Tuesday 19 May 2009

The Wenger Boy

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.


1979gooner said...

Spot on. Agree with everything.

The tactics critique is particularly good.

People are getting angry and with good reason a lot of the time.

Wenger needs to start listening to the criticism a bit more and changing, otherwise I fear for his future.

1979gooner said...

ps I'm not saying Wenger should go, just that if he is unable to take criticism and look at his own faults then we are in big big trouble.

Jeff said...

Some good questions, Ted.

I have the exact same question about man management. You could also mention the departures of Edu and Reyes. Those were good players for us.

..."We play beautiful football in midfield but have no idea what to do in the last third of the pitch."

When I'm watching matches I'm thinking this the whole time, that we're clueless around the 18-yard box. Wenger says that according to the numbers we're scoring enough goals, but I'm often frustrated by the lack of good football around the 18-yard box, although Arshavin is helping a lot.

..."Why do we play possession football that only results in crap lofted crosses to an empty box?"

Great question. I often have this exact same question.

..."Why are we useless at corners (at both ends)?"

This is another one I find myself pondering. We can earn 10 corners, and we kick them to the first defender. We concede one corner, and we've conceded a goal. It does my head in at times.

WeGunnerBeKings said...

Have people forgotten that we have been riddled with injurys for past two or three seasons. We only lost the league last year because Eduardo got injured and it was, in my oppinion, one player too much. We lost rosicky in Jan, he was playing brilliantly, Van persie, who was on fire, then comming into crunch time we lost Adebayors support, Eduardo.

That was our turning point in the season. You cant blame Wenger for that, it woul be like United loosing Ronaldo Rooney and Tevez at the run in to a season!!

And everyone knows if we won last year, ye would all be singin a different tune about the man who brought glory to Arsenal.

Rhinogooner said...

Good post. I like it! A lot of poignant observations.

I've read a few of bloggers saying that we shouldn't be so pessimistic about our performance this year since we finished fourth and were in two semi-finals. And stating that no other manager than Mr. Wenger could have achieved that with this squad. I find that view to be very myopic and sycophantic. Don't even ask for my opinion on our 21 game unbeaten run.

I'm not going to go on a diatribe about our manager, but he put us in this position with his poor decisions about transfers and tactics. Maybe it's not all his fault. The lack of someone to orchestrate transfers as Dein used to do for us might have over-burdened Mr. Wenger for the last few transfer windows. I still question his interminable belief in some of our players though.

Nevertheless, their are other managers in the world of football that could have achieved as much as Mr. Wenger with this squad....and possibly some that could have achieved more. Just look at what Roy Hodgson has done at Fulham!

I sincerely believe that there are only two ways forward for Arsenal from here though. If we are to avoid finding ourselves in a similar situation or worse at this time next season, then either Mr. Wenger is going to have to change his approach or we are going to have to find a new manager.

In response to WeGunnerBeKings, I do not subscribe to the excuse that injuries cost us the league last season. I feel that not bringing in one or two players in the January 2008 transfer window cost us the league. We had a very thin squad and we all knew that if we picked up a few key injuries we would be in the muck. Many Gooners I spoke with felt that we needed to boost the squad in order to maintain our title push. We did not, and we suffered the consequences. You can blame injuries or Gallas' outburst, but I contend that our squad was too light and our confidence imploded when we lost in the FA Cup to Man U 4-0.

Obsinho said...

It is a tricky one - the season was not a disaster given how we lined up at the start.

What is interesting is that even a manager like Benitez who spunks money like David Pleat over a Kings' Cross hooker says United's money is the differential between them. Benitez is a cock, but he is right - Utd's squad is now so expensive in terms of trasnfers and wages it is obscene.

We are told we can compete - so we want to. If his Bosses are lying in public and undermining him then Wenger should quit on principle. If he is not spending money due to stubbourness and a refusal to step away from the financial management of the club, then maybe (just maybe) he should be removed.

He is, was and always will be a Legend and a hero. That will never change.

1979gooner said...

Injuries have played a part but we all know there's much more to it than that, as Ted's post makes clear.

What has really pissed me off this season, even ignoring the failure to replace gilberto/flamini, was the tactics in our defeats to chelsea and manu in the semis.

The 4-5-1 and Arshavin not starting against Chelsea was poor.

The Nasri-Cesc positions were awful.

Add to that the signing of Silvestre, and the failure to bring people in when we have lost men of great talent and experience in key postions, then you have a recipe for disaster.

I love Arsene and he's the best man for the job, I just hope he can see where he's fucked up and learn from it.

As people say no matter how well Arsene does we'll never be favourites for any competition, it was more the manner of our failure that annoyed me this year.

I can take winning nothing, for example last year we were very unlucky indeed and it was more bad luck in terms of injuries and dodgy refereeing decisions that cost us, as a result Arsene didn't take any blame.

This year has been very different though, it's much more than luck, Arsene has made some big msitakes.

K man said...

This is very tricky. For me he is a legend. But he is very stubborn and seems to have lost the plot a little in the last couple of seasons as Ted has eloquently pointed out. Making Gallas captain was the first sign - this is a player who threatened to score an own goal and sulked like an idiot at Birmingham. Getting rid of Flam and Gilberto knowing that the back up is Diaby and Denilson is poor management - every true Gooner knew that.

The question is - who would you back to lead the team to better things next season?

My vote is Wenger.

Ted said...

Thanks for the responses - a number of good points made above.

I would like to develop the point made by WeGunnerbeKings, who correctly raises a point I ducked in the post about injuries.

The reason why I ducked it is because I still cannot make up my mind. Firstly, i was very much part of the "unlucky injury" clan last season. I have not forgetten that. However, i feel we did not learn from our mistake, as Rhino and K-Man have said.

I am also minded that Manure have played almost the entire season without Hargreaves and Neville. Essien was out for a long period for Chelsea. Now whilst you can debate the merits of those players ( for the record I would break the bank for Essien), there are experienced players in reserve for them. John O'Shea is my counter-example - about 28 years old, Manure for life, probably not on massive wages. We could do with some players like that, but you either make it at Arsenal or you get canned.

The examples of players that Wenger has lost is shocking. Edu and Reyes are good examples. We could also add Senderos and Upson to that list, either of whome could have made a difference this year.

But thats not the reason why I didn't go into our injuries. In my view, only Eduardo and Rosicky have had 'proper' injuries. I am not saying the rest are faking, just that I feel there is a sicknote culture at Arsenal, where Arsene allows every player with a knock to get signed off for a couple of weeks for a rest. Its an indulgency that you don't see at other clubs.

The Scousers are a prime example. Gerrard takes two weeks to recover from a hamstring injury. An Arsenal player will take 2 months.

Its another symptom of the lack of blood, sweat and tears that our players give to win matches.

Rhinogooner said...

Not that anyone has questioned my devotion to Mr. Wenger, but since I have been respectfully critical of him and the team much of the season, I want to state for the record my admiration for the way he has changed this club's style of play and the silverware he has won for us.

He has some intangible qualities that no other managers in the world possess. I have experienced some of the most joyful, satisfying, and childlike-behaviour-inducing moments of my life because of what he has achieved at Arsenal.

I absolutely agree that the man is a legend and the best manager we have ever had. He has changed more than Arsenal, he has changed football. He is so good that it has required teams like Man U, Liverpool, and Chelsea to spend obscene amounts of money to supply their squads with 2 top notch players in every position in order to match up with and overcome the teams he creates.

This respect and admiration I have for him is the reason why I always refer to him as "Mr." Wenger.

Anonymous said...

AW is irreplaceable.

Not to say Arsenal wouldn't win without him. They may, they may not.

But is there anyone better than him? Probably not. Are there people different that are as good? Absolutely.

But having the same person in charge, having the same players, continuity is very important.

MU and SAF's success is built on that. Roman lost patience with the Special One, and that probably has cost Chelsea, even though it isn't obvious.

If we want to be Chelsea and Spurs, like, than it is what it is.

AW is pissed, I can see his point. Both sides are probably correct. Sure there is supposed to be criticism.

But we all work. and love. and when are employers or lovers have an opinion that is inconsistent with our own view, then fuck, we get pissed.

AW is also frustrated. I'm sure he wants to be winning as much as the person next door. So, all of this is coming to a head, and its a good thing.

but everyone should kiss and makeup.

I for one, don't think it wouldn't be a disaster if he left. which is different from saying the Arsenal won't win again, I'm sure they will.


Anonymous said...

also, what the fuck have Chelsea and Liverpool won the last three years?

a Carling Cup? (Note, our Young Guns played Chelsea tough)

Maybe the FA Cup? (go Everton)


Anonymous said...

nice post and true to the bone but you can also add ''why can't our players cross a ball higher than 6ft''the amount of times we occasionally get players into the box or at some corners the crosser can't hit a ball above a defender!!?

I think we should see what he does during the close season and hopefully bring in a couple of experience player to help gel the youth,he also has to sort out the dross and get rid off them so add to funds!