FTK Blog: As Walcott fails should Wenger now leave?

The news story that must be very infuriating for Gooners at the moment is the failure of Theo Walcott to make the final 23 England World Cup squad to South Africa. The public criticism of Theo during a training session is being held up as one of the reasons for the U-turn by Fabio Capello. The consequences may help or hinder the lad’s progress. Theo Walcott has been held back by recurrent injuries and added to the lack of team selection by Arsene Wenger, he has failed to really demonstrate his true potential other than as an impact player off the bench. Having previously been a great fan of the player, I have to be honest that his performances have been less than convincing. He cannot go around players with confidence and has no “tricks” to speak of. To suggest that he is worse than  Sean Wright-Phillips and Aaron Lennon is not exactly an insult, but amounts more to a clear indication that his skills need close coaching attention. I would disagree with those who say that Theo is over rated and just an athlete in football boots.
One has to ask why some players make it under Arsene Wenger and others do not. I am a supporter of Arsene Wenger, but some of his statements leave me very frustrated. I detect that the man is one of deep conviction, and those convictions appear to me to have a political foundation. In fact so political that Arsene himself has become a prisoner of his own philosophies. I perceive that his goal is to create an egalitarian camaraderie within the squad. This has I believe manifested itself in the contradiction where whilst playing for England, Theo Walcott is encouraged to be selfish in front of goal and take goal scoring opportunities as opposed to Wenger’s favoured pass the ball to a colleague. One of the biggest criticisms of this Arsenal squad is their almost phobic fear of shooting anywhere outside of the 18 yard box. Even Arshavin used to be a prolific shooter from long range before he came to Arsenal, I cannot recall the last time that he used those skills last season.
Even in the pay policy at Arsenal we can see political undertones, where ordinary players are prevented from feeling stigmatised by receiving an inflated salary so that the gap between the highest paid player and the lowest is not great. Paying such young players high salaries prevents them being moved on before the end of a contract as no club outside of the Premier League can afford to pay the salaries, so the ridiculous situation occurs with the Club still paying the salaries whilst the player is out on loan. I disagree with this policy, preferring a compromise between the prima donna mega salary and the salary that rewards high skills and consistent performance befitting a star player. This pay policy has in my view created a lethargy, a laziness and comfort zone from within which there is no desire to fight for the club.
Where else is the political doctrine that is Wengerism obvious? The coaching drills that require a stop watch and a ball are all too predictable. What our players need is the ability to develop football strategy without the ball, the art of positioning, the timing of runs and most importantly what can only be described as defensive awareness. Too often we hear players stating that Wenger doesn’t talk to players individually other than to say, “you know what you must do” almost expecting a telepathic ability and DIY approach to skills improvement. Perhaps Arsene Wenger’s skills one to one are not as good as we think that they are.  All of the mega Arsenal stars of recent memory have already been very talented players before coming to Arsenal. I am tempted to suggest that I have not seen a “bad” Arsenal player in terms of skill set, improve under Arsene’s guidance.
So here in lies the conundrum, what if Arsene Wenger’s main skills are only strategic and he lacks the precious one on one inspiration which can create world class prospects from good players. What if Wengerism itself is just a myth, and over the seasons all that we have seen is “team Wengerball” and individual genius from our gifted minority? What if Theo’s lack of progress is due to confusion in the players mind as to how he should develop? It is that sense that I would describe his lack of progress being down to having fallen victim of this team culture. Arsene Wenger’s skills in football economics and business studies are clear for all to see. His vision of attacking team culture through Wengerball has revolutionised the style of football, but without the genius that say the likes of Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry brought to the party, perhaps then we were all deceived.
With the breaking news that Barcelona have confirmed the beginning of formal negotiations to sign our world star Cesc Fabregas, Could it be that Arsenal are about to lose yet another player with genius? I am extremely shocked that the Club are now negotiating away our chief asset after apparently having told the Catalans that he is not for sale. Coaching the remaining squad now becomes more important than ever before. This is where the likes of Pat Rice and the assembled coaching staff have to take the blame for our current malaise. I wonder if they ever actually tell Arsene Wenger that sometimes, we need individuals in a team to create inspiration. There appears to be nothing done until Arsene Wenger says that it must be done, this include tactics on the field, the timing of substitutions etc. So what is the solution? I wish to propose a radical evolution rather than revolution. Surely it is now time for Arsene Wenger to leave the frontline coaching role at Arsenal, and become our director of football? He has run the club from top down, and he cannot have enough hours in the day to give personal attention to those players in greatest need. My suggestion is for someone like Dennis Bergkamp to come in and lead the coaching staff and become manager and effectively Arsene’s number two. Effectively freeing up Arsene to concentrate upon his strategic vision for the club. In so doing we can protect the legacy of Arsene Wenger who is and will remain the greatest manager in our club history. Surely that is something worth cherishing?

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