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
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.)