Arsene Wenger's 8 Costliest Mistakes in 2012
Arsene Wenger will look back on 2012 as the most difficult year to date in his time at Arsenal. Although he managed to drag Arsenal to third place in the Premier League, he lost his captain and the faith of a good many fans along the way.
Over the next few slides, we take a look at the just where Wenger went wrong in his annus horribilis.
Substituting Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain Against Man United
The relationship between Arsene Wenger and the Arsenal supporters became more strained than ever before in 2012. Those difficulties began with the removal of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain against Manchester United.
The Ox had been having a stormer in that game, setting up Arsenal's equalising goal for Robin van Persie and generally giving the United defence a torrid time.
When he was withdrawn for Andrey Arshavin, who had drawn the ire of fans with some gutless displays in 2011, the crowd exploded with boos. It was a landmark moment for Wenger, who had never witnessed such open revolt from his own fans.
Allowing Yossi Benayoun to Leave
Yossi Benayoun was a deadline-day loan signing from Chelsea in August 2011. Arsenal fans were initially uneasy about his arrival, given his history of injury problems and history with rival clubs, but they need not have worried.
As the season wore on, Benayoun became a crucial part of the Arsenal side and was a key figure in the club's qualification for the Champions League.
At the end of the season, Arsene Wenger decided not to make Benayoun's loan deal permanent, presumably because of the Israeli's age and relatively high wages.
At the time, few disagreed, but on several occasions this season, a lacklustre Arsenal side could have benefited from Benayoun's industry and creativity.
Failing to Sort out the Theo Walcott Situation Earlier
Whilst I appreciate that the main issue with Walcott has been his own reluctance to sign the contract on the table, Arsene Wenger should arguably have taken a stronger stand in the summer and put this matter to bed.
Walcott should have been handed a strict ultimatum: sign or be sold. Instead, the club were plainly worried about losing another major star in the same summer as Robin van Persie and Alex Song, leaving themselves in a position where they could lose a player as valuable as Walcott for free.
Overlooking the Need for a Reliable Reserve Goalkeeper
Arsene Wenger had no use for Vito Mannone last season, sending him out on loan to Hull City. Had a permanent offer for the Italian arrived, he would almost certainly have left the club.
The other backup to Wojciech Szczesny is Lukasz Fabianski, a goalkeeper who has made more horrendous errors than impressive saves in his short career to date.
Given those less-than-convincing alternatives, it is hugely surprising that Arsene Wenger didn't sign someone to challenge Wojciech Szczesny for the No. 1 jersey.
The failure to bring in a reliable, experienced backup meant that Arsenal were required to field Mannone on 13 occasions this season. Whilst his performances were not always calamitous, he did make major errors, such as in the defeat at Carrow Road.
Relying on Abou Diaby
I haven't listed selling Alex Song as a mistake on Arsene Wenger's part. Considering Song's refusal to sign a new deal and his frequent defensive lapses, I could understand the decision to let him leave for Barcelona.
What was erroneous, however, was believing that Abou Diaby was capable of replacing the Cameroon international.
Diaby's ability is undoubted, and in his early performances this season he showed what he is capable of when free of injury. Those occasions, however, are far too rare, and the Frenchman hasn't been seen since succumbing to a thigh problem in September.
Not Adding Another Striker
After selling Robin van Persie in the summer, Arsene Wenger hoped the acquisitions of Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud would compensate for losing his talisman.
However, with Podolski playing most of his football on the wing and Giroud undergoing a period of adaptation, Arsenal have frequently looked light upfront.
Wenger's reluctance to use Marouane Chamakh means that he has often gone into games without a recognised forward on the bench. The decision to loan out Nicklas Bendtner to Juventus looks stranger by the day.
Removing Olivier Giroud at Aston Villa
After the debacle of substituting Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain against Manchester United in January, Arsene Wenger made another controversial change in November, removing striker Olivier Giroud for defensive midfielder Francis Coquelin with the game petering out into a scoreless draw.
It led to protests of "You don't know what you're doing" from the Arsenal fans and was another blow to Wenger's authority at Arsenal.
Continued Faith in Gervinho
Arsene Wenger has signed some real turkeys in him time as a Premier League manager. One thinks of Igors Stepanovs, Francis Jeffers and even last season's bizarre buy Park Chu-Young. When you consider the size of the fee and the level of expectation, Gervinho is now stating a strong case to be Wenger's worst ever buy.
Considering the competition, that's impressive.
The Ivorian had a mixed first season, but the hope was that it was part of an adaptation process and he would kick on in his second campaign. However, after an initial flurry of goals, the bad habits have returned tenfold.
His participation in the African Nations Cup will come as some relief to the Arsenal fans tiring of his performances in an Arsenal shirt.
What do you think? Do you disagree with my picks? Do you have your own version of Arsene's aberrations? Comment below and let us know.