By Walter Broeckx
After the Stoke game someone asked us to be critical for Wenger. Saying things like: It won’t be the end of the world if you also highlight the mistakes he has made over the last decade.
So after my evening training of some 6 km (because I have to be in good shape when I come to make an impression on Wenger but that is another story for another day) and bringing my oldest son back to his university I had plenty of time to think about this remark. And as I like a challenge I thought: Walter it is time to get critical. So I started to get critical.
The first thing is that a decade is 10 years. I first had to look at those 10 years as a whole. A big mistake is giving us 2 league titles and 3 FA cups in that decade. Yes it sure did raise some high expectations. And it attracted a lot of glory hunting fans. The ones that came for the silverware but not for the club. Well they will be leaving soon I think.
Another big mistake is giving us the invincible year. I know sitting late at night in my chair looking at MOTD (no live football on my TV in those days or on my pc). Waiting in high tension if we could have done it on the final day. And when we had done it, it felt like something that big and something that never would be repeated in my life time. But again it raised a lot of expectation by some fans that from now on it would be like that.
But on came the rich and they brought a new dimension to football and changed the whole thing completely. But I don’t think we can blame Wenger for this as he is strongly against such billionaires spending money the clubs don’t have. But after those people came in and Arsenal building the Emirates and being short of money it was a big result to keep us in the top 4 all those years. I do consider it to be a prize. Not a silverware-prize but nevertheless something to be cheerful about. So maybe he should have let us drop out of the CL for a year so we would have realised it a bit more. Because now people take it for granted. Just ask Tottenham how guaranteed it is to stay in the top 4 for more than one year.
So when I look at the decade I really feel no real mistakes have been made. We know why the Emirates was built and we know that we building a completely new team takes time. The leaving of some players earlier than expected and because they wanted to leave has had a bad influence. But is letting a player go that wants to go a mistake from the manager?
So I thought okay let us look at this weekend’s game and be critical about this. Are the players rubbish? Mmm I don’t really think so. Because just one week ago they won against the almost crowned champion Manchester United. So a team that has won against United cannot become bad overnight. Be more critical I said to myself.
So I looked at the teams and compared them. Aha, some different players came under my attention. Arshavin for Nasri. But hey didn’t we all applauded Arshavin last weekend for his tackling and fighting and defending? And Arshavin played because Nasri was injured. And well you cannot blame Wenger for Nasri being injured. Another new name was Gibbs in for Clichy. But this again was only because Clichy failed a late fitness test. So if it would have been for Wenger he would have started with the same team as against United. And well that was a fairly good team I would dare to say. And the only changes were forced upon the manger because of injuries. So can’t blame him for this.
How can the manager be blamed for picking almost the same team that has beaten United and now has lost to Stoke? If the players can win from United those same players should have been able to win from Stoke.
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But still I went further. And then and now I talk with hindsight it looks that Djourou is running around with an empty tank. After he came back early from his shoulder injury he had a mixture of great games (Manchester) and poor games (like Bolton). But for the rest of the season I think it is fair to say that Djourou had a great season with most of the time very solid performances. It is just now the last games that after his injury he has some bad games.
But today has involved in a negative way in the 3 Stoke goals. So, let’s be critical on Wenger for having played Djourou. Can you imagine the cry of Wenger out if he would have played Squilacci and let put Djourou on the bench? Yep, I think you can. So I cannot be critical on Wenger for having played Djourou before the game and after the game it is too easy to say : he shouldn’t have played Djourou.
But as I was in critical mode I thought: he could have played Vermaelen. Aha, no one would have called for Wenger his head if he would have played Vermaelen. But what if Vermaelen would have been part of the 3 Stoke goals? What would have been the cry of the Wenger out brigade? Er, Wenger Out? So once again it’s always easy to speak after a game.
Come to think of it…. I think I was the only one (well on Untold) to suggest that Wenger could have played Vermaelen at left back BEFORE the game. But would that have been a success? Well nobody can answer that question. It could well have been that we would have shot Wenger at sight when he would have taken the risk and it would have failed.
Football is a funny old game. Results like last week and today show that nothing can be taken for granted in football. This weekend’s result means nothing next weekend. Once the players are out on the field they have to do the job. Today they didn’t. That is life. Last week they did. That was also life. Next week they will again do the job. They better to the job because I come over!
And one final thing I noticed when I reviewed the game for my ref review: I have never seen Arsenal players struggle like they did today to keep the ball under control. Was the grass too long? Was the surface too dry? It was strange because I have seen Walcott a few times trying to start a speedy run and he always had to hold himself back as the ball just wouldn’t stay at his speed. And I never have seen so many Arsenal players tripping themself with stepping on the ball. A bit strange.
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History of Arsenal including the series on the failures of Herbert Chapman
Making the Arsenal – the book of Arsenal death and rebirth