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Arsene Wenger needs some fresh ideas to stop the rot at Arsenal

As his team were falling apart on the pitch against Nottingham Forest at the City Ground on Sunday, there was a telling shot of Arsene Wenger in the directors' box which epitomised just why his reign as Arsenal manager is fizzling out to a backdrop of apathy and acrimony.

Sat next to the 68-year-old Wenger was Boro Primorac, his long-serving 63-year-old assistant who has been at the club since March 1997. Just behind Wenger was Pat Rice, his former No. 2, who retired at the end of the 2011-12 season.

Down below, Steve Bould, a relative youngster aged just 55, was attempting to find a way to halt the embarrassing slide to defeat against a mid-table Championship outfit whose recent form has been so bad that they sacked their manager on New Year's Eve.

But the image of Wenger sat with his former assistant and his current one was nothing less than three old men surveying a problem that has beaten them all now for over a decade.

Rice was at Wenger's side during the post-Invincibles years, when Arsenal not only failed to build on the legacy of the great 2004 team but allowed it to be broken up without adequate replacements being signed.

And Primorac has been at the club for so long that he must share with Wenger the acclaim and criticism in equal measure for the early successes and more recent failures.

There have been changes behind the scenes at Arsenal in recent months, with former Barcelona director of football Raul Sanllehi, Borussia Dortmund head of recruitment Sven Mislintat, former goalkeeper Jens Lehmann (who was sat next to Wenger on Sunday) and others being hired by the club, but in terms of coaches working on the training pitch with the first-team, the current squad are seeing pretty much the same faces that Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Dennis Bergkamp worked with over a decade ago.

Wenger and his coaches are looking old, tired and lacking in new ideas and the team has become a reflection of that.

It has all become so stale, with the likes of Theo Walcott, Mathieu Debuchy and Per Mertesacker prime examples of players who have overstayed their welcome at Arsenal and are long past their sell-by date.

Sunday's XI against Forest may have been a second string, but every player on the pitch had either been signed by Wenger or come through the ranks under him, so it was as much an Arsenal team as the one which faced Chelsea in the Premier League last Wednesday.

And they had the same frailties and shortcomings as the team which Wenger would consider to be his strongest XI.

The Arsenal team beaten 4-2 by Forest could not defend properly and lacked leaders, but still retained the ability to conjure up a goal or attacking effort from little or nothing.

It was a case of different faces, but the same old flaws, yet is that a surprise considering the absence of fresh ideas and energy from Wenger and his coaches?

There has been an overload of comparisons between Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson in recent days with the Frenchman surpassing his old foe's record of Premier League games managed, but one crucial difference between the two men is that Ferguson repeatedly changed and refreshed his coaching team.

Brian Kidd, Steve McClaren, Walter Smith, Carlos Queiroz, Mike Phelan and Rene Meulensteen all, at one point or other during Ferguson's reign, were handed the task of bringing new ideas to the training ground.

Arsene Wenger
Wenger has changed little around him in recent years.

Wenger, in contrast, promoted Bould to first-team coach following Rice's departure in 2012, but little else has changed.

It is now almost certainly too late for Wenger to now take a leaf out of Ferguson's book by recruiting a young coach full of new ideas at the Emirates. He has 18 months remaining on his contract as manager, but could be gone by the summer if this season continues in its current vein.

Arsenal are out of the FA Cup, five points adrift of the top four and facing the task of having to overcome tough opposition to win either the Carabao Cup or Europa League.

Only the most optimistic Arsenal supporter would back the team to overcome the likes of Atletico Madrid, Napoli, Borussia Dortmund and Lazio to win the Europa League, so the Carabao Cup may well offer the only chance -- and perhaps Wenger's last chance -- of a trophy.

It is a trophy that Wenger has never won during his 21-year reign as Arsenal manager, so it would be an irony if, after overseeing such little change over the past few years, he wins something new this season..

To do that, Arsenal have to overcome Chelsea and then most likely Manchester City, who face Bristol City in the other semifinal, to win it for the first time since 1993.

During Wenger's early years in charge, Arsenal would have brushed aside all of the above, but times have changed. If only Wenger and his ideas had changed with them.

Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_


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