Wenger takes blames for Arsenal shortcomings

LONDON - Arsenal need to tighten up defensively rather than change their entire philosophy, manager Arsene Wenger said after taking the blame for his team's Premier League title chances shrinking to "minimal."

A 2-1 defeat at Bolton Wanderers on Sunday left their hopes hanging by the thinnest of threads as the London side trail leaders Manchester United by nine points with four games to go.

Wenger's side have won admirers for their neat passing game and fluid attacking play but with the trophy cabinet lacking any new silverware since 2005, some former players have questioned the approach.

"If you ask most Arsenal fans they'd maybe forgo the easy-on-the-eye free-flowing football to be able to grind out results and have a different way of playing to win trophies," ex-Arsenal winger Perry Groves told Sky Sports.

Groves was at the north London club from 1986 to 1992, during the "boring, boring Arsenal" days under George Graham and while many fans are glad to see the back of the defensive style of play, they would welcome a bit more solidity.

"I am convinced we are a very good footballing side," Wenger said on the club's website.

"We have not been stable enough defensively. We have conceded six goals this week at a moment where you cannot afford to concede six goals in three games and win the championship.

"If you can convince me that the principles are wrong, then I am ready. But I feel we try to play football the proper way... I think if something is wrong in our team, it is not the principle of playing our football."


Wenger, criticised by fans for failing to sign a centre back in the January transfer window they were struggling with Thomas Vermaelen's long-term injury, is likely to make that position a priority in the close season.

Local media have reported that prospective new owner Stan Kroenke will make 40 million pounds available for transfers.

"They need a presence of a centre half, an organiser," former Arsenal forward Paul Merson told Sky Sports.

"There's not a million things to do, just a little bit of tweaking here and tweaking there and that would be the difference between them being a real threat next season."

Pictures of Wenger crouching on the touchline with his head in his hands dominated the British newspapers on Monday after the last-minute defeat in Bolton and the Frenchman was quick to shoulder the blame for the collapse in the season.

"If somebody is to blame, it's me. I pick the team. I choose the players," Wenger said. "I feel the players had an outstanding attitude this season. They are not to blame.

"The (title) chances are very minimal now, that is for sure, but we have to continue to fight."

Two months ago Arsenal were chasing four trophies but since their League Cup Final defeat by Birmingham City on February 27, they have been knocked out of the Champions League, FA Cup and won only one of their last seven league games.

"Psychologically the defeat against Birmingham had a massive effect," said Groves. "The lack of trophies and silverware has added to their problems... at the moment they haven't got that mental toughness and ruthlessness you need to be successful."

Arsenal have been overtaken by resurgent champions Chelsea and sit third in the table with 64 points from 34 matches. United are heading towards a record 19th title on 73 points, while Chelsea, who visit Old Trafford on May 8, have 67.