Amid all the frustration and endless whirlwind of the transfer window I’m trying to sift through all Wenger’s madness to see if there is a method behind it.
I’m really not going to get into transfers because I’ve decided it’s not good for my health. It’s very difficult, but I’m trying to not make any judgements until the deadline day clock stops, at which point Arsene’s picture will either be in a nice frame on my wall, or stapled to my dart board. Having said that, even if he does surprise us and sneak in a top top top player before the doors close, I still maintain that it’s poor management to have left it so late, however should he add what is lacking in time I’m sure all will be forgiven.
Right, enough about transfers. …
The United teams of seasons past have always intrigued me. Granted they’ve always had a solid defensive line-up, and always had one or two world class players but for the most part, they’ve won the league several times with a fairly average team. Look at their team that won last season: Was their defensive pairing better than ours? I’ll grant you that Verm and Per were a disaster at the start but the pairing of Koz and Per for the second half of the season; personally I wouldn’t trade them for anyone else in the league. Note, I’m speaking about the defensive pair, not each individual – I’m sure we would all trade Per for someone a bit more mobile, but the pairing of him and Koz was nothing short of outstanding.
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Then their fullbacks – better than Gibbs and Sagna? Again, I’m not referring to their form at specific points in the campaign but rather the overall quality of these players. I would say we’d match them for fullbacks. Midfield? Apart from Carrick, who was phenomenal last season, our midfield 3 trumps theirs any day of the week and twice on Sundays. Incidentally, the difference in defensive stats between Carrick and Arteta for last season was just under 2%, and when you consider that Mikel isn’t a natural holding midfielder, that makes an even stronger argument that our overall midfield has more quality than Utd’s.
Before you make up your mind that their front 3 is superior to ours, let’s look at that. Prior to his late fitness issues – or getting benched for most of the time – Poldi had the highest assists in the league. Walcott in comparison to Valencia, well, 21 goals in all competitions means there’s no comparison; you would be hard pressed to give factual evidence of Valencia being better. So that leaves just the striker options, and yes, they are/were far superior in that department. But wait, their main striker was our striker the season before, and he didn’t win the league for us did he?
Name me the world class players that Utd have: Rooney, RVP, Carrick… and? Who else? Besides us and Chelsea, who wants to buy Rooney? Did anyone bid for Carrick? Does Arsenal have the same number of world class players? Wilshere, Cazorla, Koz. I would also add Walcott and Ramsey; even though some may debate that, but find me a winger who scored 21 goals last season and show me his price tag.
What’s my point here? RVP performed the same for us as he did for Utd, so why didn’t he win the league with us but won it with Utd in his first season there, why? Did he have better quality players around him than at Arsenal? I don’t think so. Don’t forget that we also had Nasri, Cesc, Song and RVP at the club at the same time and still won nothing. So what is the secret behind Utd’s success? It isn’t their superior squad is it? No. But they didn’t sell their best players! Oh yes they did – Stam, Ronaldo, Van Nistelrooy, Beckham. So what is it then?
I believe the secret to their success has been… having a team. Huh? Yes, a team, not highly talented individuals, a TEAM! Even when they lost key players, like we did, they kept their core of players. They never added more than 2-3 players to their starting 11 in any one season. The same core playing together for many years develop a fluidity, a togetherness, a telepathic understanding of each other’s movement on the pitch, a desire to fight for each other and to succeed as a TEAM! Not who makes the headlines and gets the goals bonus, or who gets the best sponsorship deal for being star of the week. They’ve always had a TEAM.
Has Arsene Wenger realized this? Is this the method behind his madness (and yes, the lack of spending so far seems utter madness)? He has said all summer that for the first time we have not lost multiple players in the transfer window, and that for the first time we have a core of young (but now experienced) players that are forming the heart of the team. He said that he’s very careful when adding not to upset the balance of the squad as it is now. Did you know that this squad has only lost 2 of their last 18 games? Is this the method in Arsene Wenger’s madness? Is he building a TEAM?
United’s complete dominance of the league last season proved that TEAMS win titles CONSISTENTLY. The keyword being “consistently”. Money won City the title once, but they don’t have a team, they have a collection of talented individuals. You could say that RVP then won the title for Utd last season but he was only 24m. Is 24 allot in the market these days?
Now here’s the counter argument… If you’ve read my posts before you’ll know that I always like to look at both sides of the coin. Although I hate the name calling, I urge you all to stop being AKB or WOB and look at both sides before you make up your mind. So here is the other side to it:
The other element that Utd have always had that’s made them title winners, and something which ANY title-winning team MUST have, is squad DEPTH! That is something we lack woefully. Something fans are becoming increasingly frustrated at; waiting for additions to the squad. I do believe that we’ve risked needless injuries to our key players because they’ve been forced to play all the games owing to our lack of depth. Opinions divided on this one, but I think Flamini is a start in adding to the depth we need. We certainly need more though…
Secondly, RVP did win Utd the title. They paid 24m for an injury prone 29yr old who won them the league. We seem reluctant to take the necessary risks to be competitive. Winners take risks. When Utd want a player, they just get him; they don’t dither about like we did with Suarez. You could argue that Liverpool didn’t want to sell, but if I remember correctly, Arsene was quite adamant that he would not sell RVP. You can debate those points till the cows come home but we just don’t know what goes on behind the scenes, all we know is the end result, and the end result is Utd got their man and we could not get ours. Why the risk of paying 24m for a guy that could have been injured straight away? Because no team is complete with a spearhead! Every successful team MUST have a lethal striker, and sadly, we do not. Giroud is a good striker, but a title-winning striker he is not. City have Aguero, Utd have RVP, Barca have Messi and so on. Add to my first point and you’ll see that these teams also have quality depth in their striking department. We have Sanogo as our backup…
The last factor that made Utd so dominant with a not-so-star-studded squad was Fergie, the REAL “Special One”. I’ve always said that Utd were an ordinary team with an extraordinary manager. The manager is responsible for instilling values in the team; the drive, the never-say-die attitude, that fight, that grit, that thing that made Utd grind wins out of boring performances. The question is, does Arsene Wenger have that in his locker? Is he that kind of motivator? Can he take our core of players that we’ve managed to now keep and turn them into a TEAM that can grind its way past the star-studded teams around us? I have my own opinions on that one but I’ll let you mull over it…
Utd proved last season that a TEAM wins titles, and they proved it comprehensively. In some ways we are in the same position as Utd last season. Their neighbours had a multi-million pound squad (I know they didn’t spend much last season) and they (Utd) won it with a TEAM. Now we have our neighbours assembling an expensive squad, but we have kept our team. Arsene said recently that adding that many players will upset the balance of their (Spurs) team, so it makes me wonder if this has been his strategy all along. I guess tomorrow we will find out if the TEAM beats the money… Although you would have to measure that over the length of the season, I fee tomorrow is going to set the mood for our season.
I’m sure each of you will have your own views on what makes a successful title winning team , but for me it’s a having a TEAM with a lethal finisher and lots of depth; and therein lies the question with a ticking clock attached to it. We have the TEAM, I really believe we do, but will Arsene Wenger add the missing ingredients – the quality striker and the depth we need to compete in all 4 competitions.
Come Monday, when the window shuts, we will all know once and for all if there was a method to his madness, or if it was just plain madness!
What do you think Gooners, after Monday will he be known as The Professor, or The Nutty Professor?