Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I'll Be The Asshole Saying "I Told You So"

Approaching my 100th post, and still saying the same things as the first one.

I know that this blog is almost always preaching negativity, but I think that a lot of this has proven to be justified negativity. Perhaps the more relevant issue is whether it is misdirected, because much of my ire has been aimed at the manager, who many still seem to see as an untouchable figure. To put him on such a lofty pedestal is foolish. George Graham had almost comparable success (albeit without the nice football) but Arsenal had descended into something of a shambles by the time he was sacked- less than a year after winning the European Cup Winners Cup. So surely it is time to question Wenger, as we look back on five years without a trophy. True, George Graham's Arsenal team were more erratic in the league, with mid-table finishes in 93 and the season in which he was sacked, 95, but back then, third or fourth did not mean Champions League football, and at least they were still winning silverware consistently.

With Wenger, things are admittedly a little more complex. He is the man who has revolutionised the club, on and off the pitch. We have a reputation, which I frankly now believe to be half bullshit, for playing nice football, and for being run the right way. Arsenal now exist as a different entity. Dennis Bergkamp was the starting point, but Arsene Wenger is clearly the most important figure in that. It is tempting to think that if Wenger went, a lot of the French players, Fabregas, and others would follow. For them, he is the club.

But let's rewind thirteen years or so. This club did NOT start with Arsene Wenger. It change into something more attractive for a lot of people, and became more successful, but a winning mentality was already there in the playing staff. While the manager is credited with prolonging the top-flight careers of Adams, Bould, Keown, Dixon and Winterburn, they provided him with the platform for success. Watching Arsenal today, does anyone believe that Arsene Wenger could ever have constructed himself a defence that good?

Some other things to consider. Arsenal reached their only ever European Cup final in 2006 mainly through defensive solidity. In every knockout round before the final, Arsenal failed to score in one leg- at home to Real Madrid, away to Juventus, and away to Villareal, where they barely threatened a shot. They got through because they conceded precisely zero goals in those ties. Martin Keown was at this time a member of the coaching staff. Apparently, Arsene the Autocrat bristles at suggestions that this was of some importance. Arsene the Autocrat this season often stated a Keeganesque belief that Arsenal could triumph through scoring more than the opposition. At the season's depressing end, he is blaming the defence for our lack of success, and absolving the likes of Denilson and Diaby, because they apparently made enough chances at the other end. Do they have no obligation to protect the defence? A defence that had Vermaelen and Gallas, two of our outstanding players?

Maybe he was always like this. Maybe it is the lack of experience on the pitch that is costing us. I used to think that argument too black-and-white but I'm coming around to it now. If not experience, professionalism. Petit and Vieira were professional enough, and good enough, to transform their games in order to better protect the defence in 97/98. Maybe it's telling that this was not Wenger's idea but the result of a team meeting in which senior players aired their views. Where before Wenger had Vieira as liuetenant, the old back four, Bergkamp, Parlour et al, what does he have now? You may say that Vieira grew up in that Arsenal team, but that's the whole point. He grew up beside Adams, Keown and the rest. Fabregas should still be growing up beside experience, instead, he's being asked to lead. Lead a team of (and forgive me) WANKERS. There, I said it. I have a genuine dislike for a lot of Arsenal's players today. They don't care what shirt they're wearing. That Wigan game was the last straw for me. It was unseemly. Abou Diaby should not be allowed play again. Fabianski should be put out of his misery, and Almunia likewise. Denilson needs a kick up the ass, and nobody's around to swing a leg.

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