Football

Danny Welbeck deal can't mask Arsene Wenger's transfer failings

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Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger left it late to finally sign the striker Gunners fans begged and pleaded him for last night, but a £16 million deal for Danny Welbeck can only realistically help them maintain a frustrating status quo of fighting for a top-four finish rather than the title.

That opinion is no slight on Welbeck, who while raw and probably lacking the killer instinct to be a free-scoring centre-forward definitely has potential that was not ultimately realised at Manchester United.

Welbeck will help fill the void left by Olivier Giroud's long-term absence but regardless Arsenal still lack a world-class striker to build on the progress made with last season's FA Cup success, while more alarmingly there are just three central defenders on their books until at least January.

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Vermaelen moved three weeks ago

Wenger must be held accountable for this double failure, one very avoidable and one perhaps more forgivable.

Proven quality strikers are of course very difficult to come by, particularly when you look at the quite ridiculous £350,000-a-week pay packet Manchester United are reportedly handing Radamel Falcao for a season-long loan at Old Trafford.

Not landing experienced cover at centre-back is ridiculous though, particularly when former club captain Thomas Vermaelen completed a £15m move to Barcelona more than three weeks ago.

Chambers emergence no excuse

Wenger will probably point to the rapid progress made by Calum Chambers over the last month, featuring in every Arsenal match so far this season and showing composure and calm in central defence despite never playing there at senior level.

The vastly experienced tactician is always at pains to point out that buying reinforcements harms the progression of talented youngsters, but one injury to either Laurent Koscielny or Per Mertesacker and the Gunners are suddenly in a whole world of trouble.

Last Sunday's laboured 1-1 draw with Leicester City gave a small indication of what may lie ahead, with Koscielny's head injury sustained in the first half showing just how threadbare Arsenal at the back.

Chambers came on and deputised but past that the Gunners didn't have a single recognised defender among their six remaining substitutes.

Six players to fill four positions

Wenger has decided just six recognised defenders can cover four positions in a schedule which will soon switch to three matches a week thanks to Champions League commitments.

The Arsenal boss is closing in on two decades of Premier League management, but even he must see that leaves his defence with less protection than the poor reporters stationed outsides training grounds across the country on transfer deadline day.

Monreal now a utility man

Last season Wenger made a similar gamble and just about came away unscathed, primarily because Bacary Sagna showed he had the strength and aerial presence to play at centre-back.

After experimenting with Nacho Monreal in the same position during the Emirates Cup and Community Shield it looks like Wenger plans to do the same with the Spaniard in emergencies this time.

Sorry Nacho, but Sagna is a vastly superior player in every sense.

Montreal's focus should be on fighting to hold down a starting spot at left-back, particularly with Kieran Gibbs so injury prone.

Unfortunately for Gibbs the Gunners just can't rely on the terrific young full-back to be fit and firing every week.

Throw in the sudden promotion of pacy youngster Hector Bellerin to deputise for Mathieu Debuchy at right-back and Arsenal fans have every right to be worried about strength in depth defensively, let alone further forward.

Dicing with top-four failure once again

Wenger had surely hoped to put a frantic dash to finish fourth behind his troops this season, but heavy summer spending across the Premier League has suddenly moved the goalposts in that respect.

Manchester United have smashed last the £150m barrier with their summer splurge on six new signings.

Defensive deficiencies aside it looks impossible for a team now featuring Radamel Falcao, Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Angel di Maria to repeat United's soul-destroying seventh-placed finish.

Liverpool have brought in nine new faces and now have two quality players fighting to start in every position.

Chelsea look ominously strong and Manchester City are reigning champions, so where do Arsenal fit in this exciting mix?

That's a question that will be answered over the next eight months, but while the merits of the Welbeck deal are weighed up in N5 its a lack of bodies elsewhere which could yet be their undoing when it really matters most.

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Topics:
Arsenal
Football
Manchester United
Premier League

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