Around the time of the Fulham game, Wenger gave a statement in his press conference that caught me by surprise and forced me to think.
By now you probably have seen this line,
But it will be difficult to find a coach who teaches me how to manage a football team.
Some fans have read arrogance and obstinacy in that statement but I disagree. Those who have actually handled responsibility and have read or heard the complete comment will not make the mistake of assuming haughtiness on the part of Arsene.
For the sake of reference this is the complete comment,
We are open-minded. We always add people, you know. When you compare to when I arrived, how many people work with the team? Today we have so many analysts, you always add people. I don’t know yet [if someone will come in], frankly.
The problem when you don’t win is to always raise the right questions. Those who win the games are those on the football pitch and not those who talk in the stands.
I have enough experience to know what is important and what is less than important. It will be difficult to find a coach who teaches me how to manage a football team.
I think that is a pretty honest and intelligent statement just as one would expect from Wenger. You could say it has been taken out of context and misinterpreted by some just as one would expect of an Arsene comment that actually forces people to apply their minds.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a strongly in favour of adding to the coaching staff. I have been talking about it since before it became a somewhat popular notion. But as I have said about other issues, nothing at this level is as simple as some people like to believe.
Wenger has mentioned that he is open minded and has been adding people on a regular basis. I am pretty sure if he finds someone he will not hesitate to augment his staff. Therein lays the complexity.
I refuse to accept that Pat Rice, Boro Primorac, Steve Bould, et al are no good. They have been at Arsenal for a long, long time and have given a lot while making significant contributions that led to some glorious triumphs. I also reject the idea that they are all yes men. The club would never have been successful if that had been the case. Such opinions are extremely disrespectful and reflect poorly on the speakers/writers rather than men who have worked hard and achieved success.
That brings us to the question – Who do we need or what kind of coach will significantly improve this group of players and staff?
Before we get into that let’s consider a hypothetical scenario.
Suppose an uber-rich man is able to create a dream football project and hires the likes of Hiddink, Wenger, and Mourinho to work for his team. Do you think that team can become the best ever? Surely three great football minds will create an unplayable squad, no? Arsene knows all about attacking football, Mourinho is a master of the dark arts, Hiddink is somewhere in between and understands both sides; will the whole be greater than the sum of the parts? Can these three excellent managers combine to make one all-conquering force?
I’d say the answer is no. When three such people come together, the whole will be considerably less than the sum of the parts.
If you’re having difficulty in understanding that ask yourself this – Can three presidents do a better job than one? Can three CEO’s run a company better than one?
It cannot happen. If you have three equally strong people at the top decision making will go haywire because each one will have his own approach and vision. Three, or two for that matter, strong personalities at the top can never work.
It is safe to say the person that Arsenal need has to offer something more and different from the people we have at the club and should be one who can gel with the overall philosophy of the club. It is extremely hard to find such a person and that is what Wenger meant by his statement.
Of course, there is an option of changing the man at the top and bringing in an entirely new approach/vision. Some fans are in favour of that but I believe it will put Arsenal in mid-table obscurity so I don’t dwell on that idea for long.
Despite that I do hope that Wenger finds someone this summer. It seems highly unlikely but without that addition it will be near impossible for Arsenal to win the big trophies.
I realize there is a completely different viewpoint to this issue which says the same staff was good enough to win 3 league titles and 4 FA Cups in the past, including two doubles and an invincible season, so how come they are suddenly in desperate need of help?
I think it is a combination of factors.
Firstly, the Premiership has seen unprecedented investment in the last few years and the overall quality of the League has gone up by several notches. In the past a team could win titles despite some weaknesses because many of the games were easy. If you are struggling to understand this, just look at AC Milan. They won the Italian title this year but never looked like beating the fifth placed team in England. A few years ago the quality of teams in England and Italy was reversed.
Second factor is the number of injuries to key players. In the last few seasons, Arsenal have missed more than one key player for a long period. It could be a factor related to the increasing competitiveness of the league amongst others. In the earlier title winning years the main stars made massive contributions. And while people like to believe otherwise, it’s not easy to find players of the calibre of Van Persie and Fabregas even if you are willing to spend money. Just ask Barcelona.
The third factor is the impact of the referees. One might say the referees have always been that way. I don’t really have an argument against that but when combined with the first point it does make life difficult. In the early part of the decade and that of the Wenger reign, Arsenal could get past smaller teams even with the refereeing decisions going against them because those teams weren’t as good. The same can no longer happen. Experts in hindsight analysis who praise the winners and criticize the losers might not get it, but those who have been watching the football should be able to see the improvement in quality of the smaller teams.
Due to these factors everyone at Arsenal has had to work extremely hard just to maintain the position in the top four. But in order to go a step or two higher the Gunners need something extra. It could be in the form of some players but I have seen too many individuals make similar mistakes to believe that will suffice.
This summer’s biggest acquisition will have to be behind the scenes or it will have to be some conversations with other thinkers of the game that could lead Wenger to an epiphany.