Lawro: Wenger should have signed Given
Speaking exclusively to FourFourTwo.com, the former Liverpool defender also suggested the Gunners lacked the mental strength of their title-chasing rivals, and questioned whether Cesc Fabregas was the right man to captain the Emirates Stadium side.
The Gunners ended another season trophy-less despite having headed into the final months of last season challenging on four fronts, with a late capitulation resulting in the club exiting three cup competitions in the space of a fortnight and slumping to a fourth place finish in the Premier League.
One positive during this period was the rise to prominence of 21-year-old Polish goalkeeper Szczesny, who had earlier secured his place between the posts having impressed in the absence of Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabiański over the Christmas period.
Despite the Pole appearing a far more steady presence in goal than his rivals at the club, Lawrenson believes Wenger should have moved to bring in an experienced goalkeeper this summer to enable him to ease the young keeper into the side over time.
He named Shay Given, who ultimately left Manchester City for Aston Villa earlier this month, as the man for the job.
“I’m a big fan of Wenger, but I don't understand why, when he’s got a young goalkeeper who is going to be really good but has already made mistakes in Szczesny, he won't go and buy a Shay Given and let him bring the goalkeeper through," Lawrenson explained.
“It might take a year, it might take 18 months, it might take two years. Let him do that, you know week in week out what you’re going to get with Shay Given. Then go and buy a centre-back and a leader. If you can get a centre-back who is also a leader, even better."
In recent years the Gunners have often been accused of lacking the mental toughness required to win the game's major honours, and Lawrenson believes this is still an issue Wenger must address, citing their loss of a four-goal lead away to Newcastle United in February.
“When he inherited that Arsenal team he had Lee Dixon, Steve Bould, Nigel Winterburn, Tony Adams, Martin Keown, Ray Parlour - they were all dogged. They were difficult to play against, it was nasty, all of them were horrible in the nicest sense of the word.
"He’s got nobody like that now and he wonders why at the business end of the season they collapse.
"Everything about him in every other single way - how he is with his players, the way he brings them on as human beings, the way he runs the whole club - is absolutely fantastic.
“But there are times in games - even when you’re the best team in the world - that for 20 minutes you’ve got to make it difficult for the opposition, because they’ve got the ball and you have to respect that they’re a really good team.
“That result at Newcastle last year basically just summed up Arsenal. Chelsea and Manchester United wouldn’t have surrendered a four-goal lead. They might have surrendered one or two, but then won 5-2. That’s the difference."
Wenger has spent this summer once again fighting off interest in playmaker Fabregas from European champions Barcelona, with the La Liga outfit said to be doing everything in their power to seal a deal for the 24-year-old Spain international.
Fabregas has captained Arsenal since November 2008, after previous skipper William Gallas was stripped of the armband for making negative comments about team-mates following a 3-0 defeat at Manchester City.
Yet Lawrenson has questioned whether the Spaniard is the right man to captain the Gunners.
“On ability yes, personality no. Let him play, he doesn’t want to be burdened with the captaincy. Just let him go and play, get somebody at the back who will get hold of people and ruffle a few feathers to be captain.
“I think the thing is with Wenger, he doesn’t want confrontation. All the best teams have confrontation, that’s how you live, it’s just part of life isn’t it?”
Pundit Mark Lawrenson was talking about the forthcoming season at the Kinect Sports for Xbox 360 football event at the Sports Café, Central London
By James Maw