Sunday 7 December 2014

Wenger Out Brigade

Yesterday was a bit good. The thought of a vile man like Jose Mourinho breaking Arsenal & Arsene Wenger's INVINCIBLE record was enough to break my heart. Many thanks to Alan Pardew, Papiss Cisse and Newcastle FC for saving me from heartbreak.

To many who deride THE INVINCIBLE record. Please carry on. I'm quite happy to live in the past, I'm alive because someone conceived me in the past  I earn my daily bread because of the intellectual shift I put in the past, I have kids because of some 'things' I did in the past. I think you get the drift.

Obviously it is very easy for those without a past to deride the people who are proud of theirs. I am still struggling with how winning the EPL without losing is equivalent to winning it with one or more losses. You get a gold plated EPL trophy for God's sake. Only one team and one manager (ARSENAL & ARSENE WENGER) has achieved that. Come back and talk to me when you equal or beat that record.

Arsenal's loss at Stoke yesterday meant the Wenger Out brigade were in full flow. I watched the highlights of the match, I have read a lot of tweets and a couple of blogs on the match. There is near universal acceptance that Arsenal were woeful especially in defence. I can't disagree with that. The only thing I would have loved to see after recovering to 3 - 2 with 20 minutes plus stoppage time was for us to win the match or worst case draw with the Chambers sending off. We don't do that enough as a club side. It is hardly in our DNA. While the manner of the defeat appears inexcusable, there is some understanding of it. We were playing with a makeshift defence. Responsibility for this is fully on the Manager. I get that but it was still a makeshift defence no matter whose fault it is. With a full defensive complement last season, what did we get at the Britannia? Nothing. Would be nice not to have to face Anthony Taylor ever again though.

Now to the small subject of the Wenger out brigade. From what I can read, the following are the reasons why some people want Wenger out.

1) He is tactically clueless

2) He was too long to make changes

3) He doesn't like spending money to address gaps in the team

4) The game has passed him by

5) He is too stubborn

6) He is spoiling his own legacy

Unspoken by some but perhaps part of their underlying reasons are the following:

A) He has stayed too long. A bit similar to (4) above

B) By changing the manager we might get something of a new manager bounce / new manager might freshen up things

C) (A bit unkindly to them perhaps) there is the "here is a nice shiny bandwagon to jump on" &

D)  (perhaps a bit silly) a profound belief in the chaos theory that a random event (winning the league) is actually predictable from simple deterministic equation (like the firing or resignation of Wenger)

So Wenger Out brigade which one are you? Do tell.

Perhaps there are others with different intentions. As a lifelong member of the conspiracy theorists family, I believe some fans of other clubs want Arsene out so we Arsenal fans can suffer the upheaval Man United experienced with the retirement of Sir Alex and perhaps lose our claim to consistent participation not only in the UCL but in the UCL Round of 16. The truth shall out.

I am not a member of the Wenger out brigade. I have listed why below.

i) He has just signed a new contract. He is in the first year of a new 3 year contract. A contract Ivan Gazidis (Arsenal CEO) and Arsenal players begged him to sign just 6 months ago (A quick google search will do you some good)  

ii) He always honours his contract. So he is not about to walk away.

iii) Arsene is one of few managers who appear to have overall control over all footballing matters at a football club. We will need to replace him with more than one person. As the CEO said a few months ago, replacing Arsene will be Arsenal's biggest challenge. I don't think that decision will be taken lightly or in the middle of a season.
I will offer my response to the reasons why some fans want him out:

1) He is tactically clueless - Wenger himself offered a response to this issue a few days ago. I believe this issue is more about perception. Arrogance even. More about an unwillingness to change his philosophy to suit the opposition. Disagree all you want. He has a philosophy and he is sticking it to it. It worked for him in the past and it might appear not to be working now. However tactics is not the only reason why Wenger has seemingly under performed. Injuries, funds and significant progress by opposing teams have contributed.

2) He waits too long to make changes - I watched the recent Swansea game and I thought Chambers should have been saved the embarrassment by Montero. Nothing happened. Everybody and their uncles shouted for the introduction of a more natural right back in Hector Bellerin. Wenger refused and he did so until circumstances forced his hand at yesterday's match. He was berated for not playing a more natural right back until the reason became obvious yesterday. Bellerin either wasn't ready or he has regressed or hasn't lived up to Wenger's expectations.  Nobody is beating the Bellerin drum any more. In my little understanding of the football game, substitutions can destabilise or they can inspire. Are fans prepared to allow Arsene manage the team? He is paid £8m pa to do so.  He spends all his waking moment monitoring and watching this team. He knows what he has on the bench and what he has on the pitch.

3) He doesn't like spending money to address gaps in the team - as somebody with a small knowledge of finance, I believe fans might be getting the wrong end of the stick here. For many years in the last 4 - 5 years, the Board always said Arsene had all the money he needed to spend. Transfer windows come and go and Arsene 'refuses' to spend. In my opinion, this is about perception management. The Board & Arsene are sending signals to players & potential future signings about Arsenal's financial status. Whereas there might be lots of cash as analysts claim, they might not be available for spending. Banks / lenders make it compulsory to corporate borrowers to keep a certain level of cash within their business. Also Gazidis has recently come out to deny the fact that Arsenal has lots of cash to spend. Yet this is one of Wenger's crime.

4 & A) The game has passed him by & He has stayed too long - there is an element of ageism here with some thinking because is 65+ his mind and desire is not as sharp. Alex Ferguson retired at 72, Pellegrini is 61, Sam Allardyce is 60, Harry Redknapp is 67, Arsenal Board of Directors is made up of older men. Peter Hill - Wood retired only last year and he is 78, Stan Kroenke the owner is 67, Sir Chips Keswick the new Chairman is 74, Lord Harris of Peckham a board member is 72, other directors are Ken Friar (80), Ivan Gazidis the CEO and Stan's son.  The last two are considerably younger than the others but you get the point. When they look at Arsene they see a younger (young) man whereas a fan might think otherwise. It is interesting that the man that the game has passed by finished ahead of Roberto Martinez and defeated Steve Bruce in the FA cup final. He might no longer be at his peak, neither is the club's spending power in comparison term's at his peak. When he had his success in the early years, Arsenal were no slouches when it came to spending.

5) He is too stubborn - as a stubborn person myself, I see this as a virtue. This stubbornness is sometimes manifested in the 'he doesn't spend money' reason for disliking and also in his decision to play some players out of position. Unfortunately for Arsene, he has to make real life decisions. Critics only need to criticise after the fact.

6) He is spoiling his own legacy - I can't get my head around this. Some fans are actually saying that "we want you to leave in the middle of the season and in the middle of a contract after recruiting all these new players so that the club can experience a huge upheaval that it might need to recover from by spending £150m that it doesn't have ".  I can actually see how he will be spoiling his legacy by walking away now.

B) By changing the manager we might get something of a new manager bounce / new manager might freshen up things  - this is somewhat linked to the chaos theory. The same lunacy that took Fulham down last year. Felix Magath had all these shiny records as a manager and was going to be the saviour of Fulham. It hasn't worked. Same with Van Gaal despite spending more than PSG, Real, Chelsea & Man City put together,  a few weeks ago his record was been compared to Moyes. The jury is still out on how the Van Gaal chronicles will end.

C) "here is a nice shiny bandwagon to jump on"  - unfortunately I have nothing to say to this. Please carry on with your bandwagon until the next one arrives.

D) a profound belief in the chaos theory that a random event (winning the league) is actually predictable from simple deterministic equation (like the firing or resignation of Wenger) - Yeah. Pigs fly.

Is Wenger entirely guiltless? More wronged than wrong?  I will list 3 of my 'Wenger wrongs' below

I) Knowing the Arsenal injury record, the decision to start the season with only 6 fit defenders 5 if you discount Bellerin is shocking. Granted there was a shortage of top quality central defenders during the last transfer window as evidenced by the fact that Manchester United were willing to spend but couldn't get a top class CB. Despite the shortage they reinforced in that department although they had up to 5 players who could fit in that role. However I believe Arsene should have reinforced. All this "we only want someone who is better than what we have", I don't buy. A few of the players playing for the bottom half EPL teams will bite of Arsene Wenger's hands for a contract. Are they as good as Koscienly or Mertesacker. No but better than Monreal as a make shift CB. This will cost money for a redundant asset that you may or may not need so does not having anybody in the time of need. The policy of making do on this occasion appears to have back fired.

 II) Pretty boys - Mr Wenger has presided over the recruitment of an Arsenal squad made up of pretty, principled and gentle boys. Almost in his own image. The only notable exceptions are Alexis Sanchez (new boy) and Jack Wilshere. Arsenal has a reputation for not been able to deal with physical opposition. This is a flaw in recruitment in my opinion. We need to have players who refuse to lie down and let the opposition walk over them. Players who take defeat as an insult not as one of those things.

III) Absence of high profile number 2s - We have seen people like Carlos Queiroz & Rene Meulensteen at Old Trafford, Steve Clarke, Brendan Rodgers and Aitor Karankar at Chelsea. Where are the Arsenal equivalents. Where is the assembly line of future managers? A true measure perhaps of a legacy.

Changing for changes sake is not my thing. I'm worried about the alternative. Who do we have on the wings waiting to come in? Its not as if Pep Guardiola is dying to coach Arsenal. We don't have the budget that will make Pep's CV look even better. Please don't talk to me about that vile classless man in West London.

Diego Simeone is perhaps a good option. Spending very little money and achieving some remarkable results. Does he want to manage in England? Is there a fit between his temperament and the Arsenal way?

The Wenger Out brigade calling for Sam Allardyce, Jurgen Klopp, Roberto Martinez etc are clueless. We want something demonstrably better than what we have now. Not something that looks shiny and might be better.

As fans we owe our boys on the pitch our full support. Whatever your persuasion - Wenger In or Out. Get behind the team without holding back. Yes we are 6th, 13 points from the leaders. Yes we have had (one of) our worst start to the to the season, yes the defence is in shambles for now, yes the season held out more promise in the summer but there are 23 games to go. Some book makers paid out on a Chelsea EPL win last week. Don't they look stupid now. Lets come together and support our club. Wishing Arsenal ill because you don't like Wenger is daft in my book.

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