Former Arsenal manager George Graham (1986-1995) said the Gunners starting 11 are good enough to beat anybody when they’re healthy, but once the club has to dip into its squad it struggles. Graham told James Olley of the London Evening Standard that If the team happens to finish in the top four this season and makes it to the Champion League it’ll be one of Arsene Wenger’s greatest accomplishments.
However, the Scotsman believes the club has to spend some money first if they hope to achieve that goal. He said even though Wenger’s won four FA Cups, three EPL crowns, went through an unbeaten season, and has earned a place in the Champions League for over a dozen years in a row, he can understand why supporters are criticizing him after three losses in a row and a fifth-place spot in the table.
Things came to a boiling point last Sunday at Emirates Stadium when the Gunners went down to Man United yet again, this time by a 2-1 score. Many of them were furious when Wenger took Alex-Oxlade-Chamberlain off and replaced him with Andrey Arshavin. This substitution led to angry chants of “spend some money,” and “you don’t know what you’re doing.”
Graham, who knows a bit about managing Arsenal as he led the team to two League Cups, an FA Cup, two league championships, and the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1994, said if they hope to make it to the Champions league the squad has to be strengthened, but there’s only a few days left to do it. The former boss said if you look at a team like Spurs, you’ll see that they’ve got the depth at all positions and there’s competition between several players at each spot.
He added that if you look at the Gunners, they have to start their best 11 each and every week to make it to the top four. But, he feels if the best 11 aren’t available then they’re in trouble because the rest of the squad members aren’t quite good enough to get the job done. Graham said the club should be taking in a lot of revenue and he can’t understand why Wenger’s not buying a better class of players, or didn’t buy better players when he had the chance to.
He points to the likes of Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Vieira, Robert Pires, Marc Overmars, Thierry Henry, and Freddie Ljungberg and said if those players aren’t replaced by others who are just as good then it’s easy to see why the team could slowly sink in the standings. Graham said he obviously hopes that doesn’t happen, but at the moment the players brought in aren’t the same quality as those who have left.
He feels that Wenger’s been great for English football and Arsenal and would hate to see the team keep sliding down the table. But with the current squad, he believes a fourth-place finish would be a huge achievement. According to Graham, the club has to find a good striker to take some of the load off of Robin van Persie and it’ll have to be done in the transfer market. He feels the addition of Henry will help, but can’t understand why the money hasn’t been spent on another accomplished goal scorer during the transfer window to help bolster the attack.
He said there’s no question the club needs somebody since Van Persie appears to be the only one scoring at the moment and Gervinho’s away playing in Africa. He feels that Theo Walcott and Andrey aren’t chipping in enough. But if you look at the stats, nobody is really. Even Gervinho has just four goals. Graham said the signing Henry makes sense, but the club is so big it should have a bigger and better squad, especially at forward.
He realizes it’ll cost between £20 and 25 million to land a world-class striker. However, Graham’s like everybody else. He said he doesn’t know if the board will give the money to Wenger or if they’ve offered it to him and he’s turned it down, or what’s going on. No one seems to be able to answer that question he stated.
But fans should know that billionaire owner Stan Kroenke definitely has the money to spend somewhere since he recently put in a bid on the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team in America, which is reportedly worth 1.5 billion American dollars. But if the squad is so thin, who’s to blame for that, Wenger, his scouting staff, the players themselves?
Perhaps it’s time to question why so many players have been loaned out this season if the squad’s such a weak one. Love him or hate him, Nicklas Bendtner at least found the back of the net with the Gunners about once in every four games, and wasn’t Emmanuel Frimpong good enough to battle for a spot?
Anywhere, there’s finally a bit of good news for Arsenal fans though as Bacary Sagna has returned to training after being out since October 2 due to an ankle injury. He’s hoping he can make it back into the team in two week’s time, The same can’t be said of Jack Wilshere though as he had a setback when returning from his ankle injury.