700 and out. Wengers reign draws to a close, or does it?

I have watched a lot of football in my 45 years on this earth, and for much of that time my gaze has been firmly set on the team I started supporting when I was 7 years old (because I liked their shirts) – the Arsenal.

I suppose if I’m really honest, it wasn’t until a certain George Graham took the helm that I found myself glued to almost every televised match. The football may not have been pretty, but I felt every crunching tackle, every scruffy goal, and boy did it mean something when we won the league in 1989 after 18 years of waiting.

The Graham era was certainly successful, and when he left, in shall we say unfortunate circumstances, he was succeeded by another couple of Scotsmen, Houston & Rioch who quickly proved that being Scottish does NOT mean you have a divine right to be a great manager. Odd though Rioch’s appointment seemed at the time, still more bizarre was the fact that he somehow managed to sign the legendary Denis Bergkamp. If Bruce Rioch never does anything right again, in fact if he turns out to be a serial killer, it won’t matter, because that purchase was so very right it will eclipse everything else.

And then along came Wenger. Arsenal got lucky; it worked. Wenger got really lucky, saved from obscurity in the Far East and brought in to manage one of the most famous clubs in the land where football was invented. He inherited “that back 4” led by the God like Tony Adams, heart and soul of the club for so many years, along with the aforementioned Dutch maestro and a certain Ian Wright (you gotta love him). What Wenger managed to do to Arsenal football club is quite incredible. I suppose it was always going to happen sometime, but Wenger was ahead of the curve – he brought modern methods to the English game and revolutionised the way we play, using his intimate knowledge of the French game to bring in a string of wonder signings.

They say that if a team is great it must have a great spine. With the truly awesome spine of Henry, Viera, Campbell and Lehman (don’t laugh) we touched perfection in 2003/04; an entire season unbeaten in the Premier League. Viera took over as the heart of the club from Adams, and he didn’t let us down, despite the annual speculation linking him with every top club in Europe.  The one thing Wenger has failed to achieve is winning the Champions Cup, but we did make the final and would have won if we had not been playing with 10 men for most of the game.

We reached such heights, and played such beautiful football under Wenger that it was almost inevitable that it couldn’t last, and it didn’t. The way the team has unravelled since Viera left, followed by senior players like Pires and Henry, has been as remarkable as the transformation from ugly ducklings to swans when Wenger arrived. Sure, it is nowhere near as bad as it could be. We still can, on our day, beat the best. Victories against Man Utd and Chelsea sit uneasily alongside defeats to Hull, Stoke, Fulham and Manchester City.

So what has gone wrong? Well, for one thing Wenger seems to have started to actually believe all the hype about him being the master at unearthing young talent. Don’t get me wrong, he gets some good ones, but many are not up to the mark and will see out their careers in lesser teams. That’s all well and good – every top team should have a string of promising youngsters coming through the ranks, but what Wenger has done is try to disprove the adage “you win nothing with kids”.  Surely the idea is to keep the talent that you have nurtured so carefully, and yet Flamini, arguably the second most improved young player after Fabregas, was allowed to leave last summer. What seems to have happened is that the balance in the squad has shifted too far towards potential stars rather than real ones.

Another unfortunate bi-product of the Wenger philosophy, which seems to concentrate on technical ability with no regard for other aspects like physique or mental toughness, is the vacuum of leadership in the squad. Gallas has proved himself to be lacking in both leadership qualities and, sadly, playing ability of late. There are other factors too, such as the regular playing of people out of their best position.
However, what I believe may be the straw that eventually breaks this once great camel’s back is, surprisingly, our tactical naivety. “Surely not”, I hear you say, Wenger is “Le Professor”, a tactical genius. Well, actually no, he is not. We appear to have spent little time on the training ground doing anything but lots, and I do mean LOTS, of passing and moving. We have it down to a fine art. Nobody out passes Arsenal on a good day. I believe that we are shockingly poor at set pieces in both defence and attack. This is inexcusable and causes us no end of problems. I don’t just mean “the Delap Disaster” from earlier in the season. Even today, as I write this, we allowed Porto a free header at a corner to gift them their first goal. It gradually kills a teams confidence when they always have to come from behind.

With so many teams crowding out the area just in front of their box, because they know if we go wide we won’t cross it (because if we do there will be nobody there to head it, and even if there was they’d miss), we find ourselves trying to thread the perfect pass through the crowd, lose the ball and get spanked on the counter. Once we are behind our problems multiply. The first goal is crucial – if we get the lead the opposition must spread out, creating space for our pretty passing. So how do you get the first goal when teams are defending like demons? Yep, set pieces. Big Sam knows. We need to force corners and free kicks to get the first goal, not always, but enough times to justify putting it to the top of the “things to do in training today” list.

And another thing….oh, never mind I could go on all night. The point is, it doesn’t feel like it used to when Wenger first arrived with his “magic success formula”. Other clubs have caught us up, overtaken and left us wiping mud from our faces. We have a team of children with shattered confidence and gaping gaps that have been there for all to see for some time now, gaps which Le Professor needs to plug pretty quickly if he wishes his reign to continue. I really hope he does.

stevedon

Join the forum www.goonerforum.com

16 Responses to 700 and out. Wengers reign draws to a close, or does it?

  1. Tony C says:

    FFS – How is anyone meant to take your opinions on Arsenal seriously, when you cant even spell Vieira right?

  2. Gazooner says:

    Good article. Puts into words what I feel very well.

    If AW does not buy in January then I will no longer be able to justify spending good money to visit the Emirates!

    BTW I do not agree with the abuse that Eboue gets. IMHO he is a good player.

  3. omar says:

    ive been hearing alot of people having their doubts about arsene wenger in recent times, as much as i dont agree with that every1 is entitled to his opinion.im not here to defend arsene coz i dont feel im qualified enough to defend a great man like him but what i wanted to ask is lets assume alot of u get their wishes and arsene wenger does leave, whose gonna manage arsenal? if u guys really love arsenal as much as u say u do then thats the first think u would think before talking about wenger. coz usually u dont know what u had until you lose it and i really hope thats not gonna be the case with us coz i honestly cant see a manager whose gonna love the club as much as much wenger does. if u guys want a manager to come and buy 20 players and win the league for 2 years and jeopardize the future of the club then fine, but from what i can see there are alot of fans around the world who would love to be in our position. lets appreciate what we have

  4. omar says:

    im not come out here and defend arsene wenger coz a man like that doesnt have to be defended by any, his record speaks for itself. but lets say he does leave arsenal, who would we get? there is no1 at all who can do what arsene has done for the club. the thing that suprises is that some fans have been arsenal fans for over 30 or 40 years and yet keep on criticizing arsenal. how can that be? arsenal have had really bad periods in the past so howcome 3rd or 4th place is such a disaster? im sure there are alot of fans around the world who would love to be in our position so lets just appreciate what we have. im not saying we should be satisfied by the season were having, but im saying that talk like arsene wenger should leave is an overreaction and im 100 percent convinced by that. there is no other manager who can take us forward. lets just have abit more patience

  5. krikor tersakian says:

    In general a well balanced article with valid points about the naivité and lack of leadership. Basically, as a gooner, I hate every Carling Cup ”victory” with our super kids, because it emphasizes that our senior team is somehow forgotten.

    The future is today, not tomorrow, and the kids can be alright all they want, but I do care only for the first senior team.

    We need to rebuild a mature, expereinced and fully commited senior team. Something we gradually lost. The bleeding must stop. Who repleced Dennis Bergkamp? Who stepped in Pires’ or LLunberg’s shoes? Who took over Vieira the role to terrify the opponents before even the ball is kicked? Who is providing Gilberto’s invisible wall in front of the back four? etc. etc.
    Today, we are lucky to have 2 world class players in Clichy and Sagna. The only two players worthy of the ”world class” label and worthy of our crest. Let’s also add Fabregas for his occasional brilliance and commitment. And then inconsistencies kick in, with no exceptions in my opinion.

    I agree that Wenger needs someone to talk and listen to. Is Pat Rice doing his job and telling the realities as they are or just repeating Wenger’s opinions and mantras? I do not know the answer or do we need a different approach. Replacing Wenger is not the answer. But they both seem to be lost in an ivory tower and think the tower will never sink or be taken.

    But reality is catching on fast. No need for real panic, but the alarm bells should go off to try to keep our beautiful club at the very top and not in the middle of the table- carling cup oblivion. The Emirates stadium is the best in the world, but it is not buit to host middle of the table team games. Arsenal is great and we hope it will remain at the very top bot in quality of football and sheer class on and off the pitch.

    Krikor Tersakian
    Montreal, canada

  6. Aladin says:

    Fully agreed on all the points.The trouble is Aw thinks he can do no wrong and worst seems to think he is indispenasable. I might be wrong on this point but he seems to be under no pressure compared to other managers.
    Well you are as good as your last game. I think and the majority of Arsenal fans are also in agreement that Arsenal over passed. That’s why when the attack breaks down the opposition scampers at lightning speed to score .It has happened before and will happen again until the gunners learn to be more ruthless. Haven’t we been saying the same thing many moons ago.
    If this season ends in disaster,AW will say his kids will be better prepeared for the coming season(s). And so the cycle repeats itself until major surgery is needed which could be a case of too late .

  7. Rowell says:

    Hmmmmmmm

    You miss several very important points.

    1) Injuries. Several first team senior players are missing. Dudu, Rosicky, Diaby, Van Persie to name a few.

    2) Influx of monies from competitors – Arsene has kept the club grounded which could prove invaluable in the newxt couple of years – we have built one of the best stadiums in Europe whilst balancing the books and staying competative. Whilst other clubs are not achieving anything close whilst losing millions and millions of pounds per year.

    3)Perception – Are Arsenal really doing that badly? Last season we were written off before the league started as Henry had left….. we dominated the league for 3/4’s of the season and again injuries were the main reason for the train being derailed. But we were in touching distance and achieved our highest points total. This season is on’t a 1/4 of the wat through and we have beaten Man Utd & Chelsea – any the level of the rest of the league has grown stronger every year. Villa, Man City even the spuds are stronger than before – lower teams will take points where before they couldn’t of even had a hope.

    So don’t go jumping on the sack Wenger band wagon – it is thoughtless and shows a sad state of modern attitudes. Every one wants instant success. Only one team can win the league every year meaning 19 teams won’t. Arsenal is a solid club – remember who you support.

    You could go to Chelsea – who’s ten year plan was to be self substaining and one of hte largest clubs in the world – who can’t even sell out a 40,000 stadium when they play a top 4 London rival…..

    Think before you write.

  8. martin90 says:

    Apart from Wilshere and Ramsay, I see no real stars for the future coming through. Why does Wenger persist with players like Song,Bendtner, Dennilson and Eboue who are just not and never will be more than very average players. Gallas and Sivestre are past their sellby date and Almunia is certainly not a top class keeper. Vela may make it but is nowhere ready at the moment. Dialby is an engnima – great dribbling skills and physical appearance but cannot tackle or (as was seen in tonight’s match) track back or guard a corner. We desperately need 5 mature and really decent players but do not think they will be available in January even if there is some will by the board to provide the money.

  9. superkev says:

    Completely agree with you.i think wenger has lost the plot.nothing is going to be won with the current team unless we strenghen in january i can only see bad things.as a gunner for 23 years i wonder if the likes of mourinho or martin o neill were put in charge for a month what would they change.i cannot for the life of me understand how bendtner is still even considered as a first team player.he wouldnt get into any of the top 6 teams yet he starts for us.theres alot of dead wood at the club who dont know what it means to play for one of the biggest clubs in the world,to be honest i dont think they care,just happy to collect their massive paychecks and drive home to their mansions.its so frustrating to watch.get rid of bendtner,adebayor,song,diaby,gallas.inturn bring in 5 decent replacements that provide some bit of enthusiasm and passion.also vela,wilshere and ramsey deserve a chance…a proper chance.make the dead weight wake up realise there places are not guaranteed…….come on the gunners.

  10. Scapegoat says:

    Absolutely agree..

    As i said…

    Our stadium going upward, but our squad going downward.

    if we dont buy experienced player, we will not win anything.

    I dont understand, why Wenger release hleb and flamini.
    If he want, he could keep those 2 great players that had been our spinal last season.

    And i dont understand why he rates Song this high. He play him every F*ckin match.
    To be honest, i dont see song as a football player.

  11. RedandDread says:

    Well said! Enough of this mediocre dross that has been served up on too regular a basis this season. Someone needs to LIGHT the fire under Wenger’s ass!

  12. Duckster says:

    Good balanced article mate.
    It kills us all to see our team play consistently poor for the past 4/5 months.
    It has to be mentioned that we have missed Rosicky and Eduardo in a big way this season and will continue to do so until they’re both fit.
    As far as replacing Flamini goes, it is still a mystery to me how Wenger let him get into his final 6 months of his contract without lining up a replacement.
    I’m not confident that we’ll pick up a quality CDM for Jan because a player of international quality will be cup tied e.g Toure, Alonso and Diarra- real madrid. Also the fact that we beat Utd and Chelsea will make Wenger even more stubborn I’m afraid.
    Another thing I’m certain of is that Gallas will be off next Summer. Wenger can’t let him go in Jan because we’ve no replacement. But if he was to go to Juve (If Ranieri’s still around) I’d hope we would look for Goionvini as part of that deal.
    I think when Gallas reveals his reasons for leaving we’ll all be in for a surprise.
    With Real and Utd having already bought their strikers for next season it will be interesting to see where Europe’s hottest striker ends up? Hpefully we’ll be in the mix with Barca/Milan for his signature.

  13. sparkygooner says:

    could not have put it better myself , NUFF SAID!

  14. Chrispy says:

    Stevedon

    That my friend, is an absolutely bang on assesment. Good article.

    Surely, it just a question of 2 (maybe 3) proper world class additions and we’d back to where should be. With everyone fit, those additions should be a midfield minder for Cesc and towering centre back. We can all see it and so can Arsene, can’t he ????

  15. Deano says:

    Obviouisly written by a ‘gaping gap’.

    A massive steaming pile of contradictive bollocks. Are you schizophrenic?

  16. Stu says:

    Fnatastic article. Agree with every word. Even if not spect correctly as some idiot pointed out.

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