Winterburn: Arsenal’s lack of experience is being exposed again

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IT DOESN’T get much worse than the last week for Arsenal fans. Everybody connected with the club was hurting enough after the defeat to Barcelona last week, and then the performance and result at Old Trafford just rubbed salt into the wounds.

So what has gone wrong? I think the defeat to Birmingham at Wembley has played a massive part, it just seems to have knocked the confidence out of the entire club.

The manner of that defeat was so damaging, such a late error that didn’t leave any time to rectify, and it seems to have lingered on for this team.

But that was just one game and players at this level should be capable of putting a result behind them and regrouping. It’s part of the job.

For some reason that has not been possible. Of course we can’t forget that Barcelona and United are great teams, two of the best around, but Arsenal’s performance level has just gone. They didn’t put anything creative together at the Nou Camp, and on Saturday they didn’t look like they had it in them to win at Old Trafford.

Are there no leaders there? I don’t really agree with that, but maybe there is a lack of experience in the squad that is coming out now. Or a lack of experience of winning.

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I just don’t know the current players well enough to be able to say how they deal with this kind of situation, but obviously in the teams I played in there were the kind of characters who would gee everybody up and make sure we went out feeling like we would win the next game.

Arsene Wenger has a massive job on his hands to do that for this weekend, and to make the players believe that they can win the title.

But of course they can still do it. It is in their own hands, if they win all their games they will be champions. But it will take some doing.

For now, look no further than West Bromwich Albion on Saturday. They have flickered into life a bit under Roy Hodgson, but are still a team who have struggled all season.

Arsenal have huge injury problems at the back now that Johan Djourou is out, he has been the best defender this season by a country mile.

In goal, Manuel Almunia has proved he is capable before, but losing Wojciech Szczesny when he was playing so well is a big blow.

Big enough to re-sign Jens Lehmann? I have to say I am stunned by that, completely shocked. He has obviously kept himself in good shape but can you really throw a man who hasn’t played for almost a year into a title-deciding game? It would be a huge gamble by Arsene if he did.

But these are desperate times. A promising season has disintegrated again, and now Wenger needs something special if he is to save it.