I try not to take individual games in isolation and make a judgement. I prefer to put things into the context of a bigger picture, but of course in any given game the individual performances still need to be looked at.
Personally I feel this awry moment, after the weekend, has been reached by issues that go back far further. I have said a lot on here in the past regarding where I feel we are ailing, but there is a thought I have had for a while that I have not voiced in its entirety. As usual it is purely based on speculation and a kind of reading between the lines.
I don’t know exactly when it was but I feel that Arsene, at some point, formulated a plan for a team building and development project that he embarked upon. One that he felt would eventually come to fruition. I think he looked towards playing with a target man up front and then have crafty ball playing midfielders in behind, who would work off the target man and rely on them to score as many, if not more, of our goals as through the striker himself. All this utopia on a plate while also exercising better control and possession in a game.
It is a great ideology that looks good on paper but I feel is proving not to work. Further I feel it has been proving not to be working for some time now, and at our expense in terms of performances and results, but Arsene has soldiered on with it. The mark of some of the great managers is their inherent stubbornness not to bow to external pressure, and to carry on and push on with their vision. AW has proven many of our assertions wrong before. However, I would note that the character trait of having strength in their convictions, that has defined many great managers, can also become their downfall when times have moved on and they don’t move with it.
I feel the way we have been trying to develop recently, (and when I say recent, we are talking 2-3 seasons), doesn’t match up with the current top clubs. Maybe Arsene is seeing something we don’t that just needs more time, but I strongly doubt that and feel that it is different this time. Our current system looks vastly inferior to the high energy, high press teams that usually play with a very fluid and mobile front 3 (striker + 2 wing forwards) with a control player in behind. For me our target man and the crafty midfielders slow our game down far too much, and it lacks quick penetration and counter attacking ability.
If we continue along this route I feel it will be a big failure and could end badly for us and the manager. I think Arsene started this more recent project (post austerity) well with the acquisitions of players like Sanchez and Ozil, but instead of continuing and building a devastating fluid attack around these players, he has since tried to go a different way, and one that in my opinion hampers their talents.
Things can be turned around but it would require a radical overhaul in Arsene Wengers thinking for me. Does his character allow for this? For me he would have to be ruthlessly efficient in analysing the team and how to redirect our development pathway. I have never been one to shout about the spending of gazillions, (although 2 very big and probably very expensive players are likely required), and would first put right what can be improved in house.
That for me would be identifying each players best position and playing them there, and then if we still find we are deficient in any area, go out and recruit. Is Arsene too close to be that ruthless to players he has nurtured and developed? This is sometimes where a new manager makes the difference because they come in with less emotional attachment to the players and can analyse and act in a more objective and detached fashion as to what needs to be done.
None of our key players in Arsene’s system are new. Players like Giroud, Ozil, Sanchez, Ramsey have all been ever present for some time, and as such any system that predominantly uses them should be beyond a mere development phase by now, and should be looking more like the finished article. I still hold out hope that Arsene can switch his thinking and take us forward. It may be a big ask though for Arsene to accept this, but weirdly I don’t feel it is a massive overhaul that is required. I think our whole playing style and performance level can be ratcheted up 3-4 levels with a few tweaks and hard-nosed assessments from within the current squad, and a couple of marquee players being brought in.
It may be that I am barking up the wrong tree, or am just barking 🙂 However, over to you A.A’ers for your judgement either way.
Written by GoonerB