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The danger of asking for simplistic change at the start of a season.

By Tony Attwood

Against Leciester away, earlier this season, a group of supposedly Arsenal supporters started to chant “Spend some ****ing money” (**** = not offending NxNow) and “We want Wenger out” etc.

Of late I have not heard much from them, as they have left the complaining to the journalists who are always happy to fill a gap, but I am sure that a defeat against Tottenham this weekend would quickly have them back at least with the “Wenger Out” chant if not a call for more money to be spent.

But what are we to make of these “supporters” twin demands?   Both being slogans the analysis of change tends to be a little short on detail, but I suspect that if given the opportunity during the summer they would have opted for Mourinho as manager and a transfer budget that saw the likes of Pogba, Mkhitaryan, Bailly and Ibrahimovic arrive.

Certainly as far as I can tell, many Manchester United supporters were delighted to see both of the previous incumbents (Moyes and van Gaal) go, even though an Gaal delivered a trophy.  They wanted the PL league and the Champs League won.  And they wanted them won NOW.

And so yes, it could have been Arsenal, if the anti-Wengerians had had their way.  Arsene out, and instead in comes… Mourinho.

Although it might sound horribly like hindsight, I can say hand on heart I would have been seriously worried if he had come to Arsenal.  Not just because Chelsea had a poor season last year (or at least what Arsenal supporters would have considered very poor since it didn’t involve qualification for the Champions League) but also because of the bust up with Dr Caneria.

It wasn’t just unedifying, it wasn’t just an employment tribunal that Chelsea could never win, it was utterly and totally wrong, legally, technically and morally.  And it wasn’t the first time – he had public rants against his medical staff in 2006 when Petr Cech was injured.  Plus the case of Oscar who was told to play on despite the medical view that the was suffering from concussion.

In fact, if the club doesn’t win, everyone is wrong except Mourinho.

But leaving that aside, it seemed to me last year as if Mourinho had been able to turn good players into poor players – Fabregas and Hazard particularly come to mind, and he had blamed (often in public) everyone but himself.   I suppose I might have been able to forgive him that if he had come to Arsenal and won the league, but even so my heart would have been heavy.

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Yet obviously Manchester United’s owners thought he was the man for the job.   And you never know, he still might turn it all around even now.   But at the moment, from my perspective as a person who writes about football, but has never managed a team, he looks utterly bonkers.  Like a tub of butter under the grill.  Completely in meltdown.

While Mr Wenger never speaks ill of his players, and is always supportive of them in public (even when it causes derision to fall upon himself as with his famous “I didn’t see it” comments about fouls) Mourinho let Lingard and Mkhitaryan get t it in the face.

Now you might think that public criticism can encourage a player to work harder – and I suspect that sometimes that is true.  But it can also cause all sorts of problems.  It can make players lose confidence and make their performances worse.  It can make some players fester resentment.  It can make the players demand a transfer.

And above all, it has an impact on other players who might have felt that Manchester United was a good place to come (despite not being in the Champions League) and can turn them away from the prospect.  My own view therefore is that commentaries such as,”We didn’t have a tactical problem, we had problems with poor performances, we lost the ball very, very easy. Even now our central defenders today they lost easy balls, bad passes,” actual make subsequent transfer windows harder and harder until the very best players really don’t want to come to the club.

Of course anyone can get angry and say the wrong things (although Mr Wenger doesn’t do much of that) but Mourniho does it big time.  Indeed was doing it again in the next match.  Consider this comment:

“Today for the second goal, Amrabat on the right side, our left back is 25 metres distance from him, instead of five metres. But even at 25 metres, then you have to jump and go press. But no, we wait”

Mr Wenger might have said that in the dressing room, but Mourinho chose to say it in the interviews.  It was reported later that quite a few players went up to their manager and complained about what they felt was unfair criticism in public.  If that is right, then once again it doesn’t make for progress in the club.

Of course Mr Wenger had his moments with referees in his early days in England, and he was suspended for one in which he was accused of pushing the referee.  But there was no wild rants, no crazy blame games, Mr Wenger gathered his evidence, went to appeal, and in a calm and quiet manner was completely exonerated.

The point is that all managers can become angry, but they have to learn to control their anger – as well as admit (even if it is just to themselves) that they (like referees) can make mistakes.  They also have to learn that complaining about referees does no manager any good – indeed it tends to make the manager look rather like an idiot.   Indeed I think it fair to say that one of the real reasons there is a referee debate going on (despite the efforts of the Guardian with their prolonged “let’s stop talking about referees” campaign”) is because of Untold not because of any complaint from a manager.

But Mourinho goes into ref bashing wholesale and it is only the leniency of the League who still retain the view that Mourinho is some kind of demigod that has meant that all he gets is occasional one match bans and insignificant fines.

Then there is the issue of what Mourinho says about other managers.  While Mr Wenger is mostly polite and offering praise, Mourinho makes it clear what he likes, wants and demands even from other managers!

My point here is simple: if Mr Wenger had decided, in the face of endless criticism from the anti-Arsenal-Arsenal groups that he had had enough, we could have had Mourinho.  And would life have been better?   Certainly not on the evidence thus far.

What is most interesting is that at Chelsea before he was sacked last season Mourinho was blaming the team for not playing as he had ordered them to do.   Now at Manchester United he is making the same complaints.   Doesn’t that suggest someone who isn’t quite able to get his ideas across?

Of course it is possible that if Mr Wenger had gone we might have got a manager who could have immediately taken us to the top of the league for the whole season.  But we could also have had a manager who, leaving aside his rages, could have spent the £££££££ that these “supporters” wanted spent.  But not spent it on Mustafi and Xhaka, both of whom look like real gems, but on the sort of players that Mourinho bought.

Yes there were demands for a top scoring centre forward.  And maybe with a different manager we would have found one.   But in such a case we might have also followed the same sort of advice and lost Theo.

As it is the top scoring table in the league now reads…

Position Player Team Goals
1 Diego Da Silva Costa Chelsea 8
2 Romelu Lukaku Everton 7
3 Sergio Leonel Agüero Manchester City 7
4 Alexis  Sánchez Arsenal 6
5 Eden Hazard Chelsea 5
6 Jermain Defoe Sunderland 5
7 Michail Antonio West Ham United 5
8 Theo Walcott Arsenal 5

Now you may have noticed that I don’t share the view that having the top scorer in the league in the team is a pre-requisite for winning the league.   I think having a couple of top scorers helps.  Which is what we have.

“Beware of calls for simplistic change” is hardly a slogan that is going to catch on, but I still think it is one worth remembering.


16 comments to The danger of asking for simplistic change at the start of a season.

  • Zuruvi

    We are lucky to have Arsene Wenger as our manager. And long may he remain as the boss at Arsenal.

    We are very lucky NOT to have Mourinho as our manager.

  • Tony
    morihno is waiting for the jan window to solve his problems.
    if he makes it that far.
    makes me wonder who the specialist in failure is?

  • Omo r'Arsenal

    I have come to understand that most times in life, when all seems tough, long time proven principles help us get through. And that is the Wenger style – his incomparable principles. No manager in modern football history has stuck this long to such fantastic principles in managing football clubs with or without trophy success. Like an equation, Wenger’s team challenges are just variables; but look well people, his enviable principles form the constant K.

    Expect a three course meal for lunch on Sunday, for the chickens are coming and we’ve got guns!!!!!!!!!!

  • Gord

    Omo r’Arsenal

    Guns …

    I am going to guess that you live some place that doesn’t border the USA. I live in Canada.

    When I search for news of Arsenal, I search for Arsenal OR Gunners. Which occasionally brings up unusual hits.

    Militia all over the USA are getting their fighting skills up (guns, knives, unarmed, …) just in case they have to start a revolution after the upcoming presidential election.

    I just as soon all those guns not exist. I don’t want a bunch of people running around in public with guns, that are probably loaded with real ammunition, probably have one in the chamber, and may not have the safety on. Let alone people running around with semi-automatic (or worse) guns.

  • GoingGoingGooner

    My impression is that Mr. Wenger tries to treat his players as people who have lives of value after they leave the pitch and so he seems to treat them as if he wants to have a relationship with them that endures more than 3 years.

  • MickHazel

    I recall during the summer transfer window when Mourinho was being hailed for acting swiftly and decisively in identifying and bringing in the players he needed to transform Man U into title contenders, while at the same time Wenger was being ridiculed for dithering and being stingy.
    “Look at Man U, that’s the way to conduct your business, that’s how you do it” all the experts said, not fannying around like stupid old out of touch Wenger, leaving it to the last minute and forced into panic buys because he wouldn’t ‘spend some fucking money’.
    Well well all you experts, what do you say now? Looks like Wenger got it right after all whilst the special one is left with egg on his face.

  • Polo

    I don’t think the ‘Moaning One’ style suits ManU philosophy, ManU likes to play fast, aggressive attacking football while the ‘Moaning One’ prefer quick counter-attack. In addition, by having a lot of top class players in the team and then criticise them in public is a recipe for disaster, these type of players can go to any club so they won’t take crap from a manager, you need them to be on your side otherwise they won’t perform. As they say, it’s cheaper to sack the manager than sack the players.

  • para

    “Now you may have noticed that I don’t share the view that having the top scorer in the league in the team is a pre-requisite for winning the league. I think having a couple of top scorers helps. Which is what we have.”
    Chel$ have two scorers in the top scorers league too, but we do have a few more players who will score.

    GoingGoingGooner: 🙂

    A game of probably catch up on Sun, we have to win, but that said, if a draw guarantees us a(great) win against ManU, i would take the draw anyday.

    Of course i want us to win both. 🙂

  • Polo

    For a man who is ‘tactically clueless’ or ‘past his time’ it seem Real Madrid management don’t think so, according to reports AW was on their shortlist of managers to replace Zidane if he fails. Real Madrid tried not once but twice in the past to sign AW, for him to reject and stay with Arsenal I am so privileged and proud to have him as The Arsenal manager. I hope he will decide to stay with this great football club after this season.

  • Mandy Dodd

    I sincerely hope that our board would never go near a figure like Mourinho when Wenger departs.
    He is against all the values the club profess to hold dear, and, he likes exclusivity with certain…..expensive….so called super agents, not many bargains to be had with such types.
    But I guess we won’t know until it happens.
    It is reported on some boards that Mikitryan was a done deal for us, but Utd hijacked and gazumped us….as part of the Zlatan/Pogba deal, they apparently share the same …erm……agent. I have no idea how true this is, but if so, Miki must be absolutely gutted at present, we may have dodged a bullet, and we have a resurgent theo.

  • Andy Mack

    My issue with MaureenO is that he’s a ‘short termist’. He’s only interested in what he can do with a club in the next 3 years and then he’ll move on leaving the club in a worse position than when he arrived. Pepe is a bit like that but does appear to consider the long term situation of the club as well (although it’s difficult to be sure because of the clubs he’s managed).
    AW looked at our past and appreciated that to change us from a ‘cup team’ (with an occasional PL win) to one of the big clubs we’d need a long term approach. Danny Fiszmann and AW (along with David Dein to a much lesser degree) started the process and AW will hopefully be with us to finish that process.
    MaureenO would have been long gone years ago.

    As for alternatives, there was a loud voice for Frank De Boer.
    I wonder where he’ll turn up now Inter have given him the elbow…

  • Andy Mack

    There’s a big difference between
    1) saying to a person privately that they made mistakes which caused a loss, but that we know they have the talent to be a top players so they must cut out the mistakes, and
    2) telling the press it was one person that caused the loss, thereby opening the floodgates for the press to print pictures of the player with a clown hat and fans starting to boo when that players name is mentioned.
    MaureenO doesn’t care if he breaks the confidence of a £25m player because he has no loyalty to the club at all. His only loyalty is to himself.
    Whereas AW may see a player that he doesn’t believe will make the grade, but he’ll try to make the player look good so he can charge the best price when he sell him, thereby adding funds to the club and/or his transfer budget for when the right player becomes available.

  • Andy Mack

    I should add that AW doesn’t keep his discussions with players private for the money, he does it because it’s a considerate thing to do, and the sales money is a by-product of being a human.

  • Chris

    Well Tony,

    even CNN is picking up on it :

    I just hope he goes on like that, has a season with a place 7 finish and then his reputation will have taken another hit. Better than him leaving mid-season like last year and blaming everyone else.

  • austinpaul

    Wenger like I hve said before is in a class of his own apart frm oda managers; he is naturally humane, not a forced virtue or pretensious, he is very thoughtful, always thinking of d best solution for human nd material resources of his watch,he follows his mind nd gives everytin to achieve his set goals, no wonda AW hardly makes mistakes in d transfer market nd his choices often hit d ground running unlike wat we see wit oda clubs; I believe arsenal will find it very difficult to replace dis commited nd romburst manager wen he eventually exits. As for Morinhno, am nt suprised about him , I said it earlier on. He isn’t d manager ManU needed to recreate d Club after Fergie exited; he is toxic nd his toxicism must affect d players nd d Club in its entirety, he is egotistic,inhuman nd selfcentered, dis attributes are infectious nd are habinger for resentment among those he works wit; ManU might end up worse dan last season if Morihno is not sensored early enough. I pray Wenger stays until he clocks 70 years at Arsenal while d club commences a search for his replcement nd possibly recruits such personalty to work wit him as an understudy in his last 2 years, dis way d recruit will acquaint himself wit d values nd nd legacies of Arsenal dat he needs to kno , respect nd put into practice wen he takes over, odawise d vaccum will be too challenging dat we may go into recession worse dan ManU nd Liverpool frm wich dey are still struggling to break through!!! Shallom.

  • goonersince72

    Well said, Tony.