“He’s right up there with Thierry Henry”

By Tony Attwood

One of the great things about Arsène Wenger is that he never shies away from a situation.   Famously, on the day he arrived at Highbury he was greeted by a swarm of journos already out for his blood.  Not quite realising the intellectual abilities of the man they had brought into the club, the old guard of the board room told Mr Wenger not to go and face the journalists, but that was not the way of our manager.

He did face them, constantly asked them to be specific about the rumours they were suggesting he talk about, and waited until they gave up (knowing that if they mentioned the rumours the club would sue for slander) and then strolled back into the club to get on with his work.

It’s been like that ever since, over all these years.   While Sir Alex F refused to talk to the BBC, and was circumspect about who else he would talk to, while Fat Sam repeatedly said that he was suing the Corporation over imagined injustices (but has always chickened out), Arsène Wenger carries on being polite and courteous, giving the journalists of his time, knowing of course that they are going to write the most awful rubbish about him each time.

The point about Mr Wenger is that he is a visionary, not a pragmatist.  Just like the most famous manager we had before him: Herbert Chapman.  Herbert Chapman demanded complete control over the club, just as Mr Wenger has done, with Chapman famously being the only person in the club to take on Sir Henry Norris, and face him down, when Chapman wanted the removal of George Hardy (Norris’ favourite) in the back room staff.

Of course we know that when the press try to get Mr Wenger to eulogise about a team that contains Theo Walcott, Alexis Sánchez, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Danny Welbeck and Olivier Giroud they are doing it in order to bash him next time the club is assaulted by a bent ref and/or a load of thugs.

So Mr Wenger had his bit of fun saying in reply, “Yes, my imagination works like yours.”  The journos will forget that linking together of the manager and the scribblers, but it’s a nice one to put in the scrap book.

Then after a pause the manager decided to explain a little more.  “Theo’s runs off the ball are always fantastic so it gives you hope we’ll score goals.  And the pace we’ll have in the side when he comes back will be very interesting. Walcott’s quick, Chamberlain’s quick, Sánchez has very quick feet, so we can be very good in transition.”

As to why we didn’t see Theo this week Mr Wenger went on, “Theo could have had 30 minutes, but it was tight and I didn’t want to expose him to that.”  (I think that is a polite way of saying that the studs were on show). (And it is also what Untold’s preview column predicted.  1-0 to us)  “Theo’s fit but it’s been 10 months. I have to find a way of bringing him back slowly over the next three or four weeks.”

Meanwhile it was Mathieu Flamini who did the comparison bit.  saying, “Alexis Sánchez is a breath of fresh air.  He gives so much for the team. I didn’t realise he works so hard off the ball, not just creating space for others but helping out defensively. He’s right up there with Thierry Henry.”

Of course no journalist can let a day go by without knocking the manager somehow, and the Independent said he, “raged in his technical area towards the end.”  Mr Wenger’s version, with that twinkle in his eye was, “I was getting irate; it can happen.”

On this day, even the Telegraph backed off for once, admitting “there is tendency to expect Arsenal not only to win but to do it in style. Even their victories are sometimes criticised.”   And a bit later, “Wenger has also never been able to play his strongest team…. but Arsenal’s front-line looks scary when everyone is fit.”

High praise indeed from such a source.

While the press rightly gave high praise to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alexis Sánchez, Mr Wenger could not help ruminating a little more on our returning hero but with a sense of realism..

“It could be frightening, but imagination does not always become reality.”

As for Sánchez the Telegraph said, “The Chilean was superb, his speed and diligence forcing the mistakes from Wes Brown and Vito Mannone that gifted Arsenal their two goals.”

And here’s one other thing.  Have we actually gone across to 4-4-2 or did I imagine it?


Chambers, Mertesacker, Monreal, Gibbs (Bellerin, 74);

Arteta (Ramsey, 88), Flamini, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Rosicky, 90), Cazorla;

Sanchez, Welbeck.

That would be interesting, because that is the format we would play when Giroud is fit, and assuming that both Wellbeck and Giroud play together.  It will be great to give each of them an occasional break, and to have cover for the inevitable injuries, but it looks like we are moving through a phase of 4-3-3 melding during the match into 4-4-2 and then back again.

What fun.

The books

Untold Arsenal is here

39 Replies to ““He’s right up there with Thierry Henry””

  1. Good article,makes nice reading Tony,i was just thinking.You see,first it was the pundits,then the press,next up the referees are going to get better.

  2. A really excellent Post, and not just the writing style but interesting and intelligent. Thank you.

    The thought has struck me that sports journalists have a feast or famine type of careers.

    They sometimes have more than enough ‘copy’ to keep them honest, and at other times they must stare at their keyboards in quiet moments with a dearth of ‘news’, and wonder what to write, and a shallow but controversial piece probably appeals on the premise that upsetting some Arsenal fans (let’s face it, many others love it when Wenger or his team are criticised, however unjustifiably) because the fans of the other teams will relish Arsenal getting a pasting. So a win/win for the lazy journey.

  3. As for Sánchez the Telegraph said, “The Chilean was superb, his speed and diligence forcing the mistakes from Wes Brown and Vito Mannone that gifted Arsenal their two goals.”
    Indeed the goals were a result of Sanchez speed and diligence to force the mistakes, plus a large degree of skill. Hardly gifts then!!!

  4. You are correct. Mick, the cause was Sanchez pressing each of the Sunderland players before the goals, and his energy and skill were key to scoring.

    Many Arsenal fans referred in a rather curmudgeonly way to the mistakes made by both Brown and Mannone as ‘gifting’ us the goals, so it is something when a journalist gives the team/Sanchez more credit than many of our own fans did.

  5. Just had a sickening feeling in my stomach, the last time our player had such quick feet resulted in broken leg.

  6. Remember that 4-4-2 has a weakness against 4-3-3 in that, in the middle of midfield, you can get outnumbered. Having two strikers looks like a more attacking option but it won’t work unless you can get the ball up to them and being outnumbered in midfield can mitigate against that.
    Sometimes it works by hitting the ball long from the back (think Radford and Kennedy) – do we want that?
    Sanchez played behind Welbeck on Saturday and regularly switched position with Cazorla and Chamberlain. Girould wouldn’t do that and I’m not sure Welbeck could do it that well either.

  7. Ahh, are the good times must be rolling again?

    Now the pressies are heaping a little praise here and there on the Gunners. When they have have nothing to comment, then we know the team has hit a purple patch! So where to find news about the Arsenal? Why, there’ll always be the Untold site

  8. @Mick
    October 27, 2014 at 9:45 am

    So true!!

    Using this in a sentence: “Chilean was superb, his speed and diligence forcing the mistakes from Wes Brown and Vito Mannone” hardly has a place for “gifted” in the same!

  9. Its quite interesting that the author views Arsenes ‘demand’ for ‘complete control’ over the club as a good thing for an institution the size of Arsenal, keeping in mind the job now and size of the club in comparison to when Chapman was manager. I personally think the responsibilities he took upon himself was too big and the footballing side of his management has suffered over the past decade as as a result, which is understandable as there is only one of him.

  10. great write up.
    4-4-2, very perceptive Tony, confirmed by our capt on the official site

    looks like they are practicing different systems, building in tactical flexibility. This takes a bit of time, but they have an uninterrupted week on the training ground….for what seems about the first tume this year. Interesting to see how Jack and Rambo fit in with such a system- or will they be in on more all out attacking games?
    Alexis is clearly a very very special player- one who can lift the whole team. He will terrify opponents….that is, when they are not being encouraged by weak/bent/biased refs to try to break his legs

  11. Dont think it can be doubted that Wenger was doing way too much at one point BB, especially when Dein left, and in the earlier days at a new stadium. Some critics believe he is a natural control freak, a stubborn opportunist who ambushed a situation, others would he say he simply put his heart and soul into a labour of love. Must admit, there were times when I worried about the guys physical and mental health, as you say, there is only so much one man can do at a club this size in the EPL era.
    Did the footballing side suffer…maybe, perhaps in relative terms, but depends on a given observers definition of the word “suffer.” Many would not see constant CL knockout stage football in that bracket, even with the much mentioned trophy drought, though there were near misses when the fickle finger of fate appeared to desert the team
    But am sure Ivan, Tom Fox (before he left) and many many others have been providing substantially more help. And this is only right.

  12. AW does not do tactics! I liked the idea of him playing both Flamini and Arteta away from home.We looked in total control.He did this before and we won comfortably, not sure what match.Food for thought.Where does Jack fit in.
    Great article Tony.

  13. Lovely article Tony. Such an enjoyable read.

    Again Match of the Day tried to make out we were a one-man team – Sanchez this time; before it was RVP, then it was Ramsey.

    The comments by Mikel Arteta and Danny Welbeck on the Arsenal web site show how the tactics recommended by Arsene Wenger paid off – press the back four so they make mistakes. And how the strong defensive midfield combination of Arteta and Flamini freed Sanchez to work his magic. All this is team work. I always like how the players emphasize team work and how hard everybody is working in their interviews on arsenal.com.

  14. Mandy,

    My opinion from what I have seen over the past two decades is that he is a natural control freak and a stubborn man who put his heart and soul into the club- but most certainly not a opportunist who ambushed a situation. He certainly is his own man. I understand that he has given everything, and have defended him to the hilt and will continue to do so when debating among opposition fans, but in truth very little he has done (in footballing terms) since the 2008 season has inspired any confidence for me.

    I also believe that his replacement will not be allowed the level of control he enjoys, and rightfully so.

  15. Maybe BB, he is certainly not your average guy thats for sure! He must be incredibly driven to take this on for so long, yes the rewards are good, but the grief must be immense.
    Since 2008 – difficult years for many reasons, he has certainly been up against it. But maybe in his remaining years, we will see a culmination of what he has put into the club, I would see this culmination in positive terms, I think this club is going places others of course think differently.
    Agree, Wengers replacement will have nowhere near his level of influence, no matter who he may be, that will take a long time to be built up, and these days, very few managers are given such time. Seems we have…or are putting in some new people and structures in place, at the academy, and maybe on the fitness side to name but a couple areas, presumably the new, man, when he arrives will have to work with what will be these exisiting structures if they are working well. sometimes, new managers bring in a whole new backroom team, have a feeling wengers replacement will not have the full option on this. If some reports are to be believed, he may have Wenger upstairs, though doubt this myself…or certainly not for long term, would not be fair on a new manager

  16. Off topic but. Question for Walter:
    Can you compare the referees performance yesterday at the United v Chelsea game with that of the cretin in charge for Chelsea v Arsenal?
    It was instructive that the referee booked so many Chelsea players for exactly the kind of low level tripping and fouling at the start of emergent breaks. In our game Oscar was not booked until86th minute yet Dowd managed to book him aftre 62 and Drogba afte 22 for committing exactly the same types of fouls yesterday. Result was eventually Chelsea get a player sent off and the result is changed.
    Maybe Dowd watched that game and caught on as to the instructions Mourinho gives. We can but hope this is the start of a new approach from PGMOL… ,

  17. Is it Arsenal fault to be presented with gifts? The Black Cats noticed that the Gunners were totally out to hunt them down on the field that Saturday. Hence they decided to pacify Arsenal by presenting 2 Black Cats to them to appease the Gunners. And Sanchez collected the gifts on behalf of all the Gunners. So, what is the rancour all about from some print media and by our hard line Gooners? Arsenal didn’t beg for those gifts. Did they? But were voluntarily given to them. In addition to those 2 last gifts, I have just heard through the grapevine that the Clarets have informed Arsenal fc that, they will present 6 gifts to the Gunners on Saturday at the Emirates Stadium field to stop the Gunners from adding strong alcohol to their wines. So that they will not become too much intoxicated as they leave the Emirates after the encounter with the Gunners.

  18. “We can but hope this is the start of a new approach from PGMOL… ,

    Hope you are right Clockend, or sadly, it may just have been because it was at OT.
    But I agree, Utd appeared to get a very different ref performance against Chelsea than we did, Jose was clearly not happy…..which is a shame…

  19. @Clockend

    “We can but hope this is the start of a new approach from PGMOL…”

    Maybe it would have applied if he had of worked the same with with decisions against MaNure…but he failed to penalize the OT lot on several occasions, prompting me to think that PGMOL priorities were focused elsewhere on this game!

  20. Four out of the five goals in the last 8 days were scored in the dying minutes of the game .
    Never give up ? Never say die ?
    I just love it !
    Up the Gunners !

  21. It could be a new approach from the PGMO- they vould only have been embarrassed by Atkinson that day. But it also could be down to the fact that it was not the same set of officials and the fact that Chelski were the away team, and at OT. It was good to see a reg clamping down on Mourinhos cynical tactics and Ivanovich off too as he gets away with so much normally and both of his cards were ‘debatable’ so I would call it poetic justice. Seven bookings in a match = a fine and warning re. future behaviour

  22. Chapman







    And all the many many others including Van Gaal and even Maureen if you that tickles your fancy.
    Egomaniacs. The lot of them. The full monty 😉


    The likes of, say, Stewart Robson?
    Steve Claridge? They know how to manage, so they tell us.

    Anyone with the Wonga/banking connections can buy a title or two, yet throughout the different changing eras it is fair to say that great clubs were made by visionaries.

    This is not an opinion.
    It is simply an obvious observation.

  23. Martin Atkinson, Chelsea fan.

    For his last thirty odd approximate apps. Chelsea have a better record with this “player” then any other individual from their muti-billion petrodollar squad.

    He did the West Ham vs. City game.

  24. Woah, almost forgot that infamous, demure, shrinking violet from my list above

    Marcelo Biesla.

    The coach who more then any other has probably influenced the development of that Bieslatronic Beast:

    Alexis Sanchez.

    We thank the infamous uncomprimising ego of Marcelo for this gift that he has helped to bequeth to the good old Arsenal. The stubborn fool. What was he thinking when he brought through players like Vidal and Sanchez? I just dunno…

  25. Finsbury,
    When I saw the appointments last week and seeing Atkinson for WHU-MC my first reaction was: Oh, we might see a surprise score in that match…..

  26. Finsbury – I didn’t realise that the drone was officiating at the Bolyn. Pelligrini did not comment on officiating so he must be a quick learner.

    I watched part of the game on stream but didn’t realise the tide was not in Citys favour.

  27. @Tony – In my opinion Alexis is a better player than Henry. He has a similarity if the media is right about his extra curricular activities. Lets hope he doesn’t show any groin strain.

  28. Lot being discussed here….

    4-4-2!! This system has a weakness, that the middle of the midfield gets outnumbered by the teams playing 4-3-3 or 4-5-1. Solution: dribble out of the crowd.
    Is this the reason why we are the top dribbling team this season. We have attempted more dribbles than any other team in the PL. And almost the double of the second placed team in that list.


    I don’t think Mr Wenger would sit upstairs. He has said, on record, that he is not in favor of DOF. A manger should be fully responsible for the playing staff. Having a DOF will provide him the escape route.

    And by ‘absolute control’, I dont think Tony is saying that Mr Wenger manages every thing. By absolute control he meant the footballing side. The control over playing and coaching staff. And not administration in totality. Tony can correct me here.

  29. Walter at 5.42.

    Interesting comment. Pity we haven’t got the staff to do ref reviews of other matches (besides Arsenal’s).

  30. I do not think that Arsenal aspires to playing a particular system.
    I think the goal is to have a free flowing team entity morphing through all formations as necessary. At the moment we are playing different formations depending on who is playing, but soon because of all players playing/training in different positions, they each get a greater inner-standing of the game.

    October 27, 2014 at 10:51 am
    “Just had a sickening feeling in my stomach, the last time our player had such quick feet resulted in broken leg”.

    Yea, there has already been an attack on Alexis.
    I think we have to watch Rooney when we play Manu if he plays. I saw him nearly cripple Sagna once, but i think Alexis is nimble enough to jump over dangerous tackles if he sees them coming.

  31. 442 would be the best for us. We get more chances of scoring. What is it with some blogs saying, that whenever Wilshire starts, we leak goals!

  32. Clock End Gooner Mandy etc.

    I posted this elsewhere but seeing your comments it seemed more relevant here.

    Maureen and Chelsea had a dose of what we get, week in week out, with 6 cards for 16 fouls against Man Utd (well lets face if it’s ever going to happen it’s going to be against the PGMOLs old favourites isn’t it) and listen to them squirm.

    This is what I heard a pundit say on the radio yesterday(not word for word though)

    ‘I can see why Jose’s upset. He employed the same ‘spoiling’ tactics yesterday (I think that’s apologists talk for rotational fouling)As he employed against Arsenal and yet this time got all those bookings’

    So no debate as to why Chelsea GOT AWAY WITH IT AGAINST ARSENAL, just as to why Chelsea weren’t allowed to get away with it again today.

    Our pundits/media are actually sick in the head.

  33. Looked like a good old 4-2-3-1 to me. Flamini and Arteta sitting deeper, with Sanchez behind the striker, Cazorla on the left and The Ox on the right, but both coming into the centre a lot.

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