“Alas,” said the mouse, “the whole world is growing smaller every day. At the beginning it was so big that I was afraid, I kept running and running, and I was glad when I saw walls far away to the right and left, but these long walls have narrowed so quickly that I am in the last chamber already, and there in the corner stands the trap that I must run into.”
“You only need to change your direction,” said the cat, and ate it up.
A Little Fable by Franz Kafka
Like any other Gooner out there, I am excited about the calibre of players we are being linked with at the moment; experienced, hit the ground running, quality players, is what our squad needs right now.
After years of economising and having to let go of the fruits of his hard labour, Arsene finds himself in an incredible lightness of being right now. Ferguson gone, new managers/transitional issues at Chelsea, Man City, Man United and Liverpool, no more need to let our best players go, AND a canon full of gold coins.
In the meantime, football seems to be evolving again. Barcelona’s advanced version of total football appears to have been ‘decoded’. First there was the super-basic ‘park the bus’ approach by the Chavs, which relied mainly on a mega-dosage of luck, and then there was the physical/athletic all-over-the-pitch-we’ll-hunt-you-down-and-not-allow-you-more-than-two-passes approach by the Bavarians. And we have seen a very similar deconstruction of Spain by the rampant Brazilians, just a few days ago. The double-DM pivot with multi-skilled midfielders seems to be the way forward now.
No doubt, though, Total Football will strike back again; but it might take a while.
Ten PL games before the end last season, Wenger and Bould made a conscious decision to go back to basics: more discipline in defence, a change of leadership and making our double-DM pivot prioritise on protecting the back four first and for all.
It did not exactly work a treat, but oh boy was it effective: Arsenal secured 26 out of 30 points from their last 10 PL games, and somehow managed to finish above the Spuddies once again.
It was not Wenger-ball, but industrious, blood, sweat and tears, we WILL survive sort of football; once we were ahead in those fixtures, most of us were just clock watching, hoping we would somehow hold on and take the three points. It was all aimed at finishing in the top-four and it was a great feat, given how low the team had fallen.
Arsene and Bould now have to decide what sort of football they want to play next season, and it will be really interesting to see which direction they’ll choose, as this will determine who will become/remain key players and who will be bought this summer (and not vice versa).
No doubt in my mind that Arsene and Bould will want to return to a (new) form of attractive, attacking Wengerball, with less emphasis on being solid defensively as our first priority.
However, it is unlikely that they will be happy to jeopardize all the good work that was done on being solid at the back during last season. And with Maureen back at the Chavs, a mean defence might be even more important than a highly productive, and competition outscoring, strike-force.
It is also Arsene’s last year under contract and although the club appears very keen to give him an extension, our French maestro might have doubts whether to sign-up to it. Also, Arsene might want to see real progress now, and next season will be absolutely crucial for him.
He needs to choose the right style and formation of football that will give Arsenal the best chance of gunning for silverware. He will have to decide who of his current squad are up for it and where and how they should play. He will need to add quality players who can hit the ground running and fit quickly into the team. He will need to keep the entire squad motivated, despite increased internal competition. He will need to give this team the belief they can win silverware this season and ensure there is plenty of leadership and hunger throughout the team.
Of course, Arsene (and Bould) has already thought about all this and he will now focus on adding new players to his squad who fit with his vision/chosen style of football for next season. From who he will buy (and for which areas), we will know a bit more how we are likely to play next season, and how he will go about to make the last year of his current contract a winning one; maybe even a truly special one.
Maybe this time round, Arsene’s direction, and tactical, on-field choices will outsmart the cat. It is about time he did.
Written by: TotalArsenal.
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