One more game simply heightens the need for investment

Posted by Andrew Mangan

Andrey Arshavin of ArsenalPA PhotosArsenal are in need of a similar boost to that which the arrival of Andrey Arshavin provided in 2009.

It's not an unusual occurrence for Arsenal to concede a goal late in a game, nor in the immediate aftermath of scoring one themselves.

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The recent 7-3 win over Newcastle was remarkable in many respects, not least because of the frequency and immediacy of the visitors equalising goals. After Demba Ba's first-half leveller, the next two occasions that Arsenal went ahead in the second half saw Newcastle reply almost straight away.

It's an old footballing cliché to say you're at you're most vulnerable after you've just scored, but right now it rings true about Arsenal. On Sunday, having fired themselves into a 2-1 lead, late in the game, they allowed Swansea to reply within six minutes to force a draw and a replay that they could really do without.

That game will be replayed on Wednesday, Jan 16th. On the Sunday beforehand the Gunners entertain champions Manchester City, the Sunday afterwards they travel to Stamford Bridge to play Chelsea. Assuming Arsene Wenger will need to play his strongest team in the league, it means that he will most likely field a weaker one in the FA Cup.

The Arsenal manager insisted there was squad depth to deal with a daunting schedule of fixtures, and when asked if his squad could cope, said: "Yes, if we have no injuries. Today we had four players at home, and I didn't bring on Chamberlain, Coquelin. Rosicky. Diaby's coming back and if we find one or two on the transfer market, then why not?"

Yet as much as Wenger might prefer to prioritise the league he cannot ignore the fact that the cup represents Arsenal's last real chance of silverware this season. Unless something fairly close to miraculous happens in Europe, the trophy he has won four times is the only competition which will prevent another year being tacked onto the familiar 'It's been X years without a trophy' refrain.

Good sense says that Arsenal need to finish in the four. Financially it's important, for the club itself it's crucial to be playing Champions League football - both in terms of keeping the players they have happy and attracting new signings - and, of course, Arsenal fans want to see them play the likes of Bayern Munich and Barcelona rather than CFR Cluj or Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk in the Europa League.

But the FA Cup is a competition he has to take just as seriously as the league and it's hard not to worry that the current squad will find it difficult to manage the amount of football they have to play in the coming weeks. The inability to hold onto a lead has often been costly, in this case it's given them a game they really didn't need, so with a full week before City it's important that Wenger uses the funds available to him to improve his squad. Not just because there are a clutch of January fixtures - and it's worth pointing out Liverpool come to visit at the end of the month too - but his team needs it in any case.

They're light on striking options, some creativity in midfield wouldn't go amiss, and at the back a case could be made for another centre-half and a goalkeeper to properly challenge and support Wojciech Szczesny. If it's more difficult to do the right business in January then that's a consequence of the club's refusal or inability to do more in the summer - but with the recent sponsorship deal with Emirates freeing up funds for Wenger to use now, there's no excuse not to do business.

With a further six games to play this month those tired legs won't get any less weary and Wenger should know well how an injection of quality and freshness can help. Although his Arsenal career has petered out abysmally, the signing of Andrei Arshavin in January 2009 provided the side with a lift that saw them finish comfortably in fourth position (albeit a long way behind the winners). Similarly, in 2004 the January signing of Jose Antonio Reyes from Sevilla played a significant part in Arsenal winning the league title and going unbeaten.

And remember, Reyes was added to a squad with Bergkamp, Henry, Pires, Vieira, Campbell and Co at the very top of their games. The manager saw his squad could use something and acted decisively. This time his team, which bears no comparison in terms of its overall quality to that of 2004, is still struggling to find consistency and is short on options. The solution seems obvious to me.

Let's hope it is to Arsene Wenger too.

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