Hi everyone, its @aldo_doel here, coming at ya like Cleopatra.
First things first MASSIVE LOL @ SPURS. I know our season has been worse, and they are still likely to finish above us, but there’s still no better feeling than seeing Spurs fans’ hopes and dreams smashed into pieces.
Anyway I felt motivated to write something after the codeine-induced sloth of a game which was Sunderland away but also in response to Pedro’s article yesterday.
The players are not the problem
I agree with Pedro that Ozil has been pretty bad lately, and that his attitude is in the toilet. Ramsey, Giroud, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott have all had absymal seasons. Mertesacker and Koscielny look miles off the world beaters they were two years ago. Sanchez has had about five good games out of 20. Welbeck can’t find any sort of consistency. Gabriel has been unrelentingly bad. Monreal and Bellerin have both committed some howlers. Despite the revisionism, when they were our midfield pairing Coquelin and Cazorla were TRASH. Even big Pete Cech, while saving us a significant number of points this season, has also made some uncharacteristic errors. The only player who has shown any kind of consistent form has been Elneny who has not been at the club long enough to become complacent.
Why do I highlight all these players. Because despite the form they have shown, I would not get rid of a single one. They have all at one time or another been indispensable to the club. They are not bad players, they are just stuck in a spiral of negativity and complacency that they can’t escape from. Pete said he’d take £60m for Ozil and replace him with Mahrez.
Now while I accept that Mahrez is a quality player just think about this proposition. If this is what three seasons at Arsenal does to Mesut Ozil – a World Cup winner, a former Galactico, a guy who destroyed England in the 2010 World Cup, whose sale the Madrid fans and Cristiano Ronaldo were in such uproar about – what chance does Riyad Mahrez or any other player have?
The issue is not personnel. And constantly calling for personnel to be changed because their “attitude” stinks is treating the symptom not the cause.
Its worth remembering that despite their wealth and fame, all football players are relatively young and impressionable.
A manager can set the tone for their entire work ethos: Are they excited about going to training every day? Are they playing in a team where failure is not tolerated? Is the manager keeping them calm and focused before big games despite the added pressure? Are they confident that when they come up against a better team their manager has a plan as to how to outsmart them? Are they confident that their manager’s training regime is optimising their fitness, keeping them sharp for the entire season and minimising their risk of injury? Are they confident that when the team is struggling in a game that their manager will make the changes, either tactically or from the bench, to help them? When their individual form is struggling do they trust their manager to help identify the problem and come up with a plan to help them work through it? And when they see one of their teammates perform consistently badly, do they know the manager will take the necessary steps in the transfer market to bolster the team?
If I was an Arsenal player my answer would be “no” to all these questions.
So is it any wonder that, given enough time, all our players end up arrogant, ill disciplined or nervous? Arguably our three best players this season have been Ozil, Cech and Welbeck. None of whom spent their formative years being coached by Arsene Wenger. Those who have grown up under his tutelage, that British Core, would struggle to get into a Championship side at the moment.
It feels ridiculous to keep having to say this but I respect Arsene Wenger for what he has done for the club. His achievements make him the greatest manager the club has ever had. Now that I have got that out of the way, let me say this: he is done. He was done in 2008 after our season collapsed because he didn’t rotate the squad or make any signings in January. The club should have sacked him in 2011 after our season collapsed for the same reason and then our two best players left and he didn’t replace them. He should have resigned after he won the FA Cup in 2014 knowing that he could have gone out on a high.
Instead the club bottled it, out of fealty to the financial stability he brings and in misplaced awe of his footballing knowledge. And he has hung on, whether out of arrogance or genuine delusion, continuing to apply 1998 methods as the game evolved around him.
Since 2008 the team has been through four iterations but the results are exactly the same. In fact this team is arguably the best one we have had in that time. We have imported in three world class players rather than sought to develop them ourselves. We have a world class goalkeeper for the first time since 2004. We have the right balance of experience and youth, unlike in previous years. And yet arguably this is Arsene Wenger’s greatest ever collapse. With one or two exceptions (Flamini and Ospina), changing this group of players for another will not make any difference. Let me say that again: the players are not the problem.
If anyone embodies the malaise and frustration of the second half of Arsene Wenger’s tenure at Arsenal its Theo. Its no coincidence that his longest serving player is also his most hopelessly lost.
However I still believe there is a good player in there and with better coaching he could be a great player. He obviously has more ability than Danny Drinkwater, Mark Albrighton and Jeff Schlupp and yet these guys are about to win the league. Just imagine what Mourinho, Pep or even Ranieri could do with Theo’s raw talent?
As for his embarrassing hurdle over Kaboul’s tackle. It was pitiful but that fear is not something innate in Theo and is not connected to his salary or footballer’s lifestyle (as much as we might like to believe). It was borne out of a lack of confidence which he has been carrying since January and which has given him the decision making of a dog chasing its own tail.
I come back to my earlier point, what is Arsene Wenger doing to help Theo work through his current crisis of confidence? Absolutely fuck all by the looks of things.
10 predictions for the Summer
Finally some predictions for the summer (assuming Arsene stays):
1. The warchest and “Arsene has been told to spend big” stories start before this season ends
2. Arteta, Flamini, Rosicky all leave. We sign one midfielder and Arsene resists the call to sign another saying that we have Wilshere who then gets injured in the first month of the new season. A midfielder crisis ensues
3. Despite needing a new backup GK, Ospina stays. Arsene continues to play him in cup games and we inevitably exit all cup competitions early
4. Despite the urgent need for a 20 goal a season striker, Arsene puts in a derisory bid for his only target in June which fails. He waits until the weekend before the new season to try and sign another striker (You can decide who this is)
5. We make one marquee signing then Gazidis comes out in the press talking up the merits of Arsene Wenger and how “he’s more determined than ever to win the league” etc etc
6. Mesut Ozil flirts with a big club and then eventually leaves next Summer. Becomes a hate figure among fans for not showing loyalty to a failed project
7. Arsene Wenger uses the EU referendum and the Euro championships as excuses for his lack of further signings and Arsenal’s poor start to the season/dip in form in January
8. John Cross writes a puff piece the week before the seasons starts about how Arsene has learnt from last year and is using the latest training techniques so is confident he doesn’t need further signings etc etc
9. Overworked and lacking direction, Alexis Sanchez burns out and goes on an Arshavin-style decline in form. Fans bemoan him for being lazy. He struggles on for 2 years then is sold to a South American club
10. We go on a good run of form, maybe a five game winning streak, and Arsenal offer Arsene a 2 year contract extension
Who says I’m not a positive person?!
Right thats it from me. Have a great day and let me know your predictions. You can follow me on twitter @aldo_doel