Mar 30, 2013, 12:37 PM EDT
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has laid down the gauntlet to his players – perform down the stretch or risk being sold.
It’s no secret that Wenger will be flush with cash to improve his side when the summer transfer window opens. And now, in a very non-Arsene move, the Frenchman is requesting his players prove to him why they shouldn’t be replaced.
“We have to analyse. What will decide our attitude, my attitude, is how we do now until the end of the season,” said Wenger. “We have had some blips that were not expected, Blackburn and Bradford, but overall I must say the attitude of the team has been great and when everyone is here (fit), then we have a strong team.
“What is important is to analyse where we can improve at the end of the season.”
Wenger’s warning shot is a motivational tactic wrapped in barbed wire. The gaffer is not exasperated with his squad. Quite the opposite, really, as the Frenchman was quick to note that his team deserves credit for shuttling themselves into Champions League contention after winning five of their last seven in the league. At the same time Wenger rarely throws around ultimatums – so don’t be surprised if the manager holds true to his word and brings down the axe this summer.
So what key players could be on the Arsenal hotseat?
Up front, the bullseye is squarely on the back of Gervinho (4 goals, 0 assists in 14 appearances). Since arriving in North London, the forward has shown remarkable athleticism but horrid technique. Golden opportunities are frequently squandered and half-chances routinely result in throw-ins. Yet somehow, Galatasaray are rumored to be interested in an $18.2 million move for the 25 year old, a move that most Goonahs would be delighted to see through and would provide the club a $1.8 million profit. Unless Gervinho steps up and answers Wenger’s call in a big way, it’ll be au revoire for the 25 year old.
In the midfield, Mikel Arteta (4 goals, 2 assists in 25 appearances) and Aaron Ramsey (0 goals, 2 assists in 27 appearances) are both very reliable but consistently underwhelming. In the center of the park, Arteta is neither a defensive maestro nor a playmaker. Similarly, Ramsey can get the job done in a number of midfield positions but fails to excel in any particular role. Both players could be key players at lower level Premier League clubs but if Arsenal wants to return to being a title-contending squad, Wenger needs to do away with the midfield vanilla.
Defensively, Laurent Koscielny (1 goal, 0 assists in 16 appearances) and Bacary Sagna (0 goals, 0 assists in 16 appearances) need to find a way into the squad to prove themselves. The former has shown glimpses of stardom but too often commits silly mistakes that cost his squad points. Sagna, on the other hand, is a quality full-back who any Arsenal fan would welcome keeping in the squad so long as his health improves and more importantly, he starts to show greater commitment to the club. One feels like Sagna could take or leave Arsenal. This is exactly the kind of blasé attitude that Wenger’s side needs to eradicate.
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