Friday 19 December ~
They may not expect much sympathy from followers of other clubs but Arsenal fans are getting sick of the word "potential". The manager's premature celebratory words of his latest teen star will do little to distract the supporters' attention away from their inability to mount a serious title challenge this season. Arsene Wenger has predicted big things from young attacking sensation Jack Wilshire, telling today's Daily Mail "I believe he will end up a central midfielder, just off the striker in the Bergkamp role”.
Whether this was meant as a direct comparison of potential prowess, or simply in relation to his Wilshire's position on the field, is up for debate. “Give him four more years and he will be massively strong,” Wenger added. Arsenal fans, however, do not share the same patience in his youth policy and Wenger’s reluctance to spend on proven stars has had a near-calamitous effect this season.
The stubbornness that Wenger employs in the upper end of the transfer market is echoed in the Arsenal boardroom where the hatches have been battened down against prospective buyers from overseas. Club chairman Peter Hill-Wood continues to insists that the “objective is to keep Arsenal English" albeit with an overload of foreign players. After the recent dismissal of Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith from the Arsenal board, together with her husband Richard Carr, fresh rumours have materialised over a possible takeover at the Emirates.
Their departures have created a 20 per cent stake that is up for grabs, with the Russian-Uzbek billionaire and current shareholder Alisher Usmanov being tipped to raise his stake to 45 per cent as part of a bid for overall control. There is also talk of a return for former vice-chairman David Dein, who left the club due to "irreconcilable differences" in 2007. Dein’s return would be welcomed by Wenger, as his departure in 2007 left the Arsenal manager considering his position.
Arsenal meet Liverpool on Sunday, eight points behind the current leaders. While Wenger's misfiring team have beaten Chelsea and Manchester United this year, this is not a battle between two title challengers. For Gunners fans, the Premier League elite is in danger of becoming “the top three” as Arsenal’s chief aim for the rest of the season will be to prevent Aston Villa snatching that last Champions League slot. Some might even suggest that team would benefit from Wenger having a new employer who makes it clear that he hasn’t got a job for life unless he starts winning trophies. Rich Evans