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Do Arsenal Fans Have The Patience For Wenger’s Way?

Love him or hate him, Arsene Wenger is a stubborn man. In the space of four days, Arsenal threw away a 1-0 lead against Liverpool after scoring in the 97th minute but committing a penalty in the 102nd minute, which was converted by Dirk Kuyt. Then, in the North London derby with Arsenal leading 3-1 in the first half, they allowed Tottenham Hotspur to come back to draw the match 3-3.

These two matches as well as similar games earlier in the season (such as the 4-4 draw with Newcastle and the 3-2 loss against Spurs even though the Gunners were two-nil ahead) illustrate that Arsenal need to improve. In many ways, this season, more than any other in recent memory, was Arsenal’s best bet to win the title with Manchester United not at their best, Chelsea floundering and rivals Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham unable to keep a consistent run of form.

So what is Arsene Wenger’s response to all of this? He’s sticking to his principles and believes that if his side can win the remaining five games, they can win the Premier League title.

“The team is [an average age of] 23 years old, why should we expect to have a huge turnover at the end of the season?” said Wenger, on the topic of whether he will be using the £40m transfer kitty this summer to bring in a flood of new footballers to replace some of his inexperienced playmakers. “I am convinced that if we win our five games we will win the championship. But the target is to win the next one and let’s focus, give absolutely everything to do it. We have played 16 games without losing. What I feel is most important for us is to keep the belief and to win. This championship will go to the most solid team, mentally, not necessarily to anybody else.”

In some ways, I respect Wenger for sticking to his guns. He absolutely has a devout belief in the way that he’s managing the team that will work in the long run. But despite his accomplishments in keeping Arsenal financially stable, when is enough enough? When does someone say that time has run out if no silverware has been won? Will Arsenal always be an also-ran and will Arsenal supporters be content with that?

While there are undoubtedly some very talented youngsters at Arsenal, the Gunners still need new more experienced players on this side. I respect what Wenger is doing. In the short term, he’s trying to keep his players motivated to go out there and rise to the challenge. But it just doesn’t seem to be enough. Is it that Arsenal’s players are underperforming or is that Wenger is making mistakes, or a combination of the two or none of the above?

Personally I believe that Wenger is doing the best he can with what he has. His players can do better. But a key reason why they’ve been unable to reach their peak during the past several weeks is that they’re missing a leader. Liverpool have found a way to play just as well, if not better, when Gerrard is out injured. Arsenal have yet been able to do the same when Fabregas is injured or is having a underwhelming game. Other than requiring more experienced players who can be leaders on the field for Arsenal, they also need a different dimension to their football. I don’t believe they can go out and play attacking football week-in week-out and win championships. Arsenal need a Plan B so they can play defensively when they have to. But this is where the issues arise with Wenger. The man is too stubborn to change his tactics. If only he could develop a different side to Arsenal, so they can switch to a defensive style of play when they need to hold on for a victory, Arsenal would be able to reach higher in the league and in the Champions League.

So even if Wenger does get a £40m treasure chest this summer to buy new players, I’m convinced he’ll go out and buy more young players that fit into his model. He may buy a goalkeeper to strengthen the side there, but I don’t believe he’s being honest with himself. Either that, or he doesn’t believe there are issues with his team. And if that’s true, it’s scary because almost everyone else can see the holes in this Arsenal side that need to be fixed to make them more successful.

I believe the only way to fix Arsenal and to make them into a silverware winning side is to develop an Arsenal side who can play defensively when needed. Without that, I’m convinced that Arsenal will keep on repeating the same mistakes over and over again. And the only person who change that right now is Arsene Wenger. And if he’s not willing to change it, then perhaps it’s time to consider a different manager. Imagine what Jose Mourinho would do if he was in Wenger’s shoes. Would he keep the team at a status quo, or would he purchase proven players who could fit into his system, that could play defensively-sound games when needed?

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  1. Lefty

    April 25, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    Even thought I’m not an Arsenal fan I’ve lost patience with Wenger’s way. They are a joy to watch the way they pass the ball around but can be frustrating when they are not able to break down teams or have a striker that can score. Robin van Persie is too injury-prone to be relied upon and Bendtner and Chamach aren’t good enough. Then there is their defence which lacks steel and are too prone to mistakes.

    Wenger clearly hasn’t been able to motivate his players to be strong and resilient. I’d go with a change in manager.

  2. Carolyn

    April 24, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    Someone needs to tell Professor Wenger what another Professor Einstein said “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

  3. Wade

    April 24, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    When Arsenal lose to manchester United next Sunday and Arsenal’s defence and mental weakness are exposed once again, that’s when I think the clamor for Wenger to leave will begin. I really think that unless Wenger recognizes that his way hasn’t worked and starts talking about real change that he will lose the support of the majority of fans. He still has the backing of the board but if the fans turn on him then I can see the board making a change.

  4. Drew

    April 24, 2011 at 8:21 pm

    As an Arsenal fan for the past 23 years I’m now beginning to lose patience with Wenger’s ways. He is/has been a terrific manager but I think it may be time for him to go. I say this because he seems in denial as to what needs to be done to win a trophy. The backline needs steel and he continues to buy “soft” defenders. Also, Chamach and Bendtner aren’t good enough to be relied upon to score goals consistently.

    This pattern to Arsenal’s end every season is what has finally led me to beleieve that Wenger should go. His ways are not working.

  5. brn442

    April 23, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    Things get “lost in translation” when footballers give interviews but if Fabregas was quoted anywhere close to correctly – it is a stinging rebuke of Wenger’s Team Philosophy – The following alleged quotes are just damning:

    “We are all so young that there is nobody you look at and say ‘Wow”

    “”There will be a moment when you have to decide – do you win things or not?

    “Since 2007 I have started to say ‘We don’t win but we play very well’. And after that you realize that it doesn’t work.”

    “You cannot make the final step and it is here where a decision has to be made – to go out to win or to develop players.”

    This, from the man Wenger has put faith in as captain -who, by the way, is not a natural leader or is too young to ( “I am only 23 and it is important to remember that”), has been out of form – symbolized by his lazy back-heel at the Nou Camp, which further plunged the Gunner’s season into oblivion yet again. I’ve said it before and will say it again. IT IS TIME TO LET FABREGAS GO.

  6. Terence

    April 23, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    Wenger is in denial. He is fast becoming a joke with his insistence that Arsenal can win with the present players and his present philosophy. The man has become delusional. The statistics don’t lie. Too many blown games from a winning position.

  7. Jason

    April 23, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    In order to win the EPL title teams have to be strong mentally and physically. This Arsenal side is neither. And Wenger isn’t helping by continually spewing garbage that they can win it with their present philosophy. For 2 years in a row Arsenal have blown chance after chance of being in a strong position to win the title.

    Wenger is a great manager and his record speaks for itself. But to win the title you need something more which Wenger hasn’t been able to instill in his players. Arsenal will always be in the top 4 but they won’t win it with Wenger’s philosophy. You can only afford to be stubborn if what you are stubborn about is working.

    • R2Dad

      April 23, 2011 at 5:35 pm

      I think where Wenger specifically has misjudged is the required depth of squad to compete for more than one trophy. It’s more expensive but a better strategy to carry a better bench expecting to be in the mix come March for at least 3 trophies. Injuries have been a huge setback because the backup personnel aren’t of good enough quality at those positions, and the starting 11 are relatively fragile.

  8. R2Dad

    April 23, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    The Special One would gut the team. Even though there have been record signings in January, ManCity (among others) are sitting on a bunch of loans because the market is still depressed for the majority of transfers out there. Bad time to shop half your side, so Jose doesn’t make economic sense.

  9. Kyle

    April 23, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    Can’t see why they would get rid of him. He is Arsenal the way Herbert Chapman was in the 30s. He has transformed them from a sterile defensive team to a vibrant attacking team. Outside of United he has had his side in the Champions League continously since his first full season.

  10. Sean

    April 23, 2011 at 9:02 am

    “If only he could develop a different side to Arsenal, so they can switch to a defensive style of play when they need to hold on for a victory, Arsenal would be able to reach higher in the league and in the Champions League.”

    Well, Arsenal did try to do that against Barcelona and well, we know how that worked out.

    For people saying that Arsene Wenger is setting up his side for the FFP rules, that might make sense if his spending habits did not pre-date the concept of FFP.

    Also, in order for Arsenal to upgrade its side in the way many suggest, is £40m even enough?

  11. brn442

    April 23, 2011 at 1:44 am

    You respect Wenger for sticking to his guns? I have nothing against his footballing philosophy on the pitch. In the dressing room, it has been a disaster.

  12. robert

    April 23, 2011 at 1:32 am

    I like Arsenal’s defenders (sans Eboue of course), but I do feel like they need a ferocious, vociferous team leader added to that back line. I also think they need someone like Crouch or Kevin Davis who is a giant with his back to goal and good at holding up the ball for VP. Or just a top-notch, spend the cash striker like Drogba, Tevez, Rooney… somebody lethal. Lord knows they have a team full of midfielders. Spend that whole 40 mil on one striker, or split it on a tall striker and a mean, loud center half that will end up being captain after the first five games.

    I’ll be tired of Wenger only if he lets this young crew go their way before they earn a trophy. If he keeps them until they’re men, I’m cool with him. That’s the difference between the Gunners and Chelski/Man U. Chelsea/Man U are men. They play like men. Arsenal still plays like up and comers, but they get better every year.

  13. Rami S.

    April 23, 2011 at 1:15 am

    I think it’s time for Arsene and Arsenal to go separate ways. This is a great piece to read because it’s been a topic of discussion for a couple of weeks now. I think besides all that’s mentioned here, I’d add the fact Arsene does not keep a solid veteran core capable of keeping the younger, inexperienced Gunners calm and confident when the match is at critical moments. More experienced players can handle better the pressures of the match and can fend off comebacks by opponents better than less experienced and psychologically unprepared younger players. No one is saying Arsenal should have a team full of veterans but just two older players, perhaps one in central defense and one in midfield.

  14. kczat

    April 22, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    I’m curious why there isn’t more talk about Pep Guardiola coming to Arsenal. We know that he has interest in coming to the EPL, and Arsenal would be the most obvious choice.

    Mourinho, on the other hand, is the most un-Arsenal-like manager. And he has also made it pretty clear that he wants to move to Man United.

    • R2Dad

      April 23, 2011 at 3:02 pm

      Exactly my thoughts. A Barca/Arsenal managerial swap would make sense. Both are good managers that need a change. The philosophies are similar, though Pep would probably insist on a 50M transfer budget. Especially if Barca is getting Cesc–and there’s your 50M!

  15. Dave (dlbags)

    April 22, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    Gaffer Vermaelen has been out all season and he’s a HUGE part of the Arsenal defense. Players like Song who at the beginning of the season was a joke to many Arsenal fans with them calling him Songnihno has blossomed into a impact player, Djourou has grown into a top defender with most not even knowing who he was at the begining of the seasons and Sagna has been incredible.

    In the first transfer window Vermaelen was healthy. During the second he was a few weeks away then had a setback the last day of. Wenger got caught there. But at this time Djourou had risen up. This was prior to NUFC or any of the horrible conceding. The first THFC game we had injuries as we did for the first CFC game.

    I think this season was dictated more by injuries as it usually is for a WC year than bad staffing. Up until the game Wednesday- which I’m sure having played Sunday had an impact on, Arsenal’s clean sheets and goals against was top 3 in the league.

    For me though I agree with you it’s more tactics, they play attacking no matter the score. And that’s when they concede. I’d like to see them park the bus more often with a lead in the final 15.

    And like so many of us said in the last thread Wenger has set this team up for the fair play FIFA rules to kick in. ALL the other top clubs are going to be caught with their pants down. Wenger sees the big picture where other teams are too focused on the now.

    And I also think Wenger is being coy as he will go after some players in the off season. He’s not going to say it now with the current team still in a race. That would be daft and upset the locker room that needs to be focused on winning the final 5 games. Expect quite a few changes in the summer Gaffer. With Norwich and Cardiff possibly coming up I bet they will buy some of the loan players and give more cash to Wenger. I bet Cardiff buys Ramsey too of they make the BPL…

    Also Szcscesny has be awesome but is young. Fabianski showed he can handle the pressure and is young too. But honestly there’s been no world class GKs available or I’m sure Man U would have picked one up too knowing Van der Saar is leaving. GKs are going to be high in demand this summer, expect huge pay outs for them if both MUFC and AFC need one. Reina could break some records if he asks for a transfer.

    • Andy

      April 22, 2011 at 7:16 pm

      Szcscesny is far too inexperienced to be No.1, he should be learning from a seasoned pro. Wenger claims not to have any money but why do we have one of the highest wage bill in the EPL. Why are under-performing kids being paid so much? The balance of the squad is so wrong. How did Wenger progress from the Invincibles to kids (and possibly the smallest – height – squad).

  16. raok

    April 22, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    nice one…… i was worried that after the start of epl talk pro, there will not be good articles. you are doing a good job.

    all arsenal need is a decent striker and a midfieldEr with some balls, not necessarily excellent but someone who can keep things simple.
    with the return of vermalen, our defence will look decent.

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