his playing career, was also unhappy with the rest of Arsenal’s summer acquisitions. He then questioned the logic behind panic buying Mikel Arteta and Yossi Benayoun. The veteran duo arrived at the Emirates on the last day of the summer transfer window, even though Wenger and company had more than enough time to sign better players from the £54 million they had pocketed from the sale of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri to Barcelona and Manchester City respectively.
Smith said, “Once it became clear Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri were both going, that’s when you’re looking for the manager to make adequate replacements, to get some quality in and not have to do something at the last minute as he ended up doing.
“They did seem like panic buys at the 11th hour. Arteta is 29 with an injury record, something Wenger looks at; Benayoun is 31 and won’t make a huge difference to the first XI at the Emirates; Mertesacker has 80 caps for his country but doesn’t look a player who has that. Ask him to run and he looks slow and it’s worrying . He’s a good solid character, but that’s not always enough.”
“Getting into the top four this season would arguably be Wenger’s greatest achievement. They’ve got players coming back [from injury] who will make a difference, but if they keep defending like they are at the moment they will be going nowhere,” he added.
Another one that Smith failed to mention was the £3 million signing of South Korean forward Park Chu-Young, who has featured in a grand total of one league match so far this season and is reportedly collecting a paycheck of £40,000 every week in wages.
Smith wasn’t the only one to go on the offensive against Wenger today. African country Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, who is also an Arsenal fan, apparently wants the Frenchman out of the club.
“I very much support Arsenal – but to be honest Wenger needs to coach another team now and Arsenal needs another coach. When a good team (players) and a good coach fail for long to deliver, one of them has to change, or even both!!” Kagame tweeted on his official Twitter account.
“The real/main danger is for anyone to get used to mediocre/lacklustre performance and/or results and accepts to live with it … or keeps finding excuses for it,” the Rwandan supremo added.