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Why Arsenal board must have the stones to DEMAND Wenger hire outside assistant

Steve Bould isn't the answer at Arsenal.

Good coach, great reputation, but if Arsene Wenger is allowed by his board to replace the retiring Pat Rice with his Academy coach then the growing problems at Arsenal will continue.

Sunday's fight-back against Tottenham shouldn't take the spotlight off what is broken at Arsenal. Wenger needs fresh ideas and must look outside the club to save it.

Last week's revelation in Sport about the difference in approach to individual player fitness by Barcelona and Arsenal goes to the heart of Wenger's problems. After two years of injury woes, since quitting Arsenal and returning home, Cesc Fabregas has played 33 games for Barca this term - plus six internationals for Spain. How?

The difference is Barca have kept-up-to-speed on the latest in injury management, focusing on the individual. In contrast, Wenger continues to build preseason programmes around the playing squad, with everyone expected to undergo the same amount of training. This led to both Cesc and Robin van Persie employing their own personal fitness coaches over concerns with Wenger's approach.

But it doesn't end with injury management.

His transfer policy in terms of youth recruitment deserves greater scrutiny.

Wenger once had the inside word on France's best young players, but now we see Paul Pogba on Manchester United's books and Jeremy Helan at Manchester City.

When he first arrived at Arsenal, Wenger knew all about Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry, rescuing them from failed experiences in Italy. He gambled on Marc Overmars' fitness and nicked Nicolas Anelka away from PSG.

But these days, such bargains are no longer falling for Wenger. The critics say the game has simply caught up with his approach to youth recruitment. But is that all it is?

Wenger's approach to the loan system appears scattergun.

Tom Cleverley, the Manchester United midfielder, spent time at Leicester City in League One, then was with Watford in the Championship before joining Wigan Athletic last season in the top-flight. There is a visible method to how United utilise the loan system to accelerate their young players' development. Just last month, Oliver Norwood joined Coventry City in the Championship after a spell with League One's Scunthorpe United.

Contrast that with Arsenal striker Sanchez Watt, who after time with Leeds United in the Championship is now playing in League Two with Crawley Town. Wellington, signed in a blaze of publicity from Fluminense, is now on-loan in the Spanish Segunda Liga with Alcoyano after flopping with Levante, where Pedro Botelho continues to have discipline problems.

These aren't isolated cases and the list goes on and on of players tipped for big things while coming through the Academy, only to fall at the final hurdle: Gilles Sunu, Havard Nordtveit, Fran Merida, Nacer Barazite ...

Doesn't this deserve greater scrutiny from the board? Can Wenger be doing better with how he handles his young players' development? Is anyone asking the question?

He certainly doesn't appear to be getting it from this staff. In the almost seven years since Arsenal last won silverware, Ferguson has lost and rehired Carlos Queiroz and Rene Meulensteen to sit alongside him in the United dugout. Before their original appointments, Ferguson had never met either man. At Arsenal, Boro Primorac has been with Wenger from the start, while Rice was there even before the Frenchman's arrival.

Injury-management, player development, transfer policy, these are all issues which Arsenal have failed to confront in recent years and now are paying for it. The board needs someone with the stones to tell Wenger he needs outside input.

Rice's retirement is the ideal time to change the culture within Wenger's backroom staff. The Frenchman needs to be told he must go outside the club for a fresh - and authoritive - voice.

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Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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