Wenger must admit to Gunners' shortcomings

There are reasons Arsenal looks like completing six seasons without winning a trophy. There are reasons it lost the English League Cup final to Birmingham, writes Frank Malley.

If Arsene Wenger was as clever as everybody makes out then right now he would not be throwing a smokescreen around the reported criticisms of his captain Cesc Fabregas.

He would not be angrily decrying the Spanish publication, Don Balon, in which Fabregas reportedly questioned Wenger's policy of putting faith in his young players,

A wise Wenger would not be shooting the messenger. He would be listening to the message.

Of course a player's thoughts should be reported fairly and accurately and if the terms of the interview were breached — Arsenal claim they had an agreement for a “check viewing” of the offending article — then Wenger has a right to feel aggrieved.

But, hey, wake up, smell the coffee. There are reasons Arsenal look like completing six seasons without winning a trophy. There are reasons they lost the English League Cup final to Birmingham.

There are reasons they appear to be out of the Premier League title race after dropping four points in four days, squandering two more leads and turning two more potential victories into inadequate draws.

They have nothing to do with referees' timekeeping or dodgy penalties, which Wenger was complaining about following the 1-1 draw against Liverpool. They have nothing to do with the bad luck he complains his side have suffered this season.

They have nothing to do with injuries or magazine articles.

They have everything to do with Wenger and his inability to accept that while his footballing philosophy has brought so much beauty and style to English football, it is just not a winning philosophy.

What is Fabregas, who as a raw 16-year-old was on the outer fringes of the Arsenal ‘Invincibles' side of 2004 which went through the league season unbeaten, reported as saying?

“From 2007 on, I started to say: ‘We don't win but we play very well.' And after that you realise that it doesn't work. You enjoy it, during a part of the season, like this year when we were in four different competitions and you say: ‘Here, I have it all.' But then you cannot make the final step and it is here where a decision has to be made: to go out to win or to develop players.”

If Fabregas as captain did not say that then he should have done, because anyone who has studied Arsenal can see that criticism is spot-on.

The Gunners remain the most pleasing team on the eye in the EPL. For periods of games, such as the first half when they raced into a 3-1 lead at White Hart Lane, they are virtually unplayable.

Yet football is about balance. Always has been, always will be. The Gunners simply do not possess the experience to go with the youth, the steel to go with the guile, the Tony Adams to lead, the Patrick Vieira to battle, the Dennis Bergkamp to deliver.

Here's something else Fabregas is alleged to have said: “We are all so young and there is nobody you look at and say ‘Wow'.”

Again, spot-on. Theo Walcott has his moments, Samir Nasri was brilliant for half a season before fading, Robin van Persie spends too much time on the treatment table, Laurent Koscielny is an accident waiting to happen. And Fabregas? No one could question his commitment nor his technical influence but great skippers lift those around them when it matters most.

They direct proceedings to see out games when the result takes precedence over the performance.

Fabregas and Arsenal simply do not do that. It is why they lie six points behind a Manchester United side who, by common consensus, have not played well all season. They also trail Chelsea on goal difference, despite Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti admitting his squad have not been good enough.

In short, Wenger's way does not work even in a non-vintage season.

Wenger, in defence, points to his team's unbeaten run of 16 matches.

“We are remarkably consistent,” he says. He is clutching at statistics. He is looking for smokescreens when the truth is obvious.

Don't shoot the messenger. Listen to the message.

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