I try to be honest when I write and I endeavour also to be objective and on the whole positive. My team and their manager are making this increasingly difficult for me. Ultimately though, we bloggers and amateur writers are doing it for our own pleasure.
After all it is only other fans who read what we say, whether it be on transfers, tactics, formations or any other football rated subject. Sadly what was a pleasure has become more like a chore because more often than not, it is difficult to find positive energy and messages.
Personally, I have generally tried to be balanced where the management of Arsenal is concerned. I write about what Arsene Wenger might do to change the team’s direction or fortunes – not what he should do. My pieces; I hope, are suggestive and forward thinking, but I find myself fairly unable to do so now.
Wenger lost my full support between 2009 and 2013 following his total disrespect of the domestic cup competitions. The nine-year drought was a personal decision of his and his prioritising of the Champions League over the Premier League and FA Cup lost him my full backing, although I am acutely aware at the time I was in a minority.
The Frenchman lost many supporters with his timid and conservative transfer dealings, but I was happy to stick with him there. For me, it was always about tactics and getting the best from the young or rough diamonds he brought in – I respected that.
I could even deal with the selling of top players in the cash strapped times, as much as it hurt. I continued to love the way he and scouts discovered potential and quickly turned them into the real deal. I recall writing an article once saying it is not about buying this season’s 30-goal striker, it is about buying next season’s 30-goal striker.
I still believe in all of this, but sadly I don’t believe in Wenger and his scouting team’s ability to do it. In fairness it may just be that other sides like Newcastle United and Leicester City have improved their networks, while we have stood still.
Given that times are not so hard now; the fact that we can’t unearth a new Laurent Koscielny should not be an issue if we choose to invest more heavily in established talent to improve us. Even then though, his loyalty in his existing players and misguided belief in some seemingly prevents him doing so. Having said all that, I can still forgive that. It is not a crime to believe in your players and in fact it could be seen as admirable.
BUT. Here is the big but for me and why Arsene lost me, not that he cares a jot. If you don’t have the best 11 of the best squad; if you get the blend, the teamwork and the tactics right you can still progress and win. We don’t need to look further than Leicester this season to see evidence of that do we?
In 1989 and 1991, George Graham’s squads were player for player far inferior to Liverpool’s. In 1998, Wenger’s squad was newly put together and on paper probably not a match for Manchester United. Both Graham and Wenger prevailed with ingenuity, innovation, tactics and teamwork. The sum of the all was greater than the sum of the individual parts.
Arsenal and Arsene in 2016 have little innovation or tactical imagination. To be fair to Wenger; in 2014/15, I thought he had finally realised he could not play his free flowing expansive style in every game and not select the same exact 4-2-1-3 [formation] in every match.
The deployment of the 4-1-4-1 worked well in big away successes at Manchester City and Manchester United. Indeed the quarter-final win at Old Trafford was a masterclass and should have been a turning point. It wasn’t. In 2015/16, he has again reverted to the same formation with no imagination. The first true moment of inspiration was to play Alex Iwobi on the left and Alexis Sanchez on the right and it came too late.
This stubborn faith in a formation for every game, even if some argue we have fluidity within it, is simply not enough. Top coaches change their selection and formations from game to game, and in play, but ours will not. The strongest evidence of this came when Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin were injured simultaneously.
That combination worked well for us in the formation, but the biggest question and the one that defined and ultimately killed our season is this; why try and shoehorn two completely different players into those two positions and expect to get the same results?
He had players to experiment with using the 4-1-4-1, 4-3-3 or even the 4-4-2 formation against different opposition home and away from November to January. It was there Arsenal, despite scrambling a few close results to be top in January, lost their way and it was then that Wenger finally lost any remaining faith I had left in him.
I am over my 800 words, bit I could go on. I won’t. It is too depressing and not good therapy!