In his latest TEAMtalk column, Danny Mills says Arsene Wenger must splash the cash and believes players have the right to respond to criticism.
In this week's Mills & Boom column, I discuss Swansea's superb win over Arsenal and really think it is time for Arsene Wenger to spend big and bolster his defence. The relegation battle is really starting to hot up and despite Blackburn's huge win over Fulham, I still think Steve Kean's men will be in trouble at the end of the season along with Wolves, Bolton and Wigan. But in general, I really believe that fans of the struggling clubs need to have more patience. I can also empathise with Steve Kean and Thierry Henry, who have both been in the headlines after clashes with fans. Why can't players and mangers respond to criticism? Banter is part and parcel of the game and I always used to give as good as I got!
Give my latest offering a read and let me know your thoughts in the comments box below - Danny.
Swansea's victory over Arsenal on Sunday was fantastic. You have to give credit to the Welsh side, who have now only lost one game at home all season. Brendan Rodgers' side have been unbelievable and I have to hold my hands up as I thought that at this stage they'd be cut adrift at the bottom of the table. They began with the basis of a Championship side - with players who have even played in League One - and received minimal investment. It's a culmination of their terrific work over the past six years really, and they have an admirable footballing philosophy at the club. Swansea effectively out-Arsenaled Arsenal on Sunday; keeping possession, believing in their style of play and really showing that at home they are a force to be reckoned with.
But for all of the plaudits towards Swansea, it has to be said that Arsenal were average. Wenger's bound to pinpoint the penalty decision that led to Swansea's opener, but apart from that they conceded two more goals and could quite easily have conceded more. They should have pushed on and taken control of the game after scoring their first, but they simply haven't been good enough defensively. That's where Wenger's problems lie. There's been massive injury problems at that football club - and that is part of the reason - but Wenger has to start spending. He's brought in Per Mertesacker, who's a fantastic player with 79 caps for Germany, but he doesn't look like he can cut it in the Premier League.
The ghosts of Arsenal's past
Since Sol Campbell and Thierry Henry first left the club, Arsenal have not won anything. They'll be trophyless for seven seasons unless they win something this time around. Due to Campbell's absence, defensively, they have had a huge problem for some time. They've found a decent goalkeeper in Wojciech Szczesny so that's solved part of the issue, but unless he buys some real quality defenders to compliment the likes of Robin van Persie and Aaron Ramsey, Arsenal will surely struggle for some time.
The start of Arsenal's season was the obvious issue. A defeat to Liverpool, as well as humiliating losses against Manchester United and Blackburn reflect badly on Wenger. Even going back to last season when they were conceding goals in winning situations - such as the 4-4 draw at Newcastle - it's clear that Wenger has had time to address this situation, and he must. They play fantastic "total football" which is brilliant, but if it's not getting you results then it doesn't really matter.
Wenger must splash the cash
So, Arsene Wenger has to spend cash in this transfer window. There was some panic-buying towards the end of the summer transfer window with the likes of Mertesacker, Andre Santos and Yossi Benayoun coming in, and it hasn't really worked for them. To reiterate: They need some quality defenders. Gael Clichy's transfer to Manchester City left a void in the summer and while they were looking to rely on Kieran Gibbs, who has now suffered an injury, they haven't replaced him. Right-back has been a problem for them, as has Thomas Vermaelen's absence and so if Wenger has to strengthen anywhere, it's certainly in defence.
Despite their fantastic run of form, my prediction of Arsenal finishing 5th or 6th is certainly one that I'm sticking to.
Relegation battle hots up
Blackburn's morale-boosting 3-1 defeat of Fulham was brilliant for both them and their manager, Steve Kean. When their top-scorer Yakubu was sent off you immediately just think 'disaster', but they continued their recent resurgence and still went on to win the game. It was a bizarre result, but they do happen. I'll hold my hands up and apologise; at the start of the season I had Norwich and Swansea struggling at this stage due to their lack of investment. The only team that is still down there is Wolves, mainly because I wasn't sure that they'd score enough goals. However, Mick McCarthy is a constant battler and he does a fantastic job. Even if they finish 16th or 17th in the Premier League he'll be absolutely delighted. But it's all changed in the relegation battle. Bolton have had a disastrous campaign so far; I can't see Wigan scoring enough goals or scraping enough wins; even QPR have slipped into the relegation zone but you presume that with Mark Hughes and the new investment they'll drag themselves out of it. So, for me, it still leaves Blackburn, Wolves, Bolton and Wigan in and around there.
Fighting like a pack of Wolves
Wolves' 1-1 draw away at Tottenham was a great result for them, but it only takes them one point away from the relegation zone. Mick McCarthy has done a fantastic job with the available resources, but I think they're always going to be down there or thereabouts. Realistically, 16th or 17th is as high as you'd expect to see Wolves without big investment. But you've got to love McCarthy's honesty. For him, the first and foremost for his players is to train hard, and he's just as honest during post-match interviews. He's under no illusions, he knows the quality of his players, and that they won't be challenging for fourth spot. They managed to escape the drop last season, and I think they might just repeat the feat this season.
Fans need patience
McCarthy shouldn't be worried about the lack of public vocal support from chairman Steve Morgan, either. While speaking to Joe Royle, a vastly experienced manager, he said that the relationship between the manager and the chairman is the most important relationship at a football club. You don't particularly have to like each other, but there has to be an understanding of what the club is doing. So as long as McCarthy and Morgan both understand and agree with where the club is, there's no issue. Who else could do a better job than McCarthy at Wolves? It's a similar situation at Everton, where David Moyes wrongly comes under criticism and pressure at times. If you took Moyes out of Everton I don't think there's another Premier League manager at the moment who could do a better job. So fans do sometimes need to be more realistic.
Players deserve right to respond
With Steve Kean's recent altercations with Blackburn fans and Thierry Henry's clash with an Arsenal supporter following Sunday's game against Swansea, it's clear that players and managers care and will snap back. Speaking as a former player, when you hear insults - personal or otherwise - coming from one individual in the stands, sometimes you'll respond, whether or not you should. Especially when you've lost, it's easy to get riled and frustrated, and if someone just says something you can snap. But it's simply because players care. They don't want to lose, or miss chances. In Kean's case, he's still under serious pressure and wasn't the right appointment in my opinion. They struggled last season and have struggled this season, and Kean just seemed to be the easy appointment for the Venky's group, who knew that former manager Sam Allardyce wouldn't be told what to do. Blackburn could also easily lose the likes of Christopher Samba in this transfer window, so it'll be touch and go as to whether they survive this season.
Banter is part of the game
I can empathise with the likes of Henry, as fans have always had a go at me. When I signed for Charlton the goalkeeping coach, Andy Woodman, informed me that he'd never known a player to get so much stick and be booed at every football ground he's been to! But it's part and parcel of the game for me. Occasionally you'll have a bit of banter, but generally you just take it on the chin. Of course, every now and then if you've made a mistake, you're angry with yourself, not the fans. As a result, you're angry and you can lash out. But it's a player's right. If someone has a go at you, why can't you, as a player, have a go at them? You can get 60,000 or 70,000 people hurling abuse at you at once, but if you say one thing back then you're in trouble for it, which is hypocritical. Most of the time, it's all good fun and as a player you get used to getting all sorts of stick. Towards the end of my career I probably enjoyed it!
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