What #Arsenal can learn from war strategists

by .


What’s cracking my darlings?

So today, I head into work. Tonight, I head into St. Louis… home of Stan.

I have a banner in my bag, emblazoned with…

‘Please Stan would you have a rethink about the way we approach transfers, also, could you kindly tell us why Arsene Wenger is happy to sit on a tonne of cash that seems to serve no one but your good self’

I also have a banging deck to show my client out there. I mean, we can go into the details of run an online publication, but I don’t want to thrill you into a work seat accident no amount of Bounty kitchen roll will save you from.


Time to start thinking of things to write about. It’s the big one. This Saturday, we take on the very shaky Stoke City. Those dirty buggers have some good players. I said recently that they are a case study of Premiership good times centred around spunking cash. They’ve been spending money like it serves no purpose sitting in a bank account.

Hell, I’d say they’ve spent money like they’re trying to improve themselves?

Bojan, Affelay and Shaquiri are the obvious stars they’ve signed lately. An Arsenal fan said…


Look, we were all interested in Shaquiri a few seasons ago. I wouldn’t have vomited a river of value bile if we’d signed him. He’d probably offer quite a lot to the squad if I’m honest. Versatile, fast and broken by Pep saying he’s utter turkey gobbler.

Point with Stoke, is they’re investing. They’re buying smartly. They’re shooting for gold.

I mean, that’s what football is all about, right?

I was reading something too highbrow for me on the plane, there was a reference to Nicolo Machiavelli and one of his gangster pals keeping winning troops motivated…

As regards action, he ought above all things to keep his men well organized and drilled, to follow incessantly the chase, by which he accustoms his body to hardships, and learns something of the nature of localities, and gets to find out how the mountains rise, how the valleys open out, how the plains lie, and to understand the nature of rivers and marshes, and in all this to take the greatest care. Which knowledge is useful in two ways. Firstly, he learns to know his country, and is better able to undertake its defence; afterwards, by means of the knowledge and observation of that locality, he understands with ease any other which it may be necessary for him to study hereafter; because the hills, valleys, and plains, and rivers and marshes that are, for instance, in Tuscany, have a certain resemblance to those of other countries, so that with a knowledge of the aspect of one country one can easily arrive at a knowledge of others. And the prince that lacks this skill lacks the essential which it is desirable that a captain should possess, for it teaches him to surprise his enemy, to select quarters, to lead armies, to array the battle, to besiege towns to advantage.

Philopoemen, Prince of the Achaeans, among other praises which writers have bestowed on him, is commended because in time of peace he never had anything in his mind but the rules of war; and when he was in the country with friends, he often stopped and reasoned with them: “If the enemy should be upon that hill, and we should find ourselves here with our army, with whom would be the advantage? How should one best advance to meet him, keeping the ranks? If we should wish to retreat, how ought we to set about it? If they should retreat, how ought we to pursue?” And he would set forth to them, as he went, all the chances that could befall an army; he would listen to their opinion and state his, confirming it with reasons, so that by these continual discussions there could never arise, in time of war, any unexpected circumstances that he could deal with.

So the TL:DR: Keep your troops prepared.

I kind of feel this is our issue now. Jose Mourinho does this so well. In the world of story telling, tension is important to keep people interested. Mourinho is the master of the subplot, makes sure there’s always something for media to focus on, but he also does very well at communicating story lines for the players that motivate.

Arsenal need to be in a battle this season, even when they feel they’re not. Something we’ve been guilty of over the years is Arsene Wenger believing the battle has been won before we start. Prince of Achaeans would not tolerate this. He’d not have his soldiers coming back from pillage session at the next village laughing about how desperately dead behind the eyes Shaquiri looks in his press shots.

He’d have them focused on the subplot. He’d have the Arsenal players thinking about all the ways in which Stoke could embarrass them. He’d be creating subplots in the press, ramping up pressure on high spending Mark Hughes. He’d be pulling Ramsey into a room reminding him of that dark day they tried to take his leg in a move that was not of honour. He’d be making sure that the players felt a million dollars even though recruitments were not coming.

He’d be prepared.

This season, Arsene Wenger has left us underprepared to compete. But, as has been shown over the many years of sporting achievement, what you lack in playing staff, can often be made up with in smarts. Take Diego Simeone over at Atletico Madrid, or Juventus last season reaching the Champions League final on a very, very low spend and despite being part of the 4th best league in Europe.

Do we have a better tactical plan of action? Are we utilising data to the best of its abilities. Now, I’ve seen plenty of bad data being used by Arsenal folk online to prove the manager was right about not signing anyone. How are we using data and driving insight that has context geared around  it? How are we grinding out the patterns that we can shake to our advantage?

Fitness is the big one this year. What’s our plan for making sure our slender squad doesn’t break every 2 minutes. We’ve already had a nightmare with WELBZ who is out until next year. A real shame. But don’t blame the medical staff. They give the diagnosis, it’s up to the club to act on it. You’ve got to stop blaming the doctors for the car crash they’re treating (unless they were driving the car). Point is, what’s the plan to stop injury prone players like Jack and Danny (cockney rhyming slang right there) from picking up injuries.

Anyway, if Shad can recover players quicker and Arsene can make sure he rotates properly so the players aren’t broken by December, we’ll be in good shape.

We’ll learn this season whether Wenger can listen. He has all his players fit right now. If he breaks them by Christmas, we’ll know that last seasons renaissance with fitness was because he only had his keys player for half a season. Fingers crossed.

Finally, motivation. The quote from above. How is Wenger planning to keep the boys focused? How does he bring out the nasty? How does he make them all play through steel reinforced walls to win the major honours? Wenger isn’t a man motivator like a lot of the other more personal coaches. He needs to find something, because I’m not sure, with this group of players, the…

‘Guys, can we all sit down for two minutes, and reflect on what it means to be a top class athlete chasing a two goal deficit’

‘Right, go out there and have fun. Remember to wave to your Dad, Theo.’

Having great team spirit is fabulous. But, if that just means they all have a laugh together, it’s not enough. People getting along isn’t productive unless they’re all challenging each other to be better. Great team spirit from 2002 is someone telling Patrick Vieira to stop falling asleep on the pitch. It’s a full on bust up in the changing room when you’re not winning. It’s each player fight themselves everyday to be a part of that starting 11.

If we can’t have new players, we’re going to have to win by being smarter than the rest.

Question is, what’s going to change to bring about those extra points?

Over to you Arsene.

338 Responses to “What #Arsenal can learn from war strategists”

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  1. tom

    I get your point about there being no time to develop players as the pressure to win forces you to short term solutions.
    I think development and acquisition go hand in hand and are delicately balanced.
    Ideally you will always have two or three of your best prospects in any squad.

  2. Bamford10

    Nothing wrong with having a few quality youth products (2-4) make it to the full team, Tom, but your opinion above — that you’d prefer to see Zelalelem in the full squad than side from outside — is stupid and dangerous.

    Sure, if Zelalem ends up being one of the best midfielders in the world, I’d love him in the side. If not, I’d prefer someone who is, not someone who is less than that simply out of a kind of nepotism. That isn’t intelligent.

    Again, I’m not opposed to a good youth academy. I really like what Dortmund do. But they produce top talent. What Wenger does — and what you’d likely be satisfied with — is our producing average to middling players, inserting them into the full squad and then spending the next 3-5 years trying to convince the world they’re class, when in reality they’re dross.

  3. tom

    Zelalam can only become a WC talent if we give him the chance.
    There won’t be many and he’ll have to take it when it comes.

    To throw in the towel on kids just means having to buy them for millions later.
    Plus you miss the joy factor.

  4. Bamford10


    “the pressure to win forces you to short term solutions”

    What pressure to win? Wenger hasn’t even competed for a title in ten years! Arsenal are a laughing stock in the CL. And people like you, Tom, think he’s doing just dandy.

    What a joke.

    Without the kind of voices one sees here on Le Grove, Wenger could finish eighth every year and not feel an ounce of pressure from your ilk.

    Go back to gazing at your vineyards, mate.

  5. tom

    From the little I have seen, Zelalem, Gnabry, Crowley and Renne Adelaide all have the potential to be top players.

    There are many others with promise.
    Maitland-Niles scored a blinder to beat Germany the other day.

  6. MidwestGun

    I actually agree seeing a youth player develop and make it is highly satisfying as a fan. But it’s a delect balance between needing a top player and letting a youngster develop. I dont trust Wenger to get it right tho, is I guess where I differ from you Tom. I don’t think he handled JW properly with playing time, position, and developing his style of play.
    And while Jack bleeds AFC and I would have dearly loved for him to lead us to a title… I fear he may never live up to his early success and may be holding us back at this point.

  7. Bamford10

    God, this guy sucks.

    The “joy” factor? How about the “joy” of actually being a relevant team and not an also-ran? Last time that even happened was when we beat Barca in the CL in 2011.

    We’ve been a non-entity ever since, even when we were in first for a few months in 2013 (as everyone knew that that would end sooner rather than later, just as it did).

    We want real “joy” — i.e., the joy of being relevant on the world stage, the joy of actually competing for the title, the joy of winning the title.

    Watching a player come up through the system pales in comparison to these. Sorry.

  8. tom


    Wenger is under constant pressure and scrutiny. Not just from obscure and furious bloggers but media of all forms too.
    Thankfully the people that count, the fans at the matches and the board are supportive.

  9. MidwestGun

    Most fans at the matches are gonna be supportive, that’s why you go to the matched to cheer and root for your team to win. Of course, if I was at the match live or even during the game I’m rooting for us to win or be successful. So I find comparisons to blog comments and matchday fan sentiments pretty silly. As for the owner /board Stan probably doesn’t even watch most matches.

  10. tom

    Jack has had rotten luck with injuries, whether that’s down to management, playing style, both or neither, we can’t really say.
    He is a good case study.
    Certainly good enough at 17 and introduced when we were badly in need.
    Was he overplayed?
    Could we have hung on to him if we hadn’t played him?
    No idea.
    Can he become the best player we have?
    Quite possibly, in my opinion.

  11. MidwestGun

    Can he become the best player we have?
    Quite possibly, in my opinion.
    Sadly, I think that ship has sailed. Doesn’t really have a position and is constantly starting over with form due to injuries. And now, any tackle going to ground may be career ending it seems.

  12. tom

    If you knew the fate of some clubs with too hands-on owners you might appreciate Stan more.

    Leeds, Portsmouth, Rangers….

  13. Bamford10

    Actually, Tom, the board has informed us that they support Wenger even when “he doesn’t have a plan,” which is to say their support doesn’t mean shit. It’s mindless and meaningless. As long as he doesn’t finish out of the top four, they let him continue.

    That’s not scrutiny.

    As for the fans in the stadium, those with brains stopped supporting Wenger long ago. Only idiots continue to believe he is a great manager or that he can win the title again. He can’t — as this most recent window has shown clearly. This squad won’t compete for shit.

    This is a man who led his team to 6-0, 5-1 and 6-3 humiliations, all in a single season, and chalked these abysmal results up to “accident”.

    This is a man who started Yaya Sanogo — who can barely make the bench at Ajax — against Bayern in the CL.

    A man who stuck with Arteta and Flamini at the start of last season and was bailed out by injuries to these two mediocrities and the (unforeseen-by-Wenger) emergence of a reliable Coquelin.

    A man who is now going with Olivier Giroud — a complete mediocrity — for a FOURTH YEAR IN A ROW. Four years in a row! It’s incredible. I’d laugh if it weren’t actually worthy of tears.

    Wenger is a fucking joke, mate, and everyone with a brain knows it.

  14. MidwestGun

    Lol Tom… he definately wouldn’t be chanting 1 AW.
    Giroud annoys the crap out of me but I’d be singing na na na na Geeeeeeroud just like everyone else. It’s a good song.

  15. tom

    But JW is an exceptional talent and has a stubborn streak that has kept him at it.
    His brief cameos at the end of last season and for England show he still has it.
    Injury is his only issue. I believe he can recover as Ramsey has.
    With luck.

  16. Bamford10


    “Can you really imagine Bamford cheering a Giroud goal?
    Or joining the “one arsene Wenger” chant?”

    One, I have cheered all of his goals, moron, because I support Arsenal.

    Two, no, I would never join in such a twattish song — and many in the stadium agree, I’m sure — as he should’ve been dismissed years ago. He has done nothing but hold the club back over the past five years (at least). No one should be praising him for this. He should be out on his ass.

  17. tom

    Cool down.
    It’s OK. The season will play out. The world will turn whatever the result.
    Chances are high that AFC wins nothing. You can feel vindicated
    However, less you change your attitude, I doubt you will enjoy it.
    At best you get to say “I told you so” At worst AFC win honours and you look an utter cock.

    Enjoy the season.

  18. MidwestGun

    Tom –
    To be fair… people have been saying I told you so.. for many years.
    I actually agree with many of Bamford ‘ s sentiments, I’m just not as outspoken or radical about AW. … I guess. Like many I just want to see marked progress and an actual try at success. I was probably one of the more cautiously optimistic with the acquisition of Ozil and Sanchez and the back to back Fa Cups…. but pretty much this transfer window and the start to season and the repetitive trends I see…. most of that optimism has turned into resignation of same old same until something at upper management structure at Afc changes.

  19. tom

    Ozil and Sanchez signal a new era. They are proper stars. Cech is too.
    They show we can and will spend on the right players.
    Not signing more this summer doesn’t mean we won’t next time should the players be available.
    We are rich but not rich enough not to be careful.

  20. MidwestGun

    Well like I said the other day. … Wenger owns this set off players with what I would consider a ridiculous transfer window which showed poor planning, ignoring glaring weaknesses and injuries and the excuses are dried up so…… we will know soon enough about that decision. And as Pedro said if it comes down to mental preperation, motivation, strategy I’m not hopeful.

  21. MidwestGun

    Speaking of ridiculous manager decisions what kind of manager thinks rotating Cb’s from game to game. .. even half to half is a good idea.
    Klinsmann hasn’t a clue about how to coach a defense.

    #Klinnsmann out.
    Brazil 1 -0 so far… altho Altidore did nutmeg David Luis which was amusing.

  22. Dark Hei


    I don’t think fans will ever reach a consensus regarding transfers.

    Numbers wise, we are covered this season. Despite what folks say. What everyone can universally agree on, is the quality aspect. So if quality is not available in the market, can we make up the gap in quality by plugging in greater numbers?

    If the answer is yes, it means we are panic buying, because the logical answer is obviously no.

    Could Wenger have at least made a left-field signing like Eduardo? Perhaps, but that will mean the scouts have uncovered a gem before anyone else.

    But if we did make a left-field signing, Wenger will still be accused of lacking in ambition by half the folks here. Though I think Pedro might perhaps be soothed if we find someone under the radar. Kind of like how we got Gabriel.

    Personally I am biased because I want Walcott to be given a shot in a revolving front 3 alongside Sanchez and Ramsey. I don’t think Giroud is the answer but will work as plan B. But I do believe Walcott’s extremely skewed skillset is what this system needs. And yes, I am very happy that he has only “x” touches during the game.

  23. MidwestGun

    Dark Hei –
    I would argue there were many quality players available who would have upgraded over our squad not just making up numbers.
    Diego Costa, Dybala, Jovitec in attack for example. Vidal, Schneiderlin,, actually a whole host of midfielders that were better on the ball or more physical then Santi or Coq. Especially with known injuries to Rosicky and Wilshere and Flamini and Arteta one step away from playing.

    It’s not really an accusation either…. buying no players isn’t ambitious, that’s actually a given truth, imo.

  24. Wallace


    Cool down.
    It’s OK. The season will play out. The world will turn whatever the result.
    Chances are high that AFC wins nothing. You can feel vindicated
    However, less you change your attitude, I doubt you will enjoy it.
    At best you get to say “I told you so” At worst AFC win honours and you look an utter cock.”

    Bamford being able to say, ‘i told you so’, or the team winning….i think he takes the former.

  25. Wallace

    cool to see the Rangers fans appreciating Zelalem. i’d kinda written him off after he made no impact on the first team last year, but no question he’s a lovely player to watch, and is the kind of tempo setting midfielder i think Wenger prefers at the base of the midfield.

    i was surprised he let so many of the young talents go out on loan, but maybe he’s thinking one of Zelalem, Crowley, Gnabry or Akpom can really benefit from the regular games and come back in Jan ready to contribute.

  26. mysticleaves


    you mean Diego Costa was available this summer? hmm..i Ddnt know that. he’s shit anyway so far. Has not been better than Giroud. needs chances on a plate to tap in.

    the risk with Dybala is that he’s from another league, untested outside of it, and still and learning the trade. honestly we would have a better chance of winning this season with Giroud than with Dybala. so to say he would have improved us? I don’t really believe that.
    jovetic was another injury prone guy that probably needed a chance of scenery more than anything else.

    re our midfield…I think it’s more about a host of midfielders being better than Arteta and flamini. not coquelin. cos really they aren’t a host of defensive midfielders better than coq. if you say “comparable” I would agree but why change the coq when you aren’t getting any better?

  27. jasongms

    “Wenger is under constant pressure and scrutiny. Not just from obscure and furious bloggers but media of all forms too.”

    Finishing forth ad infinitum is not inducing pressure or scrutiny , its inviting mediocrity and thats exactly not Arsenal FC has become.

    “Thankfully the people that count, the fans at the matches and the board are supportive.”

    The question here is , supporting what exactly ? because it certainly isnt a football club geared towards success on the field.

    I always marvel at so called Arsenal fans credulousness , that uncritical acceptance that all is well even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. I really wonder what you guys will do when Arsene finally retires, it has to be a nightmarish scenario to contemplate.

  28. Wallace


    “I would argue there were many quality players available who would have upgraded over our squad not just making up numbers. Diego Costa, Dybala, Jovitec in attack for example.”

    a company connected to Chelsea already owned a piece of Costa. the Telegraph reported that they only paid £14m for him because of this. Dybala publicly stated numerous times that Juventus were the team for him. and surprised your name-checking Jovetic with his injury record.

  29. Leedsgunner

    Is wanting your team to do the best with the resources it supposedly has available glory hunting?

    The problem is not the fans. They get behind the team on the field… that’s why people feel disappointed when the team loses to the likes of West Ham.

    The problem is the club. The club doesn’t get behind the fans… which is ironic considering how much we collectively shell out.

  30. MidwestGun

    Douglas Costa….. sorry typed wrong name. Jovetic maybe has an injury history but already has scored 2 goals this season which is 2 more then Welbeck will score. As for Dybala. .. ya he’s a risky younger player but has the skillz to play Cf and winger. Y’all seriously think there was absolutely nobody we could have signed that wouldnt have minimized risk of Welbeck being out? Ok then.