Why did Wenger change?
The recent defeats have made me more pensive about our club than usual. I have said I am Wenger Out for some time here, but then I guess it’s part of my personality and my own vocational experience to be analytical. I have often been involved in roles requiring problem-solving/organisational operations, so I guess I am trying to see the root of the issue here. In essence, I suppose, I am looking to “troubleshoot” Arsenal.
Yes, our club isn’t a computer or some network-device like a switch, or a camera. However, everything in life has a cause, and the cause has to be something, right?
From this point, it’s about figuring out how the formula of 1996-2005 changed. Back then, we had success due to mixing high technicality with passion, desire, and a hyper-competitive attitude.
1996-2005 – the ingredients of our successes
It’s often said Wenger inherited a strong defence in 1996.
He did, without question. Adams, Keown, Winterburn, Dixon, Bould, and Seaman, were all present at his arrival. However, he augmented and enhanced the existing “work hard, die hard” culture. Vieira was certainly a ballsy player, as were Petit and Gilberto.
Henry was not dirty, but his work ethic and temperament were rooted in high standards, and calling out other teammates. He has said on Sky Sports that all of the dressing room (when Wenger was good) used to do it.
So Wenger was able to bring in “hard-nut” players, whether in physicality or mind-set. This is the true thing he inherited and not the defence per se.
Some fans say that the Invincibles had many Graham-era players in it, which is false.
…were signed by Wenger largely, with Bergkamp the notable exception.
So if he was able to build a team that matched the existent club/team culture, how come he stopped?
What changed exactly?
In 2017, we’re reaping what we’re sowing regarding the lack of leaders and poor mental strength of the team. But is there a reason why it changed, and why he reverted from the “hard-mind/hard-body” formula?
Did Fabregas cause this?
Cesc got his debut in the 04/05 season, alongside many of the so-called “hard-nut” players. So he had first-hand knowledge and experience of rows or contention between Henry, Lehmann, Sol, Bergkamp, etc. If he was schooled on this, then he could transfer it to times after Henry left. However, the mental weakness did emerge once he became captain, and our lynchpin player.
Wenger once notably said that he wanted to build an experiment of youth, to see if he could manage the club’s transfer spending in the early years at our current ground. So maybe, it was because we had Bendtners, Songs, Denilsons, and Eboues, that caused this?
Players with a “hard-nut” constitution don’t necessarily cost more to buy. So this reason falls flat, in my estimation at least.
An honest mistake
Maybe he thought that technical players were the way to go. And as per his experiment, it went wrong. He’s only human, after all, right? Well mistakes are fine, we all make them. However, he has not taken time to correct them after many years. So is it an honest mistake, or a worrying pattern?
Mourinho/Chelsea got into their groove in 2005, but they certainly had the “hard-nut” persona. Makelele, Terry, Lampard, Robben, Drogba, etc. were all of a hard-line mentality. This is why, as Chelsea fans claim rather falsely, they were the best ever PL-era team. Though they did have the most points of any team in English history.
Man United had the same in 2008, when they won the PL and champions League. Ronaldo, Tevez, Rooney, Vidic, Ferdinand, van der Saar, etc. were all of the similar constitution.
The competition in this case was money, and not attitude. If anything, Chelsea and United succeeded due to attitude.
It’s clear that something happened in the time around 2006-2008 that changed his emphasis from high technicality, strong mentality, and strong competitiveness, to only high technicality.
What it is can only be speculation, though in my mind it is during this era that our current rot set in.
Let’s hope we can end it soon, and that Wenger can (for his sake and ours) restore the pride we all once had in him.