It's rather difficult to understand the thinking of Arsenal management.

With injuries having mounted up, and the club in serious risk of missing next season's Champions League, Arsenal management basically sat on their hands during the January transfer period.

All that the famed north London club could muster was a loan for Thierry Henry, who frequently appeared lackadaisical for the New York Red Bulls, and 19-year-old midfielder Thomas Eisfeld, who had never featured for Borussia Dortmund.

Meanwhile, Jack Wilshere's season may be in doubt, and the Gunners have no legitimate goal-scoring threat beyond Robin van Persie, who can't be expected to bail out the club forever.

It's not as though the club was unaware of the struggles. Arsenal have not won a league match since Dec. 31, and had lost three-straight games going into the Jan. 31 deadline. A home loss to Manchester United was somewhat understandable, but losses to Fulham and Swansea City should have served as indications that the club had to make some changes.

Arsenal are in seventh place in the Premier League after drawing with Bolton on Wednesday. With only 15 matches remaining, the Gunners will need to go on a prolonged winning streak to finish fourth.

Some Arsenal supporters called for Wenger to be fired after a terrible start in late August, but cooler heads eventually prevailed. Should Arsenal finish in sixth or seventh place by season's end, the calls for Wenger to be sacked will grow louder than ever.

It's difficult to place the blame solely on Wenger, as the club has the resources to spend, but simply doesn't do it. However, many Arsenal supporters are cutting Wenger less slack as clubs like Manchester City and Tottenham seem to be on the upswing while the Gunners have been on a decline.

There already has been negative reaction to Wenger's substitutions. The long-time Gunners' boss heard loud jeers from supporters at Emirates for pulling promising wing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for out-of-form Andrei Arshavin in the loss to Manchester United.

It's unclear how and why Arshavin and striker Marouane Chamakh have garnered playing time this season. Neither has produced to the club's high expectations, and both players have been the subject to transfer speculation from foreign clubs. It's possible that Arshavin can still be moved to a Russian club in February, but Chamakh will likely be staying with the club until the summer.

Meanwhile, there were players on the transfer market available to bolster the attack. Midfielder Mario Gotze and forward Lukas Podolski would have likely served as valuable additions, but the Gunners balked at both players.

While either Gotze or Podolski would have been somewhat unexpected signings for January, the Gunners failed to execute even a small, but necessary, transfer for a full back.

There were reports that defender Adrian Mariappa, 25, of Watford, was available to the Gunners at £2 million, but Arsenal held back.

Such caution might be the club's undoing. Certainly, Arsenal have been unlucky with injuries, and several players are expected to return soon, but a move probably needed to be made, even if it hindered the club's long-term needs.

A top-four finish in the Premier League usually means reaching the 70-point mark, and Arsenal are currently at 37. With 15 games remaining, Arsenal would need, say, nine wins and six draws to reach 70, and that would be a tall order for just about any club other than the Manchester sides.

In other words, Arsenal really needed to take a chance in January to bolster their chances of finishing in the top four. Instead, it will basically rely on the same squad to outperform their production in their first 23 matches.

What's particularly disappointing is that Arsenal were in a similar position in August as they were in January, and didn't seem to learn their lesson. The injury-plagued Gunners waited to the last moment to make moves and by the time players like Mikel Arteta and Andre Santos arrived, the club had only one point after three matches.

In January, Arsenal were in need of full backs and didn't make a full-fledged effort to make the additions, and were also without a true reserve striker for van Persie, and all they could manage was a loan for 34-year-old Henry.

A club that hasn't taken home silverware since 2005 sure hasn't acted as though it's a top priority. Arsenal are sticking to a safety-first approach, when it hasn't served them well so far.

There is a bright side for Arsenal. Chelsea, Tottenham and Newcastle each appear to have more difficult schedules remaining, while the Gunners face Stoke City, Norwich City, and West Bromwich in their final three matches of the season. Also, Arsenal only have one difficult road test for the remainder of the season, when they face Liverpool at Anfield on Mar. 3.

Wenger, despite what his critics may claim, is still one of the smartest men in the sport. The club has weathered bad storms in the past, and is certainly capable of going on a major run in the next few months.

There is certainly some excellent talent on this club beyond van Persie. Wojciech Szczesny has emerged as among the better goalkeepers in the league, and the centre backs are much improved over last season. Arsenal also have a trio of quality wingers in Theo Walcott, Gervinho, and Chamberlain, while attacking midfielder Aaron Ramsey has exceeded expectations this season, and Alex Song remains one of the best defensive midfielders in the Premier League.

Still, the challenge ahead for Arsenal remains daunting, and the Gunners may need to play at their very best, and get some good luck along the way, for a fourth-place finish.