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Wenger in or out? Let’s end the argument today

This site was set up with the explicit purpose of supporting Arsene Wenger. I started calling him The Lord Wenger, to emphasise the fact, and for getting on for two years there have been almost daily commentaries which support him.

But in the last few months a number of anti-Wenger commentators have joined in the debate and put their point of view most forcefully. They have been undermined slightly by the fact that one of their number (“James Le Beak”) was caught copying posts word for word from other sites, and then, on being found out submitted a series of pro-Wenger pieces to this site which made fun of the anti-Wenger group (and which I, as moderator, didn’t allow through since I thought they were taking the piss – although I am not sure who he was taking the piss of.)

What concerns me on this rather pleasant Wednesday evening, before I toddle off to the local jive club for an evening’s meander around the dance floor (wherein if I may say so, I am considered one of the best dancers in the area, and as a young lady said last week “dancing with you makes my brain hurt”), I thought I would try and wrap this all up, before it becomes too stale.

So I am going to try and summarise all the arguments. Anyone interested can pitch in, and then with the next post we can move on to something else. (I say this because it strikes me that we’ve stopped taking much notice of each other – those of us who support Wenger don’t find the opposite views of any merit, and vice versa, so we just repeat the same old ritual each day,)

The argument against the Lord Wenger is

1) He was good in the past, but has now lost it.

2) He has become stubborn, fixed in old ways and flexibility is the key to winning in modern football. In fact he has lost the winning mentality.

3) He makes the same excuses season after season about having a young squad, and how they have to be given time.

4) He has no idea how to use the transfer market. While he used to bring in bargains like Freddie, Kolo, Sol for nothing, Vieira for £3.5m, he can’t do it any more.

5) He is reluctant to change his backroom staff, whereas doing so would allow new thinking to emerge

6) He can’t see the obvious – as in that last season we needed to replace Flamini, and we need a new centre half, but he did nothing.

7) The club is going backwards, and will soon be in a position where like Ancelloti’s AC Milan this past season, we are not even in the European Cup. As evidence we were four points behind in 2008, but in 2009 are now much further behind. If he doesn’t act now then there will be a wholesale rebellion among supporters.

8) He is fanatical about signing youngsters

9) Great players are never replaced – Henry, Vieira, Bergkamp.

10) He is fixed on the issue of what he will pay for a player and will not budge.

Against that these are the arguments in favour of Wenger

1) All managers have ups and downs. The Special One at KGB Fulham was and is a great manager and gave them two league wins, but couldn’t repeat his Euro Cup victory at Porto.

2) All managers have a style – an approach – and Wenger’s is attacking fast fluid football. He used it in the unbeaten season and the two doubles, and there is no reason for it not to work again. But it takes time to put together a team that can do this.

3) Wenger has changed his ways significantly, going over to the idea of building youngsters. It is a long term project and will ultimately lead to greatness. We should not be so impatient and demand improvements each year. In the 1930s we waited for the right manager to take us forward, and again in the late 80s, and again with Wenger. Nothing happens instantly – and now the competition is greater than ever.

4) Wenger has brought in huge numbers of players – many unknown kids, some players ready to play but unknown in the UK, and often others with whom he has changed their position (think of Kolo for example). He buys when he wants, at a price he believes in – Nasri and Arshavin are two such examples in recent times.

5) Stability in the backroom team is a great benefit, and keeps the production line of youngsters coming through.

6) The fact that he will take kids and put them in the team early is the reason why all the world’s kids want to come to Arsenal.

7) If we, this week, went out and bought Fabregas, it would presumably satisfy some of the people who want us to buy now – and it would look significant at £40m or whatever the price is. The fact is we get these great players early so it doesn’t seem to count.

8) Wenger sees the obvious – but also the alternative. While many supporters wanted Flamini II, Wenger saw a different way of working the midfield – with Denilson and Song. Denilson was universally derided as lightweight but in fact became a remarkable player who has an extraordinary ability to see where the ball will be – and be there. Song was called in some quarters a player who “should never be allowed to wear the shirt again” after a poor game at Fulham. He is now see to be one of our great prospects.

9) The club is going forwards, not backwards, because we are building a team that will within the next 3 years overtake the achievements of the Invincibles. But what Wenger is doing is (for the most part) letting them grow into their roles.

10) Wenger has more than any other manager changed with the times. When he started at Arsenal he brought in players from Europe who were not being chased by other clubs. Now he finds every game has a dozen scouts, all trying to work out who the Arsenal scout is looking at. But because of the club’s reputation we can still bring in youngsters like Clichy to replace ACole, and Gibbs to cover for Clichy.

11) If Wenger goes, it is uncertain who could fill his role. The fact that Chelsea have taken on a manager who has failed for the last two years, suggests that there is a shortage. The fact that Liverpool (a club willing to mortgage is very existence on winning the league) hasn’t won it for what 19 years or something, shows that finding the right manager is hard.

12) Wenger is keeping Arsenal from falling into the financial vortex which will ultimately gobble up Manchester IOU and the like.

13) Bringing in an Arab or Russian to bankroll the club is dangerous. While it is true that Absent Abramovich is no longer so absent, there were signs last year that he could be willing to move out. The rich don’t give guarantees.

14) We have had terrible downs before. The 6-1 defeat to Manchester IOU in which we had a central defending partnership of Grimandi and that Latvian guy, was really hard to take – much more so than the defeat in the Champs League to Manchester recently. Or perhaps more particularly the home defeat to Leeds which robbed us of the league championship. The following game we beat Southampton 6-0 and that was the start of the 49. All teams get bad results – the point is to start again afterwards.

15) We have not gone backwards in the past year. Rather we suffered two awful runs of injuries. Everyone gets injuries but to lose almost the whole of the midfield, and then almost the whole of defence is quite extraordinary.

In summary, those in favour of Wenger see his underlying strategies as sound, and that all that is needed is a bit of patience. Those against feel that there is no underlying soundness, and that there are others who could do better.

Those who question Wenger believe we must have success, and that the paying customers deserve success. Those who believe in Wenger suspect that most of the critics are not gold or silver members, but are watching from a distance. Of course everyone can have their say, and everyone is entitled to an opinion, but it is interesting that those within the ground seem more positive than some of those without.

(c) Tony Attwood 2009

27 comments to Wenger in or out? Let’s end the argument today

  • Terence McGovern

    I understand your desire to have it out with these people Tony but given their track record, it is unlikely that they will engage properly on the subject matter.
    Oh I’m sure that there will be plenty of outbursts from Mason and co. but they will as usual lack cohesion and avoid the central points. They will call for transfers but wont identify realistic targets. They will want a new manager but no candidates will be put forward.

    The reason for this is that their position is one based on not having what they want without having any idea whatsoever about getting there.
    It is in their nature to complain and their complaints will always lack any constructive element.

    They should be pitied rather than engaged but hey! Bring em on!
    The creche is now open.

  • Terence McGovern

    Reports are becoming rife that Arsenal have completed their first transfer signing.
    It may be a bit premature but it appears that we have signed Thomas Vermaelen from Ajax 23 year old centre-half of high standing in the game even if he isn’t that tall(about the same as Kolo Toure)

    He is a Belgian International with 21 caps for his country and has played about 90 times for the AJAX first team so he is reasonably experience for his age.

    The transfer is rumoured to have a price tag of £10 million.

    I would like to point out that this is not edged in stone but comes from the same sources that the Arshavin story did before he signed in January. If I am incorrect in this I will apologise profusely to all and sundry but I would point out that this is not a typical rumour involving a bid or enquiry buther rather a statement that the deal is done.

    Watch this and other spaces.
    fingers crossed.

    Lorick Cana next pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease!

  • steww

    Thank you Tony. The debate is now over – no point in any of us simply repeating any of what you have just written – we had just as well type 0 or 1 to indicate our position. (1)
    As far as the ‘new signing’ goes, we’ll have to wait and see. It suggests (if true) no returning Senderos and the time is not yet right for JD to step up and the Gallas /Toure axis is over. But it only suggests these things to me – there is absolutely no facts behind this supposition.
    If he signs I’ll support him 100% as he’ll be wearing an Arsenal shirt. Simple really.

  • Marc

    There is a school of thought that Ancelloti’s appointment at Chelsea has been heavily influenced by Abramovich’s friendship with Andrei Shevchenko.

    Now based on the simple facts that:

    a) Abramovich’s friendship is behind Shevchenko’s original (I’ve heard that he is also being recalled!) transfer to Chelsea.

    b) Footballer’s always praise their current manager / last manager as the best that they have ever worked with.

    Is this really the system that anyone would want used to replace Wenger? This is the problem with a rich sugar daddy. The club is a plaything for the owner who can easily act like a spoilt child if things do not go their way, completely left to the whims of the owner however misguided.

    Can we please stop the constant criticism of the Board and Wenger. Do I agree with every decision by Wenger or the Board – No, but I do not have all of the facts at hand and they have done pretty well over the last decade or so.

  • Omar

    Tony,

    Wonderful Job as usual, but I would not waste my time with the other lot. These folks need to look at our academy to understand way Arsenal does not need to spend a lot of money in the Transfer Market. Lets face it, there is not much to spend and except Arsenal signs one of the players that Real, Man U, Chelsea or Barca is chasing the lot will never be satisfy.

    Give the team a change to grow older and don’t mortgage our future.

  • prick

    Great smiley Tony! I’d never guessed you were the type to use them 8)

  • Nhan Le

    (1) for my position – and I’ve never been to either stadium. this issue will hopefully be sorted out as i’m planning to fly to london for the first time in my life this winter to watch Arsenal play. please wish me luck.

    Tony, now that money matter and Wenger-must-go matter have been settled, it may be time to worry about the team organization and solidity? I feel much of the cause of the bad results last winter was due to suspected lack of chemistry in the team (however you want to interpret chemistry) – the period when Galas was stripped of the captain band. To keep this sort of collapsing from ever happening again is a lot more important than bringing in a whole new team.

  • Nhan – I do appreciate that many people like you are full scale supporters whose location on the globe means they can’t get to games – and I make absolutely no criticism of that. I lived in Algiers for a year and never made a game – and had to pick up info on short wave. Horrible.

    But on the position of last season, having watched much of it, I would say that the defeat against Fulham shocked many people, not least because we didn’t know at that time just how powerful Fulham were going to be this season (we were expecting them to be relegation material). When it was followed by the Hull defeat, confidence went down, and this resulted in Stoke and Man City defeats.

    Denilson and Song were not fully into their stride and it was expected that Rosicky would be back and fully fit at the start of the season.

    So Wenger worked in two stages. Stage 1, get the defence sorted. Everyone in the midfield played much deeper, and we got the series of 0-0 draws (of which I think I saw the lot – even away at Cardiff). Then with the defence sorted we moved forward again and suddenly the goals came and we moved back up the table.

    And we had two ludicrous periods of injuries – at one time to virtually the entire midfield, and another time to the whole defence and even our reserve defenders. With Senderos in Milan and Djourou injured as well as the first choice players we were really stuck.

    With the captain’s issue resolved, and Gallas returning to his normal imposing confidence it looked much better game by game until he got badly injured.

    It was also the case that we didn’t get our new footballing director until Jan 1 – his first job was to sort out Arshavin – which he did – so until then we were trying to do transfers without anyone in charge of transfers – which isn’t clever.

    My view is that we have now got the team sorted, our younger players like Denilson and Song will be more imposing this coming season, and we will be able to sign the people we want. So I think we’ll look back on last year on an impossible one.

    And I don’t do smilies, Prick. For some reason if I type number eight followed by a bracket the program turns it into a smiley, although during the typing it looks ok. I wonder if it happens in the letters section 8) I’ll see in a moment 8)

    Tony

  • Jimmy

    Tony, the way i read your last comment was “I don’t do smileys… (what a)… prick” Made me double-take and then laugh. (8)

    I too (obviously) vote Lord Wenger, and hope (optimistically) that this is the final debate on the subject. Lets face it, its a pointless one anyway, as he’s not going anywhere. (woo-hoo!)
    Now we can move on to a more serious debate… like…. errr… who the tabloid crap writers are inventing that we’re going to sign this week… I think we should sign Pele. or Maradona. or maybe Di Stefano. (Remember who told you first!)

  • pig

    looks like you stumped them tony.

    if the reply is a tenth of your argument i will be surprised.

  • Terence McGovern

    Predictably enough, there is a decided absence of Mason and Co.
    Strange when you think that they usually cannot wait to vomit out anti-Wenger nonsense.

    However, when they are asked for constructive input, they melt away into the background. You can be sure that they will be out in force again on the publication of your next article. If that be the case you may have to rethink your policy on freedom of speech Tony as it will be obvious that they have no desire to engage but rather antagonise for the sake of it which carries no merit.

  • rachnomo

    You collated all the arguments & reasoning brilliantly there.All managers are judged on their “last game” so to speak as the old cliche says.In a years time we will have either gone backwards, fwds, or maintained our position- & I want to stress that I dont just look @ the trophy haul but the overall picture. It is right to assess the situation of a manager & all players every year- that is obvious ( not 4 times a year or after 12 games in some clubs’ cases!)
    In the HERE & NOW, as a RED member who attends many home games & some away,( & should soon be Silver within 2 yrs), & attended my first game in 1983, I am 100% behind Le Boss, & I am very positive & enjoy the games

  • justin

    Whatever any persons viewpoint on AW is there is one thing that cannot be debated.

    THIS IS WENGERS BIGGEST AND MOST CHALLENGING SUMMER TO DATE

    What he does or does not do this summer will determine not only the level of support he receives during the season, but ultimately whether he stays or goes. If he gets it wrong for ANY reason then he will have to go.
    I read through the initial post on this thread and personally noticed a real theme between the two viewpoints. The negative views were all based on factual events and things we pretty much know. The other was more speculative and insubstantial.

    My view is that we have to improve on last season as it was nowhere near good enough. If not? Then lets have some fresh ideas!

  • mason

    NO terrence i have not melted into the background i am right here, you follow wenger like he does no wrong.

    Soplease explain to me what happend to the experienced players that the great wenger promised? The players that look to be coming in are far from proven and lack experience, they are young and inexperienced like the players we already have at the club. It seems we have signed or on the verge of signing Vermaelen (age 23) from Ajax and then we are going to bring in St Etienne midfielder Matuldi (age 21) another unproven player??? and now we are being linked with Martins????? Oh dear Mr Wenger, I hope the Wenger brigade are happy now.

  • mason

    have any of you seen the “arsenal player stack” on the arsenal website – qute interesting. wenger this tactical genius has played 7 diff players on left wing – 9 in middle of park and 6 on right. now i know the apologists will say injuries but he also played eboue left and right, walcott left and right, denilson right and centre. van p left – to me this shouts of a man not really knowing where players best positions are and trying to ram square pegs into round holes.

  • Jonny Neale

    They are not responding because to do so would be “on topic”.

    This is clearly anathema.

    With regards this signing I am happy to be proven wrong but, if it does go through, it’s an odd choice. He’s not bad in the air for a short defender (really good springs) but he picks up a lot of yellows and he is far from being really imposing.

    I’d sooner have us push harder for Hangeland or someone who is already used to the hurly of the Prem or at least more physically equipped to deal with the likes of Drogba etc.

  • Jonny Neale

    And in the time it took to write that…

  • justin

    I read somewhere that Utd have cleared £200m of debt since the Glazers took over. Not sure about the Scousers. but even so, both clubs have a far greater support base than City. then you look at Chelsea’s debt, all loans from Abramovich. Isn’t this the same as the “loans” that some clubs will receive? then there are wages, how much were City prepared to pay Kaka? £500k a week? looks like lots of business sense there. Utd, Liverpool, will be ok, Chelsea could struggle if Roman walks. but then City are now in the same boat as Chelsea, lets hope the city side sinks first and Chelsea are able to sit on the capsized ruin that it Man Sh***y”

  • Jonny Neale

    Mason you are clearly a thick-skinned lad, I just wondered if you would care to explain to us why you copied stuff from other sites you hadn’t written in the first place?

    Everytime it gets mentioned you just ignore it and carry on with your daily spleen-venting.

    I’m just curious is all.

  • mason

    Johnny, Dont change the subject and bring in a copy and paste issue which is not even true…

  • mason

    “Firstly Ivan Gazidas is your man to criticise over the Summer NOT Arsene Wenger as he is on holidays.”

    I don’t think that this kind of post should even merit a reply. It is utter nonsense of the highest order. The part I have highlighted just goes to show ridiculous it is. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite so naive

  • Jonny Neale

    Well it’s the first time I have ever heard you refute it. I’d be pretty peeved if I was innocent and people kept bringing it up.

    And since when did it bother you what the subject of the day was?

  • Marc

    Mason – The fact that you even mentioned the “Martins to Arsenal” link shows just how bloody naive and uninformed you are. Arsenal have been linked with Martins in every transfer window for about 4 or 5 years. It is another example in a long line of piss poor, lazy arsed journalism. Grow up.

  • Terence McGovern

    I see the ‘poke Mason with a stick’ tactic worked a treat.

    Some people are just easy to manipulate I suppose.

    Ok firstly I am going to go out on a limb here and state that in my opinion, even if/when Adebayour goes, Wenger isn’t going to sign another forward player. RVP, Eduardo, Bentner, Vela, Arshavin and Walcott can comfortably fill in all the necessary spaces there so Mason please stop believing everything that somebody reads to you from the tabloid press. You will be happier trust me!

    Secondly as I earlier posted, Vermaelen has 21 international caps and has 3 over 3 full seasons played for AJAX which included giving RVP quite a torrid time when they met. This seems plenty of experience for me and before you dismiss the dutch league remember Jaap Stam ok. The other player that you mentioned is currently just media speculation of the level of the Martins pieces.

    Thirdly on the subject of Ivan Gazidas I am absolutely 100% correct. Wenger will no longer actively participate in transfer negotiations. I am sure that he will be kept in the loop and offer input and they will be for both players that he has identified as targets and potential departures but Ivan Gazidas will be the man at the table as he will be with contract renewals.

    Ivan Gazidas was deputy comissioner of the MLS for six years and due to the nature of how their league operates with regard to player contracts, he was directly involved with every single new player contract for all teams of the MLS for 6 years. That makes him the single most experienced negotiator in the field of international football transfers. It is why we brought him in and it is why we are paying him so much (over £2mil apparently a year)

    Come on now Mason you should know all this as an Arsenal supporter (if that is what you are)

    However keep the arguments coming. I amongst others are waiting for your desired transfer targets and before you and your group say Hangeland, he has categorically stated that he is staying at fulham and is about to sign a new deal. So lets have some proposed targets from you that are actually available and cost less than £30 million.

    I would also like to know who you would replace Arsene Wenger with.

    I will check back in a few hours to see if you managed to come up with anything.

  • Jonny Neale

    Going back to yesterday’s post further evidence of financial turmoil at big clubs –

    Galliani told Italian sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport that the club had little option.

    “The reasons for the departure of Kaka are solely economic,” he said.

    “Even a great heart must confront the situation and make choices. Milan can not go on losing 70 million euros a year.”

  • Jonny Neale

    One thing I would say Terence is that, although Hangeland has ruled himself out, I wouldn’t let that stop us putting in a higher bid – they have a very high wage bill at Fulham and could be enticed (especially as we must have some youngsters we could pass over to bolster their squad).

    I have to say I admire Hangeland’s stance thus far – bit bizarre not to want to play at the top but still how refreshing to see loyalty and a lack of total greed.

    I’m very keen to get a Premiership defender so, failing Brede, I’d take Lescott or perhaps Upson over Vermalen – but if it does go through I’ll trust Wenger’s judgement – he’ll have watched a lot more tapes than any of us that’s for sure.

  • Fem Dee

    I vote for Arsene In (1) and supply two more reasons.

    1. AW showed himself loyal to the Arsenal Board by cooperating with them in the period they didn’t have the cash flow to sustain dipping into the market to maintain their competitiveness for trophies. He showed resourcefulness by increasing his reliance on his Youth Program as the primary feeder for his team and delivered on the apparent Board objective to not drop below the 4th position in EPL. In other words, the much maligned “new AW” seen in the last 4years is a temporary face and a short term necessity.

    2. AW is a bold and confident coach who is able to take risks with Youths on account of the quality of his training and football-playing system or techniques. Year after year and with relative “nobodies” he churns out quality football and challenges for trophies; he surprises pundits who have made it a habit to write his team off at the onset of each season! This is different from what we see from several other so called top coaches (e.g. Benitez) who make it clear they MUST have 50M each season – as the ONLY route to winning major silverware for their clubs – and yet, they end up winning nothing; just like AW.

    On the other hand, I think we should thank the anti-AW vanguard for instigating the “board room revolt” and the “over-aggressive Q&A session” that irked AW. The revolt has been a blessing in disguise.

    1. It got AW spilling the beans that the Board, which knows the money hadn’t been forthcoming these past years, ought to have been the last to be tearing at him over the team’s sub par challenge for glory. Thereby putting the blame for the 4-year decline squarely on the Board – where it justly belongs.

    2. The exposure should assure AW critiques that the guy has not lost it; this should get majority of them to reconcile with him, at least, for the time being or until more evidence in support of their position emerges in the coming seasons.

    3. Best of all, the revolt has forced the Board to seek a better balance for the team by availing AW with significantly MORE money than in previous seasons. I expect AW to spend the increased vote, which size is yet unknown, in his usual careful manner: on reasonably priced unheralded, young (less than 25years old) and great football talents with GREAT potential and fit (in terms of position and football-playing technique) in the team.

    AW claims the gap between his current crop Arsenal and MANU is small. AW is older at playing like Barcelona. As an Arsenal fan, I look forward to next season as the year his team surpasses MANU and every other team in the EPL while playing better football than what Barcelona played in 2009.

    FD