A Critical Look At Arsene Wenger & Arsenal F.C.

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    Updated: November 11, 2014
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    With two weeks off for the International break, the English Premier League and its fans have two weeks to reflect on recent results, and the season as a whole. One club in particular that needs a lot of reflection right now is Arsenal FC. It’s been a rough week for Arsenal FC, and the arguing between pro-Wenger and Anti-Wenger contingents is at a point of no return, I think. All the good will from the FA Cup win, Community Shield trophy, and the capture of Alexis Sanchez in the transfer window this summer seems to have evaporated. The most stunning part is that all the love Arsene Wenger earned back from the “WengerOut” people is gone….it’s November.

    Neither side is right or wrong in the debate. It’s opposing views on the same quandary, “how to improve the Gooners.” Sit back for a second, and picture the fighting that goes on between American political parties the Republicans and Democrats, or, the situation in Spain between Barcelona and Real Madrid where it’s bigger than football. Now imagine that happening within one fan base that supports the same club, and you have Arsenal.

    I have always stood behind Wenger, and always will. I don’t fault those who are anti-Wenger at this point. It’s not out of malice people want Wenger gone, on the contrary, it’s out of love for the club. But with the club struggling, where do we all go from here?

     

    Wenger Must Look In The Mirror…

     

    For the last two weeks I’ve heard fans and pundits around the world question Wenger’s tactics. And for the most part, it’s laughable that people question Wenger’s tactics when for years people have called Arsenal the best Spanish team in England. Total Futbol, Tiki-Taka, Wenger Ball, or whatever you call it, has been a staple of the Gooners under Wenger since the 1990’s. Nothing’s changed, well not entirely.

    One premise of Wenger’s reign is his inability to abandon his “beautiful game” mentality in the latter stages of the game. In the height of his Arsenal reign none of that mattered because he had a squad of players who were brilliant on the pitch. He would coach from the touchline, but for the most part, his field generals would handle business. This current Arsenal team is nothing like those Invincible teams. Against Swansea when Arsenal were up 1-0, the Gooners midfield was caught out on a counter attack that ultimately resulted in a Kieran Gibbs foul, and a expertly taken free kick from Swansea’s Gylfi Sigurosson.

    Counter’s attacks happen, free kicks are scored, and play moves on. But that counter attack should have told Wenger that the team needed more security in the back and middle, meaning a switch to a more defensive system. A formation of 5-4-1 or 4-5-1 should have been employed immediately. Jefferson Montero was tearing Calum Chambers to shreds on the Flanks and it was a nightmare game for the 19-year-old England International. Wenger had two options, either sub Chambers out or provide more cover.

    Subbing out Chambers (which I will get to later) wasn’t possible, meaning the only option left was for Wenger to change formation and strike from there. Another option could have been to switch Nacho Monreal and Chambers. Monreal is a natural wingback, and Chambers is a tall footballer that has very decent jumping ability.

     

    On the second goal from Swansea, Bafetimbi Gomis just out jumped the smaller Monreal for the goal. Had both the defenders switched, Monreal may have been able to keep Montero in front of him or Chambers could have used his height to get in Gomis’ path and headed the ball out-of-bounds.

    Unfortunately neither thing happened and chaos transpired. The backline has been in shambles since the 60th minute of the Anderlecht game on Tuesday, and Swansea just added to the misery. Thanks, Swans.

     

    Arsenal Are Short on Quantity more than Quality…

     

    I read a quote from a random Gooner after the Swansea defeat that I couldn’t have agreed with more. The quote read, “I’m never worried about the quality of the players Wenger buys, it’s the quantity that scares me.” That sums up Arsene Wenger’s transfer policy perfectly. Wenger has an eye for world-class talent, and in the last few years, the players he’s bought have done well for Arsenal. Unfortunately all those players seem to be injury prone. I know players get injured, fans all over the world understand that injuries happen, but for some strange reason Arsene Wenger doesn’t seem to understand that.

    Being fiscally conservative is one thing when it comes to transfers, but being fiscally idiotic is a completely different bag all together. Arsenal is always 2-3 quality substitutes away from truly challenging for the EPL title again. Why no one above Wenger forces his hand to purchase more players just tells me that not only is Wenger the end all be all when it comes to transfers, but the men with the money rather keep money in the budget than to really spend that extra transfer war chest to get more players. That’s a failure from the owner Stan Kroenke on down to Ivan Gadzidis and Wenger.

    Penny pinching has gotten Arsenal into the top 4 every year, meaning the Champions League is always guaranteed, but never anything more than the recent FA Cup. Had Arsenal gone all out and bought a defensive midfielder and two more defenders this past summer, Arsenal would be in great shape. Now Arsenal is without Mathieu Debuchy and Laurent Koscielny for a few more weeks, meaning there are more calamities at the back to come. Complaining and moaning about the lack defenders is pointless. Nothing will change until the January transfer window open, and the players who are out start returning from their injuries.

    Until then, the make shift defense will struggle, and more and more ire will be thrown Wenger’s way from the fans. And for the lack of extra signings that Arsenal desperately needed, Wenger and the Arsenal hierarchy deserve all the blame.

     

    When Do We Start Holding Players Accountable?…

     

    As you can imagine, criticizing Arsene Wenger is not easy for me because I have been and always will support Arsenal’s manager. But even I can’t overlook the things I’ve mentioned in the paragraphs above. That being said, when will Arsenal’s fans stop pointing the finger at one man and cast a wary eye on the members of the squad themselves? When will we start asking questions of the millionaire professionals that know how to play the sport better than anyone else on the planet and yet fail to do the simple things?

    Aaron Ramsey has been very poor this season. I see the footage of Ramsey in training, he gets plenty of game time and he’s an International with Wales. This season Ramsey seems to have a flair for theatrics with ill-timed back heels and shots that fly so far from the goal that I think he’s just playing around. Instead keeping his head down and working harder, Ramsey is not getting better on the pitch; and that’s on him. Santi Cazorla has had chance after chance to bury easy sitters against the opposition, yet he either skies the ball over goal or whiffs on the shot completely.

     

    Wenger can’t improve Cazorla’s accuracy. He can just encourage Cazorla to train harder and home he starts burying his chances. Laurent Koscielny is an excellent defender but whenever he’s in the penalty box he’s never learned not to make the terrible mistake that gives teams penalties. Koscielny makes that same reckless challenge repeatedly, how has he not learned from his mistakes? Danny Welbeck had a chance to bury a goal against Swansea, but he missed. Welbeck has missed some easy chances as well. I can go on an on. We know the players train well because before the Swansea loss the team won two straight games and kept two clean sheets.

    And in both games last week against Anderlecht and Swansea, the Gooners were leading and playing really good football. Wenger may be found out tactically on plenty of occasions this season, but these men are professional footballers who have been taught the basics since they were barely old enough to run. That, ladies and gentlemen, is on the players. A manager can only do so much before the players have to understand that with the amount of money they’re paid and with the time they spend practicing the subtle nuisances of the sport, common footballing knowhow should be ingrained in them.

     

    Maybe it’s Wenger’s fault for not being harder on the squad, but when the team is playing champagne football and throttling teams, we all praise the lads. But when things go bad we all point fingers at the manager and say Wenger must go. There needs to be a balance. The players owe it to Wenger, the fans, and the club, to give it there all on the pitch every minute they’re out there. Wenger can’t teach heart, desire and backbone; those are the intangibles the players should have because they’re lucky enough to wear the Arsenal shirt. Period.

    It’s going to be a long two weeks of reflection and finger-pointing, but that’s just how life is at Arsenal right now. Love it or hate it, this is our club, and no matter what. I’m going to support Arsenal, the manager, and the players, while encouraging the best going forward. Because at this point, what else is there to do? And as always, “In Arsene we trust.”

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