We’ve heard more times than I care to count this season, about the troubles of Arsenal Football Club.
Arsenal are a club full of tradition, which is always a double-edged sword that both the nay-sayers and the fans use to batter each other daily. Tradition in Arsenal’s case means one of the best teams, possibly in the entirety of English history, the ‘Invincibles’. I don’t have to tell you that repeating what that team achieved is the hardest job in football, whether your name is Arsene Wenger or not.
So why then are the Invincibles constantly referred to as the benchmark? This is a team that drew 12 of its 38 games remember. Why are the media and fans alike constantly looking back at a benchmark that (the current Chelsea team aside) no other team has or may not reach? We’re in another galaxy in terms of the way the game is played and thought about now compared back to then. Recent statistics released show how the game has changed have shown us that there is less overall running in the Premier League and more controlled bursts of speed and distance, both in attack and defense as teams are moving towards the “attack and defend as a unit” way of thinking more and more.
So comparing the current team to the old team just doesn’t work as a stick to poke Arsenal with these days. Let’s move onto the coach, Mr Wenger. Now, here’s where in my opinion things start to get a bit tricky. This is a man whose overhaul of Arsenal in every way possible is only matched (and bettered) by Sir Alex Ferguson in the modern era. What work he HAS done in the past must be appreciated, but not taken into account when dealing with the work he IS doing now.
Arsene Wenger has instilled into Arsenal’s way of playing, an ethos that “You can learn this way of playing”, as opposed to now what is happening more and more – where teams are being built FOR a style of play. Chelsea are a relevant modern example of this, each player knows his role and knows it to perfection, whilst what Arsenal under Wenger appears to be is a loose framework of how to play that the players themselves are told to fill in the blanks with their own creativity.
This style of play though, is really starting to show its age and that problem lies with Mr Wenger. Time and time again teams with a clear strategy and good execution of that plan can easily undo and run rampant against Arsenal, as shown perfectly this season in the 3-3 draw with Bournemouth.
Do Arsenal fans then have reason to be calling for Arsene’s head? I would say that those calls are justified on this -current- Arsenal side, which continues to fail to live up to expectations. I personally wasn’t impressed with Sanchez in his first 3/4 games, for a player of his calibre he should have done better but ever since then I have had to eat my words as he has completely put Arsenal on his back at times with his goalscoring exploits and tireless running…but how long will that last?
This squad, needs a good foundation of tactical instruction that it is lacking at this moment in time. If you give players like Ramsey, Ozil and Sanchez a team that has such a foundation I have no doubt that Arsenal will challenge for titles – but I personally don’t believe such a change will occur under Wenger. Which is sad, but also gives me hope for who replaces him.
So where does this leave us? Enough inches have been written about the strengths and weaknesses of the currently playing staff, that doesn’t need touching with a barge-pole. I think, all Arsenal fans would like most of all, is for the rhetoric that comes out of Wenger, Gazidis and the player’s mouths to match what happens on the pitch.