Arsene Wenger must turn to Scott Parker - and who else?
Paul Merson says Arsenal need to rebuild their spine over the summer – then they will be in a position to challenge for the title.
The Gunners came up short again during the run-in, winning just three games since the end of February as Manchester United swept to a record 19th league title.
With Chelsea and Manchester City also overtaking Arsenal – leaving Arsene Wenger’s men to face an unwelcome Champions League qualifier in August – new recruits are needed.
Wenger said as much this week after hearing Arsenal fans at last weekend’s 2-2 draw with Fulham demanding in no uncertain terms he gets his chequebook out over the close season.
But while the squad does need bolstering, major surgery is not required.
“Away from home we have been different class – the title was lost at home where we struggled against some teams who came and defended very well. We have to learn to combat that,” said the Arsenal legend.
“If we work on the spine the rest will follow. We need a new centre-half, we need a strong presence in the middle and we need something new up front, a cutting edge, something different to what we already have.”
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Merson believes two potential recruits are already plying their trade in the Premier League.
“I would love to see an English defender come in because – and this is no disrespect to the foreign lads – they understand this league and know what is required. For me Gary Cahill would be perfect. He is the perfect age – 25 – and has improved so much. I think he can be England’s main defender for the next five years.
“Cahill deserves Champions League football and a go at the title.
“The other lad I would love to come to us is Scotty Parker over at West Ham. He is in his prime and has been the best player in the league this season, even if his side have got relegated.
“Without him, they wouldn’t have got half the points they did.
“He would shield our back four beautifully and inspire those around him. At Arsenal he would become an even better player and would really add some steel in the middle.
“Arsenal don’t need to buy lots and lots of players, they just need to strengthen key areas.”
Wenger, for his part, acknowledged the fans’ frustration this week, but was adamant the club will not overstretch themselves financially – despite the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City spending frivolously due to the wealth of their rich owners.
“I think it is the responsibility of a football manager to behave in a responsible way, of course,” he said.
“It is a situation for the fans which I can completely understand.
“But we are in a job where other clubs do not respect the basic rules of any other company and we have to live with that.
“You cannot think that if there is not enough money to run the company then someone else [will] come in and give his money. That is not how we want to run the company.
“Of course, the economic situation is difficult for people and for us as well. But we demand some understanding because we have to fight against clubs which have unlimited resources. They put pressure on our wages. How can we deal with it?
“They do not live within their natural resources which is why Uefa want to fight for the fair play.”
n Follow Jem Maidment on Twitter: @jemmaidment.