In Defence of Wenger and the players…. by Alarcon
It is exceedingly obvious that Arsenal are not having a good season at all, languishing at 6th on the table when this season was supposed to be the one where Arsenal capitalised on the FA Cup win to steamroller on. As a result of the team’s under-performance, fans have been turning on Wenger and the players. However, I do feel that much of the criticism leveled at them is rather uncalled for.
First of all, looking back at the Anderlecht and Swansea games, it is true that Wenger’s tactics in both games were debatable, but it is unwarranted to claim that Wenger and Arsenal are ‘absolutely clueless’. With regard to the Anderlecht game, it is important to note that it was Wenger’s tactics and Arsenal’s tenacity that even opened up the three goal lead in the first place. Of course, Arsenal managing to somehow blow the lead has to be a cause for concern, poor tactics were not necessarily the reason why we only managed a draw in the end.
For one, given the resources at Arsenal’s disposal, we hardly had the option of putting on an extra defender and digging deep. Instead, Wenger sent on attacking minded players, partially because he probably kept in mind that ‘attack is the best form of defense’, and also partially because of complacency and the want to give some players a run out.
Additionally, luck had a big role to play in our last two results. In the case of Anderlecht, one of their goals was significantly offside, while their penalty was also rather contentious, as it was given quite softly. As for Swansea, luck was also a large reason for the defeat. Say for example, Ramsey had scored the volley (which narrowly missed the bottom corner), or Fabianski had not managed to somehow save from Welbeck, or Swansea missed their inch perfect free kick, we could quite well be singing the praises of our manager and our team, as we did have some delicious plays in the game. As fortune had it, we came up short in both matches, not necessarily due to Wenger’s lack of tactical nous, but due to sheer dumb luck.
This article will also attempt to rebut some of the longer standing criticisms of Arsenal and Wenger.
Not buying a no nonsense, tough tackling DM:
The fans like to look back on past events. Some words that persistently emerge from the mouths of our fans are: ‘We should have bought Gustavo/Bender/Wanyama’. It is easy to say these words, while repeating that having a DM who sits and does the dirty work for the team is key to any title winning team. However in my opinion, saying such things would be extremely unfair. What is extremely noteworthy is that none of these three players are exactly in high demand, as all of them are in teams not in contention for titles. This is because the old fashioned DM is long out of fashion, with teams favouring deep lying playmakers and box to box midfielders instead.
For one, Man Utd, Liverpool, Man City, Juventus, Real Madrid, etc. all rarely employ the traditional holding midfielder, or the midfield destroyer in the mould of Viera. Yet, most of these teams have been relatively successful (with the exception of Liverpool and Man Utd). Similarly, Arsenal has been playing deep lying playmakers like Arteta and box to box midfielders like Wilshere and Ramsey. So I would say that as long as the midfield positions are well stocked up on, and good enough of quality, there is no need to buy a ‘good old-fashioned DM’. (I do agree that we have to upgrade on Flamini)
Becoming a one man team:
Recently, there has also been much said about Alexis carrying the team on his shoulders. However, I would say that these claims are unjustified. Although Alexis has in some cases single-handedly inspired us to victories, I must say that we are far from being a one man team just yet. Yes, Alexis does score a large proportion of our goals, but many of his goals are still largely created by the rest of the team, with him simply applying the finishing touch.
Not signing more players:
Many keyboard managers would have Arsenal pretty much overhaul the squad, preserving only 3 or 4 players from last season. I definitely say different. Just looking at how much impact our current number of signing has had on the fluency of our play, signing more players would only be folly.
Though this article is aimed at defending Arsenal, I still admit there are a few things that need to be improved. Signing a CB in January is now mandatory, and some players need to work on their basics. But to what seems like the majority of fans out there now, Arsenal are certainly not in a crisis, and people need to step down their criticism.