I've said it before, I've been always an optimistic gooner and I've been a firm believer in Wenger. But two years ago both my optimism and belief have started to fade little by little until this point when I'm so pessimistic regarding Arsenal that its easier for me being indifferent.
At the moment I can see a huge divide between us fans, those that believe that Wenger is right for the job and are optimistic and those that see the opposite. Even all arsenal blogs have been divided into those two camps. So seeing as your blog is one of those more positive and optimistic ones, I purpose something a bit different. A kind of debate where I'll list in numerical points all that us negative fans see wrong in Arsenal and you reply with your point of view on them. I must strongly point out that by this debate I'm not trying to convince you to be negative, I'm trying and hoping that you can help us (pessimists) gain more belief and optimism.
Before I start I have to get a few things out of the way I guess. I love Wenger and as much as I would love arsenal to win the league again I would love it more if wenger was our manager doing it. And I do know how much Wenger has done for the club and that whenever we win a trophy in the future with or without him, it will be because of the foundations he put into turning us into a mega football club.
Unfortunately there are so many things wrong with the club that have been going on for quite some time and there are no signs of change or drastic measures taken by the manager. A better or less stubborn manager might have handled these much better I think.
Do you think our formation is working? A 4-3-3 requires the front three to be easily interchangeable with one another. But seems to me that Podolski is always on the left where he's less useful, Giroud is useless on the flanks and Walcott in the middle is a hit and miss.
It isn't working and hasn't been for some time ( bendtner on the left, arshavin even chamakh played on the flank too ) do you think a better manager would have changed it after 6 years of it proving its failure?
When was the last time you saw Wenger make a tactical decision before a game or during it that won it for us? He never changes the way we play regardless of who we play and that's just stupid for any great team, let alone a not so great one.
Resting Arshavin for the facup semi against Chelsea?
And yesterday, I know hindsight is great and all that but when the teams were announced I would have rather we started with Ramsey or Ox instead of Diaby, which would give us a rested diaby if we needed, after all he only played 5 games in the last two seasons. And after the sending off would you have taken off Diaby or the Ox? Considering that Diaby was always going to get tired by the 60 min mark?
2- Players out of position.
Ramsey, Arshavin, Arteta. Players being played out of position has been going on for quite a while now at arsenal and it has/is killing some of our good players. Yes Arteta has been good this season but he's not a defensive midfielder I'd rather he played in front a defensive guy not as our defensive guy.
Oh, that's a big one. For the first 7 years he was unmatchable and a genius. But ever since the decision to dismantle the invincibles, lets just say it hasn't gone as he hoped.
Strikers : we've been in a desperate need for a striker since 2006 the year before Henry left, these are what we got:
Baptista, adebayour, Walcott, Eduardo,chamakh, park, podolski, giroud. None of them world class, non of them capable of replacing Henry or Van persie. 7 consecutive seasons and 14 transfer windows since Reyes left and Wenger still hasn't been able to buy or "develop" a world class striker. For me podolski is very good but a 4-4-2 formation will suite him better and giroud isn't going to carry this team and win us tight games as top strikers do.
Defensive mid: really?? How long has it been since flamini left?
Diarra,Denison, Ramsey, song, coquelin, frimpong, diaby, Arteta. All players promoted from within to fill the DM spot. Really?? Are there no players in world football capable of playing that role anywhere??
Would another manager have bought a proper DM throughout the years before Song became good and the year after he sold him?
Frankly I would have rather Arsene bought a proper DM last summer than the only sparingly amazing cazorla, there I said it don't shoot me.
Goalkeeper : 3 seasons of blind faith in Almunia. Enough said.
This transfer window : I'm really not even excited of who we might bring in, if we do that is. The only players that would make a difference in this team are world class players. Adrian Lopez, capoue, zaha and the like will not help us all that much really. And those that could Wenger won't/can't buy. My opinion is that all he wants is David villa that's why he didn't go for Ba and although I'd love him to come I can't see it happening this window.
4- Faith in rubbish players.
Denilson, Bendtner, Almunia, Eboue, Squilacci, Djourou and more. All at one point in time for one reason or the other we're first teamers all not good enough for a big teams bench even. Just look at where they are now. Yes sometimes it worked as with Song, but that's the exception not the rule. A better manager would have shipped them much sooner.
5- Project Youth.
Has failed. And as much as he would love to prove everyone wrong and that buying bargains and youth can win you trophies, another manager has already done that,Jürgen Klopp with Dortmund. Even though the keep losing their best players each season they're still going strong. I know they're not doing that well in the league at the moment but they were flying in Europe and are playing amazing football.
Even when when we weren't winning trophies atleast we were playing beautiful wengerball, up until last season where the only beautiful thing about our football was Robin. This season our football is sh*t. I'm not enjoying the pass around the box without a shot way we play, I'm never confident ahead of a game, I'm almost never happy afterwards. It's boring, it's uncomfortable, it's predictable......it's Liverpool!
7- Players and their decision making.
I know players make their own decisions in a game in a split second, but why oh why do we try to cross the ball with only theo in the penalty box? I mean definetly Arsene can tell sagna and Gibbs to stop doing that. Yesterday for example, vermailin intercepted a pass at the half way line, passed to Walcott on the right wing and busted a gut into the box, Walcott decides to float a cross not for vermailin's head but Cazorla's! Even if he has less players marking him always go for the tall guy. This happened again in the 2nd half and should be pointed out to the players.
8- Compare if you will this current Arsenal team with Manchester United's.
Player for Player, I would say with the exception of Robin and maybe Evra on current form we have equal or even better players in all other positions, just look at our midfield and theirs. So why the huge gap then? One world class striker, managerial ability or both?
I know I've painted a bleak picture, I know many will disagree with me, many will tell me I'm not a true fan or that I haven't been around when we were really sh*t, I'm not, and I really hope your counter argument can convince me and those like me that there's still hope. There will always be hope for arsenal in the future because of what Wenger did, but is there hope for Arsenal with Wenger? Will I enjoy Arsenal again anytime soon? I really hope your reply puts me and many more gooners in a more optimistic mood.
Mean Lean's Response
Thank you very much for the article, apologies it is a little late up but given that it is a general article as such, time hasn't affected it. I very much like the idea behind the article so thank you once again. Firstly, I would like to clarify my position as a blog writer and the perceptions that this blog may have.
I do not like these pigeon holes given to Arsenal fans, not from yourself I just mean in general. The whole AKB thing is a little ridiculous in truth. I do not write or support a view based on a perceived camp I have my own thoughts and perspectives which may be right or wrong. I have come to understand that people choose to follow teams for different reasons and therefore their views on Arsenal are different.
I won't go into detail on that but it is quite an interesting subject that should have it's own article I reckon. Educated Gooner wrote something interesting on this called 'Forgive My Positivity' and I wrote something last year called 'Why Is Arsenal FC Our Football Club'
Anyway, let me get to the point of your piece and respond to your questions.
I think there is sometimes an over emphasis on the system a team plays within reason. In my eyes, there is no reason why our system cannot work if the players we have understand the role and are good at what they do consistently. PL Champions of the recent past have used the same type of system and have won both the league title and Champions League. We have not been good enough at what we do but I don't think reverting to a 4-4-2 will automatically take us back to 2003/04 or 1997/98, which ironically morphed quite nicely into a 4-3-3 of sorts with Parlour tucking inside and Overmars joining the front players.
The one thing that frustrates me as it does many Gooners is when our team are not working, not creating and look out of sorts but Arsene sticks with his late 70-80 minute subs, giving us less time to improve and also more time for the opposition to punish us. It is all part of Arsene's development of his teams but it can be a pain at times. Especially when we have lost.
2- Players out of position.
Not so sure I agree with this and it has been said by many Arsenal fans. I don't think players should be labeled so rigidly. We are supposed to play with a freedom, with interchanging players who move so freely that opposition teams don't know how to pick us up. It is how we played so successfully in the past. Robert Pires for example, wanted to play centrally, he had for a long time but that did not hinder his ability to play on the left. When Andrey Arshavin signed and tore the Premier league apart he played as a left sided player. Nobody said that he should be moved inside. He did all his damage from that position, making assists, scoring goals and linking up with his team mates. He declined as a player and then people pointed to his position. He is an attacking player playing in attack whether it wide or central, why should a player disintegrate so much because of that? It didn't Pires. It didn't Hleb and countless others.
Aaron Ramsey has been asked to do a job, perform certain tasks that Chamberlain, Gervinho and Arshavin cannot do. Asked to tuck inside and make us stronger centrally thus freeing up the wide player on the other side. It frustrates me when I read how the manager is asking Ramsey to play as a winger, he isn't. It hasn't come off very often but Ramsey's form has fluctuated. Aaron Ramsey's best game of the season came against Manchester City away from home this season. Possibly the best player on the pitch that day. Where did he play? You've guessed it.
It is all about finding the right balance, about players developing partnerships that work for the team. Ideally Ramsey is a central box to box player but I see no reason why he cannot perform other tasks if that helps the team. Granted the team has not played well many times but I think that is for a multitude of reasons and not just Ramsey's position on the pitch.
It is pin the tail on the donkey time isn't it?
Arsene having stacks of cash that he is refusing to spend, the board not giving him the money, the club holding back for the following window (repeat), the club holding onto it in case CL position not reached.
The only facts I do know is this, Arsene used to spend what he had before we moved to the Emirates. Arsene's hands were tied in the early years and had to sell off high earners. Today we are stronger financially but have not reinvested our big money departures.
Arsene has been hit and miss in the market in recent seasons and we've paid for that, no doubt. At the prices we pay for players you are always going to run the risk of a player not succeeding at the club. Big money spent on players usually means that the player has already been a success at a decent sized club but even that doesn't always work.
4- Faith in rubbish players.
I see it differently, I think many of these players are players who didn't work out. I don't think all players who do not work out are rubbish. Many of the players who have moved on were young players who were thrown in together. Circumstances play a big part in football. Put anyone of those younger players in an experienced side with players to guide them and they could well have had completely different careers.
Ashley Cole were on the verge of leaving Arsenal for Crystal Palace apparently but had a lucky break due to Silvinho's passport issues and was drafted back and his career took off. Gerard Piqué cannot find his way into a Manchester United team, leaves and is now regarded as one of the world's best. This is not to say that all of them are world class. Manuel Almunia for example wasn't ever likely to be world class, not in the Premier League anyway. But I don't think a player can be written off as rubbish because he didn't succeed at one club.
Arsene does hold onto players too long at times but we also need a squad, a squad that you need to have players happy to play second fiddle.
5- Project Youth.
If you define failing as not being able to overtake billionaire owners and the richest club in the world with youth players then yes it has failed. But I guess it depends on how you define failure. If you see it as a necessary move to restructure a club during a massive upheaval during a very difficult financial time then it could be a success in some folks eyes, it depends on your views I suppose.
I would say this though, given how far we have come since the move, if we do not supplement the gifted youngsters that we have from our youth teams i.e. Szczesny, Gibbs and Wilshere with quality then we are doing ourselves a disservice. If the idea was to add Giroud, Podolski and Cazorla to van Persie then we have work to do and it should be done.
We have made too many changes in such little time for us to be fluid and consistent. I hope we get back to our best soon. We have seen that the team are capable of this in patches this season like Reading, Tottenham, Newcastle, Swansea (FA Cup) and a few other examples. We may need to be patient with this lot.
I think the same answer can be given for 7 and 8. We are lacking a big match winner, game changer but in my eyes we have plenty of quality to work with. I know many will disagree with me and that is fine but going on some of our highs, I reckon we have it in us.
I hope Arsene adds to this squad with quality even at the end of the window and we can keep this lot together. It has been a difficult season but unfortunately it is another rebuilding job. As long as we add rather than lose players then I remain optimistic that we will improve a great deal. Don't improve or lose more key players and I couldn't argue against negativity.