A Realistic Assessment – The Descent

I seldom write or update this blog. Whenever I do, it’s got to be something that I really need to get off my chest. So obviously, it’s about Arsenal this time.

I picked Arsenal as my team when i was 8 years old. I did it without watching them play. I read extensively and found the Arsenal model to be self sustaining, strategically smart and it did show a few years later where it bore fruit. At that point, Man Utd was the by far the leading team. Occasionally, Liverpool, Newcastle and Leeds were shoo ins. Even Aston Villa one season. I went for the underdog as usual. The Arsenal that I knew was a superb counter attacking team. It comprised of a solid back 4, fast wingers, and 2 physically combative center mids. We had no center forwards. We had a forward that dropped back in the hole to provide for a second forward that broke through the flanks. That was something I subscribed to, I am a sucker for solid foundations and I view teams from defense up. I believed that counter attacking was a really smart move. You save energy because you make the opposition run at you continually, and you take them down in quick bursts where they are vulnerable from throwing players forward.

Fast forward to today, things have gone 180. Arsenal is a victim of its success in the late 90s/early 2000s. It evolved from a simple counter attacking team to a ‘foreigner only’ team, to a stylish ‘sexy’ team and to a team that doesn’t know how to win. One has to remember that the solid foundations were not built by AW. They were laid by George Graham. He built the back  famous back 4. AW’s introduction to the team enabled a special balance as he kept the original back 4. This balance saw the team through its finest seasons. AW had, at that point, developed a knack of beating Fergie. Scroll through the records, Arsenal was Man Utd’s most feared opponents. We even won the league at their backyard. But AW’s obsession with attacking football is the cause of its downfall.

Downfall.

It is not money. It is Wengerball.

Wengerball is beautiful to watch but physically exhausting to carry out. In economic terms, the marginal rate of return (in goals) was poor when compared to the effort put in. In playing this exciting brand of football, AW started seeing the number of injuries in the squad rise. If you think along these lines, there’s no surprise why we always seem to have brittle players. We bought flashy players who couldn’t stand up to the harsh conditions of English football. We made them dance samba on hard bruising rocks, when they could’ve simply walked.

The problem about Wengerball was that it did not work against big teams. And, it took too much effort against smaller ones. Arsenal, still after all these AW years, have nothing close to a Plan B. He has forgotten the roots of his success beacuse the seeds were planted by Graham.

The downturn of Arsenal was not brought about by United. It was brought by Mourinho. I believe that Mourinho was the man who changed English football and will do so in Spain if given sufficient seasons. Mourinho was an archetype of the old Arsenal. Remember ‘1-0 the Arsenal’? It was ‘1-0 to Chelsea’  during the Mourinho years. It is no surprise that the game play we built our success on in the past was turned against us. Everything you saw in the Arsenal of the late 90s were found in the Chelsea of the late 2000s (strategy wise). AW did not adapt. Fergie did. United changed into a more defensive minded team focusing on a strong midfield with direct forays in attack. You could see them as a balance between an ultra defensive Chelsea to a suicidal attacking Arsenal. AW stubbonly stucked to Wengerball. Even till now.

Let’s not look at money, let’s not talk about young players. For even if we buy over the entire City team (which imo is the best team in the league currently), Wengerball will be their downfall. AW is a trained Economist, a field very familiar with me. Unfortunately, it has not yielded a solid strategist. AW was prudent in the market, a true mark of his qualifications. However, nothing in his strategic plans in the English game showed foresight and understanding.

I do not write this in reflection of the worthy trashing handed by United. I write what I have been saying for many seasons. Wengerball must go. Wenger has to return to the counter attacking team he fused when he first came.

AW should not be fired because he didn’t spend money. He should not be fired because he didn’t win trophies. He should be replaced because he failed in crafting the right strategy for the league he is working at.

AW is a fine man. You hear ex players call him a ‘second father’. He is after all a second father to many at Arsenal. Unfortunately, no one really talks about his managerial abilities. Because there is none to speak of.

P.S. With the current batch of talent, Wengerball is nearly un-doable – as we’ve seen for past months. Yet he still tries to force square pegs into round holes.



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