by Tony Attwood
Last season Paul Merson wrote an article for the Daily Express in which he said that Arsene Wenger must be sacked if the Tiny Totts or Leicester win the Premier League.
It was a most curious piece in that it seemed to imply that all the clubs near the top of the table should have their managers removed – and indeed several did. In the end all three clubs that won things removed their manager.
Throughout much of that season the media also ran articles on who the next Arsenal manager should be – the one on 15 October 2015 in the Mirror was typical – for at the top of their list was Pep Guardiola. As we know he went to Manchester City – a club that has just been donated the best youth facilities in the world by its grateful owner, and has the resources of much of the world’s gas supply behind it.
The review of Guardiola suggested that him being at Arsenal (which they said was possible) “certainly seems a good fit on paper. Guardiola’s love for total football is shared by the Gunners faithful, and his penchant for winning trophies also wouldn’t go a miss.”
Others on the list were Ronald Koeman, Roberto Martinez, Remi Garde and Patrick Vieira.
Of course we don’t know where we would have been with any of those guys running the show, but it is interesting to think about how we would have been doing under Guardiola.
But it seems Man City are currently heading for a top four finish, which has been so loudly decried by those who want Mr Wenger out – the demand being for winning the league or challenging to do so until the last few weeks. City are not doing that.
Or (for Arsenal) doing well in the Champions League, and City are not doing that either, as they have gone out to Monaco, just as we did a while back.
Interesting Mr G has not accepted his own shortcomings as a reason for the failure of City as the headline “Pep Guardiola refuses to blame tactics for Man City defeat against Monaco as he pins fault on forwards” in the Telegraph reveals.
Some papers are more cutting however, with the Mail saying “Spineless City throw it away: Monaco take advantage of first-half no-show and late lapse to dump Pep out of Champions League” Actually they are particularly harsh saying elsewhere ‘Manchester City have no commander on the pitch… their defending was pathetic!’
That was exactly the criticism that has been thrown at Arsenal for many of the recent seasons.
The Guardian is more measured saying that City “merited their mauling,” and they speak of “City’s toothless strike force”.
In fact it is worth contemplating a bit more of the Guardian’s piece…
It was (they say) “a display utterly lacking in snap and bite, cohesion and even conviction. Elimination on away goals gives the impression this tie was tight, and there was anxiety for the home side to endure in the last quarter for all that City effectively held the ascendancy for only six minutes. But the memory that will linger of these two matches will not be that rat-a-tat of goals in the last 20 minutes at the Etihad but the manner in which the visitors were overwhelmed in the opening period of the return.”
So if Arsenal had swapped Mr Wenger for Mr Guardiola maybe the result might not have been much different. Yes they are heading for a top four finish, but I am told that is not a trophy.
Now when your family (not your country, your family) owns 10% of the world’s gas supply you tend to develop an attitude that says, “I want everything and I want it now”. You tend to by-pass such minor details as democracy, freedom of speech, a free media, political parties, the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, and the Convention against Torture, and go in more for forced disappearances, abductions, illegal detention, flogging, stoning, and that sort of thing. That’s just how it goes in Abu Dhabi.
Last season the representative of the owner said, “I think all of us came with high expectations for this season, I think, at the end of the day, I cannot hide the disappointment of myself, obviously Sheikh Mansour, I know the fans of the club and I’m sure the entire team.
“I’m absolutely excited about Pep joining our team. I consider Pep to be one of the best, if not the best, manager today in football. We are getting a manager who epitomises passion and commitment. He’s a proven winner … a passionate man, someone who I think will be an incredible asset to Manchester City.
“I have no doubt he will transform our team to a new level.”
Forced disappearances, abductions, illegal detention, flogging, stoning…
By the standards used to measure past failings, Guardiola has failed. Mr Wenger is often told he has got his team selection wrong, but Guardiola is much the same. He dropped Sergio Aguero against Barcelona in October and lost 4-0 (a result written out of history by many journalists now that they have Arsenal to bash). He changed Joe Hart for Claudio Bravo, (apparently known in the north as “The Hologram.”)
Some talk of Arsenal’s “defensive shortcomings” but that is nothing compared to some displays by “City”. And much can be put down to getting tactics wrong. The Guardian was particularly scathing about his selecting Fernandinho as his only defensive midfielder, resulting in them being “far too open”.
So how could this most famous and successful of managers who has managed Barcelona and Bayern, and won so much failed to deliver for Man City?
It would be interesting to know if the aaa answer by saying “it takes time” – because if they do that should be remembered if the next Arsenal manager does not deliver straight off. But maybe there is something else that can explain Leicester’s failure in the league but success in Europe. Guardiola’s failure at Man City with all that money and disregard for rights that the owners have, after such success in Germany and Spain. Could it be the two club league in Spain and the one club league in Germany?
And maybe that all says something for the choice of Arsenal’s next manager and the expectations the aaa and their arrogant amnesiac friends in some parts of the media. And if we had brought in Guardiola now how would things be? Still in the Champs League? Going for the old top four finish?