Judge Wenger when everyone is fit?
The international break is an unwelcome pause in the Premier League calendar, even if we did beat the Scots away, but it does give bloggers like me time to reflect on the season so far without the distraction of a game.
It’s also an opportunity to read through other blogs from people who likewise have had some time to reflect.
I’ve seen some interesting points come up, ranging from Aaron Ramsey’s form to how close we are to greatness. These are all worth addressing, (and I will do), but the point that interests me most is the notion that we must judge Arsene Wenger when all the players are fit.
If that’s what we’re waiting for then we’ll be waiting a while, (Abou Diaby), so let’s tweak it to judge Wenger when almost everyone is fit.
I understand the argument, and part of me agrees, mostly because I truly believe that the return of Olivier Giroud is going to be very important for us. In my last blog I mentioned that we get countered when our play breaks down on the edge of the opposition penalty area. The ball sticks to Giroud better, so we’ll have a better chance of completing an attack. This hasn’t changed, and neither has our Plan A system of attack, in which players like Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Rambo run in support of Giroud. (Rambos’ lack of goals have coincided with Giroud being out, but we’ll get to that).
However, part of me disagrees, since our system relies heavily on Giroud to work properly, and Wenger doesn’t have a back-up in case of injury. We have Plan B of course with Danny Welbeck and Alexis Sanchez running in behind, but this only works when teams push up against our midfield as they did last season when we lost Theo. We had no pace to replace him, (we do now) because Ox spent large parts of the season injured or inexplicably playing in central midfield, so we were screwed.
Having Plan A and Plan B is great. It’s gotten us into the top four year after year, but having no back-up for plan A is problematic. Having a Plan B is for an in-game change when Plan A isn’t working, not when Plan A is injured. So, we have to judge Wenger injuries and all.
I understand that some will disagree with this, but one look at Nacho Monreal at centre back should be another reason to judge now.
It’s horrifically obvious that if you play a squad game you need numbers. Getting shot of Thomas Vermaelen, Bacary Sagna and Carl Jenkinson and only bringing in Mathieu Debuchy and Calum Chambers was always going to cause problems.
By all accounts the club also knew Laurent Koscielny was injured at the start of the season, so once again we judge Wenger with injuries because ultimately, he knew we were only one injury away from playing either the inexperienced Chambers or Monreal in the centre of our defence.
Another point that needs to be made is that Wenger is supposed to have assembled a squad that is able to compete in four competitions including the Champions League, so the squad should be capable. Any team will struggle with lots of injuries, but we only have two in defence and we’ve found ourselves in real trouble.
My last point on this issue is this; Look at results against top teams over last few years. Terrible. We can’t always blame injuries for our record against the teams around us.
Last season alone we had 6-0 v Chelsea, 6-3 v Manchester City, 5-1 v Liverpool. We even lost to a terrible Manchester United side. Who were we missing in these games? Theo for Chelsea and Liverpool. The Ox for City. Missing one player is not an excuse. (We were missing Theo, Ox AND Per Mertesacker for United, so draw your own conclusions).
The bottom line is that if you want to win titles, you have to beat the big teams (the community shield doesn’t count). Yes we get the occasional win at home here and there, but if you look at how many points we pick up against the other top sides you’d start drinking before noon. We’ve only picked up two points this season from games against Everton, City and Chelsea. 2 from 9 is not good enough unless 4th place is our only aim. Is that good enough for Arsenal football club? Judge Wenger now and you’ll see that the results speak for themselves.
Anyway, enough moaning. Ramsey has been getting a lot of stick lately and I don’t think it’s fair.
People have been saying that he’s trying to play as a striker and it’s not working. He’s always ahead of the ball when we lose possession. He’s trying to do too much etc. Now while I agree that perhaps his form isn’t great, I think we have to look at Girouds absence for the reasons.
His goals this season were all prior to Giroud’s injury. I’m not saying that Giroud is directly assisting the goals, I’m saying that his ability to link the midfield and attack, as well as the fact that he often occupies two defenders creates the space chances and changes that suits Ramsey’s style of play. He’ll be back by the end of the month. The Rambo that we know and love will come back with him.
How close are we to greatness?
I think we’re very close. Painfully close.
We have a team full of great players. We have an amazing stadium and fantastic training facilities. We have a great fan base and loads of money. We are very close. So what’s stopping us from winning everything?
For me it has to be Wenger. I’m not saying that he isn’t a good manager, I’m saying that he isn’t a great manager. I’ve been through this in my post a few weeks ago so I won’t go through it all again, but it feels like the only thing that’s holding us back is his stubbornness and his refusal to tweak his philosophy.
He wants to win the league with six senior defenders, (if you consider that Chambers was brought in as a first team defender, otherwise it’s five).
He wants to play attacking football to the death, even when we’re 2 or 3 up with half an hour to go. He wants to take top class central midfielders and play them on the wing.
He will only pay what he thinks a player is worth, even when the difference may only be a few million, and we end up losing that player to a rival.
He never wants to rotate the squad even though we have guys like Lukas Podolski and Tomas Rosicky on the bench.
He insists on persisting with players like Yaya Sanogo and Nicklas Bendtner etc, even when the world and his dog can see that they will never be good enough.
Once Arsene goes we may get a terrible manager who makes us long for the days of top 4 survival, or we may get a man with a plan, who will actually be able to beat Jose Mourinho. A man who will pay the going rate for players he wants. A man who will buy a midfield general to dominate the opposition. A man who will take this great club of ours and realise the potential that Arsene has set us up for.