“We are all patchwork, and so shapeless and diverse in composition that each bit, each moment, plays its own game. And there is as much difference between us and ourselves as between us and others.”
Michel de Montaigne.
Wengerball does not just happen. It needs to be carefully constructed and the following four components are essential: vision, quality players, hard work and consistency. Arsenal are miles away from Wengerball at the moment, but sometimes we get a glimpse of the sort of football we used to play when life was so much easier: the first half against Reading, the last twenty minutes against Newcastle United, and periods during our away win against Liverpool at the start of the season, etc, come to mind.
Arsene fed us with the best champagne and caviar there is in the world of football at the start and middle of his era at the club, and it is hard for us all to see his current team struggle to get anywhere near those previous dishes of haute cuisine.
There are quite a few fellow Gooners who have started to question Arsene’s ability to build another great side, and whether his ideas might have gone a bit stale.
For me, there is no doubt that Arsene is the embodiment of modern, state of the art football in this country. Man City play now like Arsenal during the Cesc-era; Chelsea try to play like Arsenal, and so do Liverpool; only the Mancs continue with Fergie’s old fashioned ‘absorb and pounce’ footie, for which they cash-doped one of Arsene’s best ‘development products’ in the last few years, this season.
Arsene has got vision: tons of it.
He knows what sort of football he wants to play and once it comes off, it will be great again: football which sets the heart on fire, and will not be forgotten for a long time.
But losing Fabregas, Nasri, Song, Clichy and van Judas over the space of 12 months, and having to integrate an army of young and new players: Arteta, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Diaby, Cazorla, Wilshere (after a long injury), Giroud, the Ox, and Podolski into his first-11 team is of course going to take time.
This is major transition stuff: to get all these players to play together and reach the highest levels of Wengerball again will take a lot of effort: many training sessions, lots of communication, and also selling and buying of players to get the right mix of players in the squad again.
The competition in the PL is so much stronger now than it used to be prior to building the Emirates, and the pressure on the club, Wenger, and the players is additionally high due to not having won anything for seven years and counting.
Arsene recruits and develops good players into very good to great players.
Yes, he got it wrong on quite a few occasions in his career, but there is no doubt about his ability to spot, and then develop, a talent. Key in all of this is Arsene’s ability to translate his vision of how Arsenal ought to play football into practice; and once players understand his vision and are able to put it into practice on the pitch, they can become very good, and sometimes even great, players. It is of paramount importance to get the team to click like an autonomous, telepathic football machine once again, and guess what: it is not working very well at the moment.
As per the quote of Montaigne above, football players are diverse and different and it takes time to reach high levels of mutual, telepathic understanding; as in becoming solid and cohesive, and it utilising each others strength to the maximum, whilst compensating for each other weaknesses as much as possible.
To achieve this, lots and lots of hard work is required, and Arsene was forced to re-start the process twice during the last 16 months. Why he put up with having to go through another transition this season is beyond me, but I thank him for not having walked away from the club.
Arsene is not a fixer but a football totalitarian, although he has shown his ability to adapt during last season.
It is fair enough to express doubt in the quality of some of our players; and so is being critical about the work rate of some of them. But for me, our problems are mainly systemic: Arsene is struggling at the moment to get his team to work as a strong, cohesive unit who understand and execute his vision of football on the pitch. The team is not clicking currently, as is shown by the large number of misunderstandings between the players and wrong decision making on the pitch.
Arsene is not a fixer, who just concentrates on trying to win a game one way or another; he is a slow builder and that will never change.
We are in the middle of a major transition and more change is likely to come. Integrating Walcott into the centre of our strike-force will have its ups and downs in the next few months. Getting the balance right in midfield, possibly with the addition of a more defensive minded, quality midfielder will also take time. Establishing telepathic understanding between all the players is simply not established over night; it just isn’t.
Wenger has to do all of this whilst not missing out on CL football – not qualifying would be a big financial hit – which makes the whole process continuously stressful for both the manager and players involved.
It is now absolutely paramount that Wenger does not have to sell any of his key players anymore. If Kroenke and co can provide this security/consistency to him and us, we will eventually see a great Arsenal team again.
I urge everyone to be patient and keep looking at the bigger picture. We will get there again, but it won’t be easy: tight buttocks are required.
Written by: Total Arsenal.