Is the second coming of Arsene real?

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Bit of a guest post for you today from William Rance, who has been a long term poster in the comments section. Enjoy!

Praise be to Shad!

The finest of mornings to you fellow Arsenal aficionados! Hope you are all of a well and happy disposition. I’m Will and I’ll be your host for the next few paragraphs of your lives. If you don’t like what I have to say then in the words of Eminem, “Please don’t write anything nasty about me in the comments section, cyber hate is crime yo!”

Remember those words people, remember them.

Right that’s enough of my amusing banterings, let’s talk Arsenal things. Opinions are significantly polarized at the moment about whether we have shown any signs of genuine progress this season or not. Some fans do see improvements, some don’t. I wanted to have a look at both aspects of the argument as personally I feel there are justifiable reasons for both parties to feel they may be right, at least on the face of it.

If we were to look back at this season gone with our slightly cynical spectacles on we could easily say that things have been no different, actually if anything slightly worse than the preceding 2013-14 campaign in which we were top of the form table for the calendar year (trophy anyone?), and in which we were kings of the league table for an impressive 128 days! This year we have been top of the form table again for the calendar year but with the massive added bonus of having spent NO time at all at the top of the table! On the face it then one could conclude that we have indeed regressed from last year, but before getting the valium and whisky combos out let’s examine things a little more closely.

There is one obvious difference between this year and last, and you can make up your own minds whether it’s relevant or not but I think it is. Last season was punctuated by a poor finish this year a terrible start. Although this ultimately means we will probably end up with similar points, crucially these two events tell us very different things. I’ll take a look at why.

The 2013-14 season showed us a team that were beginning to have what it takes to be up near the top of the table fighting for the premier league, but that as squad we were light years away. By February many of our players were seriously entering the arena of the unwell. Players like Ramsey had been shamelessly overused without rest by Wenger as he again seemed to not fully trust the squad of players he had at his disposal. Also what seemed like logical, basic rotational strategy was being ignored by our manager and as a result many fans and pundits alike pre-empted exactly the collapse we would inevitably suffer, which of course we did. Even I was starting to wonder if Wenger had been drinking his green tea all these years from a mercury lined

Even I was starting to wonder if Wenger had been drinking his green tea all these years from a mercury lined tea pot as his refusal to do the obvious things seemed to be getting more and more strange, especially for a man who has generally over his time come across as a high level thinker, if not an immeasurably stubborn one. Another thing stinking out the 2013-14 campaign was that our record against the top clubs again was pretty darn poor. We lost to a pitifully bad Man U side under Moyes and our points total against the rest of the top 4 was a total of 4 from a possible 18. A bad show indeed. Plus we had to deal with the stress of losing 6-0 at Stamford Bridge in what was Wenger’s 1000th game in charge. Not pretty at all. We played straight into what were many people’s preconceptions about us at the time. The “Flat track bully” tag was justified as was our label of being a side that didn’t have what it takes either physically or mentally to play well and win when it absolutely counted the most. A season that had started with so much promise ended so… well…. predictably.

Another thing stinking out the 2013-14 campaign was that our record against the top clubs again was pretty darn poor. We lost to a pitifully bad Man U side under Moyes and our points total against the rest of the top 4 was a total of 4 from a possible 18. A bad show indeed. Plus we had to deal with the stress of losing 6-0 at Stamford Bridge in what was Wenger’s 1000th game in charge. Not pretty at all. We played straight into what were many people’s preconceptions about us at the time. The “Flat track bully” tag was justified as was our label of being a side that didn’t have what it takes either physically or mentally to play well and win when it absolutely counted the most. A season that had started with so much promise ended so… well…. predictably.

The positives from the campaign were of course, the Fa Cup win, which in isolation is a great achievement and broke The Emirates trophy hoodoo at last, but still wasn’t enough to convince me that we as an overall setup were prepared to compete consistently over the course of a season, I mean it’s a cup run. Cup runs are great but luck can play a serious part in them so winning the Fa Cup in my mind can’t really be used as a marker for “progress”, although in reality the importance of that result as a whole can’t and should not be underestimated. In terms of team/fan moral it a was massive, almost priceless victory, not to mention one that kept the press off our backs for a bit. A decade without a trophy would have been a complete carnage fest in the media and I’m not sure how well the team and indeed the fans would have coped with it all. I may have had to go into full TAMBO (Total Arsenal Media Blackout) mode just to save myself the pain.

A decade without a trophy would have been a complete carnage fest in the media and I’m not sure how well the team and indeed the fans would have coped with it all. I may have had to go into full TAMBO (Total Arsenal Media Blackout) mode just to save myself the pain.
On a positive note, a sign of progress I did start to feel during the 2013-14 campaign was that we started to show more signs of defensive solidarity. It started to feel that we were getting better at seeing out games and far less likely to suffer nervous breakdowns than seasons before.

So we began 2014-15 with three world cup winners in our squad and a shiny new Alexis Sanchez. We signed a striker to go with Giroud in Welbeck ( not everyone’s dream but still a solid signing). Chambers came in, and other than losing Vermaelen to Barca we looked to be a relatively stronger unit than the season before. Many called for someone like Cabaye to come in but Wenger saw fit to go with Arteta and Flamini as our pivots and that was his call (albeit wrong). In fact it was the most active transfer window at Arsenal in ages , we lost no important players and for the first time in a while we had reason to be positive going into the new season. Well, as we all know we started absolutely horrifically, in fact it was our worst start for 32 years, collecting a piffling 17 points in 12 games. Doom prevailed across the land with some people including myself wondering if Wenger would even last the season.Then, something happened that changed everything. We got beaten by Spurs.

Well, as we all know we started absolutely horrifically, in fact it was our worst start for 32 years, collecting a piffling 17 points in 12 games. Doom prevailed across the land with some people including myself wondering if Wenger would even last the season.Then, something happened that changed everything. We got beaten by Spurs.

After this game it seemed very much from the outside that certain members of the team took it upon themselves to tighten things up in areas that were causing us to be so vulnerable. This change was evident when we went to the Etihad and won with a display so un-wenger like that I thought that Jose had snuck onto the team coach , done an Indiana Jones on Arsene, nicked his coat and taken charge of us for a game. We were superb, we focused on our defensive shape and on stopping city being able to play the way they wanted to play. This allowed us to use our pace well on the counter, which we did, scoring 2 goals and winning the game comfortably. This really was a watershed moment for the Arsenal side that we have come to know under Wenger since 2007. We for once put the result over the performance and as a result our performance improved so much from the 6-3 pantomime of the previous year. We looked like a completely different team. Credit has to go to Wenger for a) admitting that his team had asked him If they could approach the game in a new way, and b) for allowing them to do it! Both those decisions took guts so fair play to him. It showed that he at last was willing to listen to those around him. Our record against the top clubs this year has been 5 points out of a possible 15. If we can beat united that’s 8 out of 18. Not dramatic but I’d consider that progress, especially considering we had such a poor start.

Since January Arsenal have been the most inform team in Europe playing exceptionally well except at home to Monaco where we know we seriously fluffed it. We now have the second best defense inside the top 6, we’d only have to score 3 more goals to better our tally from last year and we’d have to concede 8 to have shipped more. Win all our games and we finish three points higher than last term with a considerably more favourable league position and goal difference. All this to me is re-assuring and feels like progress. Plus we have another stab at the Fa Cup.

I spoke at the beginning about how although on the face of things it could be viewed as irrelevant whether Arsenal flunked at the end of 2013-14 or the beginning of 2014-15, it all amounts to the same thing right? Not enough points to win the league. Well I’d argue differently, I’d argue that the timing of the slump is actually hugely relevant. Why? Because it’s all about our fitness. It’s all about Shad. The man was able to take our systemically injury ridden squad and within 8 months get the entire first team squad training together for the first time in a decade. That is almost legend status already! This has aided us in finishing the season as the most inform team in Europe. Most of our players look fresh and when was the last time you could say that about an Arsenal team at the end of a season? Or at the beginning of one for that matter?

Some real true behind the scenes progress right there in yo’ faces.

Another major sign of progress this season is that we now have more than one way to play, the elusive plan B. I think that Wenger has had a little bit of a change of heart in the respect of his philosophy. In fact I’d go as far to say that he’s almost had a personality transplant. I suspect that he has realized that his dogmatic approach to the way the game should be played can actually have a restrictive effect on his team and their style.

Even though he is essentially giving them the freedom to play as they want the mental solidarity that can be gained from shutting out teams tactically when needed supersedes the sense of freedom that his style gives them. He now clearly has given the team the freedom to mould it’s style to suit playing against stronger teams. He seems to be being less of a control freak in that sense and for that I think he deserves credit. It’s so good for the moral of the team to know that if they needed to that they can shut up shop. There is also a different intensity to the way we have been pressing of late, probably again a result of improved fitness. Also other teams don’t know exactly what to expect when they play us. Again, when was the last time you could say that?

Also as a side, after the Fa Cup ¼ finals I remember Wenger commenting that Reading were far more motivated than “what we had seen on the tapes”.

I almost spat out my almond milk cappuccino when I heard him say that. I think things are changing on that front as well and I he wants to let the fans now about it. Wenger also seems to be rotating his team a little more now which suggests that he is starting to listen more to those around him regarding the fitness of the players. All good things!

So what do you think? I would say that although the points tally and trophy hall may not be dramatically different from last season, if you look closer at what we have been doing then you should see that we have shown a lot of genuine signs of progression this year, on the field and off it. Fitness wise and strategy wise we are finally moving in the right direction. Amen.

That’s all. Hope you all have a pleasant day!

497 Responses to “Is the second coming of Arsene real?”

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  1. jwl

    qna I honestly have my doubts that Wenger would win title even if Kroenke spent billion quid on barcelona squad and brought them all to london.

    I am enjoying Arsenal now much more than a few years ago but we are not going to win another title with wenger in charge. Our season looks pretty good because saurez is at barca and yaya toure’s heart seems to be elsewhere.

    If Wenger buys striker or winger like Sanchez, someone who can change game on their own, that will help our chances but other teams are going to improve during summer as well.

  2. MadeToLoveMagic

    Redtruth

    Talking about fertilizer, any chance you could pop round mine and open your mouth over my new vegetable patch for a few minutes?

    Would be greatly appreciated. I’d pay you in pork pies and crack

  3. Wallace

    NM

    nice post. long, but…

    “Over time, very few people end up beating the odds; the times when they do so are usually part of an up-and-down swing. Everything, it seems, regresses towards the mean when it comes to expenditure and league position. It just has to be measured as team costs (£XI) and not as misleading gross or net spends, or what happens in a single transfer window, which is meaningless without the context of how much the team already cost, or what players they might be selling to finance it.”

  4. Nasri's Mouth

    @Wallace

    Yeah, I didn’t agree with all of it, but he talks a lot more sense than some

  5. northern gooner

    Kwik

    Not seen many pics of the usual naturally endowed ladies lately. Whats going on.

  6. kwik fit

    If there’s no Ramsey & no welbeck for Monday, it’ll be very interesting to see if arsene finally picks theo or just plays jack on the right. If its the latter then theo’s a goner , for sure.

  7. Wallace

    NM

    i’d be interested to see how they arrive at the valuation for each team’s first XI, but what he’s saying makes a lot of sense.

    also, as our financial power grows i think we move away from Liverpool in pursuit of the big three.

  8. kwik fit

    Koeman has played down rumours that anyone has been in contact about Schneiderlin. Exactly how Arsenal like to operate, under the radar

  9. roaaary

    This aleix vidal looks a class act. Saw him vs madrid the other day and thought he looked a stand out player. Has gone and upped it tonight.

    Also tony adams as a football advisor to aston villa……worrying thought for them brummies. Brilliant footballer- nonsense in his old age

  10. Nasri's Mouth

    @Wallace

    I think there was some clever (ish) algorithm to equalise player values across time.

    I remember reading about it ageeeees ago.

    But yeah, if the CEO and his team do their job right, it will give the manager the opportunity to do his job right. The worrying thought is that ManU could just disappear off in the distance

  11. Nasri's Mouth

    Apparently Rodgers spoke personally to Depay…

    …right before he decided to sign for ManU

  12. kwik fit

    Tonights exit poll

    1. Conservative 316
    2. Labour 239
    3. SNP 58
    4. Arsenal 10
    5. United 0
    6. UKIP (Chelsea)2
    7. Greens (Norwich)2

  13. Bamford10

    According to Football Insider UK, Arsenal are offering Walcott three options: a four-year deal on a lower salary, a 12-month extension on his current deal or a departure this summer.

    “As revealed by Football Insider, the 26-year-old is seeking a five-year contract worth £130,000-a-week that would catapult him into the top tier of earners at Emirates Stadium alongside Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez.

    However, Arsenal are unwilling to sanction that kind of deal for a player who has been on the fringes of the team since returning from injury last November.”

  14. goonerboy

    We certainly have progressed- but we are still a long way from having a squad sufficient to win a major trophy. We still haven’t beaten Chelsea who will strengthen because they are beatable by 4 or 5 top European sides not just PSG-all our major competitors in England will undertake major makeovers in the summer especially Man U and Liverpool. No one else stands still- and though it can be argued that Wenger has at last become more pragmatic in his game management, he still reeks of complacency- when it comes to a keeper or defender or strong defensive midfielder he will only buy cheap or not at all- and we still need a striker with world class skills- other top European sides can defeat us with organisation alone..

  15. SX

    Just hearing Harry Kane popped into visit stroke victim Jiimmy Greaves in hospital Earlier today… The good news is that his speech is improving,and he even managed to string a sentence together..!! said Jimmy.. .. Loool …

  16. northern gooner

    Kwik

    Only just seen your reply.

    I lent the lucky strides to messi last night.
    They will be back and ready for when needed.

  17. Nasri's Mouth

    1-0 to Labour at the moment, but with the exit poll predicting a big Conservative win, will Labour park the bus now and hang on their slender lead

  18. Nasri's Mouth

    Sunderland hat trick for Labour. 3-0 up and cruising.

    Will Labour do an Arsenal and throw it all away ?

  19. Nasri's Mouth

    Or will tonight’s result make the 7-5 against Reading look like the most boring 1-0 ever?

    (316-239)

  20. nasri's mouth

    @WengerEagle

    Yep, general election fever is climaxing tonight.

    Vaguely interesting because there’s a huge disparity between all the pre vote polls which all suggested it would be very close and the exit poll which is often very accurate which says the Conservatives will easily win it.
    I feel sad the number of people voting for UKIP (right wing racists and homophobes) is so large though

  21. WengerEagle

    Nasri’s Mouth

    How is there so much support for Cameron, thought that everyone over there hated him?

    Poor Eddie boy, his desperate Russell Brand stunt wasn’t enough it seems.

    Yeah the Ukippers crack me up, Farage is an interesting bloke to be fair though.

  22. Nasri's Mouth

    @WengerEagle

    Lots of reasons, not least the age demographic of voters. A much higher percentage of older people vote than the much more vocal (and tweeting) young

    And of course the economy is looking a lot stronger than it was 18 months ago. There’s a lot of media issues, the NHS, Immigration, but the economy is always right there at the top of peoples minds.

  23. qna

    Nasri: Would these be the same smart pundits that keep saying Mert isn’t good enough because he gets exposed by fast wingers and forwards ?

    Yes. Mate. The same ones. They are right. Mertesacker is good but far from great. True to type for Arsenal I suppose. With the exception of Ozil, Sanchez and Cazorla, the current Arsenal players fit this description. If you put those three in Liverpool or even Spurs and swap them with three of theirs like for like, I think they would finish above us.

  24. Nasri's Mouth

    qna: Yes. Mate. The same ones. They are right.

    Except they weren’t right. It’s lazy punditry. Heard it before the Liverpool game, heard it before the Chelsea game. Sterling and Hazard, two of the most high profile tricky fast attackers out there, and both were kept quiet.

    Of course it’s hard to know how good Gabriel actually is (or will be) because we haven’t seen enough of him yet, but realistically we’ve got very good options now in defence, and the cost of bringing in someone who would improve what we currently have would far outweigh the actual gain in quality, and more importantly limit the amount we could spend in other areas of the pitch.

  25. Dark Hei

    NM

    qna has a point, though he might not understand the reason.

    CBs do not need to be all that fast. Tony Adams wasn’t quick. Neither is John Terry, but they work for their team or for their era.

    Our new style takes place where we play a higher backline than in the recent seasons. That exposes Per to long balls over the top. He is actually hard to dribble pass, even Hazard couldn’t get pass him. But if you punt the ball and have a quick forward run after it, Per is not going to get there.

  26. qna

    NM: Didnt say Mert was no good. I said he wasnt good enough. For example, if Mert had played for either Barca or Bayern in midweek, he would have been found out big time. The match result would have been altered. He is good enough to play against weaker teams. But when there comes a situation when you need a player to stand up and stand out he is not at the level of the top doninating CBs. He relies on positioning mainly. He is not strong enough in the air, despite his height. He is slow, but not so much slower than say Terry. I would be happy with Hummels-Kocielny and Hummels is not that fast either. Per is a great leader and team man and I like him a lot. But assessing him as a player it is no surprise that bigger clubs fir us did not go in for hin, nor the fact that he was so reasonably priced for a seasoned German international.

    Dark Hei, your out of your depth again. Back in you box.

  27. Northbanker

    Ed Balls has lost his seat! Hopefully that irritating git will no longer grace our screens

  28. Northbanker

    Per will be phased out but despite Monaco game, where he was exposed and awful, he has nevertheless proved his worth in a huge number of EPL games this season. He certainly needs someone mobile beside him which ideally is Kos but could be Gab.

    Next year though Gab will take over that role assuming no injuries! Chambers will also gradually phase him out as the No 3. This assumes we don’t buy another CB, which I think is doubtful until Summer 2016.

  29. Nasri's Mouth

    @qna

    But he is good in the air, his positioning is very good and he hasn’t really been caught out in the big games or against top opposition.

    It’s just following the narrative that a tall ungainly looking bloke can’t be good at football.

    Either way, lets look at your option of Hummels. He would cost (according to the media at least) over £30m

    Spending that on a player who wouldn’t give us a significant increase or give us another way of playing (given his lack of pace too) would take a big chunk out of our transfer budget and limit the improvements we could make in other areas.

    We haven’t got an unlimited amount of money to spend, but we have got a really good set of defenders.

  30. qna

    Wenger says Jenkinson will either be brought back or loaned out again. Maybe waiting for the clubs to vote on Dykes quota change proposal. Either way we have Bellerin, Debuchy, Chambers. So if Dykes proposal is voted in Debuchy must be a gonner. Either way I wouldnt be pissed if we sold him and brought Jenks in as a squad player since I want us to develop Bellerin as our first choice. Much more upside to him. Wonder if PSG are still interested.

    Cavani also hinting he wants to come to the PL. PSG wont do it unless they get a replacement. I can see a deal like Cavani – Giroud straight swap being possible. No extra cash involved. Because a) there are not many CFs out there. Giroud might be more what they are looking for than even Laccazette b) Giroud is French, same age as Cavani c) PSG would make room in their wage cap d) we dont want to sell Giroud so to part with him we would only consider offers in the region of £40m which is what Cavani is probably worth given that he might put in a transfer request and given his age and wages.

    The more interesting thing is, would we even want a straight swap for Cavani. We are pretty likely to get 15-20 goals out of Giroud next season. He knows our style of play etc. But if they were up for it, I would really hope Arsenal would do it because thwre is no doubt Cavani is a significantly better player. The type Henry is talking about.

  31. Nasri's Mouth

    Dark Hei: But if you punt the ball and have a quick forward run after it, Per is not going to get there.

    But that tactic will work against pretty much every defender in the world. If you have an attacking player running past a static or forward facing defender, they’re not going to get caught.

    If we’re playing a high line, (and its doable with Mert, because we’ve got Kos as a sweeper, who a) is very quick and b) has great anticipation) you have to cut out the supply in the first place.

    Assuming Gabriel turns out to be a potential 1st choice, we have the option to play him in a high line or Mert if we want to play deeper.

    From a squad perspective, we need to concentrate our attention and our funds on that central position and the attacking positions

  32. Nasri's Mouth

    @qna

    Cavani for Giroud!!

    Do you think about what you type ?

    Cavani would only want to leave PSG if he’s fed up playing on the wing. So if Ibra is still their first choice striker next season AND Cavani doesn’t want to continue on the wing AND he’s happy to take a wage cut he might leave, BUT why would PSG want to sign Giroud when he CAN’T play on the wing, AND why would Giroud want to leave Arsenal to sit on the bench in Paris ?

  33. Blsany

    Qna
    You really think Psg will swap Cavani with Giroud?Do you even watch Cavani?He is not the player he used to be even when he plays through the middle.Dybala,Lacazette are the future.

    Nasris mouth
    Doesn’t matter how you dress it up.We dont have good set of defenders. Calum is raw ,Mert cant play with anyone else other than Koz,Gab looks a solid defender.Mert is passed it,can do a job against weak teams but that’s it.Gab-Koz for the big games.Hummels is the real deal and a winner.Mert is a coward and not much of a leader.

  34. SomeRandomGunner

    @blasny we have an excellent set of defenders . The balance in the numbers and options are almost the best in a long long time.

    It is going to be very very hard to improve on that backline (the balance in starters second choice combined)