Wenger faces test of his beliefs

Arsenal's policy of building from within is under intense pressure after Barça match

There is no disgrace in being beaten by a better team, but it is a more chastening experience than losing to an evenly matched one. Arsenal have convinced themselves they are the equals of Manchester United and Chelsea, despite being defeated home and away by their Premier League rivals, but as they retreated from Catalonia there was recognition that Barcelona are in a different class.

Echoing his manager, Manuel Almunia, captain in the absence of Cesc Fabregas on Tuesday, said: "We have to accept Barcelona showed great football, attacking football, and were superior to us in both legs."

That recognition brings challenges in the short- and long-term for Arsène Wenger. The immediate task is to lift his players ahead of next week's visit to White Hart Lane, the first of five remaining matches that, if won, could yet deliver the title to the Emirates. Looking further ahead the Arsenal manager must decide whether his policy of building from within, eschewing large transfer fees and wages, will ever produce a team, and squad, good enough to win the Champions League.

Given the wan performances of so many players in the last week that must seem doubtful. It is unreasonable to expect even Wenger to unearth a Lionel Messi, but a top-quality goalkeeper, more strength in central defence, a holding midfielder, and a quality striker with presence are required. The latter may soon arrive in the shape of Bordeaux's Marouane Chamakh and Wenger remains interested in defensive midfielder Felipe Melo, now of Juventus, not that the Brazilian's current performances suggest he is the answer.

Wenger would not be drawn, in the aftermath of defeat, on the possibility of changing his policy of developing players rather than buying them in. He did note, however, that "in the biggest games, exceptional players still make the difference."

In Fabregas, Robin van Persie and, perhaps, Andrei Arshavin, Wenger has exceptional players, but they were all absent on Tuesday, and even had they been fit Arsenal would have struggled to contain Messi. Recruits are required. Arsenal are yet to pay more than the £15m Arshavin cost for a player, and have only seven times broken the £10m barrier. The club and Wenger keep saying the money is there if he wants it; maybe this summer he will.

First Wenger has the north London derby to negotiate, against a resurgent Tottenham, albeit one which plays this weekend in an FA Cup semi-final while Arsenal have a rare rest. "We have to recover quickly and try to focus on the Premier League," he said. "You worry because Barcelona was a big disappointment but, over the years, White Hart Lane has been a place where we have done well."

Almunia added: "We are down, and disappointed, but we have to focus on the league. We have to show the character we have previously shown this season at difficult times. It will be a different game to Barcelona. It will be hostile but we are used to that, we've all played there. The derby is always special, whatever the positions in the table.

"At least we are fighting for the top. That is what we want, to play the last few games with possibilities. Otherwise the rest of the season would be very disappointing and boring."

Where do the Gunners go from here?

Buy a quality goalkeeper

A settled presence in goal is a must if Arsène Wenger is to end the Gunners' five-year wait for a trophy. Manuel Almunia was originally brought as cover for Jens Lehmann, but since becoming the No 1 has increasingly failed to impress. Second choice Lukasz Fabianski was found wanting against Porto in February. However, Wenger has a poor record buying keepers.

Strengthen central defence

Thomas Vermaelen aside, Arsenal's centre-halves are all the wrong side of 30 and have struggled in big games. Belgium international Vermaelen has impressed but needs a reliable partner, with younger alternatives, such as Johan Djourou and an out-of-position Alex Song, not inspiring confidence.

Find a holding midfielder

When Patrick Vieira joined Man City in January it was a reminder of what Wenger no longer has. Song may yet become the holding midfielder the club needs but a replacement should have been found earlier, with Lassana Diarra and Mathieu Flamini both allowed to slip through the net. Felipe Melo may provide the answer but Juventus will demand a hefty fee.

Lessen the reliance on Fabregas

The Spaniard has had to shoulder the burden of leading the team and scoring more than his share of goals this season and needs some help alongside him. Whenever he is absent, Arsenal appear lost without his artistry and goal threat. The consequences should Fabregas return to Barcelona do not bear thinking about.

Find a 30-goal striker

Since the departure of Thierry Henry in 2007, Arsenal have struggled to find a player capable of 30 goals a season. Emmanuel Adebayor briefly flourished before he was packed off to Manchester City, while Eduardo da Silva and Robin van Persie have both suffered repeated injury problems. Hopes may rest on the expected summer signing of Bordeaux's Marouane Chamakh, although he has not exactly been prolific in France.

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
News
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
News
Ernesto Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, right, met at Havana Golf Club in 1962 to mock the game
newsFidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Sport
Robin van Persie is blocked by Hugo Lloris
footballTottenham vs Manchester United match report
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?