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Analysing Arsenal’s Problems – The Board, Wenger & The Players

Analysing what is wrong at Arsenal Football Club, after another disappointing season looks set to ensure we end trophy-less for the seventh year running.

After the spectacular collapse at the San Siro, and our exit from the FA cup just days later, the mood surrounding Arsenal fans is a mixed bag. Some choose to play the blame game, and use certain players or the manager as a scapegoat, but I feel the problem is bigger than any one thing.

The board

Let’s start with the top and work our way down. The board, in my opinion, is where a lot of our problems stem from. After Silent Stan acquired his majority share, he kept in place the current board for what he called the transitional period, and many fans are hoping that the upcoming clear out in the summer begins with the boardroom. I really dislike making the comparison, but I have to say Kroenke should take a page out of Spurs owner Joseph Lewis’ book.

Much like Kroenke, Lewis isn’t actively involved in the day-to-day business at Spurs, but he placed Daniel Levy into the mix to represent him. Levy has done well for them, making some shrewd signings, but was not afraid to shake things up in the club. Changes were made from coaching staff, to the manager, and as much as I hate to admit it, they’ve definitely improved as a team, while Arsenal has stagnated.

Kroenke…. needs to get more involved in club matters. Kroenke needs to put someone on the board to run the club who is highly motivated, and isn’t complacent to just be an ‘also ran’ team. Someone who understands that results can increase revenue, not just player sales. Winning trophies are the basis of any top club, results are what drives lucrative sponsorship deals, they attract top players to the team, and increase global recognition. When it comes time to renegotiate our Emirates deal, do you think they would offer the same amount whether we’re in 7th place or if we were winning things?

Wenger & coaches

Managers and coaches are the next tier of responsibility. All you have to do is look at another one of our rivals, who have been the most successful team in England since our trophies dried up. Sir Alex Ferguson has constantly changed his coaching staff, bringing in new faces over the years with fresh ideas to help him improve his team. Arsenal has won nothing in the last 7 years and yet we make no attempt to bring in fresh ideas, or a proper defensive coach to address our obvious problems.

In the words of Einstein, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.” (source: Brainy Quote)

Our formation and style of play was built around Fabregas, and I believe it was his brilliance that papered over a lot the cracks in Wenger’s tactics. After the departure of Cesc, Wenger did very little to change our tactics or formation to compensate, other than putting more emphasis on our wing play. I’m not anti Wenger, but his failure to address the same issues over the past few seasons and lack of tactical adaptability have been exposed this season with the absence of players like Fabregas and Wilshere.

Dennis Bergkamp shared some thoughts on the current situation:

“I feel there are a lot of similar players there at the moment It needs to be more diverse.”

“You need a few strong characters who can get the team going, in training as well as matches.”

“You also need a few players who can make a difference in terms of scoring goals. I don’t feel there are enough of them.”

“You look at the midfield and compare it with ours. We had Freddie Ljungberg, Robert Pires, Ray Parlour – when it wasn’t working for one of the big names, one of these could step up.

You can’t only depend on one or two players. When they’re having an off day, you need someone else.”

“Sometimes I see their games and it’s always the same way of playing, a bit too predictable. They are all fantastic players, that must be said, but sometimes you need a bit more of the other side.”

“To be honest, I would still prefer to see Robin play a bit deeper behind the main striker so that he could pick his moments the way I used to. I think he could be even better in that role, but the way he’s playing now you can hardly blame the coach for putting him there.”

(source; Telegraph)

There is some very telling quotes in there, and I think Bergkamp is spot on. I would agree with him that Wenger has brought in too many similar players, and not enough of them have that warrior mentality. I don’t know if Wenger should retire or not, but I would like to see some signs of serious adaptation and change, or for him to call time on his career at Arsenal before he undoes everything he’s worked so hard for, by being stubborn and refusing to change.

If a new manager came in, I would like someone who runs an organized team, with quick counter attacks, more true to the winning style Arsenal used to play with when Wenger first came. Someone with tactical nous, and the ability to adapt tactics and formations from game to game.

If you look at successful managers like SAF and Mourinho, they’re able to get good performances out of mediocre players by making sure their teams are well-drilled in tactics and formations, and keeping shape while doing the basics (something Arsenal players are terrible at). We haven’t won a single thing with our current formation since we built it around Cesc, and now that he’s gone, it’s even less effective.

The Players

Finally we come to the players, from current club legends like RvP to the usual scapegoats of Djourou, Squillaci, etc, all the players need to shoulder some of the blame for their lack of silverware. Some of the current crop are just not good enough for Arsenal, while others like Theo have suffered from not having top quality experienced players to learn from. Walcott stated recently how he has learned so much from Henry while he was on loan here.

If Henry had stayed at the club, I would imagine Theo would be a better player today. Ferguson understands the value of keeping the experienced pros, Giggs, Scholes, Neville etc, all instilled their winning mentality into United’s young players. When it comes down to is that not enough of our players stand up to be counted when it comes time, and they could have all the technical ability in the world, but if they can’t cope mentally it’s of no use to Arsenal.

I don’t feel our squad is all that bad, but I feel some of our players don’t respond to Wenger’s coaching style as well as someone like RvP or Cesc have. Wenger likes to let his players think for themselves and come up with their own conclusions, and improve through self-reflection most of the time. Although this might be good with bright players like Fabregas, RvP, and Wilshere, there are others in the team who would benefit from more of a structured atmosphere where the coach is telling him exactly the type of runs he wants, positioning, etc.

This is something I don’t feel Arsene offers enough of to players who would benefit from it, instead telling them to “go out and just play your game” like he was coaching a group of kids.

The predicament at Arsenal is not a simple one, it is not something that can be fixed by a couple signings, and it’s not something that can change overnight. The club needs an overhaul starting from the boardroom down, and I’m just hoping that it happens sooner rather than later.

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