Unlike the author of yesterday’s post I can’t claim to have been born in sight of Highbury Stadium, nor can I claim to have been a supporter for quite as long as him, only since 1950 in fact.
I was, however, born into an Arsenal supporting family, my father, my mother, two elder brothers and a host of aunts, uncles and cousins were, and some still are, all loyal fans.
I too lived through the long years of mediocrity under a succession of uninspiring managers, indeed one of my worst memories was listening to the radio commentary on our one nil defeat by Newcastle United in the 1952 FA Cup Final.
Yes we had success under those managers mentioned yesterday, but it really wasn’t until the appointment of Arsène Wenger that things started to improve. The playing style began to evolve and the epithet “boring, boring Arsenal was consigned to the dustbin. What’s more we actually began to win trophies on a regular basis.
Arsenal entered a golden period. Wengerball was the envy of our competitors, we won a string of cups, and league titles, even doubles ensued, culminating in The Invincibles unbeaten season.
Then came the long decline, George Graham’s Famous Five passed into history and with them went the rock on which our game was founded. Replacements came in but were never of the quality needed, in fact some of them were so poor one wonders why they were bought in the first place. Our game changed from one based on solid defence, pace on the flanks and quality strikers to mid-fielders playing tippy tappy in front of dodgy defenders.
With this decline fourth place became a trophy.
Wenger was rightly credited with changing the face of football. He oversaw the establishment of the Academy, the training complex at London Colney and the overhaul of the medical staff. Arguably none of the latter three have proved to be of much benefit to the results attained by the players.
Over recent years there has been a lack of innovation on the pitch, there is no invention at set plays, we win countless corners but rarely score from them, free kicks are entirely wasted, build up play is sluggish and tactics are entirely predictable. All this points to an apparent failure of coaching.
Over the past few transfer windows money has become available and has been spent, Mesut Ozil came in, a wonderful player, a true number ten, Wenger plays him wide on the left. Danny Welbeck is signed ostensibly as a central striker, he wanders around like a lost lamb, one minute on the wing the next dropping deep, why is he not playing in the position he was bought to fill?
Wenger’s transfer policy seems not to be based on the idea of identifying a position that needs filling and buying a player to fill it, rather buying a player and dropping him into the team and seeing where he ends up.
Alexis is a super player, he’s got it all, pace, intelligence, skill, a terrific attitude and an eye for not just goals but also the telling pass, I confess to having no idea what his best position is, sadly I suspect neither does Wenger.
I think we all recognise the failings in our defence, not since “Mad Jens” left have we had a competent ‘keeper, thankfully Szczesny is starting to fulfil his promise. The same applies to left-back, Ashley Cole has never been properly replaced, Gibbs is too injury prone and Monreal is poor at defending. Vermaelen, a good defender came, picked up too many injuries, lost his form, lost his place, was sold and wasn’t replaced. Koscielny, another good defender, but is again picking up too many injuries as well as too many red and yellow cards. Mertesacker is the exception, a solid, reliable “old school” centre back but he needs good reliable support around him.
Debuchy, before his injury, was proving to be a more than adequate replacement for the departed Sagna. Incidentally just why was Sagna allowed to leave? Finally, Chambers, a full-back who appears to be a much better centre-back but Wenger bought him as a prospective holding mid-fielder.
Then we come to the player that we have all been crying out, a holding-midfielder or, if you like, a defensive mid-fielder. Surely our manager must recognise that neither Arteta or Flamini can adequately fill the gap, yet there is nothing to indicate that a serious attempt has been made to sign one.
Arsène Wenger has a great history at Arsenal, but there are too many flaws in his stewardship to be papered over by the recent FA Cup win. Flaws such as the failure to provide innovation in tactics, a failure to inspire the team to play from the first to last whistle, to make tactical substitutions when the need first becomes apparent, an over whelming loyalty to underachieving or perennially injured players, a flawed transfer policy, his antipathy to players over thirty.
All in all I think the time is approaching when serious consideration has to be given to Arsene Wenger’s replacement.
I will forestall one obvious question which I’m sure will be asked, no I have no idea who to replace the great man with, I can honestly say that I’m extremely happy that I don’t have that decision to make.
Written by Norfolk Gooner.