Wenger's legacy diminishes at every turn as Sanchez saga comes to a head
There was nothing surprising or shocking about Arsenal's 2-1 defeat to Bournemouth on Sunday. Despite the fact that Eddie Howe's side had won just one game in their previous 12, the Gunners remain the most generous of opposition.
If there's a gift to be given, or a chance to boost the confidence and fortunes of a team in the doldrums, they won't hesitate to oblige. That was the case when, having gone ahead through Hector Bellerin in the 52nd minute, they allowed the home side to score twice in four minutes to take all three points.
What is there left to say about the defending that hasn't already been said? You can use the words "schoolboy" or "Sunday League" but whatever epithet you choose it's just another illustration of an area which is devoid of organisation and structure.
Arsenal's defensive frailties are nothing new, but generally they've had the kind of firepower and midfield quality to help them cope. Maintaining control of a game means their defenders are not on the back foot as regularly, and real threat in the final third prevents the opposition from being too adventurous -- not to mention you have the potency and craft to score goals.
Now, teams know that the Gunners don't have a midfield worth speaking of, and thus they can be got at. They're brittle in a key area of the pitch, and when you go into a game without Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez you're weak up top too.
The German was sidelined through injury, but Sanchez was left out of the squad as the mismanagement of his situation comes to a head. Some will point fingers at the player, but who could blame him for wanting to leave? It's a common theme with Arsenal -- their best players often want to go somewhere else to realise their sporting ambitions.
Money plays a part, of course, let's not be blind to that, but top level footballers want to compete for the biggest trophies and Arsenal can't do that at the moment. They're not in the Champions League, and look increasingly unlikely to get back into the top four this season Thus, by extension, they're nowhere near good enough to challenge for the title, Manchester City's incredible form notwithstanding.
Nevertheless, selling the Chilean to Manchester United will hurt, because fans thought the club had moved beyond the point where precarious finances put them in a position where their top talent could be cherry-picked by rivals. The enmity between Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho should preclude any deal, but at this point nothing the manager does would be a surprise.
If rumours of stories linking Arsenal with moves for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Bordeaux's Brazilian forward Malcom are true, the squad could be boosted with fresh talent, but it's hard to escape the conclusion that whoever the club bring in will make little difference as long as the Frenchman is in charge.
Pre-2014 the safety net for Wenger was finance. Arsenal's long-term deals, which helped finance the stadium, were a millstone around their neck, but once those shackles were lifted, he was free to spend and spend big.
He brought in Mesut Ozil for £42.5m; Alexis Sanchez for £35M; Granit Xhaka and Shkodran Mustafi cost £35m each; but even with the spending the fortunes of the team have suffered. Ozil and Sanchez were supposed to be the players to take Arsenal to new heights -- with both of them they've dropped out of the Champions League and out of the top four.
Is it the fault of the players -- widely considered to be two of the most exciting attacking talents in Europe -- or does the blame lie elsewhere? When you look around the squad and see a collection of average, under-performing players, who Wenger cannot mould into anything approaching an organised cohesive unit, the evidence is damning for him.
It's clear Arsenal are in real need of a change of manager. Some will argue a change of board and owner would be welcome too, but that's unrealistic. They can spend whatever they like in this window or the next, but as long as Arsene Wenger remains in charge, the team will muddle on in his sadly diminishing shadow.
Andrew Mangan is one of ESPN FC's Arsenal bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter: @arseblog.