Before this goes any further, let me say that a part of my twitter bio reads “Divine defender of Arsene Wenger. Zombie Arsene Worshipper.” Unfortunately I cannot claim to have come up with these titles as they were inferred upon me by other gooners on twitter who would love to see the manager gone. Let me also add that this season is a glorious chance to end the wait for another PL trophy and it will be a huge disappointment if we do not manage to do it. Yeah, I've still decided to keep faith despite how little our chances may seem from the predicament we have put ourselves in. I completely understand those who have written off our chances, but I have not. This is the way I am. There is still life in the optimistic dunce that lives inside me.
Couple days back I came across a screenshot on twitter containing quotes from Henry Winter’s “unbiased” article about how Arsene, about how he has become a "farce", amongst other such things. It of course gained traction among a certain crowd for obvious reasons. Imagine passing up on a chance to take shots at the manager. That would be a very wild thing to do.
Mr Winter seems to have come up with his “farce” routine because Arsene wrongfully claimed the debate about his future is becoming a farce. It is not "becoming" a farce, it already is one and has been for years. Arsene Wenger has had his future questioned by journalists on an almost-weekly basis for the last 8 years at least - criticism that he has always replied to with his typically utmost grace and charm. So forgive me if I think he is allowed to say what he feels once in a while. Now, I understand many who want the manager gone will look to blame anything that goes wrong on him to justify why they want him out. It is the only reason why supposed Arsenal fans would see this borderline slanderous write-up by Mr Winter and agree with it.
Where do we start? Deserved defeat by Watford? Maybe I watched a different game but I do not think that game fits the definition of a deserved defeat. We will touch on this later on but, taking nothing away from Watford's performance, this was a game where we could have easily scored 4 or 5 goals (including a missed chance on an open goal and a shot striking the post), so losing 2-1 is definitely not “deserved”.
“It is a farce that so many players are so frequently stricken with injury”…I do think we get a ridiculous amount of injuries, which is a clear fact. However, most of our biggest injuries this season have been impact injuries: Gabriel on Wilshere in training, Claudio Yacob on Coq, Mascherano on Chambo, and then we have Santi who had to continue playing because we had used up all our subs. I don’t know how we can prevent impact injuries considering our style of play seems to invite harsh tackles that referees love to overlook. I would agree the situation is a farce if the manager sees we get lots of injuries and sits on his hands doing nothing about the situation but that is false, isn’t it? Except, of course, the reports from these same journos about a revamp of the medical team are made up, and not to mention the incoming for Shad Forsythe.
“It was a farce that Wenger started Sanchez at Norwich in November knowing he had a tight hamstring". Oh no, a gamble gone wrong. Absolute farce. In fact, hang him at Highbury with 20 fans (probably the biggest crowd anti-AW marches have recorded so far) screaming “traitor” and “shame”. I am not a betting man but I’m willing to put my tuition up on the fact Alexis is not the only player to start a game this season (for Arsenal and other teams in the PL) with a tight hamstring. Arsenal fans hear something like this and start screaming “incompetence”, when actually it’s not. Ozil had “alerts” for injuries in December/January too and was properly managed and still played most of the games. Let us also remember Cech had an “alert” for an ankle injury earlier in the season and AW opted to play Ospina instead. Cech’s replacement decided to catch a corner and drop it into his goal, and obviously Arsene was slaughtered for an individual error that led to a goal. I don’t doubt that if AW rested Alexis for someone else who went on to underperform, he’d still have shouldered all of the blame.
I recall Arsene talking about how players we signed from Europe have abnormal blood results- abnormally high red blood cells and stuff. I’m sure there’s a reason he keeps talking about doping. Now maybe the people who scream “training methods” are right, or maybe we’re not doing some borderline illegal stuff that many clubs have no problem doing, like blood-spinning.
“It’s a farce he has not ordered Gabriel to learn English faster”. Now this... this is hilarious. I didn’t know Arsene was in control of how fast another middle-aged individual would learn a completely new language. I thought the most he could do was have him take English lessons like every other foreign player who didn’t speak the language. Some foreign players have spent years in the PL and still speak little to no English. Gabriel’s been here a year and a few months and his early performances were enough to receive plaudits from journalists and for fans to want him to replace Mertesacker in the starting line-up. The language barrier was not a problem then... but suddenly it is now? Elneny now is putting in strong performances in the team and many have raised the question about why he was not thrown into the team earlier. If he went straight into the team after we signed him and underperformed we’d be talking about how the manager is at fault for playing someone who couldn’t communicate with other players.
I would like to skip the Giroud jibe as I believe enough has been made of it already. Giroud has 20 goals in all competitions by mid-march, with a reasonable portion of his game time as a sub, which is objectively a very good return. I do think Giroud is a very good striker and the number of goals he’s scored since he’s been here attest to that but I think if this fabled world class striker is available, the man who spent over 70m on Ozil and Alexis wouldn’t say no. “Ah but no, he’s in love with Giroud because he’s French or Giroud has his nudes”…yeah, I’m pretty sure Arsene love(d)(s) Woj but had no problem binning him for Cech when he had the chance. See, clear facts like these, and a little bit of using my brain, makes it hard for me to believe AW has had chances to upgrade on Giroud and has decided against it.
“Arsenal are still too open in midfield...tactically maneuvered”…this is especially very lazy. I do not claim to be some sort of tactical expert but obviously when a team sets up to counter attack against a dominantly attacking team, the attacking team is bound to be caught on the counter attack a few times over 90 minutes. Not unless you manage to control the game for 90 minutes, which rarely happens. Another piece of lazy analysis is the "tactical masterstroke" label whenever a team beats a better team. We beat a Bayern team 2-0 and they are clearly a better team. We set up to counter attack and we caught them on the break time and time again and scored one goal on the break. The manager’s game-plan was executed very well and the few times we made errors (like Alexis giving the ball away in our half twice in a minute) Bayern did not capitalize. Did winning this game mean Bayern were too open in midfield or tactically maneuvered? I’m not too sure. Cech's world class performance on the day is what kept Bayern's very potent attack at bay. Now, compare this to the home game vs Barcelona where we set up in an identical way. We caught Barca on the break time and time again during the game but didn’t take our chances. The game plan was executed well enough by the players but the few times mistakes were made, we got punished. Again, does the fact that we created decent chances against Barcelona on the break mean they were too open in midfield? Were they tactically maneuvered? Everyone knows the best/safest way to play against a better attacking team is to counter attack. So if teams sit back and hope to counter against us, well we’ll be caught on the break sometimes, we’ll lose games to teams like this sometimes (like how Bayern lost to us) and they’ll lose to us too (like how we lost to Barca). Considering most PL teams play this way against us and we finish closer to the top than bottom of the table, evidence suggests we win more of these games and Arsene's "tactics" work more often than not.
I could talk about how the modern football fan is transfer-crazed, and how every point dropped is linked back to the transfer window. “If only he’d bought a CB beast, a DM beast, a world class CF”... the fans seem to live in an alternate universe where the ref could screw us out of points and it would have been avoided “if only Venga had bought a CB beast, DM beast and world class striker”
I have witnessed someone I personally follow go from “sitting on the fence” to “wanting Wenger out”. This is the person’s prerogative but I did find it interesting. Coquelin decides to get himself sent off at White Hart Lane which probably cost us two points but of course this newborn WOB finds a way to pin that on the manager, once again proving my theory of nonsensically putting everything gone wrong on the manager to justify wanting him out. This is the part I do not really understand. When experienced (international players) make schoolboy errors we find a way to put that on the manager. Just a few days ago, we saw Koscielny decide to dribble from the back against Barcelona, lose possession and lead us to concede the all-important opening goal. This is a clear individual error that has somehow been placed on Arsene’s head. Do we think he really told Kos to dribble from the back even though we were set up for counter attacks? In fact most of the goals we concede come as a result of individual errors from players you would ordinarily expect to do better. For some reason, perhaps because it takes less thinking, we often decide to pin it on the manager's “tactics”… So even when the manager does make a mistake, the 100 wrongly assumed mistakes will magnify the very few ones he’s made. There’s no way he can win.
There may be “underlying” issues at the club (like many like to claim and I’d argue every team does have underlying issues) but the main reason we’ve fallen off the top of the table is the fact we’ve stopped scoring for some reason. A look at the stats table suggests that we've done very well to stop teams from having “big chances” against us, but on the other hand we’ve also been very inefficient at scoring our own “big chances”, especially since January. Better finishers would help, but that statement almost always comes with people acting like Alexis, Giroud, Theo and our other attacking options are poor finishers. They’re not, and our first half of the season proves that when we lead the pack with goals from the same players. We’ve lost points in games where our opponents had 3 chances and scored 2 of them. Did they necessarily have “better finishers” than we did? No.
A big argument has been about the “midfield imbalance”, mainly because Ramsey and Coquelin/Flamini are not compatible. I believe there is big merit to this argument but I think finishing is what has cost us in the past and is continuing to cost us now. We apparently lost the balance of "steal and control" in the middle after losing the Santi-Coquelin pivot, as well as Alexis, after the Norwich game in November. But facts show that we won 7 of the next 9 games playing Ramsey-Flamini together. The two games we didn’t win are the 4-0 loss at Southampton where Arsene Wenger bore the brunt of the blame for their opening 3 ineligible goals, as well as Liverpool away 3-3 where they equalized in the last minute. We did not have “midfield balance”, we were not really controlling games at the normal Arsenal level but we were still creating chances and putting them away. So, in conclusion, it is the inefficient finishing that is costing us, especially ince mid-January.
I remember Chelsea’s performances in the second half of last season were poor compared to the first half of the season but Hazard dragged them over the line with moments of brilliance (and dives in the box when he couldn’t do anything else). Now, I had hoped Alexis’ return would be the impetus we needed and he would drag us over the line but he’s been out of sorts. Having players that are out of form is common and natural, but having every one of your players out of form at the same time, for this length of time, is rather unfortunate. Even if this phenomenon has happened before, it had never taken this long before. Goal scorers that are otherwise reliable, like Alexis, Giroud, Theo, and even Ramsey all haven't been able to hit a barn door for the best part of 2 months. Unless you think Arsene asked them to stop scoring, I believe his only fault here is that he hasn’t been able to snap them out of this bad spell.
Being a devout admirer of Arsene Wenger, it is easy to label me biased, and maybe I am but I think I have raised some valid rebuttals to common arguments that I believe are found on myths. Continuing on from myths, it is a myth that an Arsene-defender doesn't care about Arsenal's success. Reality is we don’t leave our judgment to the "common-denominator" type thinking. There is a lot more to football than that. By avoiding that type of reasoning, we are able to avoid ridiculous thoughts such as Arsene stopping us from being successful. I’ll save the whole paragraph I could have written about what he’s done for the club but I believe he’s earned himself more than enough goodwill with the club and surely any success we have would certainly feel “better” with him at the helm. For example, half of the reason the last two FA Cups were so special was because of the drought and the other half was the sight of Arsene Wenger lifting a trophy again and making us the most decorated team in the competition. It is imperative that if we are to blame such a man for our downfall, we do it with good reason; reason that I have not yet seen.
I have given up hope of all fans supporting both the club and the manager at the same time. I’m still not sure how supporting the club but not the manager works but apparently people practice this kind of support and it works well enough for them. At the core, after removing many of these mythical flaws they create for the man, the only reason for actively wanting him gone that I cannot rebuttal is that he’s been here for 20 years and a new face is wanted. Unless somehow he loses the dressing room, something that has not occurred in 20 years he’s been here, I have reason to believe there’ll be one more season at least of Arsene at Arsenal.