Arsene is a square peg and the players are a round hole.
The Arsenal Way
Fast, fluid attacking football, with an emphasis on counter attacking. That is the Arsenal way, or should I say the Arsene way, because we certainly didn’t play that way under George Graham or Bruce Rioch. Perhaps I should even say that it was the Arsene way, because we don’t seem to play that way anymore, (it’s hard to counter attack when the opposition camp on the edge of their 18 yard area).
So what has happened to Arsenal, and more pertinently, what has happened to Arsene?
I believed after the defeat of Mourinho’s Chelsea in the Community Shield in 2015
that Arsene had turned a corner. I thought that he had addressed his flaws and now that there was money available he would dominate English football again. I was wrong, and I think I know why. It’s not his hubris, his lack of aggression or even his lack of tactical preparation. It’s his faith and over-confidence in his players. He believes that they are better than they really are, and it means that the Arsene way doesn’t work anymore.
He said earlier this season that this is the best attack that he has ever had.
Alexis, Özil, Giroud, Walcott, Welbeck & Perez. They are no doubt a good group of players capable of causing mayhem on their day, but would any of them have been in the first XI of the Invincibles?
For that matter, would any of the current team?
Cech for Lehman – As good as our big Czech is, I believe that our big German was slightly better, perhaps just because he had a mad streak in him.
Monreal/Gibbs for Cole – Cole was the best left back in the world at the time.
Bellerin for Lauren – While Bellerin is a very good player and lightening quick, Lauren was no slouch and wins on physicality.
Mustafi/Koscielny for Toure/Campbell – Koscielny is arguably the only current player who would definitely get into our most illustrious XI (in place of Toure). I need not comment on Mustafi for Campbell.
Xhaka/Ramsey for Vieira/Gilberto – Once again I need not comment.
Walcott for Ljungberg – Theo is a fan favourite and he’s scored over 100 goals for Arsenal, but there is no doubt in my mind that Freddie was a better player.
Alexis for Pires/Henry – Depending on where you feel his best position is, Alexis would either be vying to replace Pires on the left or Henry up front.
He would arguably give Pires a run for his money, but the Frenchman didn’t give the ball away nearly as much and his selflessness was one of the reasons the rest of the attack scored so freely. (He also knew where the goal was).
As for Henry, he has a statue outside the ground for a reason.
Özil for Bergkamp – Bergkamp could do everything Özil can do, plus he scored more and he never gave up. It’s not even close.
Welbeck/Giroud for Henry – If you view Alexis as a left winger then it’s down to either Welbeck or Giroud to displace Thierry Henry in attack. It wouldn’t happen.
To surmise, Koscielny would make the cut while Alexis, Özil and Bellerin would probably make the bench. Special mention must go to Santi Cazorla, who may have started in place of Gilberto against lesser teams.
Ultimately what this all means is that with a group of world class players like Cole, Vieira, Bergkamp and Henry, Wenger could train them during the week to play his way and rely on them to get the result at the weekend. With the current crop, he trains them to play his way, but they don’t have the quality to translate that onto the pitch once the whistle goes.
The problem is that Arsene rates them so highly he doesn’t see what we see. It’s the same phenomenon as when Stoke fans question why Ryan Shawcross isn’t in the England team. They think he’s great because he’s their captain, however everyone on the outside sees that he’s actually not that good.
Arsene persevered with Bendtner, Denilson, Senderos etc because he genuinely thought they were good enough for Arsenal football club. They weren’t, and a fair few of our current team aren’t either.
Arsene Wenger is likely to stay for another couple of years. If he does he needs someone at the club who is willing to speak the hard truths. Ramsay is capable of being a great player, but he’s not a great player. Theo is good, but not good enough. Gibbs is not good enough. There are too many players not able to play the Arsene way.
Replacing the ones who aren’t quite good enough is expensive, and Arsene has proven that he’s willing to spend money on the right players, but he first needs to see that his faith in some of them has blinded him to their inadequacies.
If he can finally look at the squad with a cold detachment, he’ll get the right players. Players who can play the Arsene way.