Peter Hill-Wood? Pat Rice? Anyone? Arsene Wenger needs an intervention. No one is hurting more than he as Arsenal blunder their way through like a drunk trying to aim for a urinal. His glorious experiment is in danger of being consigned to the dustbin of history because he refuses to see the obvious. Some might countenance "to repeat the same things over and over again and expect a different result" as a principled stance. But to the less charitable it is a symptom of insanity.
There it was - yet another series of ghastly mistakes gifting West Brom both goals. A complete lack of defensive cover allowed Steven Reid to score the first goal. The Baggies added another in a moment eerily reminiscent of the Birmingham mix up, this time Manuel Almunia and Sebastian Squillaci proved to be Hogan's heroes. It does not matter any more which combination provides the gaffe. This Arsenal squad is not going to win a title. Any title.
Yet here was Wenger after the West Brom match on cue delighting in the mental toughness shown by the Gunners. Which of course puts 10 man Man Utd snatching a last gasp goal against Bolton in a totally different category of toughness altogether. Or luck.
There is no louder voice than Wenger's railing against out of control financial doping. He's the architect behind Arsenal's impressive financial stability and unmatched stewardship. And for that he should be commended. A thousand times. Any criticism of him should be prefaced with that hosanna. But there is a huge difference between being a market corrective and one who nickels and dimes his way through. In Wenger's case the lines have blurred.
It was painfully obvious that Arsenal needed a top quality goalkeeper before the season began. They are in short supply and hence expensive. But there were some potential candidates.
Shay Given and Maarten Stekelenberg could have been wooed with the right amount. Given in particular was cooling his heels at City itching to get to first team action. Not an easy task but Arsenal had to show serious intent which would have given the goalkeeper the green signal to force his employer's hand. Using a stock analogy - an investment grade goalkeeper like Given or Stekelenberg with their relative youth would have yielded top dividend like Man Utd's Van der Sar or Chelsea's Petr Cech. Those clubs are who they are because their custodians make their defenses stellar. Their cost has been repaid many times over. But the moment went by as Wenger chose to be pusillanimous.
Wenger did make a late charge trying for middle tier Mark Schwarzer, desperate to come to a big club. The Fulham goalie in the light of today's horror show would have been perfectly capable of organizing the defense so not to expose Aaron Ramsey. Not top drawer but an experienced veteran with leadership skills. In hindsight his price tag at £4M now seems to be a good bargain. But Wenger chose parsimony. That moment too went by.
Seven months later, Wenger has turned to 41 year old Jens Lehman. The former Arsenal goalkeeper last played a competitive game a year ago. It does not get more surreal than this.
He's to be Almunia's back up who was Fabianski's back up who himself was Almunia's back up before he got downgraded. Fabianski got hurt but instead of Sczesny becoming Almunia's back up, it was he who became Sczesny's back up. With Sczesny hurt, Vito Mannone should have become Almunia's back up. But Mannone was hurt too and Almunia had no back up. But four years before, Almunia was Lehman's back up before he was downgraded and he then became Almunia's back up which left them both frazzled. Now they get to reprise that dance again which means that the present crisis has its origins in 2007-08. Yet Wenger chose to do nothing about it.
But all of this does not matter because in this merry go round he comes free. Like his old friend Sol Campbell, another Wenger piecemeal move to bolster Arsenal's crisis on defense. Which again dogs them this year.
Thomas Vermaelen is undoubtedly a quality centre back but his career has been chequered with injuries. This was no secret in Ajax where he had only one injury free season out of five. It would have been naive not to expect him to re-injure himself again in the most physical league in the world. But Wenger chose to go for the cut price Sebastian Squillaci as back up and picked an inexperienced Laurent Koscielny as Vermaelen's partner.
Six months later Vermaelen's injury saga continues without a seeming end. In the meanwhile Koscielny and Squillaci combined to form a disastrous partnership. Arsenal enjoyed a brief reprieve when Djourou came back and paired Koscielny. With the Swiss sidelined, Arsenal's brittle hopes for the remainder now lie on two French get out of jail free cards to the rest of the clubs.
Wenger was debating whether to get a centre back in the winter transfer with Vermaelen's prolonged recovery a factor. By that time, Djourou partnering admirably with Koscielny stilled Wenger's straying hand to his account book. With the encouraging news that Vermaelen might be back in a few weeks the transfer period closed without a single player bought. In Arsenal's present squad we have Tomas Rosicky and Robin Van Persie's mythic round the corner recoveries which should have warned Wenger. But maybe he was too busy celebrating his penny pinching to notice.
It is shocking how much Wenger has transformed in the last seven years to nickel and dime the core competencies of defense. Having a solid and competent defense while giving nothing away in attacking quality seem to register two mutually exclusive qualities in his mind. And yet it was a solid and competent defense that gave us the Invincibles. He has also been remiss in not seeking players with obvious leadership qualities. Tony Adams where are you?
Last year's AGM ended in an acrimonious exchange between supporters and Wenger, maintaining a prickly defense of his methods. Nothing so far suggests that this year's meeting is going to be any less so. Man Utd seems to have steered themselves out of a losing funk in the nick of time but meanwhile we're spurning every opportunity to come closer. Mourinho used to crow "zero tituli" to mock his Serie rivals. That's where we're heading once again.