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West Cork sports writer Ger McCarthy asks: 
Have Arsenal turned the corner?

(This post first appeared in the Newstalk Sports Blog )
Not since their FA Cup final success back in 2005 have Arsenal managed to lift a domestic or European trophy under the tutelage of Arsene Wenger. Despite the move to the magnificent new stadium it has proven a frustrating time for Gunners fans. Some of the purest football ever produced by a Premier League club is regularly on display at the Emirates and commendably Wenger’s tactics remain consistent away from home. Yet for all Arsenals’ fluency the brand new Emirates trophy cabinet remains surprisingly bare.
Wenger’s young side have mesmerised opponents all over the continent with their quick-passing style of play but crucially, have failed to maintain their consistency throughout an entire season. First Manchester United and now Chelsea have proven too strong over the last five domestic campaigns with a more effective pressing game regularly nullifying the Gunners more stylish approach. Arsenal fans will point to a host of long-term injuries to star players such as Fabregas and Van Persie as one of the main reasons for their lack of success but surely the buck must stop with a manager who remains reluctant to open the cheque book to strengthen his squad.
The Gunners
recently announced record pre-tax profits of over 65 million euro and the fact that they have paid off the debt owing on their Highbury Square developments. This means a generous transfer kitty remains available to Wenger with the Gunners now firmly ensconced in the top five richest clubs in the world.
The manager’s stubborn refusal to pay big transfer fees when it comes to purchasing players has exasperated Arsenal fans and neutrals alike. Consider the chronic need for a new goalkeeper following Manuel Almunia’s drop in form since the beginning of the season and Wenger’s subsequent rejection of meeting Fulham’s asking price for Mark Schwarzer.
True, the French manager has enjoyed a tradition of fostering young talent into the first team but one look at Chelsea or Manchester United’s championship winning squads demonstrates the need for experience over raw talent when it comes to navigating difficult title run-ins. If proof was ever needed that Arsenal require strengthening in the number one position surely the lack of experienced goalkeeping backup is enough to warrant purchasing more experienced shot-stopper? Chelsea has Peter Cech, United has Van Der Sar but Arsenal are relying on Szczesny or Fabianski.
For all Arsenals’ perceived faults however, there are signs that the 2010-2011 campaign could yet see a return to claiming a domestic trophy.
Wenger’s decision to field a stronger first eleven than in the previous five Carling Cup campaigns highlights the clearest shift in the manager’s philosophy. Over the past decade both the FA and Carling Cup competitions represented an opportunity for Arsenal to field their youngest (and rawest) talent without ever delivering a trophy. Wenger’s decision to announce that his club is now attempting to win every competition hints that the manager may finally be listening to the fans and possibly the shareholders. A morale-boosting Carling Cup victory at White Hart Lane was followed up by a complete dissection of Newcastle United at St. James’s Park last night. It appears that after many years of spending time – rather than money – cultivating talent that Arsenal’s squad is now mature enough to challenge in every competition.
The addition of Chamakh as a close season signing has temporarily negated the loss of the injured Robin Van Persie with Jack Wilshire emerging as heir apparent to the soon to be departed Cesc Fabregas. The most pertinent point is that Arsenal now have adequate cover in all the key positions (bar goalkeeper) for a serious tilt at the title. Throw in the superb form of Samir Nasri and the imminent return of defensive lynchpin Thomas Vermalen and the Gunner’s have the look of a squad capable of hoisting the Premier League trophy once again.
Even a shock 3-2 defeat at home to West Brom or the 2-0 reversal at Stamford Bridge has failed to deter Arsenal’s title ambitions. Unlike previous campaigns, Arsenal has been able to bounce back with consecutive Premier League wins over Birmingham and most recently, Manchester City.
There appears to be more of a cutting edge to North Londoners this term even though they can occasionally annoy with their reluctance to shoot from long range and instead attempt to pass the ball into the net.
The bottom line is that Arsene Wenger is fielding stronger sides in the cup competitions and able to get by in the league despite a crippling injury list. Off the pitch, the club has never been in such a terrific financial state. On the pitch the chances of Arsenal winning a trophy have never been more favourable.
The 2010-2011 campaign looks like being the season the Gunners finally return to winning ways.

(This post first appeared in the Newstalk Sports Blog )