Monday, 25 April 2011

Arsene Wenger

One Arsene Wenger!

Arsene Wenger is fast becoming the most talked about aspect of Arsenal Football Club and it appears it isn't going to quieten down anytime soon. Arsene Wenger is beginning to see his popularity diminish amongst some supporters and unfortunately for those who want the legendary Frenchman to leave are classed as morons and branded not true supporters of AFC. The 'Wenger Out' arguement is normally stopped pretty quickly, as a lot of people have no time for this type of conversation and people never hear their point of view and reasoning behind such an opinion. Now I am most certainly not a Wenger Out type of person but I am willing to list concerns surrounding AW and how counter productive it has become for our club. Every gooner knows everything great he has done for the club and there probably isn't a manager in the land who could operate like he does, operating at a 11.5 million profit since 2004 compared to that of our near neighbours who have a deficit of 239.6m (via @jwtelegraph).

That unfortunately has been AW's achilles heel, the lack of spending on proven talent. We take gambles on talented players like Koscielny, Nasri and Theo Walcott. You need to compete both on and off the pitch these days and our work off the field since David Dein left the club hasn't been very spectacular. We need proven players, players with a winning mentality and players who are willing to thrive in the face of adversity. A few transfer windows ago we had the opportunity to sign Xabi Alonso but we turned that opportunity down because it would kill such talents as Denilson. Such decisions can and will be magnified as Denilson not progressed after showing signs of promise and argueably has been over used in past seasons and he could have done with an experienced head like Alonso around the club. A fee of approx 18m may have looked expensive but in truth it would have been a fantastic investment. Our team lacks a positive & winning experience throughout the side, all we know is how to lose big games when it matters and that has spread throughout the side. We have been labelled as chokers and bottlers and it's backed up by countless fixtures echoed by our inability to beat Birmingham City to win the Carling Cup. That is a fixture we should never lose, in fact they've only beaten us once in The Premier League and that was a week before we won the FA Cup in 2006. Experience counts for a lot at the highest level and we can't expect to realistically compete until we buy finished articles.

As for Arsene himself , he may have forgotten how to win big games, it's apparent in too many freak results that we can't kill sides off. Keeping possession is our forte (unless playing against the might of Barcelona) but when we have our backs against the wall everyone panics. Our calm, measured passing game turns into a mass panic ensuing and the ball suddenly turns into a grenade and we thump it forward at the drop of a hat. When did you last see a play in red and white head for the corner flag? Sometimes the most simple of tactics can be the most effectve. Our defending from set pieces leads us to question what sort of training do we do to counter that? These aspects need to be addressed but we seem to approach the same situations with the same navievty time after time. The players also need to be accountable but how do their poor displays get rewarded? Usually with a start the following week. Our line up at Newcastle was followed up with 1 enforced change, how will this side learn? Jack and Cesc were anonymous in the 2nd half at St James' but both have become so indispensable that we can ill afford to axe either of them in fear of one of them wanting to leave. The same happened on Wednesday night, we blew a 3-1 lead and we made 1 change (again enforced) for the following game. How can this side ever learn when nobody is held accountable? Am I too naive to think a good stint on the bench would be beneficial to a players motivation? Do players not learn from having a spell on the sidelines? Alex Ferguson has benched such players as Beckham, Giggs, Yorke etc and it didn't do any of those any harm. Also AW continues to defend the indefensible, Take Emmanuel Eboue for example, Henry Winter stated last week that Wenger was so viciouris in his attack on the ref that Eboue probably didn't feel that he had done anything wrong. When the truth was he didn't need to be as close as he was to Lucas and subsequently threw away 2 points in a title race. Players can't be allowed of the hook that easy. Eboue needs to be told he cost us that that game and that he let his team mates down.

The big question for Arsene is will he change his ways? He doesn't have to change our style, just the personnel. AW hasn't spent much recently so it's not like we are writing off x amount of millions of pounds. It takes a big man to admit mistakes and every gooner would accept it was a venture that didn't go as planned and we would all happily move on. Look at the fact he has effectively spent nothing over the last 7 years and the board must be sitting on a budget worth far more than the anticipated 40 million. We need big characters such as the types that have graced us for many a year like Adams, Vieira, Bergkamp, Henry, Keown, Seaman Etc. Let's be a bit more flamboyant in our signings, they are out there. We need more creativity, a bit more strength and toughness, a ruthless streak to grind out that crucial win. We need to rid ourselves of players that have not progressed as we had hoped and cash in and reinvest. Let's get 3 or 4 good signings in, add a freshess to the side, create real competition amongst the squad and kick on. This has gone on too long now and AW needs to buy collectively like he did in 1997 and 2001, he reinvigorated the squad and didn't shy away from selling fan favourites such as Paul Merson.

The big worry will come if Wenger doesn't change, we stick to our current philosophy and we are in the same position next season. At presnt Kroenke and co are unlikey to pressure AW at the risk of massively falling out with the fans but should the fans begin to turn against him then that decision becomes much easier. That minority shouldn't become a majority anytime soon but someone at the club needs to sit down with the great man and tell him how close to success we have been and how investment can reap rewards. The club are desperately seeking ways to increase marketing throughout the world, well the best way is to be successful. It makes things a lot easier.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Asking The Enemy

It's North London Derby time and once again we find are title chances all but over heading into this fixture. Last season we lost 2-1 and we failed to recover until the final game of the season v Fulham. Let's hope this isn't another case of deja vu.

We are coming off the back of a catastrophic last 2 minutes v Liverpool and this sides ability to rise to a challenge is once again in question. The referee did get the decision right but AW refuses to accept that fact and who knows what the players made of all that. We still haven't managed to win more than 3 games in the Premier League all season and although we are unbeaten in the league since December 13th we find ourselves 6 points behind United. The sooner players and management start taking responsibility seriously we might just start seriously competing for major honours.

Anyway, enough rambling. This week see's a view from a different perspective. Sometimes we get a little lost in our on world of issues at Arsenal so I decided to ask a few questions of Sp@rs supporter Andrew King.

MJ: First of all, a little bio on you.
AK: 27, lawyer, Hertfordshire. Dad was a Spurs fan so inflicted upon me! First game when 6, 0-0 draw v QPR in 1990. First real memory is of FA Cup triumph the following summer, including THAT goal.

MJ: I know they always say form goes out of the window for a derby game but what sort of form are you bringing into this fixture?
AK: Not good. We took 9 points from Bolton and from trips either side to Blackburn and Sunderland which seemed to set us up nicely for the season run-in. However, since that famous victory in Milan, we've only taken 6 points from a very winnable 15 as well as exiting the Champions League. Of most concern is that in the 8 games since the San Siro, we've fired 5 blanks.

MJ: What areas of strength and weakness (if any) do you see in this current Arsenal side?
AK: As always with Wenger's Arsenal sides, going forward, you can be a joy to watch. Plenty of creativity and although Nasri's form has dropped off since Christmas, Robin van Persie cannot seem to stop scoring. As for weaknesses, same old same old it seems. Szczesny looks a decent prospect but is very raw and will make plenty of mistakes as the Carling Cup Final showed. In Vermaelen's absence, you seem to have a soft centre that teams can exploit.

MJ: What areas of strength and weakness (if any) do you see in your side?
AK: We have built up a strong midfield with plenty of creativity. The difficulty for Harry will be striking the right balance when they are all fit. Our approach was far too gung-ho when we came to the Emirates earlier in the season and we paid for that by going 2 down before half time. Luka Modric has had a superb season and seems to get better each week. Defensively, we are much stronger these days. Weaknesses? A lot of talk has been made of our strikers which has clearly been the biggest problem of our season. The biggest frustration is that these scored bucket loads last season to fire us to 4th. In the interest of fairness, I have to point a finger at our goalkeeper too.

MJ: How do you see this impacting the game?
AK: For us, it depends on how we respond to elimination from the Champions League. This is the ideal game to get our season re-started. The Lane will be rocking on Wednesday and if Harry can get the players focused on the race for 4th, we'll have a decent chance of taking the points. Wenger rarely loses a NLD and has never lost both in a season. Even if your title challenge is now over, there's 2nd place, pride and revenge for the Emirates to play for.

MJ: Your strikers have been largely of the non-striking variety lately, so what is your likeliest route to goal on Wednesday?
AK: Down the flanks. We need to get Bale and Lennon on the ball and running at your fullbacks. Van der Vaart returning to form would also help!

MJ: What do you see as the key battle/s ahead of the NLD?
AK: If the game is tight, it will be won in central midfield. Wenger will presumably play 5 and I expect Harry to match that with Van der Vaart playing off Crouch, a little further forward. Fabregas and Wilshere will see a lot of the ball and we can't let them dictate play. Huddlestone is only just back from injury and was off the pace against Madrid so I would like to see Sandro in there alongside Luka, in an attempt to frustrate and break up your play. Van Persie v Dawson is the other key battle for me. RvP likes scoring against us and we need Dawson to play as we know he can.

MJ: Finally, what's your score prediction for Wednesday?
AK: I am hoping for a cracker but feel it may be tight, with few goals. 1-1.

I'd like to thank Andy for his contribution and you can follow him on twitter @ajk_thfc (especially if we win, feel free to take the piss).

Personally I think we'll win this one, they are very vulnerable at the back and as Andy said midfield will be key and Cesc can win that, even with a dodgy hamstring. RVP can't possibly be as poor as he was yesterday and usually does well in this game. A win would certainly get a feel good factor back amongst the team heading into our remaining games and our challenge of consolidating 2nd place.

Here's to an enjoyable Wednesday night and for those attending, good luck!