Big news yesterday swirled around Henry Winter pointing out that Coquelin has been our turning point this season and his emergence cannot be credited to Arsene.
Half of that is true. Half isn’t. The manager purchased the Frenchman, so there was intent there at some point. What is true is his inclusion in the squad was down to a car crash of injuries that forced Coquelin into the squad. The young Frenchman has reacted well. Incredibly well. So well, you fear he’s hit peak DM and he’ll never hit the same heights again.
He’s not just an asset on the pitch. Apparently he’s a very nice bloke off it and he’s extremely knowledgeable around the English game throughout the divisions.
Wenger seems to have woken up to the fact you don’t need a fancy DM who can attack as well as he can defend. You need a specialist. Someone who cares about clean sheets. You need someone who’s hungry, can cover ground rapidly, has a bucket load of tempered aggression, has a passion for defending and respect for discipline.
Coquelin has all the elements we need. It’s amazing that in all the training sessions, Wenger didn’t pick up on those attributes. He was on the way out. On the scrap heap. It’s amazing how well he’s gripped onto his chance. He’s excelled and it’s been fantastic to watch.
You don’t need a world class player in that role. That’s the reality.
You also need two of them, which is why we need Schneiderlin. You need two for big games like the United one where we played Flamini and Coq to pin that midfield. You also can’t have a situation where we beast our one defensive midfielder into the ground because we have no one else.
Back onto Wenger…
‘It is embarrassing that Wenger has needed until now to appreciate that the best teams balance defence and attack.’
That’s the key point here. I had Wenger acolytes rejoicing in the turnaround yesterday, like this was all part of the plan. This season’s turnaround hasn’t been about the managers philosophy coming to fruition and football purity winning out. It’s been about the manager accepting the only way to build a winning team is by utilising a smarter approach to the game. We’re not witnessing stubborn continuity winning out here, we’re witnessing a new approach whilst maintaining the values of our footballing philosophy. We’re modernising. We’re doing what Van Gaal did to Baracs Cruyff vision. We’re doing what Pep did to Bayern. We’re doing what Ferguson consistently did in cycles at United.
It’s not revolution. It never had to be. It’s an evolution of everything.
It’s important to remember that it has been a bit of a shocker of a season for the big clubs as well. Arsenal aren’t far off what they did last year. Liverpool, Spurs and United all messed up the season. Even Chelsea haven’t exactly cantered the league, sputtering the end like a clapped out old car on its last wheels.
The big question is, at the highest level, is the ongoing evolution strong enough? What we’re doing now is playing catch up to the big boys. To surpass the big boys, you need to think revolution. If City bring in a Pep and Liverpool recapture some of the last season’s spirit next season, we’ll be up against it again, because Jose will build again and Van Gaal will spunk a tonne of cash as usual.
‘Those of us who wanted Wenger to change, or for Arsenal to change manager, know that the season is still in balance. Second place and an FA Cup would be a good season. Second or third place and defeat at Wembley (in the final or semi) would be a combination that would have the Wenger Out brigade taking to the streets and social media again. Make no mistake: the substantial desire for regime change at Arsenal has not disappeared. Wenger is on notice from many fans.’
Things are changing for the better. There have been some happy accidents (Coquelin). Some exciting progress (Ozil and Giroud). Some internal milestones (tactics and smarter fitness). A collective growth as a team (through winning). As I reported yesterday, these items aren’t an illusion. Change is really happening. It’s been in the pipeline for months, players are just hitting their stride now because the lessons are sinking in.
… but Winter is right. Wenger can’t afford anything other than a solid run at the Premier League now. The time for excuses has passed. Wenger has a title winning side now. He’s maybe 2 players away from something that could possibly threaten Europe.
It’s time to deliver. No more false dawns, Arsene.