Wenger and Arteta: two revolutionaries each under ceaseless attack

By Tony Attwood

The differences between Mr Wenger and Mr Arteta seem so obvious:  Mr Wenger was a player of modest proportions who had had significant experience and success as a manager before coming to Arsenal.

For Mr Arteta there was success as a player in Scotland and England.  But people forget, Arsene Wenger knew of Arteta’s potential as a manager, offering him the chance to run the Arsenal Academy on his retirement but instead he opted to be assistant coach at Manchester City.

So these are men with different experiences as players, and as managers.  And yet one thing links them: they are both utterly revolutionary in their approach.  Mr Wenger saw that what was missing at Arsenal was the link between the ageing but still exceptionally good defence and enormous potential in attack with Dennis Bergkamp. So he brought in Vieira for £3.5m to nick the ball and get it forward quickly. 

In the four seasons before he arrived Arsenal had averaged 48.5 goals a season.  In the first four seasons Mr Wenger was at Arsenal that shot up to 65.5 per season – an utterly amazing turnaround.  Amazing that it was effected in the very first season he was at the club, and effective in that he maintained it.

As a result in the first four Wenger seasons Arsenal knocked in 68 more goals than they had in the previous four under Graham and Rioch.  And all by getting the ball forward from the ever solid back four to the attack (which had a different top scorer for each of those seasons: Wright, Bergkamp, Anelka, Henry).

Of course Mr Wenger had problems: there was significant xenophobia in English football when he arrived and he had the most appalling problems with PGMO which reached a summit on 10 October 2000 when it was alleged that he had indulged in violent or threatening behaviour against the fourth official.  Mr Wenger was banned for 12 matches.for “improper conduct”.

It was of course all rubbish, and on appeal was resolved, although by then the journalists had got their teeth into Mr Wenger and were running the most appalling and scurrilous campaign ever seen against a football manager.  He sailed through it, famously taunting them on the steps of Highbury, and the Wengerian revolution ran on.

Mr Arteta’s is a little different, But two things link the two men.   Like Mr Wenger, Arteta has radically changed the way the team plays, in this case recognising the impact of referees on Arsenal’s performance, and thus dramatically cutting down on tackles and in that way cutting our massive yellow card haul in half.

But what links the two men most of all, is the combination of outrageous and sustained attacks on each manager by the press, TV and bloggers.

It is hard to remember now, but Mr Wenger was constantly attacked for bringing in “all these foreigners”, as well as “not understanding the English game”.  Mr Arteta’s incredible turn around of the Arsenal side both by cutting away with PGMO’s prime weapon against Arsenal (giving a foul for almost every tackle, and then a yellow after every couple of tackles) and by devising a style of play that totally flummoxed most opposition – and the referees.

In short Arteta has played the referees game by cutting out the tackles.  Thus Arsenal are transformed  into the club that committed fewer fouls than any other club in the league.  With this and other tactical changes Arsenal put in a performance for the last two thirds of the season which if it can be maintained all the way through the next season, will easily take us into the top four.

Thus just as the media endless attacked Mr Wenger from the start to the last, barely pausing even during the unbeaten season save supposedly to quote fans as saying that was the worst Arsenal team they’d ever seen (The Times), so they are now onto Mr Arteta, ignoring the tactical transformation and demanding the whole team that did so well in the last two thirds of the season, be replaced.  Even if it means buying a goalkeeper who is currently suspended for a year because of drugs offences.

But there is still a danger of course, in that if we don’t support the club, and if we allow the media to get away with this gibberish, Mr Arteta could just say he wants a more peaceful life.   But let’s hope not.

I will fully admit, I didn’t grasp what Arteta was doing at first, but then, nor did anyone else.  Certainly OI didn’t see anyone analyse those amazing tackle and yellow card figures.  But now it is there for all to see, there is no excuse for the ceaseless demands for him to turn away from all the brilliant work he’s been doing.

But the attacks on Mr Arteta continue day by day by day, just as they did with Mr Wenger.  With Wenger it was utterly untrue attacks on his private life.  With Arteta it is the refusal to consider the tactical brilliance of his changes, and the stunning improvement in the last two thirds of the season.

It is, I fear, something that will always be there.



9 Replies to “Wenger and Arteta: two revolutionaries each under ceaseless attack”

  1. What an absolute load of nonsense. There was some criticism about foreigners but relentless attack. You are living in your own tiny little world.

    Where do you get this nonsense from.

  2. Well Mr Banks, to answer your question, what I do is keep an eye on the websites of the national press, and the blogs, plus the big football outlets like HITC. They do indeed publish nonsense, as you suggest, and that’s where I find it. The “relentless attack” phrase is of course not one of mine from this article, but I do find there is an attack as I find new articles each day suggesting that last season was a disaster. I don’t think it was because of the way the season was turned around, and the information that was gained. Nor do I accept the media’s assertion that Arteta has a limited amount of time.
    But I wonder, as you mention “relentless” if you were referring to another article rather than this one, as I really don’t think I used the word in this piece at all.
    It is interesting however that you feel you can say that I am living in my “own tiny little world”. I wouldn’t normally mention this, but as you have brought the issue up, I wonder what sort of world you live in. You obviously know the line Untold takes – I think we are fairly unwavering in that approach – and yet you continue to read. Not only that, you have now commented six times on articles here. Do you always do this with “tiny little worlds” I wonder.
    But to assure you, you are very welcome to be here and to comment, all I am doing is wondering why you do it when you feel my work is so awful my 1000 words or so can be dismissed by your 35 or so words.
    You know you are not going to change our view (we’ve been around for 13 years and haven’t changed yet), but you continue with simply dismissals over and over and over (x2) and I wonder why.

  3. A bit of a conversion on the road to Damascus here as Untold was pretty lukewarm towards Arteta in mid season. And far too early to put him on the pedestal which Wenger earnt through his remarkable achievements.
    Was Wenger really pilloried by the press throughout the glory years? I’m not so sure.
    Like many geniuses, Wenger was “different” from the average joe, and certainly from the journeymen that make up the U.K. football scene. It seems he was admired and respected by many, but at the same time a man with few close personal relationships and, it has been said, few real friends in English football. The Steve Jobs of football, you might say. It is curious to me that no major European club was interested in him as manager when he left Arsenal. In some ways it reminds me of the situation with Bobby Moore. Our World Cup winning captain that was never offered the West Ham job, let alone the England job, or any job at a top team. All very curious.

  4. Your hypothesis that the turnaround in Arsenal’s season was down to Arteta changing tactics may be true. And it may be true that change had something to do with the PGMO. Personally I doubt it, despite the data on tackles and yellow cards.
    In a recent interview Arteta made a cryptic comment that he knew the cause of the terrible run pre Xmas (and by implication he did something about it). My guess, and it is just a guess, is the problem had more to do with dressing room dynamics than tactics. And the change that made the diffference is rooted in the players that he got out of the club in the January window.

  5. Andrew Banks

    Tony said: “Of course Mr Wenger had problems: there was significant xenophobia in English football when he arrived”

    Which there was.

    From the media circa 2005/06

    LONDON — Arsenal became L’Arsenal or El Arsenal last Monday after Arsene Wenger chose an all-foreign squad of 16 for the 5-1 win over Crystal Palace.

    Christopher Davies

    It was the first time this had happened in the history of English football and the following day former Arsenal favourite Paul Merson led the criticism of Wenger’s no-Brits selection.

    Merson condemned the Johnny Foreigner XVI by calling it “a disgrace. . . we are cutting our own throats.”


    Wenger rails at ‘racist’ criticism of Arsenal side.

    Manager responds to Alan Pardew’s charges. Frenchman defends foreign players in squad. Arsène Wenger, following widespread criticism for failing to field an English player in either leg of Arsenal’s Champions League tie with Real Madrid, has accused his detractors of racist behaviour. Both the West Ham manager Alan Pardew and Aston Villa’s David O’Leary criticised Wenger’s decision to deploy an overseas XI but the Arsenal manager called their comments “regressive”.

    So that’s Paul Merson, Alan pardew and David O’Leary to name but 3 whom I found in less than 5 minutes. And this was the comment from the article:

    “…following widespread criticism” !!

    Okay, maybe we didn’t face a relentless attack, but we did face WIDESPREAD CRITICISM.

    And we wasn’t even the first team to field an all foreign team as Chelsea did so back in 1999. This from an article in the SUN in 2009:

    “…….the first team to field an all foreign line-up was Chelsea way back in 1999, Gianluca Vialli leaving the likes of John Terry, Jody Morris, Jon Harley and Mark Nicholls on the bench.”

    But did they face the same ‘Widespread Criticism’ ?

    From the media at the time:

    “26 December 1999 – Chelsea Flows Over Southampton

    On 26 December 1999, Chelsea became the first British team to field an all-foreign starting XI. And it worked out pretty well for them”.

    Doesn’t look like it.

    There have subsequently been other clubs that have fielded entirely foreign line ups, Portsmouth for one against us, and I don’t recall, and I couldn’t find, a single negative article in the media, or a single negative quote, not from Merson, O’Leary, Pardew or anyone else for that matter, about any of them. No sarcastic El Chelsea, or L’Chavs, not a criticism in sight, just a comment that it went ‘pretty well’.

    And that’s the difference.

    No, we may not of faced a ‘relentless attack’ but I don’t think anyone said we did, but we did face WIDESPREAD CRITICISM, which I don’t think any other clubs would of or did face, as the reaction to Chelsea and others doing the same thing tends to support.

    Arsenal are treated differently in the media whether you are prepared to concede it or not, so you can come here with your 30 word soundbites as often as you like it doesn’t change the facts.

  6. And yes, here again I take your point. We were puzzled in the first third of the last season, until one of us said, “can I see those tackles, fouls, yellows numbers again?” My defence of Untold’s position is that we were puzzled, express our puzzlement (and yes, frustration) but then slowly, laboriously worked the office calculator until the batteries ran out, and found what he was doing. If we hadn’t spotted the Leicester tackling issue before, I am not sure we would have found it so quickly, but at least that earlier hard work paid off.

  7. the turn around has been almost completely ignored by the media.the main problem before the turn around was the defence the media says were poor and need wholesome changes but the connection between midfield and attack which was solved by the introduction of a natural 10

  8. I agree about the ceaseless criticism of Wenger and the English media need to be exposed. However the bloggers and certain journalists seem to love Arteta and cut him lot more slack. Probably because they’re happy Arsenal are struggling.

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