Wenger to spend ‘where needed’

The Gunners look to be heading for a sixth consecutive season

without silverware after a last-minute defeat at Bolton left them

nine points behind Premier League leaders Manchester United with

just four games left. Only eight weeks ago, Arsenal appeared well

on course for a much different outcome before they suffered a shock

Carling Cup final defeat to Birmingham at Wembley, went out of

Europe to Barcelona and then lost their FA Cup quarter-final at Old

Trafford. Six draws from the last nine of an unbeaten 16-game

Premier League run, which ended on Sunday, saw what had looked to

be a sustained title assault fail to last the distance once again.

Wenger cut a forlorn figure at full-time at the Reebok Stadium, as

the reality of his young squad’s latest failing sunk in. The

Gunners boss has endured great criticism of his unwavering faith in

youth, with fans and pundits alike calling for him to add some

steely experience to all that potential. While Wenger is unlikely

to raid his £40million warchest for just one marquee signing

this summer, it is now highly probably a couple of more mature

players will be brought in to help the current generation win that

first illusive trophy. “We have the quality, that is for sure. We

have to strengthen the squad where it needs and make the right

decision on that front. It [transfers] is always in my mind every

day,” Wenger told Arsenal TV Online. “The team have had an

outstanding attitude and will not be rewarded because of small

things, but small things cost you. “It is frustrating because the

team has produced the efforts. “We have to be realistic that it

[the title] is very unlikely now, but we have to finish as well as

we can.” Next up for Arsenal is the visit of United on May 1, in

what Wenger had hoped could prove a title showdown, but where now

an Arsenal victory would only seem to serve as a delaying tactic

for the Red Devils’ coronation or give London rivals Chelsea a shot

in the arm. Despite all of the now perennial criticism over his

young squad, Wenger maintains Arsenal’s philosophy stands true. “If

someone can convince me that the principles are wrong I am ready to

change, but I feel we try to play football the proper way,” he

said. “When you don’t win you question your principles, but you

have to give yourself the right distance to see what is right and

wrong in what you do. “I think if something is wrong in our team,

it is not the principles in playing our football.” Wenger, however,

accepted shortcomings at the back have proven too costly, Arsenal

without injured centre-half Thomas Vermaelen for most of the

campaign. “We have not been stable enough defensively,” he said.

“The numbers are the numbers – this week we have conceded six goals

and you cannot afford to concede six goals in April in three games

and win the championship. “Defensively we have been too frail this

season.” Wenger may not have delivered a trophy since Patrick

Vieira lifted the 2005 FA Cup in Cardiff, but few can accuse the

club of standing still. Arsenal have moved from Highbury to their

new 60,000-seater home at Ashburton Grove, which in the long-term

will secure their self-funding status, while the Gunners also

reached the 2006 Champions League final. Wenger has overseen

consistent qualification for Europe’s lucrative elite club

competition in each of the past 15 seasons, while his transfer

spending is in credit – unlike all of Arsenal’s title rivals – and

has tied-up key men such as Cesc Fabregas on long-term deals.

Former Arsenal goalkeeper Bob Wilson believes calls for a change in

the dugout are wide of the mark. “He is not fireproof, nobody is,

but Arsene is an intelligent man and he will say when he has taken

them as far as he can,” former Scotland goalkeeper Wilson, who won

the double with Arsenal in 1971, told BBC Radio Five Live. “I don’t

think the board will ever sack Arsene, unless there is a dramatic

slump in the manner they play.” Wilson added: “Arsene has a

complete aversion to paying double the price for British players,

but he has to swallow his pride on that because there has to be a

more British feel to the team.”