Monday, 25 April 2011

Arsene Wenger's Title Aspirations Gone and Next Could Be His Legacy

Arsenal's capitulation in the final third of the season became all but complete, thanks to a 2-1 defeat to Bolton yesterday. This familiar end of season vibe really has come to no real surprise, as some argued it was simply a matter of time before Arsenal dropped out of the title race. Just to add insult to injury it seems they've even sacrificed runners-up spot to London rivals Chelsea. As I write this, this has basically become the norm for Arsenal fans over the past seven seasons.

I took my time to write this blog post as I wanted to get the full response from Arsenal fans, and let the dust fall from yesterdays defeat. I didn't want to hear hasty emotional responses with no real substance such as "Sack Wenger, hire Pep Guardiola and buy Lionel Messi!” The serious and somewhat emotional response I got was all too familiar; Wenger must change his philosophy or Arsenal must change their manager.

Now let's be clear, I think it’s fair to say that to some extent every football fan in the World can appreciate what Arsene Wenger has done for modern game, let alone the English premiership.

I understand that Arsenal excellent "self-sustaining business model" is an example of the correct way football clubs should be run.

I also appreciate the football players Arsene Wenger has developed into some of the best to ever play the game; names such as Vieira, Henry, Bergkamp, Pires, Fabregas, Campbell, Ljungberg and many more have all flourished under Wenger’s tutor ledge and won major honours, whether it be club or country level.

Now Wenger’s fully deserves these accolades and plaudits, but there is an undeniable black mark on Arsene Wenger’s track record, and that is that for six years (soon to be seven) he has failed to win any form of silverware with the North London side.

Now speaking frankly, if you were at any other big club, no matter what league it is or what the level may be, three years without a trophy let alone seven is a catastrophe. Especially considering the profit Arsenal have made over the past few years from selling on some of their well known players, not to mention the money they have made from the fans in ticket sales and merchandise.

Arsenal as perennial runners-up since their last trophy win
2004/05 – 2nd Premier League, FA Cup Winners
2005/06 – 4th Premier League, Champions League Runners-up, League Cup Semi-finals
2006/07 – 4th Premier League
2007/08 – 3rd Premier League
2008/09 – 4th Premier League, FA Cup Semi-finals, Champions League Semi-finals
2009/10 – 3rd Premier League
2010/11 – League Cup Runners-up

It would seem that if Mr. Wenger was a manager of a mid-table club, in which it's only ambitions were to be finishing in a relatively comfortable league position every year while working on a tight budget he would be one of the greatest managers in history, but he is the manager of Arsenal Football Club, one of the most successful and well supported clubs in European domestic football.

In no way am I saying Wenger should blow a load of money, and begin to work within dept, but I'm saying there are no more excuses and there is no excuses for him not to dip into the transfer market and sign either experienced class individuals (baring in mind experienced players does not have to be 30 plus, as a player like Gary Cahill is 25 years old and has vast Premiership experience), or either buy a difference maker. A proven match winner. Why? Because the period in which Wenger had to nurture and develop this current batch of players into world beaters, has been and gone (these past seven years).

I also feel it is now time to remove some of the dead wood from the squad, and add depth to an excellent starting XI. The main response from a select group of fans is the despite the good defensive record this season, the current back five just don't cut the mustard.

For me, the main culprit is Gael Clichy, and has been for some time. A new left back is needed, in part with a new central defender with Premiership experience and who can play at the highest level. Step forward a Gary Cahill or a Brede Hangeland. Either of these two would add some much needed steel to that shaky back four, and go some way to improving their poor set piece defensive record (Arsenal have conceded 20 goals from set plays this season, with only Blackpool, Sunderland, Aston Villa and West Brom conceding more).

At right back, Bacary Sagna is a very good and consistent footballer, but has no adequate cover. Emmanuel Eboue is now pretty much a right midfielder and his indecisiveness (and attacking mentality) makes him a liability at right back.

An all too familiar problem with Arsenal is their Goalkeeper. Since Jens Lehmann, Arsenal hasn’t had a reliable and class goalkeeper. A key attribute of being a goalkeeper, is having resilience and having character. Woljiech Szczesny has both of these attributes, but his lack of experience has faltered him twice this season. In the Carling Cup final where he was to blame for not taking control of simple defensive clearance, and in the 3-3 draw with rivals Spurs, giving away a rash penalty after Arsenal seemed likely to withstand the pressure and hold out for a win.

Now Szczesny should be the backup goalkeeper and learn the tricks of the trade from a world class experienced goalkeeper, for this, Mr Wenger must look no further that Manchester City's benchwarmer Shay Given.

Fabianski is unreliable, Almunia is most likely to leave in the summer, and if Lehmann’s experience is so vital, hand him a coaching role. The Arsenal board must put a bit of pressure on Arsene Wenger, but subsequently back him financially in pursuit of these players.

Up front, it’s simple; either get rid of the faltering 4-2-3-1 formation and switch to 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 to get the best out of Arsenal's strikers. Not only does this formation expose Arsenals fullbacks, but the high line imposed by Koscielny and Djourou makes them susceptible to the ball over the top, and also on the turn against quick strikers.

Also when players like Clichy, Sagna, Walcott or Nasri get the ball into wider areas, they deliver crosses in the box, aiming at one striker who is surrounded by five defenders. So it’s pretty much crossing to nobody. Two strikers up front (Bendtner or Chamahk with Van Persie) would mean they would obviously be the main target for these wasted crosses.

Arsenal have completed 156 out of 813 crosses, giving them a 19% success rate, the 2nd worst after Man CityLink
Robin Van Persie is a world class striker and we have seen this since his return from injury, and it is vital for Arsenal to do everything within their power to make sure he gets adequate protection in order to stay fit for a whole season. Scoring in the 2-1 defeat yesterday meant he became the first striker to score away goals in seven consecutive games. Van Persie has also hit 18 goals in his last 19 appearances in all competitions. Vital.

On to Nicklas Bendtner, who has the qualities to be a very good striker, but he is very arrogant. He needs to prove himself on the football pitch, but currently isn't getting this opportunity under Wenger. A Bendtner/RVP combination I believe, could work since the two players styles complement each other quite well.

As for Marouane Chamahk; I really can’t see him being cut out for the Premiership. To play consistently for 3 months straight and then disappear off the radar completely (since December, and say he is suffer from “tiredness”) just shows he lacks both the physical and mental attributes need to succeed in England.

On a final note regarding the strikers, Arsenal might as well Carlos Vela. The young Mexican is synonymous with a lack of goals, and is very poor compared to his fellow countryman Javier Hernandez who has taken to the Premier League like a duck to water.

That’s my take on the Arsenal squad, and the current crop available, who are simple not cutting it.

Now I haven't been sitting here thinking of Fantasy Football or spent the whole afternoon playing Football Manager, I have looked at the most viable options available, and the likelihood of the transfer. I mean Arsenal fans would love to have a Samuel Eto’o or Lionel Messi, but that would be very farfetched and financially unattainable for Arsenal (or so they have you believe). Many Arsenal fans I have spoken to, concur that the likes of Cahill and Given are the players needed in order to strengthen their quest for a trophy. It’s come to the point where Wenger has no more excuses and subsequently no more alternatives.

My final point is an issue I have with Arsene Wenger’s attitude. He is a terribly sore loser and that has rubbed off onto Arsenal fans. Instead of admitting fault and accepting responsibility, he comes out with ridiculous excuses hence making his responses to journalist’s questions more evasive than Floyd Mayweather's defence.

His conduct on the touchline is very disconcerting. He argues with opposition managers, and then refuses to shake their hands when things don't go his way. It is quite poor behaviour, from someone who is so well respected and should be an example to younger managers on how to conduct themselves appropriately. The period of this behaviour (Which can only be described as that of a sore loser) need to be eradicated. Managers such as Sir Alex Ferguson and David Moyes do not conduct themselves in this manner and neither should the Arsenal manager.

This stubbornness, and refusal to admit some sort of fault, is demoralising Arsenal fans and really an insult to everything the club stands for. If Wenger continues in this manner, it’s no myth that all his hard work, achievements and innovations are going to be forgotten which threatens to leave his legacy in tatters.

Arsenal and football fans I would love to hear your views on Wengers decisions, tactics and behaviour. What do you think Arsenal should do? What should Arsene Wenger do?

Leave a comment below, or tweet me @RealTalkFB

Real Talk Football


  1. AS a pro Wenger, i admit lately AW looks despondent and out of touch with the fans, and he needlessly agues with everyone like a spoilt kid; but nonetheless he still is the man for the job.
    Arsenal is in debt, albeit the good one, Arsenal cannot afford to financially challenge other clubs i.e Chelsea, Man City, etc e.g 20m for Parker/Cahill Reina 30m
    As for his legacy, i think its still too early to judge.
    2011/12 will be a make it or break it season.

  2. Arsenal cannot afford to financially challenge other clubs i.e Chelsea, Man City, etc e.g 20m for Parker/Cahill Reina 30m not only that but also big deal like to sale FABREGAS for 35 pound millionand buy samwel ETOO, JULIO CESAR and one of middifield of INTER MILAN can save arsenal to achieve their goals please WENGER do this things faster