To some Arsenal fans, Arsene Wenger is a genius; the only man for the job. To others, he has become the straggler left at your house party that doesn’t seem to want to leave. Or perhaps in a more Wenger-like-style he is busying himself with your tax returns while you are trying to have said party. Either way, the debate regarding seven years without a trophy has caused a definite imbalance amongst supporters of the club. Is it any wonder that the club have removed the words ‘Victory grows out of Harmony’ (translated from the Latin words ‘Victoria Concordia Crescit’) from the badge?
The man they call the Professor, known for his stringent attention to detail, is slipping. On paper, Arsenal have the players to win trophies. Yet, this season they won’t. Why?
There is an imbalance in the team selection and positioning that creates a limit on what the team can achieve. They are able to perform well against lesser teams; the frailties reveal themselves against the kind of teams you have to defeat in order to win trophies.
When Arsenal are able to play fluently with the midfield and attackers interchanging they can destroy average teams. This season they have shown flashes of brilliance: West Ham and a weakened Newcastle side this season are perfect examples. However, when Arsene’s plan A of playing harmonious pass and move fails, usually against better teams able to deal with the movement, the cannon fails to fire. When matched up, position for position against title-challenging teams, Arsenal struggle because of what can be viewed as players out of their ideal position. For example, if we ignore the defence, (that’s a different discussion), and concentrate on the midfield and attack Wenger likes to play:
Mikel Arteta: Playing defensive midfield. He has done well, however is out of position; against a world class opponent in his correct position? Over 90 minutes he will be found out. Before signing for Arsenal he played Left wing or a more advanced role.
Lukas Podolski: Plays Wide Left. Although he can play there, he isn’t a natural winger, rather, a natural goal scorer whose inside movement will be praised for the goals it gains, perhaps overlooked for the defensive weakness it leaves behind. Against a world class opponent, over 90 minutes he will be found out. You could argue his case as a striker.
Santi Cazorla: Plays in the Middle. A star this season while Wilshere was missing; he has struggled a little since his return. Cazorla can play in the middle, (he has the kind of ability to play anywhere in midfield), but with Wilshere back he would give the team a better balance out wide in the position he played and excelled in before he was signed from Malaga.
Theo Walcott: His ideal position is up for debate. He likes to come from wide, but that for me doesn’t mean play him there. Thierry Henry liked to come from wide; you wouldn’t have played him there. A world class full back will track his run inside from the wing. There are few centre backs in the world that can be dragged out wide then keep up with his darting run back inside. For me that’s where he is dangerous.
Aaron Ramsey, like Arteta, has been an Elastoplast-player this season. He has played wide, holding midfield and patched up wherever the team needed help. These small imperfections in the attacking unit equal small disadvantages by creating a slight imbalance that affects things like how well the team keeps the all, how successfully they can counter-attack and how well they can defend as a unit, essentially holding the team back from reaching its optimum potential. Players in their natural position tend to be in the right place at the right time; a player playing out of position tends to be a split second behind play thinking about positioning or in the wrong position which overall will detract from the team’s balance and harmony.
When matching up against well drilled title chasing teams these slight disadvantages will show.
You cannot argue that the current side are a distance away from the well-oiled-Wenger-trophy-winning-machine of the past, now agonisingly close to, (some would argue already is), becoming a near myth, resigned to the history books. I could well be left telling my children tales of invincibles while they look worryingly at each other wondering if my mechanism has gone; Arsenal lingering mid-table. ‘We did go a season unbeaten and win trophies!’ I’ll shout at them while forcing them to watch Arsenal 2-0 down to Wigan, through a veil of tears.
Every player I have mentioned is perfectly capable of playing the position Wenger has asked of them and performing to a certain level. They won’t, however, win trophies playing there. Wenger has so far failed to get the most out his current crop of players the way his attention to detail has enabled him to with groups in the past. It is a case of the Professor finding the right formula; whether he will is up for debate.
Throughout Arsenal FC, there is a balance in need of restoration in order to become successful. From Kroenke and Uzmanov’s share wrangling, to Wenger and Bould’s apparent behind-doors tiff, and even to factions of supporters behind Wenger and others who bemoan his lack of spending. Arsenal have never spent big money; they have won trophies…
The removal of the club’s motto from the shirt was a strange foreshadowing of the atmosphere at The Emirates. It may also have been removed from the minds of the players, staff, owners and fans.
Out of sight, out of mind: Victoria Concordia Crescit (“Victory Grows Out of Harmony”).