Premier League Weekend Review: Arsenal prove there are some things money can't buy

Arsene Wenger now has two must-win games this week
Arsene Wenger now has two must-win games this week

Ralph Ellis sees the irony in a Gunners defeat that has provided the latest twist to a compelling Premier League season...

"It is not Wenger’s refusal to spend more money when he is sitting on huge cash reserves that is Arsenal’s problem. It is the fact that players who have already cost massive fees don’t seem to be capable of stepping forward when it matters most."

The biggest irony of the sudden stumble in Arsenal's title challenge is that it is actually undermining the critics of Arsene Wenger.

All last summer we kept hearing how he should have spent big. That just buying Petr Cech before the window shut at the end of August was a huge mistake. The same voices wanted him to fork out fortunes to bring in a new striker during January.

So let's have a look at the clubs who are currently ahead of the Gunners in the title race, and start with Leicester who stayed top with a dramatic late win over Norwich and are now 3.39/4 favourites. You're talking about a team bought for buttons, with £1m former-non-League man Jamie Vardy and £375,000 snip Riyad Mahrez the players of their season.

Then there's Spurs, in second place and 3.45, wearing down a stubborn Swansea side on Sunday thanks to the tireless running of a bunch of kids who came through their Academy, plus £5m Dele Alli from League One.

And of course Manchester United 110.0109/1 who exposed all Arsenal's shortcomings thanks to 18-year-old Marcus Rashford's two goals, along with the efforts of a few more boys from a youth set-up that has just been revamped because it was considered not to be producing enough decent players.

So it is not Wenger's refusal to spend more money when he is sitting on huge cash reserves that is Arsenal's problem. It is the fact that players who have already cost massive fees don't seem to be capable of stepping forward when it matters most.

Gabriel Paulista ought to have been an improvement in defence for £11.2m. Instead he left Rashford with the easiest of free headers and seemed incapable of dealing with crosses. Meanwhile Alexis Sanchez at £35m froze on the big stage, and £50m Mesut Ozil floated in and out of the game too.

Graeme Souness' withering description of them as "insipid, weak and pussyfooted" was just about right. Only Cech looks to have the character to inspire others, and there's only so much you can do from between the posts.

It has become a massive week for Arsenal. Last week I said that Manuel Pellegrini had to win two games to stave off a Manchester City crisis, and he did exactly that. Wenger now has the same challenge with Swansea at home and then the derby at Tottenham on Saturday lunchtime.

The biggest thing still haunting Wenger is that the debate among Arsenal fans about his management just won't go away. Half the crowd still trust him, the others want him out. It means every game is played under a pressure that must affect the players and expose their lack of leadership even further.

Wenger talks about his team needing to show their character and bounce back. But can they, in that atmosphere? I'd be tempted to lay them at 1.42/5 against stubborn Swansea, and 2.68/5 for Spurs to win at White Hart Lane looks a good bet too.

Things will change for Arsenal only if their players take a good look at themselves after what happened at Old Trafford and realise they must step up. No amount of spending could have changed that.

Get a Free £/€20 Exchange Bet

  • Join Now - Open account using promo code VAL225
  • Bet - Place a £/€20 Bet on the Exchange
  • Earn We'll Refund You £/€20 If the Bet Loses
Bet now

T&Cs apply.

Discover the latest articles

Read past articles