I was at the Emirates to watch the EFL Cup game against Reading. I love the EFL cup games and Arsenal FC’s ultra low pricing policy for the Cup games. For the price of a typical Premier League match, at least 4 adults can watch a League Cup one.
It appears the pricing policy created a pitch invasion problem a few seasons ago but I didn’t witness any at the Reading game. What was noticeable was the low decibel compared to say the Ludogorets game the week below and my experience of the singing during Premier League matches. I think the League Cup crowd definitely need to crank up their volume.
Back to the issue of footballing philosophy. One of the long lasting criticism of Arsene Wenger has been the fact that his Arsenal Team only ever play in one dimension. I dare say, I have participated in this criticism. I have been hurt many times by some of the losses the Arsenal Team have experienced because we chose to play the Arsenal & Arsene way.
In the last couple of seasons, as the criticism of Wenger has grown especially in the social media sphere, I have come to accept that Wenger will not change his style of play and rightly so. I have come to the adult & matured conclusion about beliefs and value systems.
I have my values and beliefs, most of them derived from the Christian way of life. None of them motivates me to harm my fellow man (except when my team defeats his club side by a huge score and I am left with no option but to gloat or when I rib the hell out of his team at the end of a bottom spanking like Chelsea versus Manchester United recently)
From that perspective, my value system and beliefs is not wrong and is not to be changed because others don’t like it even if they were distant relatives or supporters. Same with the Arsene Wenger’s football value system and beliefs. It is not a right or wrong matter. This is the way Mr. Wenger wants to play football. Yes it comes undone sometimes but that’s football. You can’t always win and there is no mathematical equation yet to determine the outcome of football matches. Even the great Messi losses football matches.
So why am I bringing this up. It was the way Jaap Stam set up his team against Arsenal. It is instructive to note that he was only appointed in June and this is his 1st gig as the number 1 man at a football club. For someone who was a top defender, it is remarkable and praise worthy that Jaap has decided that his team will be a ball playing side.
Yes they lost to a 2nd string Arsenal side but they were not outclassed, outplayed or disgraced and could potentially have levelled the match before Oxlade – Chamberlain’s 2nd goal or even taken the lead at some point in the match.
Jaap has made it clear to disaffected fans that this is his style of football as a manager and he is for all intent and purpose staking his managerial career on his football philosophy. I think we need more of Jaap in football management.
This is not to say that other managers like Tony Pulis or Sam Allardyce who build their reputation on well organised / well drilled defences are not needed. Tony & Sam are also in their own way true to their football philosophy. But young managers like Jaap making their own way in the football management world and choosing to play expansive football put lie to the fallacy told by Jose Mourinho boot lickers that the only way to amount to anything in football is to win ugly.
On the same subject of football philosophy is Pep. He has had a few subtle dust ups with the English press. I guess the football press in England are a bit like the crowd in the time of Jesus Christ. “Hosanna today and crucify him tomorrow”. If the football pundits in the English media were running the Betting Companies, they would have paid out on Pep and Man City winning the Premier League this season after only 5 games.
In the space of a few weeks, the English Press have gone from ‘Crown him’ to ‘he is washed up & has been found out’. Of relevance to me though is Pep’s comments that he will be sticking by his football philosophy. They are his personal football belief system and he is entitled to them. They have worked for him in the past and they continue to work for him. It is not the place of interested or even keen enthusiasts like us fans to question the footballing philosophy of managers. Managers pay the price when their philosophy don’t deliver results.
Personally it still hurts when Arsenal go to the Nou Camp and get beat and you wonder maybe if we had “parked the bus’ the results would have been different. At which point, I remember Sir Alex playing Pep’s Barcelona twice in Champions League Finals and not changing his system and same with Pep Guardiola versus Barcelona a couple of weeks ago. I can bet my bottom dollar Pep is going to do the same again this midweek at the return leg in the Etihad. Sir Alex is a genius and Pep is already a great manager but they stick with their football philosophy in challenging football circumstances.
My take, I think the Wenger critics on his lack of Plan B playing style should lay off. We all have value systems and beliefs and we infinitely live and perish by them. The only manager struggling at a top club as we speak is perhaps the only manager who has no football playing philosophy. His philosophy is to win at all costs, to be fair he has yet to jettison this philosophy and who are we to tell him otherwise. The philosophy has worked for him in the past but lets see if it works going forward.