This weekends blog will be moving on from champions league football for now, and covering the intensifying situation at Arsenal, their management of the club, and what is causing them problems. On the 22nd September, 1996, Arsene Wenger was officially unveiled as Arsenal manger, making him the second longest serving manager of the premier league era in British football, at 20 years, second only to the great Sir Alex Ferguson. In those 20 years he has won 9 major trophies, including 6 FA cups and 4 league titles, but also including a painful 7 year wait for a major trophy, and a 12-years-and-counting wait for the premier league, which they haven’t won since they went the whole season unbeaten in 2003/04. Yet now, Arsene Wenger and his management team face troubles, as their whole empire seems to be crumbling around them. The fans are turning on them, they lost their champions league round of 16 tie 10-2 on aggregate, and hevn’t found themselves a prolific striker to replace Thierry Henry since he left them in 2007!
Arsenal’s team is based around three key players, one in each part of the field. Sanchez in attack, Ozil in midfield and Koscielny in defence, and they rely on these players far far too much for my liking. As we saw in each leg of their recent tie with Bayern, Arsenal’s defence falls to pieces without Laurent Koscielny. They only conceded one goal with Koscielny playing, and conceded 9 when he was injured or suspended. We also see that Arsenal’s midfield if very lacklustre going forwards if they don’t have Mesut Ozil at his best. I talked last time about how important it is to have a balance in midfield of attack and defence, and without Ozil playing well, Arsenal miss the vital link from Midfield into Attack. It’s a bad move from Arsene to rely totally on such an unpredictable player to do the main job in starting attacks.
But the biggest mistake that Wenger has made in his current team lies in their best player, Alexi Sanchez, or more accurately, how the team is built around him. Sanchez works best when he has a prolific goal scorer alongside him to play in middle when he has to use his pace out wide, and you cannot rely on a man who cares more about his hair and his apperance than his goals to do that. Yes, Oliver Giroud, I’m looking at you. What I’m getting at is that Arsenal need a striker they can depend on! Giroud is too inconsistant, Welbeck’s always injured, we all know Theo Walcott’s a wide right, not a striker, and Lucas Perez, for some odd reason, is always on the bench! In the summer Arsenal have to bring in someone like Romelu Lukaku, or Karim Benzema, else, to put it frankly, next season will just be another blowout. Yet, knowing Arsenal’s tendancy to completely ignore this, they’ll probably just bring in another tiny french guy who nobody’s ever heard of who’s “set to be the next big thing” and they flops miserably and ends up getting paid £100,000 a week to come to training every other day and spend match days sat at home watching on the telly.
All this must be getting hugely frustrating for Alexi Sanchez. At Barcelona he had players like Messi and Pedro coming short and going long whenever he need them to, if he needed help, Messi was there to pick it up, glide past a defender or two and open the game out, if he got a cross into the box, there was always someone there to make use of it. This is he kind of help that he needs at Arsenal. Here, if he’s surrounded, he ends up either losing possession, having to try and take them on and lose possession, or having to turn around and play it back to Bellerin or Mustafi. If I was Sanchez I would for sure be thinking about an exit, and why shouldn’t he? He’s 28 and getting nowhere in his career, and needs a change! However, I would give it one more year. If Wenger does leave at the end of the season, he will be vital in the plans of the new manager, and should give life under him a try. if Wenger stays, I would then think more about an exit, but it might be a good idea to stay and see if the club can bring in the strike partner he needs, if not, there’s always the January transfer window. There’s no doubt he would be able to find himself a new club
Personally, I think it’s time for Wenger to go, but not in the brutal and savage way some of the fans want, but in a sort of “thanks for everything, but we need something new” kind of way. Wenger should be regarded as a departing legend, not like a decrepid old bag who’s dragged his tenure out the the thinness of strudel pastry. He has brought Arsenal greatness, and has, somehow, always found them a way into the champions league, but it’s time for him to go.