Arsene, just hours before being hit by a bus.

In the second of our series – where a member of the Cutter writing team imagines themselves installed as gaffer of their club – Daniel Snowden keeps things ticking over until the summer then looks to have the mother of all clear-outs.

Arsenal fans have been a miserable bunch of late, bemoaning the fact that the club is not challenging for honours and may not even qualify for Europe next year (the Europa League does not count).  While fans of other clubs may look upon Arsenal’s position in envy, they have not had to pay a minimum of £985 for the privilege of a season ticket (although included in that are 7 home cup ties, including 5 Champions
League games – the 3 group matches, the qualifier and the Milan game). Nevertheless, there is a feeling that something needs to change to get the club back on track, both in the short term and over a longer period. If Arsene Wenger was hit by a bus and the Arsenal board decided my amazing Football Manager skills were enough to lead then
club, this is what I would do….

The immediate issues:
Now the transfer window has shut (emergency loans aside) we have to work with what we have got, including players who for one reason or another are not deemed to be good enough.  However, in classic Wenger style, there are a number of players coming back from injuries that will be “just like a new signing”.  Indeed, Sagna is already back in the squad and Gibbs is also close to making a return, meaning there
will be an actual proper left back in the side for the first time since Olympiacos away at the start of December.  If we can get defenders back and fit then I would continue to play a back four, with Gibbs – Vermaelen – Koscielny – Sagna, with Mertesacker coming into the side when we play against physically tall players as well as allowing for a little rotation/injuries/suspensions.

If Arsenal does not finish fourth, then RvP will go this summer.

Moving up the pitch and the midfield three needs to be rotated a bit to keep them all fit. We have not been able to do that too much so far this season due to injuries, leaving Ramsey in particular looking knackered recently, leading to a loss of his early season form. The situation could be aided by the return of both Jack Wilshire and Abou Diaby, although there is a possibility of both not kicking a ball this side of the summer. In which case, Rosicky needs to be used more and I am not sure why Wenger has not played Benayoun as an attacking midfielder either. He has experience of playing in the Premiership and while he might be a little lightweight to play in a midfield two, he can do a job as part of a three. On top of this, I would play Ashavin
in his favoured position behind the striker every now and again, with Arteta and Song providing cover. The refusal of Wenger to do this baffles me, as Ashavin clearly does not want to play on the left, so you might as well give him a few games in the middle to see if he can at least be useful before his inevitable departure in the summer.

On the Wings the options are Walcott, the Ox, Gervinho and the aforementioned Asahvin. With the little Russian clearly unfussed about playing out wide that leaves three players, who I would rotate depending on form/injuries etc as well as who we are playing.

That just leaves the main man upfront. If Arsenal does not finish fourth, then RvP will go this summer. He may go anyway, but if we finish fifth of lower then he will clearly not sign a new deal and the club will have to cash in on its star player. Arsenal’s best hope for finishing in the CL positions is for him to play every match possible and just take a risk with his fitness, as Park and Chamakh are clearly not up to the task, while Henry leaves the club after the first leg of the CL tie with Milan.

We constantly hear there is money to spend and I for one believe this.

So, to sum up, between now and the end of the season Arsenal need to be a bit lucky with injuries, stick with the current 4-2-3-1 system and keep playing RvP. It is too late to come up with a new tactical way of playing and aside from giving the Ox more time on the pitch not much can be done with the available players.

However, come the summer there needs to be a massive clear out.  We constantly hear there is money to spend and I for one believe this. The issue seems to be the wage bill, and adding new players to that. Arsenal has the second highest bill in the league and until this is reduced there is limited scope to bring in players of the standard of Eden Hazard etc but many players will not move on, and you can’t really blame them. For example, Almunia is on around £50k per week, a level of cash he will not get anywhere else and so, understandably, he is reluctant to move on.  To get round this Arsenal may have to give him away and pay a percentage of his wages for a while. By doing this they have at least reduced the wage bill a bit and the team has not really been weakened as he is never going to play anyway.

So, here is my list of outs:
Almunia, Fabianski; Squillaci; Ashavin, Benayoun, Diaby (unless he can play 5 matches in a row before the end of the season), Denilson, Lansbury; Park, Chamakh, Vela, Bendtner.

That should shave a tidy sum off the way bill, so we can go out and get: Eden Hazard, Daniel Sturridge, Lukas Podolski; a decent, experienced keeper who does not mind sitting on the bench and maybe another defender who is fairly versatile. I would also promote Francis Coquelin fully into the first team while Ryo Miyaichi could become an important player if he has a similar loan spell at Bolton as enjoyed by Jack Wilshire.