This Arsenal side has reached the end of its cycle 4

You can’t really talk about Arsenal without involving yourself in the debate surrounding Arsene Wenger.  Any criticism of a side’s performance - or long-term habits - is naturally associated with its manager and so detaching the two is impossible.

But let’s do that for a minute.

Quite evidently, Arsenal were shockingly naive against Monaco and the second and third goals represented such familiar lapses in tactical concentration that they have to be attributed to Wenger.  How often do we see them concede that exact goal: the ball being lost in an advanced position, a central-defender making a rash, impulsive and unsuccessful attempt to intervene, and an opponent breaking into yards and yards of space behind a completely out-of-position midfield.

It’s so commonplace now that it’s almost a cliche.

But beyond Wenger and beyond the flaws in his ideology, isn’t this beginning to look like a group of players who will never be capable of achieving anything?

Alexis Sanchez aside, almost every member of that dressing-room lacks the intangible ingredients to be successful at the top of the game.  It’s an unquantifiable deficiency; there’s just something about this generation’s squad which makes failure inevitable.

Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mesut Ozil, Kieran Gibbs…these are all players who are very technically capable and who, outside of meaningful context, seem worthy of their employer, but they permanently radiate the sort of flimsiness that is never associated with winners.

Superficially, Arsenal only ever look like they’re one or two players away from being a contender.  The consensus has always been that once the club capture the elusive holding-midfielder who they’ve needed for a long time, everything at The Emirates will suddenly make sense again.

Is that true?  Do the club just need to keep making individual, big-budget signings each Summer, or do they really need to look at their foundations?

Truthfully, it’s the latter.  Alexis Sanchez-type players do a great job of disguising a side’s deficiencies and their brilliance typically detracts from uncomfortable truths.  As watchable a footballer as he is and as valuable as he has become to Arsenal, he was a paper-over-the-cracks transfer, a stained-glass window instead of a staircase.

Wenger is in the twilight of his career and the notion of him starting again from scratch is highly-unrealistic, but that’s probably exactly what needs to happen.  This squad needs to be detonated;  they’re the footballing equivalent of skin-deep beauty who continually add up to less than the sum of their parts.  Adding a player here or a player there isn’t going to change that.  Currently, there are very few players at the club who have earned the unwavering faith of their manager and it’s those individuals who need to be treated brutally come the Summer.

Arsenal aren’t a player away from the championship or a European Cup, they’re almost an entire team short.

Rip it up and start again.  If Wenger wants to leave a healthy legacy upon his retirement, he needs to begin a new growth phase right now.

Follow @premleagueowl