From a young age there is a certain pleasure I have always taken in Arsenals failings. There are other teams far worse off but there is something incredibly amusing about watching Arsenal flatter to deceive and then ultimately stumble and fall continuously. The fans play their part; the terraces at the Emirates seems to contain more flip-flops than a beach (that’s banter). One week all is well, title charge is on off the back of a 3-0 win at home to Burnley. Fast forward eight days, and a 3-0 lead has been thrown away in the Champions League and a 2-1 away loss to Swansea has also been suffered… “Wenger must go”, “Change is needed”, “Need to spend more”. There is a metronomic like consistency to when Arsenal fans are going to do their usual turn on Wenger and start questioning his leadership. I would put money on this continuing for a few weeks, only for Arsenal to qualify from their Champions’ League group, throw together a run of about 4 consecutive wins in the Premier League and all discontent will be forgotten for now. Sounds familiar doesn’t it?
There is also the continual bleating from the fans about their treacherous heroes that turn pantomime villains when they leave the club for grander pastures. Wenger and the club created them only for them to turn their back on their creator, what is usually forgotten is that this ‘betrayal’ comes with substantial reimbursement for the club. The chorus of boo’s that ring around the Emirates whenever a former player touches the ball playing for the opposition is near laughable. It reflects a small club mentality in my opinion and drives home the fact that the majority of these players were right in fleeing the nest in North London, they’ve achieved more than they ever would’ve with Arsenal much to the jealousy of the Arsenal support. It comes across as bitterness that should be aimed at the powers that be within their club rather than the players that have seen the warning signs and intelligently jumped ship.
What the fans hold onto is the brand of football that is continually attempted by the club which is of course admirable. It is a joy to behold an Arsenal team in full flow, passing and moving, creativity on show all over the pitch. The problem is there are teams playing similar football, they have just developed it to a point where perhaps it is not as pure and eye-catching but ultimately it wins matches and trophies. Taking nothing away from the FA cup win last year of course, as Mourinho said “In the last nine years Arsenal have won an FA cup. That’s nice for them”
The ultimate amusement is gained from Arsene Wenger though. There is something inherently comedic about his face, demeanor, everything after an Arsenal defeat. I am positive any supporter but an Arsenal one would corroborate that sentiment. Arsenal’s early success with Wenger cannot be denied. His Arsenal sides were the first to sustain a challenge against Fergie and his Man United team’s dominance of the Premier League. It is also his side that went the whole season unbeaten in the 2003/04 season, the team famously referred to as ‘The Invincibles’ an incredible achievement in the modern era of football. However, I don’t believe this makes the man himself invincible. He needs to answer for his extensive failings basically since that incredible year.
Much of Arsenal’s inability to succeed in terms of trophy wins has been predicated on the idea that the talent they have developed is poached before they are able to win anything. I don’t buy into this. Of course if Arsenal held onto all these players; Fabregas, Van Persie, Song, Nasri, Cole, Clichy, Sagna etc. arguably they would have won titles. But, each of these players obviously didn’t see that potential. Arsenal fans need to ask themselves why these players feel such a need to leave when offers come in. There is clearly a lack of trust in Wenger’s ability nowadays to actually succeed in forming a team to compete at the highest level whether that is in the league or in Europe. If there was that trust wouldn’t these players have stayed? Perhaps if Wenger had been willing to spend on already proven talent in years pervious, then players like Van Persie would’ve seen positive moves being made and been incline to stay at a club that had stood by him because they believed he was going to help them win trophies.
It’s only in recent years that money seems to be getting spent and even still improvement isn’t clear. Signings of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez in the past two summers showed a new intent from Wenger of actually pursuing ready-made, world class stars. What is being exposed now for me is ultimately his own failings, which could previously be hidden behind his tight grip on expenditure and pillaging of his developed talent.
I have an opinion on Wenger that contradicts what’s supposedly his greatest attribute. His development and handling of talent. He has built his career on this idea of taking young players and giving them their chance to become world stars. In recent years I feel he isn’t doing that, he’s in fact responsible for ruining players. First example is Mesut Ozil. The German is Arsenals record transfer and rightly so, he was arguably the best player in his position when the Gunners swooped for him. First few months of his Arsenal career he was lighting up the Premier League with his signature creativity, contributing assists and goals alike. Once Wenger had a few months to impose his idea of football on Ozil that all disappeared. Once one the world’s greatest footballing talents looks lost on a football pitch, getting played out of position which for me is just absurd considering he is one of the best at his actual position. It took less than half a year for Wenger to remove the individual talent from Ozil and sacrifice him for a system of play he lives and dies by to the complete detriment of his team.
Another example is Jack Wilshere. I watched Wilshere play against Glasgow Rangers in the Emirates Cup one preseason, he was only about 17. To this day it is the single best individual performance I have seen live, in person at football match. Wilshere was like nothing I had seen before from an English talent, immediately I thought to myself this guy is the answer to that creative dimension missing from the England team. Spain had players like Silva, France had guys like Nasri, German had its fledging’s in same mould with talent like Ozil. England didn’t have that number 10, when it is was developing into one of the most important positions of the modern game. Wilshere was that number 10. But, he was young and raw and that was where the beauty in his game came from. It is the kind of thing in Spain that is celebrated, the individual talent of the young player that allows him to do things coaches can’t coach and the opposition can’t plan for. Wenger took that out of Wilshere, who now sits deeper in the midfield that he ever should. Wilshere’s talent wasn’t coached it was natural and instinctive, Wenger needed him to play the way he wants him rather than the way his talent allowed him to. Wilshere is a good footballer, but the player I saw that day should have developed to be considered one of the best footballers in the world not just a good player. Wenger should shoulder a lot of the blame for that. The list could go on of players Wenger has failed. I can’t even get started on Andrei Arshavin, we could be here for days. My hope is he doesn’t add Alexis Sanchez to that list and he is allowed to continue to play his football the best way he knows. With freedom, flair and work ethic..
One last comment on Wenger is, why didn’t he re-sign Fabregas and Song this summer? If Arsenal had first option on these two former players it would seem like a no brainer that they brought them back to improve the squad. Wenger said no to Fabregas because “he already has midfielders”. Yes Arsene you have a decent number of midfielders who would argue they play the same position as Fabregas, but you do not have Cesc Fabregas. Fabregas has proven since his return to the Premier League that he is one of the best central midfielders that plays the game, Barce wasted him with that false 9 nonsense. He didn’t take up the option on Fabregas because of his bruised ego over the fact he left in the first place and to show everyone that he didn’t need him because he has players he’s brought through that can do the same job. No they can’t, pretty simple. Every midfield in the world could use Fabregas no matter what volume of them is, he will be better than the majority of them if not all The same logic must’ve applied to not re-signing Alex Song, the best player in a West Ham shirt who are in fact ahead of you in the league. Clearly, these two quality footballers weren’t needed in Arsenals midfield of 4th place regulars. It was a decision made for the wrong reasons again to the detriment of the club by a man who is supposed to have their best interest at heart.
In about 4 weeks I have no doubt that Arsenal will have probably turned their fortunes around, climbed the table to 3rd place and the fans will be behind ‘Arsene The Great’. But, talk to me in a year. I would put good money on the near certainty that Arsenal have followed the exact same trail again. I saw an Arsenal fan say the other day “If your Milks gone stale you throw it out”. If that’s the case Wenger and Arsenal are a block of cheese at this point.