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Trying to understand Arsenal’s problems

What was frustrating about the defeat against Bolton, was the unerring predictability of the defeat. Even Arsene had to admit that if we finish third then it will be an unsatisfactory season.  He conceded that this was one of the easiest run ins that his team has had to face for many seasons. Yet because of a lack of maturity and experience we took only 2 points out of a possible 9 to see our hopes of winning the Premiership destroyed. There was no real pressure in evidence. These players are paid an obscene amount of money to deliver, and barely a handful do, and this is why Arsenal fail and will continue to do so until things change. The attitude of our Manager in his almost papal infallibility is evidenced by his response to a question about whether he would consider moving away from his beliefs and principles to change the situation for Arsenal?  He replied thus…

“If you can convince me that the principles are wrong then I am ready”

But the truth is there is no one around him that is willing to challenge him or convince him. He went on further to say

“ Something is wrong in our team, It’s not the principles that are wrong… There is something wrong defensively…”


Arsene, I am heartily sick of repeating this mantra.

“Success begins at the back!”

I can no longer defend Arsene Wenger. But be clear, I am not calling for him to go, but to be frank, I am so frustrated and angry that next season will be my last at the Emirates, if nothing changes, then I will join the legion of divided and disillusioned  Arsenal fans and support this club from afar. For enough is enough. I have patience but I am losing respect for a culture that refuses to allow an alternative credo to surface. My reasoning is simple, if the Manager ergo “The Club ” is not willing to invest in experienced match winning players, then why should I invest in two gold memberships at almost four thousand pounds? He is trying yet again to protect the average squad players who have failed to deliver time after time after time. He has asked us to blame him not the players. He cannot fault the player’s attitudes, and he is at pains to point out that he, Arsene Wenger was responsible for choosing the players.

Yes in that respect Arsene is right. His fingerprints are all over the scene of the crime. The Wenger philosophy is basically

“There is no I in team”

This is an often well worn quote that originated from one of the world’s best coaches of college basketball, John R Wooden was coach of UCLA who between 1963 and 1975 won 10 of the 12 available NCAA Championships. His short quotes inspired players and his principles laid the foundation of good team play. Yet this quote can be seen as the root cause of many of Arsene’s convictions. The team ethic has been taken too far. It is this ethos that now paralyses our players, it creates uncertainty in their minds. The very absence of leaders on the pitch, the failure to be selfish in front of goal and take an obvious chance, and finally the failure to instil a “Die for the cause” mentality in his players is because of the collective team ethos. Arsene knows that confidence in young players is fragile, and to blame players could result in those players failing to achieve their potential.

The problem at Arsenal, is that we no longer have world class role models for the youth to learn from. They have to learn from each other. From what ex-players have said about Arsene’s technique of communication, basically means that these players will not receive a Ferguson style hairdryer ticking off when they underperform, instead they will be comforted and reassured.  It seems that only the bottles of water in the dug out get to receive Arsene’s real wrath. Goal Keepers apart, Arsene very rarely drops players who repeatedly make mistakes or who fail to deliver. It is this ethos of team responsibility for success or failure that is almost political in it’s application. Arsene’s reliance upon his conviction is what is paralysing our club at the moment. Unless there are changes of personnel around him then this conviction will prove difficult to change.

Where is the the evidence for my assertion?

In 2008, Theo Walcott scored a hatrick for England against Croatia, he became an overnight sensation. There was a clamour for the young man to become the next Thierry Henry, but Arsene’s response was

“For me, it’s important he continues to develop as a team player,”

Next the question of the lack of passionate leaders on the field…

Denilson was quoted as stating that Fabregas was not a natural leader, Arsene Wenger responded

“We have a shared leadership in our team but I believe Fabregas is an outstanding leader, especially when you consider he’s 23 years old, with personality and character, and Van Persie as well.

“I believe what is important in the way we want to play football is that everyone takes responsibility.”

This team ethos is laudable but has it gone too far? There is the sharing of wealth too, just look at our wage bill for a start. But how many £30 million  players do we possess. To warrant the third highest wage bill in the premier league? Again Arsene’s obsession with making sure that there is no “I” in team. We all get paid handsomely, so where is the desire or aspiration to get a high wage by good performances, if you can receive a king’s ransom for just sitting on the bench? I argue that too many ordinary players are overpaid, and this will present a barrier to bringing in established players. Something that Stan Kroenke and Ivan Gazidis should have the balls to address. We have 18 players out on loan, but I bet that we are paying the majority of their wages as the sums will be probably too high for Championship Clubs to afford.

At the start of the season Arsene Wenger failed to buy a new Keeper, leading to uncertainty in his back four. Squillaci was never ever going to be a top draw centre back, and the loss of Vermaelen exposed Wenger’s gamble. We have continued to let in set pieces and this has been the case for at least three seasons, but do we see a change in our defensive tactics and application of these fundamental BASIC training ground skills by the players? When in front of goal with a chance to score, players will instinctively look to pass to the player next to them, again searching for team goals. Even Arsene Wenger’s attacking philosophy is under strain. The absence of a 30 goals a season striker to replace Thierry Henry, and the chance in formation to 4-3-3 means that we employ a team approach to scoring goals. Robin van Persie apart, there appears to be no other potent striker anywhere in our club.

We need a number two keeper, an experienced centre back, a Song replacement, and a proven goal scorer. But already before the season has ended Arsene has ruled out any major changes to his personnel. I would love to see Arsenal buy the likes of Cahill and Scott Parker, who would instil the fighting qualities that we so badly need. We are not very far from reaching the top, but what again is very frustrating, is the refusal to make those buys. I don’t want to hear about the transfer targets that we failed in getting, it obvious for all to see that this squad needs a clear out and fresh new hungry blood brought in, but if we don’t point fingers and allocate blame, then that is tantamount to saying that really nothing much will change. If we fail to make those changes then let us be clear, Arsene Wenger will never win the Premiership again let alone the Champions League for our rivals will continue to strengthen their squads.

So where am I on the page? As I said at the beginning, I can no longer defend Arsene Wenger, but neither will I join the ranks of those calling for his head. Arsene Wenger has earned the right to decide his own fate after what he has done for our club. But clearly someone close to Arsene needs to challenge his current approach. We need new defensive coaching staff, we need new experienced players to strengthen our squad, and if Arsene Wenger does decide to go in two seasons time we need ?Pep Guardiola! But let us hope that I am wrong, yet I fear that his refusal to change will lead to a tarnishing of his legacy, which would be a great pity after all that he has done for Arsenal Football Club.

Article courtesy of FTK from the excellent Arsenal Insider
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Article title: Trying to understand Arsenal’s problems

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