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Arsene Wenger Has Finally Learned His Lesson

It seemed for so long that Arsene Wenger just didn’t seem to know what was wrong with his Arsenal team. For the past six seasons, it was clearly obvious to fans and viewers that Arsenal had no Plan B to their attacking game; They lacked experience, bite in midfield, a defensive rock at the back and no squad depth. Was it the fans that were blinded to the talent that only Wenger could see? Or was it Wenger having too much pride to admit he was wrong?

Come 2011, a dramatic fall from grace; from fighting on four fronts, the Gunners fell hard and off the rails. Losing the League Cup to Birmingham, getting knocked out of Europe by Spanish nemesis Barcelona, likewise by Manchester United in the FA Cup and winning only 2 games in the last 10 Premier League games. Summer arrived, so did the sagas: Fabregas to Barcelona, Nasri to Manchester City. Fans feared the worst as they might lose their two best players. Wenger however, didn’t. He went about his business, saying that the duo were committed to the club. Was he so blind to see that Fabregas wanted to return to his home club and Nasri wanted to play for a winning team?

They left and then came the last day transfer deals: Per Mertesacker, Mikel Arteta, Andre Santos and Park Chu-Young came in. Everyone criticized Wenger, saying that he hadn’t replaced Fabregas and Nasri with players of the same quality. Yet, he did something that we didn’t expect: he learned his lessons from the previous seasons and now it’s paying dividends.

Arsenal’s recent run of form, 9 wins from 11 games, has coincided with Wenger’s recent change in tactics, playing style and obviously the introduction of the new recruits. In term of tactics and style, Wenger has stuck to his default 4-3-3: the target man, supported by strikers/wingers on both sides that come in to support; three in middle, with two creators and one anchor man and finally the back four; one sweeper, one ball-playing centre back  and supporting full backs who get forward. So what’s the difference? Simply, when Arsenal had Fabregas and Nasri, they were a possession based team, but with the lost of these two players, Arsenal has gone for a more direct style of play. With wingers Theo Walcott, Gervinho and Arshavin having immense speed, Arsenal have defended deeper than usual, and when they have the ball, they launch counter attacks. As reported in this style of play was most evitable in Chelsea game, in which they won 5-3.

Wenger has recently admitted that he has sacrificed his team’s attacking gung-ho style in the search for results. Has Wenger really learned from the past? “I would say we are a bit more controlled and less cavalier,” Wenger said on Arsenal’s official website. “We are less adventurous when the job is done, I must say. Overall, I would say it is a more mature attitude. We were more functional, we did the job properly, with quality and with seriousness.” It seems Wenger has realised that Arsenal needed a bit more substance to their style and winning is key.

The change in style and tactics is due to new recruits and they have stood out, but it’s not just in what they have done but the type of player they are and the experience they offer. Per Mertesacker is a German international, named the “the defence pole”. Standing at 6 ft 6, he is imposing and provides height in the backline, something Wenger has failed to address over the years. More importantly, while not a vocal leader at the back, Wenger has said: ”He is a good organiser as well, he understands the game, he is an intelligent player”.

The signing of Arteta, while not a like for like replacement for Fabregas, offers something different to his fellow Spaniard. Fabregas played behind the attacking three, while Arteta plays a deeper in the midfield and whose primary task is to quickly get the ball to Walcott, Gervinho and Aaron Ramsey, who has taken the creator role of Fabregas. Arteta’s arrival has led to Arsenal’s more direct style of play and also lightens the load of the creative task of Ramsey and when he returns, Jack Wilshere. Wenger seems to have understood that Arsenal has needed an experienced individual in the centre of midfield, and the Arteta signing proved that.

New signings Gervinho and Park Chu-Young add other attacking options for the Gunners. Santos replaces the departed Gael Clichy and even though, his attacking abilities are noticeable, he does have to improve his defending, but he has been given the trust of Wenger. Even though he has rarely featured this season, on loan from Chelsea, Yossi Benayoun still has a part to play for the Gunners; his guile and creative can help this season. “His experience can make a big difference at some stage,” Wenger has said.

Still, Wenger has stuck by his principles by signing young promising players such as Carl Jenkinson, Ryo Miyaichi, Costa Rican Joel Campbell and English starlet Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Jenkinson has been given a decent run in the team, due to Sagna’s injury and while it has taken him time, he has settled into the role. While Oxlade-Chamberlain has shown glimpses of great potential, even scoring on his Champions League debut, he is one to look out for.

Wenger has finally learned from his past mistakes and Arsenal are on the rise. They have a long way to go: they are still battling to get into the top four, not least challenging for the Premier League title. They are still in the League Cup (where they face off against Manchester City), need one more point to progress to the next round of the Champions League and the FA Cup has yet to start.

The change in Wenger’s methods has helped Arsenal dramatically and hopefully there may well be a chance for them to break their trophy drought.

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  1. Pakapal2

    November 17, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    I dont think this is a lesson learned. The top targets did not come in. Santos was not available until Fenerbace were kicked out of the CL by UEFA. Arteta was not the first choice. I seriously doubt Per was either. It was Jagielka that Wenger wanted but the Moyes always wants too much for his players. I feel the most important part was shipping those that wanted out or those that have been underperforming. Bendtner, Denilson, Vela, etc make a lot of money and dont seem to have the level to play in the first team. Cesc is different, he wanted to leave. But we are better to not have the questions come up every transfer window.

    Nasri is different altogether. He was tapped up in December when he was playing his best football. Which is why his interest dropped off. IT is also the reason the transfer fee was so high. He would have gone for 10m, the other 15m was hush money.

    There are still players that need to be shipped out and a couple more that need to come. But this team looks more like a team than I have seen for a few seasons. Forward

  2. Pakapala

    November 17, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    Explain to me again how Arsene has learned from his past mistakes? Last I check the team sits outside of the top 4 (CL spots), and though they have had a good run of forms lately, they’re not convincing anyone that this is a team that will win any trophy this year. Same problem the team had for the past few years. Again how is that proof that Arsene has learned his lessons?

    • linfer

      December 7, 2011 at 11:44 am

      arsene didnt learn anything he didnt need to arsenal are the best club in the world in recent times they may not have won any trophies but the produce the finest players and turn a profit of around 60m the club should be held in the highest regard for not piling up massive debt like everyother club i also think it is redic that city looses more that 200m a year it maskes me sick that that is what happens in the world of football today that somerich bastard can buy a club and spend a billon in 4 years but i guess chels did the same in 2004 buying your talent insted of producing it may be the only thing arsene has learned over the past four years and that is not good for football

  3. AM

    November 17, 2011 at 11:16 am

    Success has many fathers… Failure remains an orphan

  4. Todd Parker

    November 17, 2011 at 10:11 am

    Every one above says it all, this article is confusing in the arguments you give. 1. We still do not have a plan B, our plan B on the bench is Chamakh and we will never go plan B because that is not our style of play. Plan A works or it doesn’t. 2. 5-3 win vs Chelsea was great but shipping 3 goals in the game with an atrociously high line and unorganized defense in the first half hardly recognizes any change of tactics or play. I am a Gooner, but let us keep to observing the game correctly. We won because of firming up our defense in the second half and we took our chances since RVP is world-class. RVP is plan A and the worry is that no one else is stepping up to become plan B. Gervinho is starting to link up well with RVP and has had some explosive moments leading to assists, but his finishing is poor. 3. You highlight well the influence of Mertesacker, but the other thing he has done is create competition for places. The moment he got signed he was placed in right away because of Vermaelen injury, but look what this has done for Koscielny–who is playing on another level because of the competition in training. Lastly, Arteta is the biggest signing they have had, he does indeed anchor the midfield and is the reason Ramsey has looked the part in the Cesc role and with Arteta you have possession with penetration (which is the coaching word you are looking for to describe “direct” play) and you also have the best player in every game at “not losing the ball.” Watch Arteta, he protects the ball on every touch and helps us keep the ball with his intelligent distribution. So to say we do not possess anymore is false. We just possess differently and it has nothing to do with being more direct, it has everything to do with having more penetration and since that is the case we are also winning the ball back in better areas. Additionally, I completely agree with everyone saying Nasri was not the second best player.

    Finally. The idea that Arsene learned from his mistakes is a little naive. Arsene returned from his short break when he and the players went off after last season and learned that half of his roster wanted to leave. What would you do? He then had to work through a long saga to try and determine who to keep and how to replace. That also is dictated by their own spending guidelines as a club and who is available in the transfer market. Arsene Wenger would literally tell you that this is the worst summer he has ever had as a professional manager because he had a dressing room in complete dis-repair. He intelligently and faithfully represented Arsenal as he always does and got on with it, making the moves he needed to make and undoubtedly getting denied on other moves he wanted to make that have never gone public. To act as though life taught him a lesson is overly simplistic. The players before did not perform, they are culpable as well. Arsene may have learned some things, but there is far more to what has transpired than to reduce it down to his lesson learning. Players who have stayed have also had something to prove. We need to stop acting as though Arsene was a screw up before when the Gunners had not won anything in 6 years and how he suddenly now “gets it.” It has always been amazing to me how many people have long-term memory loss. We are talking about the winningest manager in Arsenal history, manager of the untouchables, and EPL manager many peers would say has been MOST INFLUENTIAL in changing how the clubs are managed with advancements in nutrition, training, facilities, finances, style of play, scouting network, academy, should I go on, and on, and on? I could but I wont. Go Arsenal!

  5. J

    November 17, 2011 at 10:09 am

    While I do miss Fabregas in general, not Nasri, for obvious reasons, I do love how Arsenal’s play is always moving forward now. And they don’t seem to be trying to walk the ball into the goal so much as they have the past years, they just go for it when trying to score a goal. Since Wenger is the manager, and he’s had a history of knowing what he’s doing, I had a feeling there was some method to the madness there at the end of the summer transfer window. It just took a little time to sort out, and the veteran presence of Arteta and Mertesacker have definitely had an influence on the team as well as RVP’s role as captain. He’s been brilliant. It’s great to have Szczesny, who is solid in goal, Vermaelen, Arteta, and then RVP, and Song has done very well in the defending midfield role, even providing cover for Santos, when he takes off as if he’s the central midfielder. I hope to see their continued form that we saw against Chelsea and West Brom this weekend against Norwich.

  6. Nonsense

    November 17, 2011 at 9:51 am

    Loss not lost…”Fabregas and Nasri, they were a possession based team, but with the lost of these two players”.

  7. Aasum

    November 17, 2011 at 9:35 am

    i think we have found the perfect replacement for nasir in gervihno. Gervihno link up with vanpersie was brillant against chelsea, stoke and sunderland. He is better a dribbler than nasri but needs to improve on his finshing. The midfield has been key to our season ramsey song and areta but when wilshere comes back it will be interesting to see who gives way for him. Theo has had his best season so far goal wise and the defence is improving with kolchemely and mertasacker forming a good understanding at the back but vermalane will break it up because he is a better defender than both. RVP well what can you say apart from him not nominated for european footballer of the year and fabregas is because he secured hs dream to barca . And finally Sczeney has been our most consistent preformer this season we need to keep him!! we will finsh in the top four and win a cup who needs nasri we have gervihno and the best stricker in the world!!

  8. Rob

    November 17, 2011 at 8:51 am

    $amir Na$ri didn’t want to play for a winning team, he wanted a pay increase. To hell with him

  9. Dan

    November 17, 2011 at 8:46 am

    Nasri isn’t even their third best player.That would be Sagna.

  10. Adam

    November 17, 2011 at 8:35 am

    “Fans feared the worst as they might lose their two best players.” Really? You think Nasri was better than RVP? Did you even watch Nasri in the second half of last season? And did you even watch RVP in the 2nd half of last season?

    Or, are you just sensationalizing a wee bit to add weight to your story…

    • Todd

      November 17, 2011 at 10:03 am

      Yeah, I don’t understand that. Nasri has a sensational half a season in top form and suddenly he’s cream of the crop? Sure he’s got talent, but his inconsistency will be his undoing.

    • Dan

      November 20, 2011 at 9:27 am

      I would argue Fabregas, Nasri and RVP are there top 3. losing 2/3 is no good, rvp will be gone soon too

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