Arsenal at a crossroads following defeat
Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor articulated what many observers believe when he said Arsenal were at a crossroads after seeing their hopes of reaching the Champions League final ended by Manchester United on Tuesday.
There was no disgrace in losing 4-1 on aggregate to the reigning champions of Europe in the semi-finals but Arsenal, who are fourth in the Premier League, have now failed to win a trophy for a fourth successive season.
Togo striker Adebayor, widely criticised for his recent performances, said afterwards their trophy drought had lasted too long and the north London club must do everything they can to end their barren spell next season.
"It has been a long time without a trophy. I joined in 2006 and I feel sorry for not winning anything in three years," Adebayor told Sky Sports News.
"Now for next season I don't know how we are going to do to be honest. I don't know how we are going to manage.
"What we are going to try to do is score with our head, our toes, whatever. We just have to try and bring trophies to this club."
Whether Adebayor will still be there is debatable, as is manager Arsene Wenger's policy of buying young untried players and moulding them into a championship or trophy-winning side.
He maintains his youngsters can only get better and have proved the success they seek could be close after going unbeaten for 21 Premier League matches, but their inexperience cost them a chance of a place in the Champions League final on Tuesday.
With an average age of 23, compared to United's 27, it appeared to United defender Patrice Evra "that it was men against boys out there," as he said afterwards.
Arsenal's teenage prospect Kieran Gibbs, at 19 the youngest in the team, made the mistake that led to United's opening goal from Park Ji-sung after eight minutes and was so distraught at halftime that Wenger replaced him with Emmanuel Eboue.
United wrapped up the tie after just 11 minutes when Cesc Fabregas, Arsenal's 22-year-old skipper, gave the ball away to Cristiano Ronaldo who was fouled by Robin van Persie and scored from the ensuing 40-metre free-kick.
Ronaldo added his second goal just past the hour after a sweeping move before Van Persie scored a consolation from the penalty spot to make it 3-1 on the night after Darren Fletcher brought down Fabregas and was sent off to miss the final.
Fabregas is Arsenal's outstanding talent and one of the best young players in Europe but without the injured William Gallas, or experienced campaigners like the long-departed Tony Adams or Patrick Vieira, they lack an authoritative leader on the field.
Wenger has built two great teams in his 13 years at Arsenal and appears to be constructing another fine side but it is the present that matters in football leaving him at a crossroads.
The question of whether Wenger buys established players to complement his youngsters will occupy the thoughts of all those connected with the club over the close season.
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