Wenger to give Walcott, Rosicky and Arshavin the push
Clear-out at Arsenal after boss loses patience with under-performers. But can Wenger survive?
IT LOOKS likely the party is over for Theo Walcott and several of his similarly overpaid and underperforming Arsenal team-mates. According to several reports in today's papers, Arsene Wenger has finally woken up to what some, including my colleague Jonathan Harwood, have been saying for ages – that the Arsenal winger is just not up to the job.
Having savaged his players publicly for their disgraceful display against AC Milan on Wednesday night, Wenger then laid into the Arsenal squad behind closed doors when they reconvened at their north London training ground on Thursday. The Mirror says that the "furious manager shouted and swore" at his players and told them their 4-0 defeat to Milan had been the worst experience of his managerial career.
According to The Sun, Wenger was so shell-shocked by what he'd witnessed in the San Siro on Wednesday night that he said nothing to the players immediately after the match. Instead, having arrived back in London at 3am on Thursday morning, he ordered them into training a few hours later where he "made it clear the performance was totally unacceptable".
The Sun claims that Wenger won't walk away from the Emirates but instead intends to rebuild his shattered reputation. First of all he will bring in former Arsenal defender Steve Bould as his assistant to replace Pat Rice in the summer, but there are also greater changes afoot.
According to the Daily Mail, Wenger is preparing to "wield the axe" and the first head on the block will be Theo Walcott's. The paper says Wenger no longer has any patience with the 22-year-old who, just a few weeks ago, was allegedly angling for a new and improved £100,000-a-week contract. Instead he'll be shown his P45 at the end of this season after six years of unfulfilled potential.
The Daily Telegraph validates the Mail's story, saying Wenger "went crazy" with his players as a result of the massacre in Milan and is now "ready to dump Arsenal's flops". As well as Walcott, Wenger will also dispose of Tomas Rosicky, Andrei Arshavin, Marouane Chamakh and Sébastien Squillaci, although Arsenal fans could point to at least half a dozen more squad members who should be climbing the scaffold steps too.
Then there's the uncertain future of Robin van Persie. The Telegraph says the Dutchman was "forlorn" after the Champions League disaster and if Arsenal fail to qualify for next season's competition then it's inconceivable he'll want to remain at the Emirates beyond June. To that end Stephen Howard, writing in the Sun, says the next two games for Arsenal will decide not just Van Persie's future but also Wenger's.
First up is the trip to Sunderland on Saturday in the FA Cup fifth round, followed a week later by the league clash with Spurs at the Emirates. Should Arsenal fail to win both, then Howard predicts that "the Arsenal fans who bid adieu to Thierry Henry on Wednesday night will also be saying au revoir to Robin van Persie and Wenger".