As a club – fans and management, do we have the winning culture? Are we casting aside the winning culture? by Usmanov
Our poor form in recent weeks is no news. The fact we’ve always had periods like these in the past decade or so is not strange either. But what I find rather disturbing is the tone of some in the fanbase! And even more so recent statements from Arsene Wenger himself. And it has got me seriously thinking that maybe we as a club haven’t in our collective subconscious decided exactly whether or not we want to be a winning club.
To understand what I’m speaking of, take as recent examples top clubs like Barcelona. Despite all of their success; despite all of the talent they have at their disposal, they still seem to want to win more than we do. I don’t necessarily think all of it is down to individual quality of the players or even the quality of the coaching; it’s a mentality they have and have especially had since Guardiola took charge. It’s a culture. It’s similar to the culture Man United used to have under Alex Ferguson. It’s a basic refusal to accept anything other than winning, a ruthless streak that shines through in every thing they do at the club.
At Arsenal, perhaps we’ve always felt for one reason or another that ‘this is not our year, but next year can be better’. I think it started in the project youth era, where we counted on our players maturing and becoming a cohesive unit. We said: ‘sure Chelsea are winning trophies and buying top talent now, but our players will be at their level soon’. It never quite happened. Those same promising youth players, instead of maturing into the top class stars we hoped for in our fold, mostly either wandered to greener pastures or were put out to pasture. But that “wait and see” mentality has permeated itself into the squad so deeply now that we seem to be unable to be free of it, even though the squad is now mostly comprised of seasoned campaigners..
Take for example this season. We started as the most stable team. We had the most experienced manager in the league managing an unchanged squad (except for the Cech upgrade). Add to that we had spare cash to spend on re-enforcement if we wanted to. Still, we seem to be saying ‘this is not our year, maybe next year will be better’. In past years there have been many contributing factors to our underachievement; a terrible misfortune (and/or mismanagement) with injuries, the rise of super clubs, our limited budget, etc. But now those factors are mitigated and still that flaccid mentality still permeates the club and everything it does football wise. That mentality must change!
I thought it would change with the FA cup wins, or perhaps the arrival of players like Ozil, Alexis and Cech; but it hasn’t been enough to turn the tide. The man at the top has to do more to instill a ruthless hunger for wins into these players, a hunger I’ve no doubt he has himself but maybe has become more of a steady simmer than a rolling boil down the years. The Arsene of the 1990′s, who was a groundbreaker in Japanese football, and who first came to England as a bespectacled foreign revolutionary; that Arsene is still in him, but there is now doubt.. it’s a more measured, more tame and more habit driven Arsene than he was in his youth. I wonder how he views himself now? Does he now enjoy coaching more than winning? Has he for some time now? Arsene must awaken the beast within, the monster that first drove him into the types of crazy risks he took in his youth. Without being paired with a fierce, jealous and impulsive will to win, I fear his measured and fatherly approach will not reap the dividends that the increasing expectations around the club now demand.
Does he still have the fire in him? That is the biggest question surrounding the club in 2016. Arsene’s answer to a press question tantamount to that was definitive: ‘Yes, I am motivated and no I will not quit’. But there is little else a manager can say with two months remaining in the campaign and some of the performances certainly don’t reflect that inner fire. Let us do as Arsene asks and judge him at the end of the season.
Maybe it’s just this one season, a season during which all the major powers have fallen flat on their faces at the same time. The same questions are being asked of every single manager around the league, even arch-pragmatists and serial trophy winners like Van Gaal and Mourinho, the latter of whom saw the axe before mid-season and the former of whom will likely see the axe as soon as it concludes. So, yeah, maybe it’s not just Arsene. But he is the man primarily responsible for how the team performs on the pitch and if the team maintains its current abysmal form through the end of the season then his job should rightfully be in jeopardy.