Wenger paying price for transfer folly
Wenger's decision not to sign a striker over two transfer windows is killing their title hopes
Arsene Wenger knew the extent of Danny Welbeck's knee injury before the summer transfer window shut last September.
The Arsenal boss, who was criticised for misleading supporters when saying earlier that Welbeck was "progressing well", explained that he merely recited the information that was given to him by the club.
Whether he was misled by his medical team or he had confidence in his attackers, only he knows best.
As it turned out, Wenger decided not to buy a striker and instead signed only goalkeeper Petr Cech in the summer.
Arsenal were the only club in Europe's top leagues not to sign an outfield player.
To pass up on another chance to bring in a forward when there was a glaring need to smacks of gross negligence.
The Frenchman then let the January transfer window pass without reinforcing his frontline.
The repercussions reverberated around the Emirates Stadium yesterday morning (Singapore time), as the Gunners scraped a 0-0 draw with Southampton to extend their winless streak in the Premier League to four games.
The sporadic booing by the home fans is proof that the atmosphere can turn mutinous at short notice.
It's three games without a goal now, with the Saints ruthlessly demonstrating why.
Arsenal mustered 21 shots, but still couldn't beat Fraser Forster.
Olivier Giroud laboured to no avail up front.
Alexis Sanchez is clearly not yet back to his best after missing the whole of December and most of January.
Mesut Oezil's magic deserted him and Joel Campbell's influence waned as the match progressed.
With the attacking quartet struggling to find their rhythm and Forster inspired, Arsenal's lack of a cutting edge couldn't have been more obvious.
Wenger's Plan B was to introduce forward Theo Walcott for Campbell in the 62nd minute.
Rather more baffling was his decision to replace Mathieu Flamini with Francis Coquelin with five minutes left.
If those changes had any positive effect, Southampton certainly didn't feel it, as they earned a well-deserved point for their determined defensive performance.
The Gunners have dropped to fourth in the Premiership table, five points adrift of leaders Leicester City, and inferior in goal difference to fierce rivals Tottenham Hotspur who are third.
But Arsenal's disastrous return of three points from their last four Premiership matches at such a crucial juncture is not due to tactical errors on Wenger's part.
It's a strategic failure which has cost them dearly.
Wenger was in fact counting on Giroud as the main striker for the entire season, with wide players Walcott and Sanchez on standby for the role.
However, Walcott's problems with injuries are nothing new and, true to form, he missed a chunk of games between October and December.
Like Walcott, Sanchez has started just 14 times in the Premiership.
The overworked Giroud has started 21 matches straight, dating back to October.
In a campaign where Arsenal were widely expected to make a genuine charge for the league crown, it is bizarre that they left the business of scoring goals to one recognised striker and two emergency alternatives.
Ironically, Arsenal director Lord Harris said before the start of the season that Wenger was allowed to buy any player he desired, "anyone but Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi".
Apparently, a top striker was on the shortlist.
World-class strikers "do not walk in off the streets", Wenger hit back, after more criticism following the draw with Southampton.
Sure, they don't.
But neither do league titles.
If you had found a world-class striker who could have strengthened the team, then you should have told me. Believe me, they do not walk in (off) the street and say, ‘I am a world-class striker’.
— Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger responding to questions about his failure to sign a striker
BY THE NUMBERS
2 wins Arsene Wenger has beaten Ronald Koeman only twice in 11 meetings. He has lost five and drawn four.
10 shots Arsenal's 10 shots on target against Southampton without scoring is the joint most in an EPL match this season.
270 minutes Arsenal have not scored in the Premier League for 270 minutes.
34 shots The Gunners have not scored from their last 34 shots in the EPL.
- Crystal Palace 1 Bournemouth 2
- Leicester 2 Liverpool 0
- Man United 3 Stoke 0
- Norwich 0 Tottenham 3
- Sunderland 0 Man City 1
- West Brom 1 Swansea 1
- West Ham 2 Aston Villa 0.