Arsene Wenger’s mistake at Arsenal still hasn’t been rectified – and it’s costing club

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Arsene Wenger stepped down as Arsenal manager in 2018 after 22 years at the helm of the north London club.

It was widely accepted that the Gunners needed to go in a new direction at the time, as Wenger had apparently hit a wall that couldn’t be negotiated.

The club, who were title contenders at Wenger’s pomp, were regressing.

Finishing in the top four was becoming increasingly difficult, with the Gunners generally good going forward, but increasingly sloppy in defence. Growing unrest among the fanbase eventually saw Wenger jump before he was pushed.

Arsenal replaced Wenger with Unai Emery – a talented manager who had previously enjoyed real success with Sevilla, winning the Europa League three times with them.

The Spaniard had just parted company with Paris Saint-Germain, meaning he also knew how to handle big players and a changing room packed with egos.

Things started well for Emery, with fans heard singing: “We’ve got our Arsenal back,” during a victory over Fulham.

But it wasn’t long before thing started to turn sour and Emery was eventually sacked.

There are many reasons as to why Emery got it wrong at Arsenal, but perhaps breaking the bank to sign a forward in £72million Nicolas Pepe wasn’t the best move for a cash-strapped club in dire need of defenders.

Yes, Emery signed Kieran Tierney, who is proving to be a great purchase.

But the club desperately needed a centre-back even before Laurent Koscielny left that same summer and should have made signing one a priority.

Instead, Arsenal picked up David Luiz from the bargain bucket – and their scrimping and saving has come back to haunt them.

When Mikel Arteta was finally handed the squad in 2019 he inherited a complete mess at the back, with Tierney and Hector Bellerin struggling with injuries and a plethora of bang average centre-backs.

What’s more, the Pepe transfer meant the bank was empty when he needed to make a few signings in January.

As a result, Arteta could only sign Pablo Mari and Cedric Soares on loan in a desperate bid to patch up his defence.

As we have seen since the Premier League restart, these additions have done little to solve Arsenal’s problems.

Arteta has been very unlucky with injuries, but even at full strength Arsenal are not good enough defensively as they should be.

It seems Wenger’s problems are still present two years on.

Emmanuel Petit pointed this out with a recent analysis of the club. “I’ve been particularly upset in relation to the defenders,” he said.

“We all know one of Arsenal’s major weaknesses is their defence and nothing has changed. This makes me miss Arsene Wenger.

“If I was David Luiz, of course I would sign a new deal and I would also say a prayer of thanks to the Arsenal directors every time I wake up.

“Even when he last won the Premier League with Chelsea, he’s not the same player any more. This guy has lost something.

“To be honest, it’s a joke. Find some proper defenders. Are you telling me there are no young talented defenders on the market? I just don’t get it.”

Pointing the finger of blame at the Gunners board, Petit added: “Does anyone think the Arsenal executives and directors know what they’re doing on the football side of things?

“For the last few years they have been splashing out on the transfer market – and have brought in some decent players – but I don’t know what their target or project for the future is.

“It’s far worse now than in the last years under Wenger. What is the point of being one of the richest clubs on the planet with no reason or vision behind it?”

* Emmanuel Petit was speaking exclusively to Paddy Power News. To read more, visit news.paddypower.com.

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