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Forget the training and the preparation. Get these two things right and you will win the league.

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, “Wenger is not good tactician, same old story no plan B,”  (That was apparently said by a supporter, but we are not told who.  But hell, every supporter knows, doesn’t he or she?)

“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,”

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Barcelona 32 24 4 4 87 27 60 76
2 Atletico Madrid 32 23 4 5 54 16 38 73
3 Real Madrid 32 22 6 4 93 29 64 72
4 Villarreal 32 17 9 6 41 26 15 60
5 Celta Vigo 32 15 7 10 45 52 -7 52
6 Athletic Bilbao 32 15 6 11 50 40 10 51

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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25 comments to Forget the training and the preparation. Get these two things right and you will win the league.

  • colario

    I guess this is one for the aaa’s and all the other winnothingers that troll here with their brainless heads when Arsenal lose.

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    To have a general leader and leaders, and also to have a plan B or C issues in big time top club like Arsenal cannot be underestimated to be dismissed with a wave of the backhand.

    I think it’s very important for Arsenal to have a strong general leader and other leaders in their 1st team. And also to have a plan B and plan C too are very necessary. Just in case if plan A failed. Then plan B will be switched to. And then switch over to plan C if plan B failed.

    I think it’s very important for Arsenal to have an imposing general leader on the field of play again and other leaders too like in their goalkeeping, midfield and striker departments to impose proper control in the team and also to impose their authority on the opposition teams during playing matches.

    It isn’t that Arsenal don’t have a leader in their current 1st team, they have one in the player of Arteta. But he has gone obsolete for Arsenal and no one in the current Arsenal 1st team has shown the necessary leadership quality to lead the team to prevent Arsenal from losing at the Ems to Swansea in the League and in FA Cup against Watford. And we couldn’t at least pick up a point at Man Utd and beat West Ham last weekend all in the League to add an extra 6 points to the 59 we have now that would have seen us on 65 with a game in hand. Let me stop here as I’ve talked too much.

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    I’ve just seen the Champions League draw on BBC Media Application. And
    Man City have been drawn against Real Madrid at the Etihad in the 1st leg. While Atletico de Madrid have been paired against Bayern Munich.

    The draw has not been fair to Man City, has it? But if Man City can have Vincent Kompany for both legs of this semi, they may knockout Real Madrid.

    I am not a Man City fan, I’m Arsenal fan for live and I am a big fan of Cristiano Ronaldo too. But since I am principally a fan of the Premier League football, I want Man City to reach the final and win the UCL Cup.

  • Andrew Crawshaw


    I am sorry to take you to task but as a fan of Arsenal you MUSTN’T support Man City to win the CL..

    The PL have four entries to the competition which normally go to the teams finishing first to fourth in the league. This in not always the case. Should an English club win they would automatically get one of the entries, even if they were to finish outside the top four. It was rather fun the other year when Chelsea supplanted Sours via this route.

    Now the winner of the Europa League also gets an entry to the CL and should Liverpool win that competition then they too would get one of the four PL places.

    The PGMO seem hell bent on ensuring that the two ‘media darlings’ Leicester and Spurs finish first and second. If our two remaining clubs in Europe win then finishing third or fourth in the league would only give entry to the Europa League and, I’m sure that we all want to avoid that.

  • Tony, well said. Same goes for @Colario. @Samuel, I really wonder what you expect the draw to throw up: Man City vs Aston Villa? You want to win the Champions League, be prepared to play the best, and beat them.

    Our defending and goal-scoring needs addressing. Imagine if we put one or two past Barcelona in the first leg at the Emirates. They were there for the taking in the second leg. We somehow just did not put our chances away. Period. If we did, it would have been us or Atletico in the draw for the semi final now. Against Bayern, I would have fancied our chances. But it was never meant to be.

    We definitely need to reinforce in one or two areas. But then, I will say, let the manager and the board do whatever is the right thing for the club. I still believe in this team and I don’t think we should throw away the baby with the bath water. It is certainly not the time for sledgehammers here.

  • Gouresh

    All this data you are collecting on the ref’s, statistically show that something is a-miss and I have always, like the rest of us wondered that why hasn’t the club done anything to sort it out. By the looks of things, is there anything to sort out? or are we making a hoohaa about nothing…..and before you all pounce on me…..looks like AW does not believe that there is something wrong because in the press conference he was asked about the issue on the change of ref’s for the duds game.
    it seems that the club has done bugger-all after all.

  • Usama Zaka

    These kind of things are what I call the “talking the talk” things.

    “You lack leadership”
    “You don’t have a plan B”
    “You need to show the passion”
    “You don’t have the character and desire”
    “You need to spend some faaaacking moneeeyy!”
    “You fail to win the big games”
    “Don’t use the refs as an excuse”

    The media, aaa and the pundits have developed this as a routine.

    Going off-topic sorry 🙂 But Arsene Wenger was asked numerous questions about referees today. So here is the transcript from

    Q. on Kevin Friend being removed as ref of the Tottenham game…
    A. I am completely against that. I believe the referees are professional people and when you are professional, you are supposed to be impartial no matter what happens. I was always against this rule and it is somewhere not believing completely that the referee can be objective and impartial. That is absolutely surprising for me that that happens.

    Q. on social media and Kevin Friend…
    A. Social media doesn’t dictate the rules and has not to dictate what happens with the referees. Social media is one thing, but they do not have to dictate. It’s people who have responsibilities at the top level who have to make these decisions. I’m completely surprised and disappointed by that decision.

    Q. on whether there is a better way to select referees…
    A. I had this chat with Mike Riley once. You cannot concede that the referees have to declare who they support and then after they don’t referee the teams they support. If they referee a team who is fighting with the team they support, they cannot even referee the team who is fighting with the team they support. If you go into that kind of situation, you just think that the referees are not very professional. To be professional is to do what the rules demand. Once you go down that route they cannot be impartial because they have an emotional link with a club. That has nothing to do with being professional. I personally think that if you go that way it becomes a nightmare every week to choose a referee for every single game.

    Q. on the solution…
    A. The solution is that you don’t look at where they come from, who they support. You put the best referees in the most important games and ideally you should only have the best referees. Once you go into that kind of calculation, you never get out of it.

    Q. on the standard of refereeing…
    A. That’s a good question. Personally, I’ve not been especially happy with what’s happened this season for us, but I’m not a specialist of judging referees. I do not want to go into too much detail because people will say it’s a selfish point of view. Most of the time that’s the case because managers look at their own team and not at the overall situation.

    Q. on what he’s not been happy with…
    A. You ask any of the 20 managers that today and you will get the same response where they talk about this game and that game. You have to accept that the referees make mistakes. I believe we have to give them more support with more technology in the future, especially for the offsides. We also have to treat them as professionals, which means responsible people who have to make decisions that are not especially linked with emotional situations.

    Q. on Arsenal only having two penalties in the Premier League this season…
    A. That’s much less than many other teams. Honestly, I have not analysed that deeply enough to give you an objective opinion.

    Q. on Leicester having 10…
    A. Yes. What can I do about that? ||||||

  • serge

    Andrew Crawshaw

    I’m sorry to take YOU to task, but Samuel can support who he wants to win the CL irrespective of who his main team is. I’ll also be supporting City in the same way I did for Liverpool, United, Villa, Forest and any other British sides in European competition.
    I don’t know how old you are are, but I can remember when we did that.

  • Andy Mack

    I can’t read this article properly as my browser keeps crashing due to the scripts from the adverts…..

  • Gunner6

    I agree with Andrew about supporting another team, especially if them winning the trophy is detrimental to our own cause.
    Otherwise, I will let that particular moment dictate the matter e.g. my brother is a Manure and Notts Forest supporter. I have cheered for other teams in the past when their victory have no influence on Arsenal e.g. Man U v B Munich (EC final), Man U v Barca (CWC final).

  • Mark

    The older I get, the less I want fellow British teams to win in Europe, especially as most of the time they are Utd, Chelsea etc. This year is particularly poignant with the CL places up for grabs. Can’t see City beating Real Ronaldo though and Liverpool have surely used up all their come back powers.

  • markyb

    I believe that the CL places issue only applies if City win the CL and finish outside the top four as the PL has a max of 5 places now

  • Robert

    If Liverpool qualify for the Champions League by winning the Europa League, England would have 5 teams in the Champions League. That’s how Spain ended up with 5 teams in the Champions League this season.

  • para

    It’s not that AW does not have a plan B or C (i used to think that too), he does, but he prefers to put his trust in the team.

    This is OK as long as the players are firing and hungry to win, focused and determined on the pitch.
    Sadly, they (used to – at least some improvement there) end up looking like lost headless chickens when things go wrong.

    This is the time when a plan B or C is necessary. Many times we lost because there was none, i’m sure anyone ban agree.

    My beef, is that AW does not seem to prepare strategies to meet the next opposition, especially with teams changing all the time, it is good to get an idea of who you are going to face, their strengths and weaknesses.

    Look how Caroll decimated us. That was a strategy of the opposition. Our strategy was to be prepared for Caroll if he played, obviously we did not have one.

    So, there are things wrong with the way Arsenal approaches games, and this is not a recent thing either.

    I really do understand that some want a big change(AW gone), i myself would be more happy if small things, like the above mentioned changed.

  • para

    “can agree”

  • serge

    “Look how Caroll decimated us. That was a strategy of the opposition. Our strategy was to be prepared for Caroll if he played, obviously we did not have one”.


    Arsene admitted afterwards that he was completely unprepared for Caroll playing ( he expected Sakho) and would have probably picked a different defence had he known in advance. But really he should have shouldn’t he, especially knowing the limitations of our defence and that Bilic might have been planning something.
    Once those team sheets are handed over it’s too late to change, so one up to Bilic for his foresiight.

  • serge


  • Gord

    Andy Mack (others with browser crashing)

    Are you sure your software is up to date? There has been a bash of updates from various places lately.

    I removed flash from all the machines I have over 1 year ago. It is just a problem waiting to happen. And I removed Java from the browser (or even all of java if possible) before that. Same reason, just toooooo many holes. Note: java is not javascript. I don’t like javascript either, but too much doesn’t work to remove that.

  • Andy Mack

    Gord, all up to date.

  • Zedbee

    Add another one to the list of ‘truisms’ by the media, today Tony Gale on SkySports News said that Arsene has not won trophies in a long time which is why arsenal fans are angry. He said that not once but multiple times. You get tired of proper barefaced lies in the media and yet the presenter did not see reason to correct him.

  • Pat

    Usama Zaka

    Thank you for reprinting all the things Arsene Wenger said about referees. It is important to get the detail. I am especially interested that he was even asked about the number of penalties. It seems that finally some journalists are noticing this discrepancy as well.

  • Pete

    Andrew C – I don’t think you are right.

    Maximum number of teams from England is 5. Therefore both Man C and Liverpool would have to win in Europe (and not qualify via the League) for the 4th place team to miss out.

    Although I stand to be corrected as very hard to find a definitive answer to this question!

  • gouresh

    Serge, a manager of AW’s calibre should and must prepare for all sinarios. Its not rocket science or that u have to be license Coach to understand that. Do u think for one second that Pert would do a better job standing up to the physically stronger Andy? Gabby is more than capable of that. Its closing down of the players to avoid the crosses, thats where we failed. Aren’t the players smart enough to understand that? Yes they should be, because if they are not, then we have a serious problem. Lets assume that AW did not tell them to close down the crosses, but then where was their own initiative? I was always told that AW expects players to use their intelligence.

  • para

    Yes, that is the real problem we have. AW is sometimes(mostly) unprepared for the opposition becauses he prefers to trust in the team, even though the team needs more help from him.

  • upp

    I think what this tells us is that if you’re doing well you’ll get praise in the press. Plan B or not. But when you’re doing badly, your faults will be scrutinised. It’s not rocket science, and has nothing to do with the paranoia that the press is against any team. The same wenger was called the “prof” by the press when he was winning well, now his team battles for the 4th place trophy every year, naturally he’s critiqued unfavorably.