It’s all going off in the press this morning. I missed the Per Mertesacker interview post Anderlecht, but it’s worth rehashing parts of it today purely because of the exasperation you feel coming from his words. It’s also important to understand that this is Per, he’s been around, won major trophies, played under great managers and he’s basically our captain.
“Football-wise, we lack a few things,”
“The passing game is not as efficient as last year. We are not at our best, we have to admit that. We have to be honest to ourselves and train harder.
“Again, it is away from home on Saturday and again, I think we have to do better with our possession – to put more pressure on them, not to lose so many balls in the middle of the park, to play more in wide areas. I think it is better to expose them there, instead of playing one-twos through the middle. It doesn’t work as much as last season, so we have to work on that.
Now, I know Arsene Wenger has responded to the ‘train harder’ quip, but for me, Per isn’t saying the intensity isn’t there. The problem with our training is it’s far too intense and it leads to players looking jaded in games. No, I think Per is saying we need to train harder on things that matter. Pep intensely trains with tactics, that doesn’t mean he’s flogging them to death physically. Arsenal clearly aren’t training the approach to play because it’s not working.
I think he makes an excellent point about too much of our play coming centrally. Again, another failing of Wenger’s recruitment process is that he signs players who all want to play through the middle. Even Theo, our most effective wide player, is desperate the play through the middle. This congests our play and kills the width.
‘For me personally, it is difficult at the moment because that was really a long season last year, and to come back from the World Cup and get the motivation back – I am nearly back but you can feel there is something missing at the moment.’
This is a really desperate statement from a player as committed as the German. This is what makes the whole centre back debacle of the summer even more baffling. Wenger knows players come back mentally tired and physically drained, so why the hell didn’t he buy a full compliment of centre backs? Even worse when you consider this Koscielny injury is something the club have known about for months. What logical reason is there for us not signing a centre back? What was Steve Rowley’s role in this? What was the data scout’s role in this? How did we let so many centre backs pass us by?
“There was a bit of belief but not that belief. So it was a bit strange. Everyone knows that it is a difficult start to the season for us, and confidence is not that much how we want it. But the character is good and the mentality is good.”
The above line is probably the most worrying, because it’s something I brought up after the September window slammed shut. Players are people. People in professions are tacitly aware of what it takes to be a success. When Arsene Wenger failed to recruit properly, he sent out a message, that message said… ‘I didn’t do my job properly, so you have an excuse to fail’… the players have a pretty good excuse not to try 100%, they have a good reason to feel a bit down and they have reason not to truly believe.
The other issue Arsene now has is that Per is speaking out, and he can’t do anything about it. Kind of felt like we were getting that with Koscielny who has looked majorly fucked off all season.
‘I’m playing shit, so what, you gonna drop me? No? Thought so’
The whole approach is boring for the fans and it’s boring for the players. I also thought the comments about how good he feels Lukas is were interesting. Basically, ‘no one finishes like Lukas, so why doesn’t he get games? Full interview here, well worth a read.
Wenger’s comments weren’t exactly inspiring. They didn’t feel like they’d come from a man who knows what’s going wrong.
‘Until now we have been relatively consistent in our attitude but not efficient enough offensively or defensively.
I don’t understand the comment really. He’s basically saying we’ve been rubbish. Where’s the deeper insight into this? This is why you need Jaqui Oatley style reporting. Why have we looked poor Arsene? What are you doing to solve these issues? Do you believe there is any truth in what Per has said? Do you worry about player motivation?
Ultimately, as many people have pointed out, we’ll come good because of the strength of our players. Sad thing is, we could be pushing for major trophies if we had a manager who could steer them in a more intelligent way. We have all the ingredients to be a very good side. We have all the talent to be incredible on our day. Trouble is, the pilot is more hot air balloons than F-22 fighter jet (that’s the most advanced plane I know). Which is sad, but we have to accept it and hope that he leaves early and hope that the players can find something within to change things…
… because that’s my final point. If at a managerial level, things are going to shit. If the people above you aren’t driving a vision because they don’t know how to. You work around it. Simple as that. There’s no excuse here. Sitting on your hands, waiting for the crash is irresponsible and weak. So here is what I’m saying… why aren’t the senior players taking control? Why don’t they have an after hours session. Why aren’t they educating the players? Why aren’t they driving the tactics, the analysis?
As weak as embarrassing as I think the management is… I find the players weakness almost as concerning. Adams, Keown and Bould wouldn’t have had it in their day. Where is that spirit now?
Maybe that’s part of the problem, Wenger doesn’t sign players with domineering personalities.
Shame. Insecurity at its most self-destructive.
P.S. Take a read of this article from Billy Beane. The only bit that ruins the article is that he says you build a great culture through winning, then he cites the reason he’d buy stock in Arsenal is that we pay down debts. Regardless, the lessons in there are not heeded by Arsenal.
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