In-depth honest analysis of the problems at Arsenal….

Arsene and Arsenal’s problems… by TJ

It wasn’t unreasonable to expect a response from this Arsenal team after the late collapse against Barca. Pride and professionalism hurt, you expect this team to come out playing good football, win, and go some way towards erasing the pain of that loss.

We will never know the mental state of players or their physical condition or how they’ve been at training – so we don’t know the reasoning behind the team selection. Let’s put aside the “he should have played” or “he shouldn’t have been selected” arguments. Let’s look at the team which was selected to play and when I look at that line-up, it suggested to me there was more than enough quality to get the win.

My only concern when the line-up was announced was the lack of on-field leadership and its absence became apparent through the game.

Nacho scores early, nerves and doubt are removed and we play a hellavu lot better? – one can only speculate what kind of difference that one moment would have made.

There was no doubt we would score against this make-shift defence and we did – we scored 2 goals and really should have scored 4. Now who predicted this Man Utd side would score 3 against us? Ok I accept sometimes we get an unlucky deflected goal, that can happen to any team on any given day. The 2 other goals are down to ill-disciplined play in our defensive third and utterly shameful defending and I am looking at you Gab.

We completely dominated the game in the first 28-29 minutes but the performance was perfunctory at best. The team seemed to be merely going through the motions with a “it will come sooner or later” attitude. No ferocity, no sense of urgency, no ruthlessness, no real drive. Words like insipid, disinterested, complacent, disdain (for the opponent) come to mind.

How can a team with an excellent chance to win the EPL come into this game against an under-manned Man Utd team with that attitude? Over-confident? That we could just “rock and roll” (rock up and roll them)? It looked to me that every player was looking for that player “S. Else” – someone else – to take control, dictate the game but he didn’t show up that day but his brother “N. Won. Else” did.

The blame lies with everyone at AFC associated with getting a team ready to play. Wenger, the players, the coaching staff are all culpable for that pathetic performance.

The game and individual performances has been dissected to bits so I am not going into that in any detail, but I do want to highlight what I think was a very poignant moment in the match which may point to a deeper dressing room problem. Ozil gesticulates to Gab how he wants the ball delivered into the forward half. Gab pretty much tells him “va se foder”. Taken in isolation it may not mean much – heat of the battle stuff– but when we stitch together a series of events leading up to that I sense a deeper problem.

Go back to the Hull game..Per’s comments “It is down to us, we produced a good defensive performance but overall in the final third, that little final pass at the end, we always rushed ourselves at times to finish so we need to learn from that.”

Barca game…the defense led by Per are caught high up the pitch and we are punished with a goal on the counter-attack. Ozil throws his hands up in the air with a “how the hell did you let that happen” towards Per and the defense. Per’s after match comments were directed at the forward lines inability to score and blames the loss to their attacking shortcomings and suggested that their lack of cohesion and penetration was the cause.

Next match Per is benched. In my opinion, the dressing room harmony is fractured and was fractured prior to the Man Utd game which would explain the playing attitude. If Wenger hasn’t lost the dressing room, I suspect he is mighty close to it.

Wenger is many things, but a motivational manager he is not. I am neither an AKB nor AOB. So right off the bat, let’s acknowledge he’s been instrumental in building Arsenal into a global brand and a financially stable football powerhouse. He’s established a world class academy which will bear fruit for years to come. He has won us trophies (not as many perhaps as we would have liked). He has got the team playing attractive football (mostly). He has to a large degree introduced higher levels of professionalism through the English league and introduced (back then) new concepts like nutritionists, conditioning coaches etc.

But against that we have:

1. “Lack of Intellectual Honesty” – I define this as “seeing things/talent for what they are as opposed to what you believe them to be”. His “closeness” with some of the younger players he brings through the ranks…clouds his judgement. He believes in the potential of the player and believes he can make them realise their potential and sometimes stubbornly refuses to yield that view. He builds an emotional attachment to players at times, which clouds his judgment. I sense in his mind it’s like “i can’t sell this player because I believe he will be world-class” and “this player is still not delivering the performances I believe he can but I can’t sell him because he just might blossom next year”.

2. Unchallenged (not really a flaw of AW but of the situation). By this, I mean that no one within the AFC will challenge AW when it comes to the squad and player purchases. There is no one there who is technically qualified to question him and challenge his decisions. And of course, the Board is entirely beholden to him for delivering to them a financial miracle, so they are somewhat hamstrung. Where is the check-n-balance when it comes to the football and the players?

3. Unwavering Belief and Unadventurous/Risk Averse. He has an unwavering belief in himself, what he stands for and how the game should be played and (either as a result of this belief or perhaps coupled to it) I sense a very risk averse person or maybe to be fair, one who won’t be adventurous unless there is no other option. He is very risk averse when it comes to purchases unless he’s a very young player or a proven world-class player…anything in between and he’ll default to what he has, unless his hand is forced by way of injury.

4. Motivational Manager – he is not. His philosophy has always been about player empowerment – allowing them the freedom to come up with solutions on the pitch. He’s not been known as a motivator and there are simply occasions when a motivator is needed to lift the spirits and drive the team.

If you combined those 4 elements, you quickly get a picture which probably explains a lot about past transfer dealings and “inexplicable” losses. He isn’t prepared to be “ruthless” and “unattached” when considering external options in terms of personnel. When has he ever spent big on an emerging next “best thing”? (think Pogba type) I can’t think of one. After Ozil and Sanchez…the next biggest spend was….Calum Chambers! (and then Welbeck and then Santi in that order recently). Therein lies an indicator – he is ok with spending 40-45M on PROVEN world class talent and he accepts that he has to spend around 20M on younger, strong emerging talent..but he won’t spend the 30ishM on talent that’s in between BECAUSE! the young ones he has will get there (almost there in his mind!). Well that equates to a perpetual waiting game – because the proven world class players either move on or retire or lose their “world classness” eventually and the young ones don’t always develop the way you think they will.

In terms of the transfer spending – the emergence of Coquelin and Bellerin have probably reinforced his deeply held belief in his approach, hence we probably shouldn’t expect to see any deviation from the past 5 years in the next transfer window. I predict he will believe Welbeck, Akpom and Iwobi will become world-class and therefore we don’t need to go splurge on a striker, unless perhaps a world class striker is available and he is under 30. He will point to having Walcott and Giroud already…and quite simply…he doesn’t have the “ruthlessness” to ditch anyone of them and try someone new (emotional attachment, risk averse, lack of intellectual honesty).

So how does it change? Well, unfortunately, it will be when AW decides because he is unchallenged (No 3). We have no way of knowing how the board is thinking and if they are encouraging him to step down once this contract ends. Quite frankly, if he doesn’t deliver the EPL this season, he certainly should call time, and even if he does…he should seriously consider calling time at the end of this season.

We have no idea what the succession plan looks like – life after AW. But we should brace ourselves because it will be a rocky road ahead once AW steps down. The transition is rarely smooth.

I hope I am wrong…that I’ve read too much in the ‘tea leaves’, the dressing room is fine, players are together and they’ll go on a run now. For the sake of my beloved Gunners…I hope I am very wrong.


Tags Mertesacker Ozil Wenger


  1. OT:
    I just read that Usmanov increased his Arsenal stake to 30% by buying out Moshiri’s stake, who in turn has invested in Everton. Even the shareholders are losing their faith and seeing the bigger picture. Why can’t Usmanov just get the control of things already?!

    1. If Usmanov really wanted to buyout Kroenke he would make him an offer he can’t refuse,I don’t think he’s the solution as well he’s just like Kroenke,i don’t know where this blind faith in Usmanov is coming from

      1. It is like religion, like the afterlife if you want. After all this purgatory people will take anything in the sense that it sucks now but there must be something after, something better if this will change. That’s why people believe Usmanov (which basically let Kroenke take the big cut) is the redeemer. I don’t care who is going to hold the majority as long as I see board and staff are aligned. If financial success is what they are after then why bother going to the games? TV rights feed more than enough money into the teams, why fight the reprograming fixtures and not sitting comfy in the front of teevee.

        1. My suggested team for next year:

          GK: Cech, Ospina
          RB: Bellerin, Aurier
          CB: Koscielny, Laporte, Mertesaker, Gabriel, Chambers
          LB: Monreal, Gibbs
          CDM: Carvalho, Coquelin
          CM: Ramsey, Wilshere, Elneny
          CAM: Ozil, Cazorla
          LW: Sanchez, Ox
          RW: Walcott, Campbell
          ST: Aubameyang, Giroud, Welbeck

          Loan Out: Szczesny, Jenkinson, Gnabry, Zelalem, Iwobi, Bielik, Crowley, Adelaide, Silva, Niles, Toral, Kamara

          1. would keep just one of your wingers…need to bring another world class option here and give the youngsters a chance

            was shocked that you left so no goals out of our attacking options…some mistake surely!!!

        2. AMBITIOUS returns vs Acceptable returns. We need investors who want Ambitious returns…investors/owners who understand and are willing to underwrite a long term plan built on success (trophies) and a brand of football (attractive attacking football) which attracts supporters. The current board/owners appear to be satisfied with Acceptable Returns.

      2. Because Usmanov has made public claims that we need to increase our activity in the transfer market unlike any of the other shareholders

    2. Usmanov’s sole control of 30% of the shares of the R&W hoLdings makes it even worse

      He’s been pushed down the perking order and won’t even have a say at the board meetings

      watch ur beloved Arsenal over-run by billionaire thugs!

  2. This doesn’t need in-depth analysis Wenger is the problem,all the low quality players in our team were bought by him,this is the manager who felt this squad that finished 12 points behind Chelsea last season was good enough by only adding a goalkeeper Cech when we needed a DM and striker as well!

    1. I’m starting to doubt whether Wenger has any say on which players we get. Today it was announced we had 135m in the bank but we would only use half of that. How could it be possible when the manager himself knows the type of quality he keeps bragging we need is nowhere near affordable with that amount ? We have to replace 4-5 players, a quality midfielder and forward alone will cost about 70m. Furthermore, how can we have 135m when we had 200m last season ? 75m of the transfer funds were most likely taken by Kroenke to fund his LA takeover and it’s hurting the club. I believe the manager has to threaten to quit if he’s not allowed to spend on players because you can’t go from buying players like Henry and Vieira to relying on Walcott and Flamini without someone forcing you to change your spending ways.

      1. the £200 million is just buff up bank balance because of the ticket sales and all the sponsorship monies coming in at the end of season, the half yearly’s shows what happens after all that money has been used in the summer window. as well as other expenditure like hale end improvements and london coloney new building works this all comes out of the club bank balances, so that where the money really goes to not to America that is just a big wind up from the papers, to rile up us supporters because we get annoyed by it very easily. even though there is no proof of him personally taking any money out of the club they would have to declare it under these new financial regulations that have come in, any and all monies going out of the club has to be put in black and white on the accounts and i didn’t see that kronke has taken anything when i read them the other day. Swiss ramble does a good write up our finances go look at is page he would have spotted a massive payment going out of the club if anybody could. he just mention that it is the stadium bonds that is like a weight around our neck still as he put it one time, and he seems to believe that it this that is what still drives our boards and clubs directions in terms of how much we spend and how much we can afford to do in general and right fully so to. i wouldn’t want us to go bankrupt over doing things now. and he is a financial guru so i would believe him over the papers any day. also arsenal never mentions how much money is available for transfers and they never will. coyg

        1. Regardless of the real picture regarding fianance the fact remains that we make more money by winning titles and increasing our glabal brand, the board or whoever should not be boasting of 75 million to spend in a transfer window if thats not the real figure and theres no intention of spending it on the players we so obviously need, Does the Suarez debarcle not smack of a smoke and mirrors scenario whereby we were never really in for the player and just wanted to be percived as making an effort, hence the 40 million and 1 pound offer that was so obviously going to be rejected and aslo was going to make liverpool absolutly adamant that they would not sell to us regardless of the price?
          theres something desperatly wrong within the club and I for one feel that Wenger is not the entire casue of the problem but he almost certainly IS a part of it and is complicet with the board in running a well oiled machine as far as finance is concerned but will not risk any major financial outlay in order to achieve what it is in effect there for, TO WIN TROPHIES IN FOOTBALL COMPETITIONS !!!!!
          Its a sporting club NOT an investment bank for private members as its currently being run

  3. Nice Article, with interesting points of view,
    where some of your surmising makes sense,
    But in all fairness, No one outside of the club could possibly know the real issues.

    We can only judge by the teams performances and looking at it in the most simplistic way, it’s plain to see that there isn’t much practice being done during training!

    All the injuries in the past seems to have given Wenger an extra complex, to the point of issuing cut backs in training,
    It’s no secret that Ozil hasn’t being training properly since the Liverpool game and he is on a special program due to his on going foot problem.

    If you ask me… that would explain why the players look clueless at times when they approach the opponents penalty area and they end up making back passes instead of attacking the goal or shooting. .. There’s no confidence.

    It seems that training now days is for basic fitness only and nothing else.

  4. OT: we failed to beat a fully injured Van U and moving to face a fully fit,WC swansea that almost knocked spuds and having a GK wanting to prove AW wrong plus our striker dont want to shoot…a win will be a welcome miracle.

  5. “every player was looking for that player “S. Else” someone else”

    I’m looking at you El Nenny. All the lad seems to do is to quickly pass to the nearest player. He doesn’t look to do anything creative with the ball at all like take it forward to start an attack. It’s almost as if he’s playing towards our own half. Not impressed one bit so far 🙁

  6. How can a world class team have a captain who never plays and a vice who is a liability?
    We have needed leadership on and off the field for a long time now. This can not be rectified
    until Wenger retires.

    1. @AussieJack…absolutely spot on mate. AW has focused so much on these small, technical, intelligent players but he didn’t go out looking for a Club Leader. I don’t know any other professional team (forget World Class) who’s captain hardly gets a game!
      So before we go chasing a DM or CF or whomever else…we need to get players who are leaders – at least 2 of them. In the meantime, Cech will probably be the Captain for next season but I seriously want to see more “mongrel” in him, barking out orders and driving the boys.

  7. we don’t need an indept analysis of Arsenal’s biggest problems

    Take away WENGER, Take away his Lazy pitch entertainers……

    And watch the club bounce back on improvement (Never said effective immediately)

    if a manager like Slaven bilic can perform so well in a mid table side like west-ham……given their relatively small financial backing…..

    NB: the nature of players he brought in since he took over

    i see No reason why a new and tactically adept manager can’t achieve same at Arsenal

    Look at Luis enrique (formerly of celta-vigo…..a brilliant manager of a bottom/mid table side) now of barca…..given the resources, he’s gone on to win how many accolades and trebles so far?

    What proof do we need to show that nobody else can do better than what we have (wenger) ?


  8. Wenger out, Joachim Low in… Its that simple, as long as Wenger is there, I’ll advice you don’t hope so as not to get disappointed. Just keep pressing on top four, maybe top three this season. I’ve been sick over this team!!! They don’t care bout ur article and they don’t give a damn bout d fans!!! Can’t even stay a week happy with my club? That sucks!!!
    I’ll rather check the log on monthly basis than waste my time n money watching a match dt won’t give me a glimpse of joy. So, for now, I’m out until…
    Arsene Wenger out and Joachim Low or anyone better than this Mr know all comes in. Bye.

  9. @Josh…I’ve been disappointed before…and many of us here as well. But we love our Gunners…managers come and go, players come and go, management comes and goes…the Club, the Badge, the colours, the history, outlasts us all.

    Well before Wenger arrived, I’ve been a supporter… since the Bertie Mee days (the glorious 1970 double!) then there were the Terry Neill days…very barren days indeed. The Don Howe years…the good thing was that they didn’t last long..but then George Graham arrived and glory came to Arsenal. the last success was an FA cup win in 1978 and the title was ours after waiting 17 years! It’s unfortunate what happened with GG but Bruce Rioch did a lot in 1 year to set the foundations too. and then came the Wenger years.

    I don’t care about my article – I was just trying to look at things with intellectual try to see things objectively. This loss hurt a lot, lot more than losing to Barca and many other losses in the past…this loss hurt deeply because the boys wearing the shirt, disrespected the shirt and the badge with the nonsense they served up. That is inexcusable. I am sure AW feels the same way.

    So as an old Arsenal supporter, I say this…stay with this glorious club…the change is coming very soon. Wenger cannot delude himself anymore….he knows the time has come. The man loves the club, he is doing what he believes is in the best interests of the club…but there’s no one there who will face him into the “Mirror of Truth”…I think he is coming to face that mirror on his own and there’s only 1 outcome. He has to step down at the end of the season.

    When you support a team…it’s about the Club and not the personnel who at the club. I hope you reconsider Josh.

    It’s a great club, it’s got a wonderful history and there are many glorious years ahead.

  10. You know what…I sent this article in to Admin and said “title it any way you want”…in hindsight now I should’ve titled it “The Day I gave up on Wenger”…because I simply have. As I have said many times, I am neither an AOB nor AKB but perhaps leaning towards AKB, because we don’t have the same info he has and he is in charge.

    My disconnect from Wenger doesn’t come from this loss to Man Utd…it was an accumulation of events over many years which crystallised itself into my decision after this game. I don’t believe anymore…or to put it more accurately…I believe now, there are better options to what we have.

    There’s a deep hurt about this…i respect the man…there is no hate here. I wish it would have been a fairy tale – CL, EPL, FA Cup farewell for him for all he has done. But that’s not life….ask Diaby and Eduardo…dreams get shattered in a moment.

    Wenger is not the right person to lead this club anymore. This is the first and last time I will ever say that, but I will support my Gunners till I die.

  11. I respect TJ’s anlaysis which is from the heart and soul. It is not about hatred for this or that individual but love for our dear club. I don’t believe the Manager loves to see his team not winning trophies. I believe Wenger is a well bred gentleman who believes in giving people a chance to prove themselves which at times becomes a big liability to the trusting party. Wenger has managed to keep Arsenal in top four with very young and inexperienced players so anyone would imagine that with the kind of players we have today we would be world beaters. But alas these players have made themselves mere caricatures with no spine to talk of. They are behaving like clowns. It must be very disgusting and heart rending for Wenger! What excuse would these players give? They have some of the best facilities anywhere in the world both in terms of training and an ultra modern stadium. So other than weak will what else would stop Arsenal winning trophies? The will power of our team is simply indescribable and I feel this is where Wenger needs to clamp down hard on his players. There should be no mercy towards any player who has no fighting spirit. Why should committed players like Campbell be benched in favour of jokers like Walcott? Certain players who have excelled in mediocrity should be rested until they show they are willing to fight for the team. It is pointless to claim to be a senior player when your contribution is lackluster. It is better to try a new player like Elneny than playing some one without focus like Ramsey has become of late. Let the manager put all players on notice that no one has an automatic right to play in a certain position; all players must realise that being selected to play should be based on one’s current performance not history or sentimental reasons.

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