LONDON, May 6 – Arsene Wenger admits he will consider overhauling Arsenal's young squad after the Gunners were taught a Champions League lesson by Manchester United.The gulf in class between Wenger’s side and United looked wider than ever at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday as the European Champions cruised to a 3-1 victory that sealed a 4-1 aggregate success in the semi-final.
While United boss Sir Alex Ferguson could afford to leave world-class talents like Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Carlos Tevez and Dimitar Berbatov on the bench, injuries forced Wenger to field a team lacking the experience to cope with such a big occasion.
Wenger’s paucity of resources meant he selected Kieran Gibbs, a teenage midfielder, at left-back, while erratic defender Johan Djourou deputised for Mikael Silvestre at centre-back and the relatively untried Alexandre Song played in midfield.
As if that wasn’t enough to make it mission impossible for Arsenal, Wenger was also let down by his more senior players. Goalkeeper Manuel Almunia was at fault for United’s second goal as he allowed Cristiano Ronaldo’s long-range free-kick beat him at his near post.
At the other end of the pitch, Togo striker Emmanuel Adebayor was anonymous, and Samir Nasri, Theo Walcott and Robin van Persie all struggled to make any impact.
After spending most of the season defending his decision to spurn big-money signings in favour of developing a team for the future, this chastening defeat has finally forced Wenger to admit he might make changes to that policy.
"What we do next is a hard question to answer. I’m too disappointed now. I need to take some distance with this season," Wenger said.
"We have gone 21 games unbeaten in the league but in the games that mattered like the FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea and this defeat to United we didn’t do enough to win and we need to think about that."
After opting against multi-million pounds bids for Aston Villa’s Gareth Barry and Liverpool’s Xabi Alonso earlier this season, Wenger has been left with a midfield painfully short of a holding player to partner Cesc Fabregas.
Addressing that concern is only the start of Wenger’s to-do list as he faces up to a fourth successive season without silverware.
Arsenal have no problem playing stylish football but if the Gunners are to recapture the form that made them invincible in 2004 they desperately need a more prolific striker and a commanding centre-back as well as that elusive midfielder.
Wenger’s pride ensures he will keep faith with some of his youngsters, but even he knows more experienced options are essential.
"It’s easy to say experience but I’m convinced that we have the quality and we will continue to develop, if you look at the average age of the team," he said.
"To reach this level, they deserve much credit but we were caught by a team who took advantage of every mistake we made.
"It’s difficult. We had some experienced players in defence who were out for a long time and we had to deal with that. It’s part of football.
"We have to stand up to it and finish the season well and respond against Chelsea on Sunday. We can’t change the mistakes now."