Wenger’s training ground tirade + Arsecast 229

The Arsecast, Arsenal podcast

So, according to pretty much all the media reports this morning, Arsene Wenger went ‘crazy’ at the players during a training ground meeting yesterday.

Having stewed overnight on what he’d seen against Milan, he gave them bollocking/rollocking/dressingdown type thing and, frankly, who can blame him? If he’d chased them around Benny Hill style trying to whack them with a very big stick it’d be hard not to say it was justified. He had plenty to be angry about.

The dismal display against Milan, as well as costing us a chance of a place in the next stage of the Champions League, reflected badly on the club as a whole. And in football when the club is under the spotlight then the manager is the one who takes the brunt of the blame. That is how it is, how it always has been, and always will be. It’s plaudits and praise when things go well, brickbats and broadsides when they don’t.

If Arsene felt let down by some of his players on Wednesday night then he has a right to be aggrieved. As I said yesterday it was the manner of the defeat which hurt far more than the defeat itself. Those players might not be the best Arsenal team we’ve seen during Wenger’s time at the club but they’re not as bad as that scoreline suggested, so I’ve got no problem whatsoever with the manager laying into them, making them accountable and demanding better.

Yet, there’s little point in him going mad at them without some introspection too. If the players were culpable then so was he. After all, these are his players, he bought them, he trains them, he sets them up for games, he picks the team and in hindsight he might consider the selection wrong. Oxlade-Chamberlain should have started for me, and the unceremonious way in which Theo Walcott was hooked at half-time suggests he knew it too, even if Henry was the one to replace him.

He didn’t pick his best team on Wednesday night, choosing an understandable but misguidedly conservative approach, when perhaps we don’t have the ability to be that subtle just yet. We had a rotten January and after only two good results sticking with what worked, for the most part, would actually have been the sensible approach. Not picking Oxlade-Chamberlain was the risky move and it backfired because it impacted on the way the team played.

Now, that’s not to say that if we’d played the young man all would have been well, hindsight is a marvellous gift to have when writing about football, but it just strikes me that it couldn’t have been much fucking worse, could it? He was, during the darkest moments of the last month, the obvious bright spark and while I can understand a reluctance to heap too much pressure on him, the fact is he is a player in form. He might have had a quiet game against Sunderland but he deserved a place in the side on merit rather than reputation, a quality Arsene seems overly fond of at times.

The other thing that worries me slightly about these kind of ‘hairdryer’ stories is how effective they are in the long-term. If it serves to re-focus the players ahead of tomorrow’s game, which while always important has now taken on huge significance, then that’s great. But you can’t do that every week, for every little thing. And I’m not sure it addresses the fundamental issue – why did the Milan performance happen in the first place?

You can get the whole gamut of opinion across this great web of hours. Players aren’t good enough, summer wasn’t good enough, manager’s past it, owner sits in his Colorado Castle twirling his ‘tache and seemingly doing little, club put profit before success on the pitch, lack of leadership from boardroom to dressing room, the ghost of Sylvester haunting us and so on.

Many of them have merit, there does seem to be a lack of direction. Nobody still quite knows what Stan is about, Arsene appears more and more isolated, there’s financial confusion, the lack of investment in the squad seemingly at odds with what the balance sheets tell us and when it comes to the football side of things, maybe we need more from Arsene than a meeting at which he lets off some steam in the direction of his shocked players.

Shouting and roaring, raving and ranting, will have an immediate impact. Unless the players really don’t give a shit – and I don’t think that’s the case – then they will do their best to respond. But soon enough the ranting and raving becomes easy to ignore and the key is solving the problem so that’s no longer neccessary. What is a more effective, long-term message: some shouting after a bad performance or, when the under-performers consistently under-perform, dropping them and ultimately replacing them in the team? Let them ply their capricious trade somewhere else and it certainly sends a message to the rest.

That requires something of a change in tack from the manager, yet who is there to stand up and give the club in general the bollocking it seems to need? Our issues are not confined to the pitch alone, what’s happening at the top is affecting what’s happening at the bottom, and while the manager and the players are the frontline it would be wrong to ignore the bigger picture. Unless we strive to improve everything about the way the club operates – from simple things like communication from the owner, to crucial issues like how we conduct our transfer business – then the training ground tirades will only go so far.

And that’ll be true under Arsene, under another manager and with new players. You can’t put a plaster over a wound which needs stitches and hope for the best. All we can do is keep fingers crossed that nights like Milan teach us lessons to ensure that nights like Milan don’t happen again.

Right, time for this week’s Arsecast. Joining me to discuss Sunderland, Milan and the fall-out from that is Philippe Auclair. Also in the mix, Internet Joe, Amaury Bischoff PI and your chance to win an engraved Arseblog iPod (something to try and cheer people up).

You can subscribe to the Arsecast on iTunes by clicking here. Or if you want to subscribe directly to the feed URL you can do so too (this is a much better way to do it as you don’t experience the delays from iTunes). To download this week’s Arsecast directly – click here (22mb MP3) or you can listen directly below without leaving this very page.

[audio:http://podcast.arseblog.com/arsecast/arsecast_episode229.mp3]

From what I gather there’s no pre-Sunderlad press conference, but news should drip out through the day. Follow it on Arseblog News (and follow Arseblog News on Twitter for instant notification of same).

We’ll have a proper look at that game in tomorrow’s blog. Have a good one.

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