Morning all. Its going to be a long summer at Arsenal and its disappointing to see that the rumour mill is already in full swing. Given Real Madrid's season, along with the tedious manifesto promises that are generated by their presidential election, its no suprise that the Wenger to Madrid story is back again. But what is a slightly bigger surprise is that the story was not met yesterday by a derisory statement from Arsenal, or Wenger. So there may be something in the story after all.
As with the rest of the trash-stories that will be in the papers over the summer, we all have to remember that whilst we love Arsenal football club with an obsession bordering on delusion. Most of the "professionals" who are employed by the club do not see things exactly the same way we do. They are employees first and foremost, and if someone offered them twice the cash to work somewhere else, you would be a prize idiot if you did not give the offer some consideration. The players (and managers) get the abuse for being paid so much money, but its not their decision. The people who should be questioned are the finance directors who sanction the spending in the first place.
Anyway, I digress. The point I wish to make this morning is that for the first time since Wenger took over at Arsenal, I do not think it would be a crushing disaster for us if he left. That is not to say that I think Wenger should go, which I do not. He is a world class manager and an Arsenal legend. But there comes a point when its hard to see the wood from the trees, and with Wenger that point is not far away.
For instance, the opaque debate that has been plaguing us for several seasons is why Wenger doesn't spend the money that, apparently, has been available for transfers at all times. The stories from one camp, including Hill-Wood and Fitzman, have always been "the money is there", whilst at the same time the press loves to put around stories that Arsenal have a miserly transfer budget and there isn't any money to spend.
But the debate crystallises the issue on Wenger. If the man is reluctant to spend money, then maybe he has made mistakes in his transfer policy in the past. Alternatively, if there actually hasn't been any money to spend, then its no suprisen that Wenger would be tempted by 12 months with an endless chequebook at Real Madrid.
So I am leaving the transfer budget issue to one side. We don't know the truth of the story so we cannot make any judgements based on it. But there are one or two things that really trouble me about Wenger that are genuine managerial issues. Here are the top 5:
1. Playing 4-5-1. I just don't get it. Its a bad system that no-one makes work and I have no idea why Wenger now uses it. Its been his formation of choice since the Champions League run in 2006, when Reyes was given a free role down the left instead of playing as a second striker with Henry. However, its debatable whether the 2006 formation was a proper 4-5-1, since it used two strikers, just with one playing wide left. We now play a proper 4-5-1, with 5 midfielders. We don't score many using it, whilst it was useless defensively against Chelsea and Manure in recent weeks (last Saturday excepted).
2. Over 30's Policy. What would we have given in the last 18 months when things got tough to turn to someone like Pires or Gilberto? Big players for big matches. Instead, we shipped them off into the sunset on their 30th birthdays for next to nothing in transfer fees and Diaby gets to play against Manure and Chelsea. Plain stupid.
3. Man Management. I used to think Wenger was a genious at man management, but now I am not so sure. Most of our players seem to have gone soft in the head. Fabregas and Adebayor would not be allowed to play this badly at Old Traffortd - just ask Berbatov. Dressing room spats between team mates, the bizarre behaviour of William Gallas, the Bendnter/Adebayor ruckus, Kolo Toure handing in a transfer request for personal reasons, the failure to convince Hleb and Flamini to stay. These are all man management issues that Wenger seems to have got wrong in the last two years.
4. Not taking the Cups seriously. The decision to play the kids in the Carling Cup is one issue, but Wenger also has a history of choking it in the FA Cup and resting big players. The team selection against Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final remains a mystery, but Wenger has been pulling stunts like this for years. Aliadiere was bizarrely selected for the semi-final in 2004 against Manure, played badly, we lost and the Invincibles were denied their double. Manure also play risky teams in the cups, but then they have won three league titles in a row.
5. Tactics. This could be the same as playing 4-5-1, but so many crimes have been committed that it deserves its own mention. So here we go. We play beautiful football in midfield have no idea what to do in the last third of the pitch. Wenger is useless at substitutions. The Eboue in midfield experiment was a disaster. Playing countless other players out of position has been a disaster. Cesc is not Steven Gerrard and cannot play in the hole. Nasri is not a centre midfielder. I have no idea what Theo Walcott is or where he should play. Neither does Theo. Why is Diaby on the pitch? Why do we play possession football that only results in crap lofted crosses to an empty box? Why won't our central midfielders shoot? Why don't we defend as a team? Why are we useless at corners (at both ends)? I could go on...
Its not enough for me to say "Wenger out", but i can completely understand why he got a roasting at the Q+A session last week. What's worrying is that Wenger seems to think he deserved another standing ovation.