Another big game. Another flunked test. Arsenal are now in serious jeopardy of losing out on 4th place.
We knew what Everton’s game plan was going to be. Arsene Wenger didn’t. They came at us with the objective of destroying us in the first half an hour, and sure enough, that’s what they did.
They were mentally prepared, tactically aware, drilled and packed with energy.
Comments like, ‘they wanted it more’, don’t really work for me. All footballers want to win. That extra zip those players had over ours is baked into the Everton set up. They’ve been built to play at that tempo. Last week, they would have been trained so they could play at that pace. No training ground beasting for those guys. It showed as well, they were ferocious in the way they picked off our sorry group of players.
We had nothing to offer the game. We had no shape and no awareness of what was going on. Our defending was shambolic, our reaction was pathetic and we caved to a better team who have a far better manager.
… and that’s it people. Martinez, at the moment, is a better manager than Arsene Wenger. Our relic of leader has no idea what’s going on. He’s utterly clueless. He can’t see what’s coming because he doesn’t check. He can’t react to what’s going on because he’s a creature of habit (waiting until the 65th minute to change the game was embarrassing). He can’t win against top sides these days because at the highest level, it’s about the manager and the marginal gains he offers you.
On our travels this year against the top 5 sides, we’re 20-4 down.
Take a moment. Digest that figure. Now ask yourself this, how can we possibly sign Arsene Wenger up for another two years? How can anyone defend the stagnation? How can Arsenal football club allow him to sign up to the new deal?
He has to go. In fact, if he loses against Wigan, he might decide to leave. Really though, the FA Cup isn’t sugar coating anything. The reality here is that Arsene has taken us from top of the league in February to fighting for our lives for Champions League football. Harry Redknapp was sacked for less. Where is the quality control here?
Who is going to say, ‘Arsene, enough is enough’…
What will be interesting is the reaction from the players. Are they sick of the b*llshit? Are they sick of having no game plan? I know for a fact the players bemoan the lack of planning behind the scenes. Will the players fight for the manager next week against Wigan, or will they bend over? How can they motivate themselves to play for someone who doesn’t know what he’s doing.
… and look, players are like fans. They can see what’s going wrong. Did you see Theo’s face when Sky asked him what he thought about signing Ozil? Did you see his face when asked about the surprise in not signing a striker in January? He knows. Players speak to their pals at Barca and Madrid, they know what goes into prep. They know how meticulous Martinez, Rodgers and Mourninho are. They know that Wenger isn’t going to change. So what are they there fighting for?
What will the reaction look like at Wigan? They’re a Cup winning side. We’re totally deflated and we don’t have enough players to rotate in some enthusiasm. Sometimes, players just cave. It’s not said verbally, you can just see that they’ve given up. I watched Milan players do it earlier in the season against Sassuolo when they lost 4-3. Could that happen to Arsene’s men? Or can they muster something special for a last hurrah?
Two more years of stagnation shouldn’t be an option. The second half of the season has felt like watching your dad taking a nicely humoured beating in the pub. You can’t step in either. You know he can’t fight back anymore, he’s trying, still bullish he can overturn it, but simple fact is he’s had it. He doesn’t have to tools to get out of this one. What’s worse is he doesn’t have the pride to walk away.
The press can defend him and tell Arsenal fans they’re ungrateful. They can say things like ‘Arsenal have had injuries that put context against their demise’… and never explore the reasons why we have those injuries. They can complain the players don’t have the bottle, without ever taking time to understand what a nonsensical statement that is when you look at the players we have. They can bemoan the lack of pace and never put that to Wenger And ask why he doesn’t have power in his squad. However, what they can’t ever get away from is that he’s failed another season. Outside of cute quotes and a brand of football that draws sympathetic ‘oh, but at least they try to play the right way’, what have we got in Arsene Wenger nowadays?
Don’t be dumbed down into the harsh realities of what we’re dealing with here. Don’t accept turgid statements like ‘ there weren’t the players’, ‘it’s bad luck’ or ‘the players have let Arsene down’.
Demise and Delusion
Hell, if you want any further indicator of Wenger’s slide into delusion, think about his statement yesterday about hair supplements causing additional injury. What scientific basis did he have for that statement? Who was he talking about? That comment was an absolute sh*t show. Players aren’t taking drugs on the side and they aren’t impacting injuries. He’s looking at the 1% chance over the 90% chance that the reason his players are ruined is because he kills them.
Add this all up and you have incompetence. It’s not purposeful incompetence, it’s incompetence that has degenerated his abilities over the course of ten years. Wenger challenges hair supplements because he knows no better. He overplays because he thinks he knows players and their bodies better than the experts. He doesn’t have a game plan because he doesn’t know how to have one. He doesn’t buy in power because he’s being advised badly. I mean, when is someone going to challenge Wenger’s mindset that you can’t bulk up players because they lose their mobility? Anyone showed him Matic? Does he remember Drogba? Has he seen Yaya Toure? Did he watch Lukaku destroy us? Did he watch our players constantly disposessed by bigger / faster players? When is someone going to sit with Wenger and explain to him that his incredibly poor record against top teams is all about his lack of a match plan. How can a man, so intelligent, not see that if you line up the same way every week, it makes you predictable and easy to play against?
So do you give him the chance to rebuild? Does Ivan step in and force change? Can the manager accept he’s being let down by hangers on intent on self preservation? Does Wenger have the bottle and the gumption to have one final last push at trying management 2.0?
It’ll be major upheaval whichever route he takes. We’re already as bad as it gets in modern football. It’s an miracle we managed to sustain a challenge for so long doing things the old fashioned way. It was always going to fall apart though.You can fight toe to toe doing things badly, but at some point, the pressure will tell and you’ll have no fall back mechanism.
My view is that the manager should walk away. My view is that he might just do that. Look at him on the sidelines at Swansea, he didn’t stand up for 65minutes. Yesterday, he hardly stood at all. He just sat there. He looked almost delirious. He doesn’t know what’s going on and no one will be frank with him. He’s built a backroom team around him that doesn’t pride itself on great work. Instead of building a culture of excellence, where you celebrate pushing your department on, he’s built a backroom team that care only about preserving their futures. Having the favour of the manager is about agreeing with him, not about telling him there’s a different way of doing things that might yield 9 extra points a season because we lower our player down time by 8%. We need hungry, young, talented people working all over the club.
To do that, the manager needs to take a back seat. He needs to understand that he can’t be chief scout, financial director, 1st team coach, tactician and the fitness coach. If you can’t be the best, build the best around you. Feed off their enthusiasm. Fuck it, learn something. I’m 29, I work in social marketing (3 years ago), when I started, I did everything (insights, content, community, outreach, planning)… now I do nothing. I have a team of people that wipe the floor with me, all working as specialists within the aforementioned disciplines. I remember the days where you did it all. Now, I’m a relic, thriving off the talent that works for me. Arsene’s job shouldn’t be about being the expert in it all, it should be about taking that information and turning it into something special. Empower talent and you’ll reap the rewards. Football and business are the same, though football, in general, is struggling to accept the evolution.
This isn’t revolutionary stuff in general. This is how Lyon operated so successfully, this is why Barca are where they are, it’s what they’ve been implementing at Manchester City, it’s the structure David Moyes destroyed at United, it’s the approach Rogers has taken that’s given Liverpool a chance at the title… it’s the way a modern club operates. The manager is the figurehead. He’s there, taking all the expert data and crafting it into a final 11. The department heads don’t fear challenging the manager and kicking things on, because ultimately, departmental excellence is their job and the only person who can sack them is the CEO. This is how all the best clubs work. It’s a collaboration, not a dictatorship. The only fear you have in your job is not being the best you can be. That’s how you kick on a company. That’s how you kick on a football backroom team.
That’s why I’m not sure Arsene has it in him to change. That’s why I’d be game for someone like Steve Bould taking over. I don’t think we need a massive name. Football isn’t that game anymore. We need someone who is young, eager to impress, of the right stature and most importantly, someone Ivan Gazidis has control over. Bring in Bould, give him a deal and tell him he has the full backing under stipulations. Steve Bould is the right age, he’s a beast of a man but with a very likeable edge. He’s a legend as well, he’s one two Premier Leagues (I think he was here for the second) and two 1st Divisions, countless cups. He knows the club inside out and he’ll no doubt have an opinion about what’s going on. I simply refuse to believe he’s not sitting on the touchlines facepalming inside. The other important aspect about Steve Bould is that firstly, the players all like him and secondly, he’ll have the fans on his side. Barca lost Frank Rijkaard and put in their B team manager. He’s now one of the greatest managers of all time. He left the club and they brought in Villanova who upped it again for the club. You bring in someone internally, they know the politics of the club, they know the players and they’ll have the power to upgrade.
If we go outside the club, you have to look at what Martinez has done and be impressed. He has a vision, he has charisma and he’s delivering a brand of football at Everton I’d love to see at Arsenal. You have other managers like Thomas Tuchel who has a tremendous reputation in Germany for the work he’s doing with Mainz. There’s obviously someone like Klopp who is everyone’s dream. I just worry that he’s a bit crazy and he has some similarities with Wenger. He’s played with a tiny squad this year and he’s suffered some pretty horrendous injuries. Could be a one off, could be something deeper. My issue with an appointment like Klopp is that he’s an ego. He’s been there and done it… could be a masterstroke, could be a disaster. Point is, how much power can the club have over a global superstar manager?
So we are where we are. I don’t think this season has been hugely different to the last four or five. I’ve been putting these arguments up for the best part of 7 years. What changed this year is categorically, all Wenger’s usual fall back excuses were removed. For the first time, he’s been fully accountable. The 10 year wait for money, ironically, has been Wenger’s demise. Wenger had £100m to spend, he didn’t buy a striker, didn’t buy pace or power and then made it even worse by complaining about the existence of the January transfer window. His lack of drive to make the Premiership his this year will be the legacy of this season.
Question is, what does Arsene want his legacy to be? Because he’s killing it. He’ll always be remembered as the man who brought greatness to Arsenal, but will that be tinged with the following comment… ‘but he did go a bit Brian Clough in the end’… Wenger has two choices. Bow out on a cup win and hand over the reins, or cede power and collaboratively build a modern football club for the next manager.
Watching this one pan out will be interesting…
Thoughts in the comments section.