Paul McGrath: Skinflint Wenger pays for transfer mistakes
It hurts me to say it, because I’ve always been a great admirer of what Arsene Wenger has done in a brilliant career with Arsenal.
However, the wheels may be about to fall off the club’s great European record of always reaching the last 16 of the Champions League.
To have a chance of maintaining their run, the Gunners have to beat Bayern Munich at the Emirates on Tuesday and I just don’t think they are up to seeing off Thomas Muller, Arjen Robben and the brilliant Robert Lewandowski.
Incredibly, Arsenal didn’t buy an outfield player this summer – at least not one good enough to come straight in and improve their team.
I’ve always wondered about Arsene’s dealings in the transfer market. It seems as if he feels he is spending his own money.
I know he effectively paid the mortgage on the new ground by not buying any new players for a couple of seasons and he’s also been burned by one or two big-money buys that went spectacularly wrong, such as the Russian Andrei Arshavin.
However, for a big club based in London – one of the handful of cities we are told all the best players and their families want to live in – they just do not get enough of the top names.
Arsenal are in a pickle because of dreadful results against Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiakos, when their big players didn’t produce.
Wenger (right) built two great teams with Arsenal: the side of the late 1990s that won a Premier League and a couple of FA Cups, and then the one of 2002-04, that won a Double and then went unbeaten through the 2004 Premier League season.
The Frenchman has forgotten that two of the pillars of those successes were a dominant centre-half in Tony Adams and a brilliant defensive midfielder in Patrick Vieira.
Now what has he got? One of the slowest centre-halves I’ve ever seen in Per Mertesacker.
The big German is a World Cup winner, but he achieved that because manager Joachim Low always played a covering player in front of him, such as Bastian Schweinsteiger. That gave Mertesacker that chance to play a yard deeper and hold his ground.
A classy covering midfielder is exactly what is missing at Arsenal right now, as Mertesacker is regularly exposed when playing in the Premier League and in Europe.
So how did Arsenal miss out on signing Man United’s Schweinsteiger and Bayern’s Arturo Vidal when both moved clubs in the last six months?
I was told, too, that Wenger was in for Anthony Martial, only to be informed by his ex-employers at Monaco that the French starlet was not for sale – at least not for another two years. Two weeks later Martial joined Man United!
It was yet another example of Arsenal missing out on a player who was on their radar.
I know it’s a bit soon to be anointing Martial as a successor to Thierry Henry or Nicolas Anelka, but Wenger at least persuaded those quality acts to pitch up at Arsenal.
Now Arsenal have to face up to one of Europe’s finest teams.
Bayern will not want to let Arsenal back into the competition and will come to the Emirates determined to win.
And I believe they will.