Arsenal: What Arsene Wenger Must Do to Have a Better 2013
First and foremost - a very Happy New Year to you all! I hope you're all full of festive cheer, yet simultaneously ready to welcome in the second half of this season!
Now, in the first half of this season, Arsene Wenger and his Arsenal side have been mired in inconsistency. While you might not ordinarily go so far as to describe them as a Jekyll & Hyde sort of team, there have been definite, clear-cut changes in Arsenal's performance from week-to-week.
Having put in two six-goal and two seven-goal performances already this term, it should be a mystery to no one that when Arsenal are on their best form, the goals can come flooding in, even without their former captain in the fray—Theo Walcott is ever strengthening his case to be played through the middle.
Yet drab and disappointing moments continue to plague the side's fixtures—dare I mention the embarrassment that was the League Cup debacle at Valley Parade, for example.
While Wenger may not have had a terrible 2012—leading the side to third in the league last season in a campaign constantly hindered with injuries, departed players and the threat that St. Totteringham's Day may never come—the jury is still out for some on his summer acquisitions and that fabled consistency of the revered 2003-04 campaign is still nowhere to be found.
What Wenger has done right so far in this very young year, however, is ruling out a move for Arsenal's great hero, idol, legend, demigod, etc.—Thierry Henry. Though the MLS offseason is in full swing, bringing back the Frenchman would be harking back to the days of the Invincibles.
Nearly 10 years have passed since that famous season, and if Wenger wants to recreate that glory, putting faith in his current crop of players—and more importantly, strengthening the crop—is vital.
That's not to say that Henry wouldn't be beneficial at all—his dressing room presence alone would undoubtedly be a huge boost to the players, an inspiration of sorts—but Wenger ought to look elsewhere for help up top.
Speculation over Wenger's future has long been present, and a clear divide in opinion has emerged between Arsenal fans over whether Le Professeur should stay or go. It has become increasingly clear, given the current state of the squad—too many fringe players on unhelpful contracts, too much dead weight—that where Wenger could make or break this season is in the newly opened January transfer window.
Much of that supposition surrounds Atletico Madrid's Adrian Lopez, in whom Arsenal are allegedly interested, according to The Guardian, who also note David Villa of Barcelona as a target for Wenger. Add in the seemingly never-ending links to Athletic Bilbao's Fernando Llorente amongst other names, and there you have a recipe for Wenger to reinforce his attacking corps.
Any statement of intent in this way, especially a move for the impressive Llorente—a target for other Premier League sides, as well as Italian champions Juventus—would showcase Wenger's trademark transfer window intuition (dampened as it might be in recent seasons) as well as another example of loosening the purse strings, as was seen in the rumoured £16m Santi Cazorla transaction in the summer just gone.
Another improvement Wenger can make on 2012 is in looking after the star players, and, crucially, keeping them at the club. TalkSport believe the manager is already off to a great start in furthering a new deal for Walcott, a player whose future has been the subject of real guesswork. Wenger and company had already locked up five of Arsenal's starlets prior to the New Year, including Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Crucially, Walcott is the only first-team player who seems to be attracting constant attention, but in his case, it is over his contract status and well-documented issues at the club over where he plays. With Walcott now being able to try out for a decent period of time at striker—with tutelage from the aforementioned Henry (courtesy of the Telegraph)—hopefully this will renovate the Englishman into a fully-fledged and happy Arsenal player for the years ahead.
Yet the lack of attention on Arsenal's individual players is certainly something of a boon. The unsettling media spotlight on players like Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Robin van Persie in years gone by has had a subtle, yet definitely detrimental effect to the club.
With Arsenal somewhat released from the media's glare for the time being, Wenger can focus on building a long-term plan for the important pieces of the jigsaw he knows he'll have for at least a few more years. Whether he will be there for all of those years is not certain, but he can do the best job he can for the good of the club—and as manager, can you ask any more than that?
So there is intent on Wenger's part to make improvements and solidify the foundations already in place. Of course, it's anybody's guess as to whether this work will translate into the results that every Arsenal fan craves.
But some money spent in the transfer window, some money gained in relieving some players of their duties, and some continuity at long last will all go some way towards Wenger starting 2013 in the right vein.
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