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Arsenal could pay for Arsene Wenger's lack of activity in the transfer market

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"Is this their year?" is a question asked of Arsenal in the early months of every Premier League season.

It's been 11 years since the Gunners last won the title, but belief is still strong that they can lift the trophy again. Arsene Wenger's side made a promising end to the 2014/15 season which naturally evoked belief that the 2015/16 campaign could yield that elusive fourth Premier League title.

Since an underwhelming opening day defeat to West Ham, Arsenal's form has been excellent and many have tipped them to go all the way this season. The Gunners' fantastic start was epitomised by a resounding 3-0 victory over Manchester United.

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However, the bubble burst on Saturday as Wenger's side succumbed to a 2-1 defeat against West Brom. To make matters worse, Francis Coquelin was forced off injured and is set to be on the sidelines for three months.

Suddenly, from being on cloud nine, Wenger is facing some all too familiar questions.

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INJURY WOES

Arsenal and injuries go together like two peas in a pod; not a season goes by without the squad being plagued by them. Serious questions have been asked of Arsenal's medical department following injuries to several key players.

Theo Walcott is out until December with a calf problem, while fellow Englishman Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is still a few weeks away from a return.

Aaron Ramsey has been out for the last month having suffered a hamstring injury against Bayern Munich while Arsenal fans have not seen Jack Wilshere this season after he fractured his leg. Tomas Rosicky has been another long-term absentee, while Danny Welbeck a forgotten man.

Saturday's encounter with West Brom yielded another major injury setback for Arsenal. The club have confirmed Coquelin has suffered a knee ligament injury which means he faces a lengthy spell out.

The Frenchman has become a key player for Arsenal since Wenger brought him into the team last season. The 24-year-old's injury is a huge blow considering the lack of options in the holding midfield position.

Club captain Mikel Arteta replaced Coquelin at the Hawthorns but the Spaniard lasted just 36 minutes before being forced off with a calf strain - and fans have since questioned whether the 33-year-old is past his sell by date.

BACK TO REALITY?

It seems that every season Arsenal reach a point where reality sets in and people realise that it's not going to be 'their year'. While it would be premature to write off Arsenal, Saturday's result did mark a change in attitude towards the Gunners.

So far, the sensational form of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil has largely papered over any cracks in Arsenal's title bid but a familiar flaw was exposed at the Hawthorns, namely their lack of strength in depth.

There is an apparent over-reliance on certain individuals in the current Arsenal side, one of which is  Coquelin. The defensive-midfielder has been an unsung hero for the Gunners in the last year but his injury highlighted the failings of Wenger.

Throughout the summer, many declared that the French veteran needed to bring in another holding midfielder to accompany Coquelin, but they finished the transfer window with Petr Cech as their sole signing. Until now, Wenger's reluctance to invest has been largely forgotten but following Arteta's arrival and swift withdrawal, replaced by Mathieu Flamini, alarm bells were ringing.

LACK OF STRENGTH IN DEPTH

The prospect of fielding 31-year-old Flamini in defensive midfield for the next three months is a concern as Arsenal bid to win the title. It's apparent that Wenger has left his side severely short-staffed in that area of the pitch. 

However, it is not just holding midfield in which Arsenal lack depth. Oliver Giroud is currently the only fit and experienced striker at the club, with Walcott still not ready to return. In the centre of defence, Wenger has little beyond the trio of Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny and Gabriel Paulista. 

Given his side's track record with injury, it's truly bizarre that Wenger has once again been so reluctant to invest in the transfer market.

The Frenchman treats the club's money like his own and that is ultimately holding Arsenal back from progressing. Cech was undoubtedly a fantastic signing, but he alone will not win you the Premier League title.

The unfortunate thing is that the north Londoners are really not far away from being the complete package, but strength in depth is vital to any title challenge and they clearly lack it.

WHAT NEXT?

Arsene Wenger has stated he will "do what's needed" in the January transfer window but has admitted that it's not an "ideal market." Before any transfer plans can be acted upon, Arsenal must navigate through the tricky Christmas period without Coquelin.

Flamini has been a great servant to Arsenal but it's apparent he's no longer the player he was, but it looks like he will have to do until the new year, which is a concern.

At 31, can the Frenchman be relied upon to play every game? It seems a stretch and even if he does, he is no Coquelin. The protection the youngster offers Arsenal's back four is perhaps under-appreciated and the next three months could show how vital a player he is.

It will no doubt be difficult to bring in quality players in January, but Wenger needs to do all he can to make it happen. The likes of William Carvalho and Grzegorz Krychowiak have been linked and this is the calibre of player a club of Arsenal's stature should be targeting.

Closer to home, Victor Wanyama and James McCarthy of Southampton and Everton respectively could both help to relieve the pressure.

Will Wenger take action? Probably not. The manager has been reluctant to delve into the market in the past and there is little sign of that changing any time soon. If he doesn't invest in January and Arsenal's performances suffer as result, there will be immense frustration around the Emirates.

A typically promising end to the season would no doubt relieve the pressure on Wenger, but the Arsenal manager must invest if the club are to escape this cycle of hope followed by disappointment.

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Topics:
Premier League
Arsenal
Football

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