Friday, March 1, 2024

In defence of Arsene

My goodness, what fall out yesterday from the Everton defeat. It went from the calm, considered and intelligent to the emotional, reactionary and not so intelligent. That, I suppose is one of the joys, if you can call it that, of being a football fan. Everybody has their own opinion and in these days when starting your own website is as easy as winding up a Sp*rs fan about how long it’s been since they won the league then it’s little wonder the range of opinion is so varied.

What I would say at the moment is that there are 10 games left this season and that’s still a considerable number of points to play for. Like everyone I’m a bit worried because I can’t really see where the goals are going to come from and the run in is not the easiest one we’ve ever had.

However, I think, despite the poor result against Everton the result needs to be put into a bit of perspective. It was our first league defeat since December 30th against Sheffield United but obviously the ill-feeling has been exacerbated by the cup defeats. We’re a team that’s clearly struggling a bit at the moment and shorn of our two most likely goalscorers we’re a bit toothless up front. Hopefully the return of the enthusiastic Adebayor can spark a bit of life into those around him.

I read a number of blogs about Arsene Wenger and some of them think he should go. Actually, I think most of the articles were on the Online Gooner which, if you don’t mind me saying so lads, has been guilty of publishing some rather OTT stuff in the past. Now, I can understand people’s frustrations with the team and with the manager but I think you’re jumping the gun a bit here. If you read around Manchester United sites for the last couple of years you’d have seen very similar articles. The accusations were almost the same, the club had gone backwards, the players brought in weren’t good enough, the formation was this or that, the manager had lost it and would never get it back.

Now, maybe you might call United’s season lucky and perhaps they have been fortunate with injuries but they are where they are and that’s the top of the league, in the semi-finals of the FA Cup and still in the Champions League. Not bad for a manager who had ‘lost it’ and ‘must go’. Were they premature in writing him off? Absolutely.

I think the same thing is happening with Arsene Wenger at the moment and I think it’s also premature. The Highbury Spy says we’re a ‘joke’, which I think is very harsh. I’m as frustrated and pissed off as anyone when we lose, especially to horrible cunts like Warnock and Mark Hughes but as I said there are 10 games left in the season, we can finish third and if we do then we will have improved from last season. We may not have challenged for the title but we’ll have improved. People will point to his continued reluctance to bring in established, quality players and that is something I think he can do better with. There was a time when Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal were a team that mixed quality football with power, athelticism and they were a team that had a bit of an edge. They got stuck in.

At the moment we’re lacking that part of our game, we’re lacking the character and spirit that those players in the past gave us. I’m sure the players at the moment are probably more technically gifted than they were but nice close control and drag backs don’t always win you games in snow storms when you need a big fucking clogger to drive the team on. That is something I hope the manager addresses in the summer.

If you read around you’ll see the manager talking about how he doesn’t need a striker in the summer. He says:

Up front we have Henry, Van Persie, Adebayor, Walcott, Baptista, Aliadiere and also Bendtner who is coming back from Birmingham. Where do you put all these players?

He’s right. Granted, I’d put Aliadiere and Baptista on a slow boat to China and I don’t expect either of them to be at the club next season but there’s method to his words and I don’t think a forward is what we need. He does the same with the midfield, saying:

There is a lot of strength within the squad and we can compete at the top level. In the middle of the park we have Hleb, Rosicky, Diaby, Fabregas, Denilson, Gilberto and Song. What can you add?

Now, even a blind man can see that none of those midfield players gives us natural width and somebody has to be sacrified to bring that kind of a player in because that’s the player we need more than any other. However, at this stage of the season I don’t really envisage Arsene Wenger saying “Well, yes, I’ll be making a number of changes this summer because some of the players I’ve got aren’t really doing the business.”

He needs the guys he’s got at the moment, he needs them to believe they’re important and can win games and to have confidence. Making veiled, non-specific threats about getting rid of players isn’t going to do that at this stage of the season and the games we’ve got coming up won’t be won by players worrying if they’re the ones on the list. Maybe it might spur some of them on but maybe not and it’s never been Arsene’s way to criticise any of his players in public.

Where and when we need to judge is the end of the season – to start with. If we’ve improved from last season we can take that as a positive and build on it from there. Then we need to see what sort of movement we’ll have in the transfer market in the summer. I think there’s as much potential in some of these players as the manager does but some of them have had their chances and they haven’t taken them. We won’t win anything with just potential. Some quality, and established quality, must be added to the squad in the summertime to bring on some of the younger players and give us the qualities that we’re missing. It’s not as if Hleb is going to learn how to go past a full back between now and August or Aliadiere or Baptista suddenly become hot-shot strikers. Their limitations, along with a couple of others, are plain for all to see and if he’s serious about challenging for titles and cups then they have to be addressed. Those who have been given plenty of chances and haven’t delivered out. Some new blood in.

If he doesn’t do that in the summer and we find ourselves 20-odd points behind the leaders next March then I think it’d be wrong if we didn’t ask questions of Arsene and his policy. I love the fact that he’s discovering gems like Cesc, Denilson, Diaby etc etc and it’s a remarkable talent for any manager to have – not many do – but I’d love it even more if he augmented them with a bit more experience and players who can bring something a bit different to the current side. I’m happy to give him the time to do that and although you might say his transfer dealings in previous summers don’t necessarily auger well for this one I think the underlying fact that Arsene is an intelligent man and is as aware of his team’s failings as anyone will see him do something about the make up of the squad.

So, in conclusion, too early to write off Arsene Wenger no matter how frustrating games like yesterday are. Let’s not forget it was barely 6 or 8 weeks ago when we were taking Liverpool apart at Anfield, twice in three days, that people couldn’t praise his youth policy enough. I’d suggest that people are too quick to hype up the good stuff and too quick to make mountains out of molehills when something bad happens. And that’s that.

A quick news round-up for you now: Jens Lehmann has denied any contact with Hertha Berlin. I still expect him to leave in the summer. One of the candidates to replace him is Hearts Craig Gordon (and you can hear Bob Wilson talk about him and Ben Foster in the current Arsecast).

Gilberto states the obvious and says that the game against Liverpool will go a long way to decide who finishes third while the boss talks about how the whole transfer system could undergo a change.

Finally, wasn’t that incident at the end of the Sp*rs v Chelsea game last night just disgraceful. To get that close to Frank Lampard then swing like a granny and fail to connect with your punch is absolutely shameful. That fan should be banned for life for being completely crap, the useless twat.

More tomorrow.

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