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Who are the leaders inside Arsenal locker room?

EDITORIAL: Outclassed in the Champions League and finishing well back in the Premiership, who sets the tone inside Arsenal's dressing room? At the clubs immediately above, that question is easy to answer. Manchester United has the veteran trio Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville, Liverpool has Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, while Chelsea's heartbeat is driven by John Terry and Frank Lampard.

So what about the Gunners?

Cesc Fabregas? William Gallas? Where is the leadership within the playing group?

There's been great pressure on Arsene Wenger to rip up his youth policy and begin competing at the top end of the transfer market, but it's his approach of offering only 12-month contracts to players the wrong side of 30 that is creating a leadership vacuum at the club.

Four Gunners greats have all worked for Wenger in recent times, with Steve Bould building a great reputation inside the club's academy. Ex-teammates Tony Adams, Martin Keown and Dennis Bergkamp have also returned to the club in part-time roles. But would they be the Gooner heroes they are now if Wenger's 30+ policy had been introduced while they were playing? Bergkamp copped it near the end of his playing days, but can you see any of them, at 29 and at the peak of their powers, sticking with Arsenal without the security of a longer agreement?

Where will the next group of ex-players capable of maintaining the club's traditions and culture come from?

With guarantees of a place on the board and a "job for life", there's many who say Wenger is too comfortable at Arsenal. But imagine the alternative if he was to accept the offers of either Bayern Munich or Real Madrid? He's it, as far as driving the culture at Arsenal. If the Frenchman was to decide it was time to leave, there would be no Terry or Lampard to keep things together like what has happened across town.

With Stan Kroenke only a handful of shares away from triggering an automatic takeover offer, a new board is looming this summer. Manchester City are now major players, Harry Redknapp is transforming Tottenham and Aston Villa will continue their steady rise. Wenger has effectively positioned himself as untouchable at Arsenal. His departure simply cannot be contemplated, the legacy would be a world class youth system and a 22 year-old captain, but massive holes in a senior squad that face competition for Champions League qualification like never before.

Wenger represents everything that is great about the Premiership. For him, it's about a player's ability, not his passport, and that approach has forced the rest of the Premiership to transform it's transfer policy to where we now have a European Super League being played every week in England.

Is there another 'foreigner' to have influenced the English game as much as Wenger? That's his legacy to the English game - but what of Arsenal?

Wenger surely knows that Spurs, City and Villa will all be stronger next season. For this current Arsenal team, no longer will it be about where they finish in the mini-league of the top four, but whether they can end the season in the Champions League places at all.

Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood has always maintained there's money available to Wenger, which he has regularly refused to spend. He did well with the signing of Andrey Arshavin, he still hasn't lost his ability to buy cleverly with major money.

But his stubborn contract policy has left his young team rudderless. Where is the next Tony Adams going to emerge from?

Chris Beattie
About the author

Chris Beattie

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