I enjoyed listening to Wenger’s speech and Q&A at the AGM. Le Boss was honest and forthcoming in his usual charming style and covered some important topics.
Firstly in his speech, Arsene acknowledged the fact that we have room for improvement.
I don’t say we don’t have any weaknesses. We are conscious of that but we work very hard on it.
It’d be naive bordering on stupid to think that AW is blind to the problems but many continue to believe that. Arsene pre-empted the questions about a goalkeeper with a fairly clear explanation.
I get many advices that we take on board, but for me it’s very difficult to come out on any specific position on any player. Why? Because if I say, “I wanted him I didn’t get him”, it is basically a message to my player who plays that you’re not good enough and you’re there because we didn’t find a player who is better than you.
I think that’s as much as we should expect to get from him. It’s clear we tried signing some big names but it didn’t materialize. I’d not be surprised if at a later date it comes out that Liverpool and Lyon were among the clubs who refused to negotiate with us on this matter.
Then there are those who like to believe that an extra 2 million would have seen us get Schwarzer but it’s extremely difficult to have a rational debate with someone who takes unreliable media rumours as gospel. Similarly, what can you say to a random, meaningless statement like, “anyone is better than Almunia”?
My best guess is that Arsene must have discussed the goalkeeping position with experts in the field and identified some players who can do better for us. We tried to get them but it didn’t work out in a difficult market. I can understand why clubs like Liverpool, Lyon, or Ajax would have been reluctant to let a big player leave. I’m also quite confident that we’ll continue to monitor the situation and make a move if the status changes.
Then a gentleman, white hair experienced looking and all, asked him a question about playing with a dedicated holding midfielder alongside Song. I’m sure this is a thought most fans have had and many have been wondering why we don’t do it.
I considered it and did it already. We have many players who can be defensive and offensive, for example Jack Wilshere. When a player is good technically, like Diaby or Denilson, they’re both sides of players. But if you look at their defensive record and you compare them with defensive holding players in the whole league, then you’ll see that the number of balls they win, the number of balls they intercept is as high if not higher than typical holding midfielders. And when they have the ball they can play as well.
We do not restrict our players when we win the ball back and that’s why maybe some people think we do not play with two holding midfielders. In “Holding” you’ve the word “Stay” that means do not attack, that’s not the way we play and sometimes you can be exposed but what people forget it’s one of our strengths as well. When we score five or six goals it’s because we have the potential to attack and to restrict players who have that potential is to take their qualities away.
In our sport you never say never, but the most important is to be faithful to the principle and to find the balance. If we do not attack you’ll quickly be bored here and people will say, “Come on man, we pay a lot of money to watch your games, we want to win the games but we want to see goals as well”.
I think the keywords here is ‘balance’. We have to find the right balance and with someone like Wilshere in the team we are getting close to that. Ramsey seems like another one who can do just as well as Wilshere has been doing. I’ve also seen a conscious effort by the midfielders to swap positions and to cover for each other. That seems to be the key to achieving the right balance. We end up in trouble when this understanding is lost.
Normally, when Cesc is on the pitch he reads the situations well and often drops deeper when the opposition is pressing us and we’re finding it difficult to move the ball forward. Others who play in the advanced role will have to learn from Fabregas and that should allow us to do better even when El Capitan is missing.
Interestingly, I’ve not seen many people acknowledge the fact that Jack Wilshere is as good as any big midfield signing we could have made this season. Instead of being on loan, if he had been a Bolton player we would not have been able to sign him for less than 20M in my opinion and that makes him a world class signing. Just because he has come through the youth system, we should not take him for granted or undervalue the youngster.