Arsenal recovery must not stop at Almunia exit
More players need to go if Arsenal are to challenge for honours once more
Manuel Almunia left Arsenal this week and stands as an example of what has gone wrong in the past seven years under Arsene Wenger.
The Spaniard was inexplicably first choice at the Gunners for a couple if years after Jens Lehmann departed, despite a habit of regularly making mistakes.
You could hear the groans around Emirates Stadium when the former Celta Vigo ‘keeper decided a long ball over the top had to be dealt with ten yards outside his area, with a forward bearing down on it.
Latterly his confidence must have been non-existent, as he did not make a single competitive appearance this season and it is easy to imagine this was Wenger finally giving up on him.
The silver lining of Almunia’s largely under-par stint between the sticks for Arsenal is that Wenger was forced to give young Pole Wojciech Szczesny his opportunity.
The Poland international has grasped the opportunity with both hands and is now the undisputed number one at the club, with many envisaging him so for many years to come
Almunia’s departure is not enough, but he must be the first of a number of players who have proved only that they are not good enough to play for a team that wants to win trophies and have a tilt at the title.
Wenger’s faith in his group of young stars is admirable, but many of those have repaid it with fitful displays and showing only a lack of temperament for the big occasion.
A player who must be discarded quickly this summer is Nicklas Bendtner after he had a troublesome season on loan with Sunderland.
The Dane finished as top scorer in a side that was transformed under Martin O’Neill following Steve Bruce’s dismissal, but his form has been far from electric.
Another player who is obviously gifted but fails to capitalise fully on his talent and one that has more than enough chances.
Scrapes with the police did his cause of securing a deal with the Black Cats no good and his behaviour was obviously an issue.
The famed self-confidence does not have a lot of real substance to back it up and Bendtner will likely be labelled as a ‘big-time Charlie’ who was never as good as he thought he was.
Brazilian midfielder Denilson is another case of a player who has had too many chances to prove he is more than just a midfielder with sound technique.
Denilson’s case is a little more unfortunate because he showed great promise when he first broke in to the first team, but it was in a similar role to Cesc Fabregas and he was deployed in a deeper role.
The 24-year-old was never the most physical of midfielders, but made up for it with an accurate passing game.
This didn’t last long and other Premier League teams began to target him, exposing his lack of power and pace. A period of bad form followed as his confidence slowly seeped out of him and it soon became clear he was not going to make any more improvements.
Denilson and Bendtner are prime examples of a wider problem of personnel because Wenger chose to give them extended runs in the team, in order to help develop their game.
Neither could regularly produce a level of performance to match the expectation that Wenger's successful time at the club has bred.
Not recent successes, however, and discontent is growing among Arsenal fans at having not won a trophy in seven years - that rival fans use this as a stick to beat them with does not help.
Diverting from this barren course will not happen if players of similar quality as Carlos Vela, Sebastien Squillaci and Lukasz Fabianski continue to end up at the club, or are not cut loose sooner.
The financial constraints pressed upon the club since the move to Emirates Stadium meant this course was necessary and shipping in multi-million pound ready-made talent was not possible.
A balance between growing your own and buying in new recruits must be found for a club like Arsenal – they that cannot compete with the biggest spenders but still possess significant financial clout to attract a certain amount of talent.
If reports of a clear-out are true then it is positive news for the club.
Last summer was a low point in Wenger’s reign, but they have managed to secure third place in spite of this and that indicates there is quality in the squad.
No major overhaul is needed, but the squad needs fine tuning to begin a new era under the Frenchman.