An Arsenal Overhaul or Sustained Faith – Take Your Pick

I was quite frustrated after the Burnley result as you must have noticed from my review. But I didn’t say the title hopes were over and if you are a regular reader you will have noticed that I am extremely pro-Arsene and have always talked about keeping the faith.

Over the last couple of days I have read some articles and comments talking about how our hopes are over and many of our players are completely useless. I can understand the frustration people must feel when things go wrong, but when someone just waits for every opportunity to belittle the players and the managers work, you have to think they genuinely believe those things even when they are sober.

Let’s look at the various issues people have

  • Many of our players are not good enough
  • The manager is stubborn and does not want to spend
  • The club don’t have any ambition

Let me explore these issues one by one

Player Quality

There has been a long standing debate over the abilities of Denilson, Diaby, Silvestre, Senderos, Eboue and Almunia. Others like Fabianski, Mannone, Djourou, Walcott, Vela, Ramsey, and Bendtner are not considered as finished articles by many observers.

Over the last few weeks, especially after the Chelsea game, Eduardo has joined the list of players who are no good. Rosicky is considered a perpetual crock and people have even started talking of RvP in those terms.

Individually, everyone has favorites they like to pick on. If you think about the collective opinion of the media and the Arsenal fans, over half our squad is not good enough! Yet, we are third in the race and within touching distance of the leaders.

There is one simple thing I would like to ask everyone. How much time do we spend watching and analyzing a game? I can break this question up into more detailed ones. How many of us watch the whole game at least twice? Is watching the match once and watching some highlights enough to form a definitive opinion? Throughout the game, do we notice the off the ball movement of players who are not directly involved with the play? Can we notice the players who are not covered by the camera angle? Do we let our bias and feelings affect what we see?

Is it really so easy to analyze a game and what does one do to be objective about it?  If the analysis was so easy, why do we see a dearth of top quality football managers in the world? Why do many great ex football players struggle with management?

I don’t think most of us can even define all the qualities that make a top player. Isn’t it overly simplistic to say that the player must be strong, quick, technical, etc? Can we measure these parameters? If we can’t measure them, how do we decide who is or isn’t worth millions? Can any decision worth such vast sums of money be based on an individual’s feelings about who is or isn’t good?

This brings me to the next point.

Arsene is Stubborn

As far as my limited understanding goes, Arsene Wenger is one of the most objective analysts in the world of football. The number of players he has discovered and developed is staggering. Can it be coincidental or is there a method to his madness?

I like to believe that Wenger has a clear understanding of what works and what doesn’t. He has well defined ways of measuring the parameters that he finds important. For instance, do we seriously think that AW would have just looked at Yaya Toure or Cana and decided they were not going to add too much to the Arsenal team? Or is it more likely that he would have sent scouts to watch them and measure their performance on some well defined criteria before comparing them to the players we have and taking his decision?

I haven’t done the numbers but Arsene’s success rate in finding top quality talent is probably the highest i.e. the ratio of successful players to the total players signed. Of course the present squad is still under scrutiny due to a lack of silverware. But most of these players were signed when they were just kids. Isn’t this all the more tough when you sign really young players and don’t know how they will actually develop? Does any other manager even come close to Wenger in this regard?

We have spent money on the likes of Nasri, Arshavin and Vermaelen. They have all been a huge success. On the other hand Berbatov is finding it difficult to make it to the United starting line up. Anderson, Nani, et al aren’t really setting the world on fire. Chelsea have had their fair share of flops. I don’t even want to talk about the Tots or Citeh.

So is it fair to say that Arsene is stubborn and does not want to spend or is it better to say that Arsene works really hard and studies a great deal of players before deciding who will or will not improve the team. And he gets it right more often than not.

Why did Real Madrid try to sign a manager who hasn’t won anything for four years? They had plenty of cash and could have hired anyone as the manager. Now there is some news that Citeh want Wenger. Do they see something in Le Boss that some of our supporters miss?

The Club Lack Ambition

This one irks me the most. Some people define buying big names as the one and only definition of ambition. What can you say to them? Will they ever understand that nothing in life is so straightforward? Can they ever understand a step-by-step approach to success or will they only believe in the magic wand philosophy?

Is there a bigger insult to a man who resists the lure of Madrid to focus on a project he believes in? Would Wenger be ambitious if he left Arsenal for riches of Spain?

If Arsenal as a club are not ambitious, then do we consider Portsmouth ambitious? After all they did win the FA Cup! That itself makes them a more successful club than Arsenal in the recent past, doesn’t it? Do we want to trade places with Pompey? Should the club sack Wenger and sign Redknapp then! He will certainly spend a lot of money and bring in all the steel we have been missing.

I can see this has turned out to be a long article with more questions than answers. Socrates once said, “True insight comes from within.” I strongly believe in that and consider it impossible for me to convince anyone to change their opinions. What I can do is share the way I see the complexities involved in these issues, something that I have attempted through this article.

My conclusions are that football management, in itself, is an extremely complex job and once you add the responsibility of balancing the financial budget and working under a framework of principles, it becomes a near impossible task. Arsene has taken a massive responsibility and put us so close to success. Now, do we want to overhaul the Arsenal system or do we sustain the faith – take your pick.

(If you want to lighten your mind after such a long piece, do check out the contest I am running. Just predict the correct score and first scorer for our game against Hull for a chance to win Arsenal merchandise. Details on this link.)

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38 Responses to An Arsenal Overhaul or Sustained Faith – Take Your Pick

  1. Nitin Damodaran says:

    This is by far of the best post that i have read in the recent times. Thanks mate for putting ur views across..less hope it works and actually makes some sense people this was addressed to.

  2. venky says:

    Nobody is asking for an overhaul my friend, we are all true lovers of this great club as you are,asking to add a little bit quality in strike and defence which will give us that cutting edge to rule once again

    • desigunner says:

      venky, I am not against adding quality players as I have written in the past.

      Just follow the comments to this post and you will see the diversity of problems being mentioned. Either most of these are incorrect/incomplete or we need an overhaul.

  3. Hong_gunner says:

    Well put. What most ‘fans’ dont understand are the basics of the game. People talk about the invincible team we had and how great they were. But make not mistake about it, that team wasnt BOUGHT. Wenger built that squad over the end of the century and keeping the squad together was the key. We didnt have many transfer headlines before the start of 03-04, Lehmann being our only summer signing. Wenger is building a squad and it needs patience and time. And im confident enough to say that we’ll have atleast one silverware come the end of May. I remember how people slated Song a year back. The same people cant do without him now. People slated Viera as well when he had arrived. Need i say more about the guy?
    But what pleases me most is that wenger is laying a wonderful path for the future of our club for years to come rather than spending like a headless chicken and risking going the Leeds way. If u love the club, love it forever. If u want instant glory, go to Chel$ea. Apparently they’re going for Ribery.

  4. stonroy says:

    hysterical so basically we are not qualified to say how good they are. I generally watch the games at least twice but it doesn’t take a brain scientist to see this team does not have the desire to be champions. They switch off far too easily when they go in front, and that is pure laziness. Where is the hunger? Where is the drive? The ambition? I’ll tell you where, there are 20 year old kids earning 60 thousand pounds a week, the ambition is sapped from them as they laugh away thinking how easy it was for them to get it. They need to grow up and learn as men before these things come to you. Cesc is an unusual case. You know what I’m saying is right. It’s more than technically good football, it’s the hunger to succeed.

    • desigunner says:

      stonroy, I am not judging who is or isn’t qualified to say how good they are but I am asking people to judge themselves.

      I have time and again asked questions about the teams desire and hunger to win. So how do we solve it? By buying one or two players or by revamping the whole system? I have even raised the point of bringing a sports psychologist to help us improve mentally.

      You have raised a good point, but you haven’t given the solution. I am looking forward to your solution to this issue.

    • s says:

      i dont think you are no. I dont for any minute think you Stoneroy or any other arsenal fan would be able to go out in the transfare marked and pick a player that would fit in and make arsenal a better team. I really do not. Sometimes it is even hard for managers. Look at city. they used 200million, where did that take them? I think it is extremly arrogant of you to think you could find players or do better jobs. It is always easy to find the faults but its very hard to sort them out.
      I think if you or any other supporter was as good as you say, you would be hired as managers already…

  5. Duke says:

    Good post mate, some valid point, let’s not dwell on the question though, no trophies for 5 years = something has to change.
    Don’t over analyse, you can see when a player is good on not by watching the game, like Theo was not good on Wednesday, and like Cana and Lee are doing a great job at Sunderland and would be welcome additions.
    As Arshavin would say: Simples.

  6. hmm... says:

    i wud call it an average post…..simply b’coz only a single point of view is represented…i ma going to represent the negetive one, then it’s upto u guys to debate…don’t call it crap….and don’t delete this..

    1)Player quality:

    nobody on tv can watch every player,their movements, their runs but every body watches the same thing for every other team, and what does that say???? players of utd,chelsea make better runs, better finishes, efficient movements than arsenal players. i mean that’s why they are above arsenal. More importantly they have a number of strong characters which i seriously doubt in arsenal, evident from the fact how utd won even after playing woeful football against arsenal. that small amount of character that arsenal team has takes a nose dive when away from home.

    my verdict:- nobody is actually saying that arsenal have crap players who are good for nothings, what guys are saying is arsenal have crap players not good enough to win the premier league(mind it only premier league). and i don’t know when ars day will come in cl or fa cup as said by everybody “arsenal can beat anyone on their day”.

    wenger has just raised the level of term “crap players” coz definitely arsenal so called crap players are way better than first teamers of liverpool mancity tots and aston villa, no need to say other teams name. But not just good enuf than chelsea and utd.

    in my opinion utd are centimeters asay from us but chelsea are lightyears away…in terms of proven quality..

    • desigunner says:

      anup I don’t delete comments that are trying to make a point even if they are against my views. The only time I deleted your comments was when you went on having a conversation with yourself.

      The statistical analysis that I had done showed that we had better finishing ratios. We are also up there in scoring terms. So I don’t know how you have come to the conclusion that the chavs or the mancs are better. Is it because you have decided they are better and are looking for reasons to justify that?

      • hmm... says:

        no, on the fact that table doesn’t lie…stats that u r watching or banking upon are against poor teams at emirates 4-1, 3-1, 6-3,etc. but what’s the end result???chavs and utd have better goal difference….stats are necessary but see the stats when we are away from home barring that everton game, n u will see what iam saying.

    • hmm... says:

      stubborn manager:

      Is wenger stubborn????yes in my opinion….and he shud be bcoz he is trying to do sumthing that is unheard of in modern era epl – winning the title by creating players and not buying. But he’s stubborn not to spend, iam not saying buy a new player but at least do everything to make a player stay at ur club that u created(flamini), i knw it’s flamini syndrome and i shud get over it but in my opinion his absence still is felt, i knw song is a good dm but he lacks speed….flamini was the real engine of arsenal in that gr8 season…for me he was the player of the season…cesc did what he did bcoz flamini did what he was asked to….winning the ball,getting behind defenders, being all over the pitch n more importantly a motivator when chips were down…enuf of flamini..

      wenger is wrong in his stubbornness of not seeing that alumina is not gud enuf for challenging titles(i m not saying crap), he doesn’t know how to organise his defence,as simple as that, he doesn’t command respect…..and i think shay given wud have been an ideal buy for 10 mill, he’s expereinced one of the best in pl and looks in control and can marshall the troops. u have a good youth development system and the only reason it’s being questioned is b’coz he knows how to create players but doesn’t know how to create characters, buy intelligently to shut ur detractors and keep a continued flow of talent. build characters…nobody is saying spend 100 millions every summer, but spend if necessary, ur youth system is such that u won’t need to buy another 10 years.

      My verdict : he’s stubborn not to accept his mistakes, eg. gallas shud have stripped of captaincy much before he shud have replaced ade(by a target man) etc. etc.
      he is a gr8 man but i want him to be a legend in fact every arsenal fan wants it. he has done nothing new by unearthing gemsm i think fergi has already done it before(i consider him as a legend) like becks and rud van nistelroy,hughes etc. etc.

      he’s stubborn not to evolve like fergi did, we cudn’t buy ronaldo b’coz our offer was less than utd, we only just had ramsey b’coz he chose it, utd is no less gr8 than arsenal, then what is the diffence,,,money.. utd are in debt b’coz of their owners not b’coz of spending so i consider them unlucky to be in a massive debt…but wenger it seems is paralysed by fear what will happen to stadium and debt….

      he bought arshavi last january due to gazdiz, and i believe he was the sole reason we r in cl this year…he’s quality with character…nd he certainly has impact on youth of arsenal…kids have their ideal to look upon, more talent will want to come to arsenal for that sole reason…fact is one needs established players to attract talents and trophies..that will in turn help wenger in his youth policy….but unfortunately like most of the arsenal fans he only sees one side of the coin….

  7. Hong_gunner says:

    You say Theo isnt good enough. Watch Sunday’s match again and see how instrumental he was in both our goals. Arshavin too was no magnificient other than the goal at Anfield, was he? Theo is still rusty from the injury, is still young and has a long way to go. He’ll be our new hero goalscorer for years to come. Watch this space.

  8. Hong_gunner says:

    Not at you, mate. Was towards some ‘duke’ dude who has decided walcott to pack to his bags and leave because he was not good on Wednesday night. I’ll ask him, who was outstanding at Turf moor for you to single out walcott? Your new scapegoat, eh?
    @desigunner – you can call me Subrat, mate. Been here at the site recently and its pretty interactive. Keep writing. And yea, the pic for walcott’s run was a nice one. Cheers!

    • desigunner says:

      Subrat, thanks for the clarification. In case you haven’t noticed there is a reply link for each comment. That can help avoid confusions. Just a thought.

      Good to have you here.

  9. Hong_gunner says:

    I cant seem to find it on my mobile though. Is it different for the mobile sites?
    Champions league draw kicks off in half an hour, aint it? I desperately want Stuattgart and the return of Alexander Hleb.

    • desigunner says:

      Sorry, Never browsed through a phone so don’t know much about it 🙂

      Porto ain’t bad either. Ours is the easiest amongst English teams.

  10. SharkeySure says:

    Very good post Desi !!!

    Especially liked the comments about the Invincibles NOT being a bought side.

    Lauren wasn’t bought as a RB was he..?? But now if Arsene decides to change a players position, he gets told ’round pegs in round f***ing holes please Arsene’ – by people who claim to know better !!

  11. SharkeySure says:

    Oi..!!!!

    Its not 5.00am…its 11.00 am in ARSENAL land !!!!

    Wherever you are your time shoud be set to Arsenal Mean Time !!!

    End of rant !

  12. SharkeySure says:

    Oops ….credit to HongGunner re the Invincibles not being bought…

  13. hmm... says:

    one thing that i want management to do is force wenger to sign a contract that he won’t leave arsenal until he has won 7 more pl titles with arsenal….that wud be the right punishment for wenger for this trophy drought….only if it was possible….

  14. Samuel says:

    Arsenal,s worst player William Gallas ,most consistent Alex Song ,most inconsistent Theo Walcott ,most frustrating Abou Diaby ,so there you have it ,make up your own minds?

  15. Cape Gooner says:

    Desi, I know nothing about you other than you write articles I want to read. However, I would guess that being an Indian, your motivation for living in the US is money. Money rules the world. “Rich people” in general and media owners specifically, want Chelsea, ManU and Liverpool to be successful. That means that “money” is successful. If AW is successful, then brains and a plan B can beat money.

    In the same way as financial journalists talk up the market, so football journalists talk up spending money. It is no surprise that this continuous flow of propaganda effects many fans. Best is to ignore them, as you are farting against thunder to try to be heard. Rather continue with your excellent analysis which I thoroughly enjoy.

    • desigunner says:

      CG interesting thoughts. Let me share a few things.

      I understand and agree with what you are saying about money. But money is the last thing that would motivate me. One of the reasons I love Wenger’s work so passionately is because he can see beyond money and achieve things while being loyal to his principles and without taking short cuts.

      I am in the US on a dependent visa. Have a work permit but haven’t found a job that I will enjoy. Main reason for shifting here was to support my wife who is studying to be a psychiatrist and I feel the US is the best place for that course.

      Thanks for your support. Are you based in the US?

  16. bobbygee says:

    Great post.I could write a book on what you wrote and said. All good points. I am a former coach. I coached high school football and basketball. I played futebol when I was in high school and college for one year before I got into trouble. Coaches after a game go to the film room and break down the film. This means they look at the film with a close eye. They replay it over and over again. Usually the coaches film is high view wide angled film. This is so you can see the entire pitch. Players are given grades for their performance.
    I am very frustrated with the performance at Burnley. A break here and a break there Arsenal could have won. For example Thomas’s challenge in the box that resulted in a PK kick for Burnley. Bad move yes. In the heat of the battle these things happen.
    It all comes down to coaching. The manager or coach has to meld many different personalities and egos into a cohesive unit that can function on a pithch that will produce “W”. This is hard. Many players want to be the stars. The scorer and the like. Many times a player will have to sacrifice his stats for the good of the team. Wenger is the manager. He knows what he wants and what his system is. Maybe the idiots in the media should ask him what his system is. If you ask the coaches will tell you.
    I can go on like this but the truth is Arsenal is still the hunt for the title. Money doesn’t always buy titles. Just ask the Dallas Cowboys or Real Madrid.
    This is my two cents.
    http://bobbygee.wordpress.com/

  17. gooner ji says:

    Great post as always and perhaps the longest I have ever read. IMO calling Wenger “stubborn” is the most ridiculous thing that an Arsenal fan can do. It shows clear lack of knowledge about what Wenger has done for us.
    All of us get frustrated after bad results but some of us over react on the situation which is not good.

    I think this article deserves special prise and I salute you once again, Desi. Keep up the good work.

    • desigunner says:

      Thanks Ji.

      Arsene often talks about taking distance before analyzing the game. I think that is important to eliminate the emotion and the media fed cliches. Only then can the analysis be objective.

  18. 100%_gooner says:

    1 more perspective of things with Arsenal….it’s being run as a biz not a football club ever since they left highbury. AW, a qualified economist and person with excellent players’ mgmt skills, fits the bill of the board of directors. I concur with stonroy. Where’s the drive? Previously, you’ve seen the “eye of the tiger” from adams, keown, viera, flamini, etc. when we play any of the top 4 or derby matches. Now, like they say “you don’t win trophies with kids”! But what disappoint me is that we’re more like PSV(feeder club) now! Players that improved, we sell them off for A PROFIT. As long as the numbers are good, the board probably won’t bother if we take the route of liverpool(yrs w/o silverware). Thus, I suspect AW hands are tied. Problem is that football is not football anymore. It has evolved into a sports entertainment cos too much $$$ at stake. Bookmakers, syndicates, mafias, etc. call the cards. Why do you think a dominant club at anfield in the 90’s can put up the “no trophy” nonsense for so long.
    Last but not least, I’ve been a gooner since 2002. I’ve lost in excess of $20K punting on Arsenal! Always been heart rule over head. In case some of you think I’m not with AW in this discussion.

    • desigunner says:

      I think Wenger tries to keep the players but doesn’t force anyone or break his principles for anyone.

      For instance, Flamini had a good deal on offer but went for more money and is now lost in the crowd. Hleb insisted he wanted to go. Adebayor was a troublemaker. Only Toure is a strange case, the others haven’t really been sold for profit. The money we got from Hleb was immediately invested as the right player was available.

      I understand the importance of money but I don’t think Wenger takes decisions based on money. And I am convinced he won’t let the board dictate transfer policy to him.

  19. s says:

    I think the couch managers have to take a deep look at themselves, everyone can see and spot problems but very few can actually fix them. As i sad above. If any of you wannabees had the slightest talent in going out in the transferee market and pick the players our club needs to improve you would already have a job like that. You dont. I can also see that Walcott has not had the best of seasons yet, i am not blind. But to find a player with the mentality and the integrity and the potential and the ethics to be an arsenal player instead of him is hard. I mean you do not want another Adebayor do you? You would rather that Wenger spent an extra 6 months to find the right one than to buy a troublemaker like him or?
    So yeh anyone can point out the faults, but to do something with them is hard. And no i do not for a minute think ANY of the arsenal fans would be able to do that, as i said if you were good at this sort of thing in real life you would be managers or scouts for lower league teams, not sitting in front of your laptops playing CM…

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