By Tony Attwood
“The trouble with this club is that it has no plan B.”
We must have heard that so many times over the years about Arsenal. They always play the same way, no matter what the opposition are up to, no matter what the referee and assistants are doing.
“Arsenal have no plan B after their £40m Luis Suarez bid fails” suggested the Sun, during that long saga which concluded with the revelation by the chairman of Liverpool! that he lied, lied and lied again during the case.
When Arsenal did have a plan B it was sarcastically found. “Arsene Wenger has finally found a Plan B: give the opposition the ball.” said the Daily Mail in October 2105.
The Daily Mirror told us in 2014, “
“Struggling Arsene Wenger needs to employ a Plan B” said ESPN on 25 November 2014. Although the Telegraph then changed the story on 21 October 2014, with ” fast counter-attacks and yielding possession shows Arsene Wenger does have a plan B”
So mostly no play B but maybe there is. Confused?
Here’s another. “There are no leaders.” Remember that one? I suspect you might because it has been said so many, many times. I just typed “Arsenal lack leadership” into Google and got half a million results.
Ray Parlour said it on Sky Sport in February, the bloggettas followed it, and when on 1 March the Daily Mail published “Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger claims every plays is a leader,” you just knew there was going to be a sneering, “these foreign johnnies just don’t get it” type piece.
Worldsoccertalk was there too with “Arsenal’s lack of leadership is a key weakness…” Bleacher report was quickly on the scene, and ITV feeling a bit left out, on 2 March joined in with “Pitiful Arsenal lack edge and leadership”. 10/10 for repetition. 0/10 for originality.
Of course there was nothing new in this. Back in August 2015 the Daily Mirror ran “Arsenal lack leaders! George Graham hits out at Gunners” before two days later running “Arsenal’s lack of leadership must be a concern for Arsene Wenger,”
So when I quote “”The trouble with this club is that it has no plan B” it’s the same-old all over again is it?
Well, actually no, because this time the leaderless loonies with no plan B are not Arsenal but… Barcelona. And not Barcelona in Argentina playing in the 7th tier of the regional league but actually that one in Spain that wants independence from the rest of the world. The one that does the child trafficking stuff.
The Guardian said, after Barcelona’s Champs League knock out, “Barcelona have been accused of having no plan B following their Champions League elimination by Diego Simeone’s Atlético Madrid as the world’s press rounded on the deposed European Cup holders.”
And that defeat will mean Barcelona won’t win the league despite what the table looks like above… “Gerard Piqué fears Champions League exit could hit Barcelona’s La Liga hopes” added the Guardian.
“Barça’s football has regressed over the last few weeks. Barça would have never imagined dropping out of the European Cup until being beaten by Madrid in el clásico,” we are told. So now we know. Players lauded as gods one day can become poor imitators of themselves the next day.
The reality is that football is complex, and cannot be reduced to simplistic analyses such as “leadership”, “winning mentality” (and what the fuck does that actually mean???), “bottle”, “plan B” etc. If anyone really thinks that football is this simple, then really, why isn’t she or he going to one of the thousands of park teams that does not have a manager and say, “hey guys, let me manage you for one game – I know how to do it. If you don’t see a dramatic improvement in that one game, I’ll buy you all a drink in the pub afterwards.”
Most park teams would say yes, and all these commentators who reduce the phenomenally complex game to one-liners could get jobs – first in park football, but then quickly in the lower tiers and working their way up.
The reason I have watched football all my life is because it is anything but simple. It is phenomenally complex and unravelling what is going on is a full time job. And even then the chances of getting it right are tiny.
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