“Samir Nasri hits out at Arsenal: this is why they’re struggling to win titles,” roared the headlines in the Daily Star. If the answer Samir, is that the first team squad should go to America and have an IV drip put into their arms with an unidentified substance pulsed into their veins, we’ll stay as also-rans rather than champions. Just to be safe, like.
Thanks very much for your concern, though.
I did go and read the story to save you the effort and basically, it’s a rehash of an interview he did with a French magazine, Onze Mondial, with nothing much to say on the subject. New stadium build affected recruitment, board unwilling to go into debt to buy players. Yadda, yadda, yadda, as I believe our American cousins are want to say.
One great phrase though which ought to be borne in mind when thinking about the FA Cup is, “Since I left, they have won two Cups. They are trophies and all trophies are good to take.”
Which is a hard viewpoint to argue with although I wonder if he would be so positive were the EFL Cup the subject of the day?
FA Cup fourth round draw
The FA is a more realistic target although that may be doubtful. Southampton or Norwich City away. History says we want Southampton to win; every time we’ve played them in the FA Cup, we’ve reached Wembley. Or maybe the final is a better claim: 1927, 1979 and of course, 2003.
Norwich? We’ve never lost an FA Cup tie at Carrow Road which is a good sign but given the last meeting was in 1974, it’s not a particularly relevant statistic. That Arsenal beat anyone in 1974 was impressive; it wasn’t a good vintage. I’ll skirt over the only 4th round meeting with the Canaries. We don’t want to mention that they beat us 2 – 1 but that was at Highbury, so it doesn’t count, does it?
But we all want to be champions
It’s the bane of Arsène’s life. Everyone bangs on about the ‘Invincibles’ and that pesky 2003/04 season. Once the FA Cup was landed in 2014, it was always going to be a Premier League title-winning millstone placed around his neck.
More than a decade on and Arsenal managed, in my view, just one genuine title challenge in that time: 2007/08. Alex Hleb, a member of the team, admits that the terrible injury suffered by Eduardo was the reason that squad didn’t become champions that season.
Speaking to Sportskeeda, the Belarussian confirmed what many of this think. Life at Arsenal lacks the cut-throat edge which marks out the difference between champions and the rest. He was, he said, “at home, really comfortable.” At Barcelona, “it was different”.
The players at that time were protected to some extent, from the weight of expectation as everyone adjusted to the new stadium and its’ impact on the club. That and a promising young squad playing vibrant football. There was a bright future albeit one with clouds.
Hleb’s departure was messy. No mention of the Milan ice-cream fiasco in the interview but he admitted he was on the verge of joining Bayern Munich until Barcelona wouldn’t leave him alone.
But why won’t we be Champions, Alex?
Like Nasri, Hleb has a view on why Arsenal won’t win the title. “They lack stability that results in dropped points,” and, “it is hard to recover lost points,” in the Premier League.
It’s hard to know what stability we lack. The XI doesn’t change very often; Wenger is a keen proponent of the notion that players can play their way back into form. Like a lot of former players, Hleb remains loyal to Wenger. That’s loyal when it doesn’t conflict with their self-interest in leaving the club.
In his opinion, Wenger won’t leave, and he “still has got a lot to give to the club; he is always full of ideas.” Being “full of ideas” doesn’t necessarily mean they are good ones.
But Hleb is another who believes you have to be careful what you wish for. Some killer insights, “if a new coach comes, it would be a different team,” dim the main thrust of his point which is,
“There is no guarantee that Arsenal would remain a bright team like they have been for many years. You can take Manchester United’s example after Sir Alex Ferguson retired.”
You can indeed take United as an example. Moyes, a Ferguson-lite, proved hopeless. Van Gaal was simply bizarre but in keeping with his previous career, a disastrous appointment after leaving the Dutch job, as Barcelona found out a decade before.
Arsenal should take heed. Wenger-lite is going to damage the club more than a complete change of style.
Change for change’s sake isn’t the case here
As for Hleb’s claim that we wouldn’t be the same bright team is probably better put as we wouldn’t be the same club. That’s the idea of changing coaches, as I understand it. There’s something wrong, or stagnation has set in, and you need to fix it. If you wanted the same club, you wouldn’t bother bringing in a new manager.
Every one of us has a view on Arsène’s future which influences our portrayal of the next manager. Will Mesut Özil’s recent interview with Kicker speed the process up?
The danger for Arsène in announcing his intentions is that the club goes into a tailspin and falls out of the Champions League. But holding on to the summer is as damaging. Arsenal are left with less time to plan for the next season – I don’t have confidence that the board will act swiftly to replace him – unless the new manager is ‘appointed’ but not announced before the end of the season.
Guardiola guided City’s purchases while in charge at Bayern and the contention that Joe Hart only had a couple of training sessions leaves me nonplussed; the Spaniard watched all City’s games – by his own admission – and made up his mind about the England ‘keeper then. Hart had a couple of sessions and didn’t do enough to change Pep’s mind. A subtle difference.
Not that Özil believes Arsène will have to leave. He remains confident that winning the title shouldn’t be ruled out. The German believes that just as Leicester overhauled us, Chelsea can be caught too. OK, so we were only a point clear, and it was easier to reel us in. But I like his optimism, nonetheless.
Which is more important – Champions or Champions League?
This season is proving the obsession with Champions League football is madness. Chelsea, out of Europe, are top. Liverpool, out of Europe, are second. There’s a theme that their squads are benefiting from less football. It gives the managers more time with the players while their squad members aren’t short-sighted enough to believe they will never reclaim their place at the top.
Özil repeats the fear that we could drop out of Europe altogether. It could happen but with our wealth, we ought to be able to strengthen the squad sufficiently to haul ourselves to back into the top six. If dropping out of Europe for a season is the price we pay to solve our problems or refresh our thinking, then it is a price worth paying.
Change is going to happen but change for change’s sake isn’t the issue here. It’s about improving the club’s on-the-pitch performances to challenge for the title. If you think Arsène is the man to do it, that’s fine. But not changing through fear of change, which essentially underpins Hleb’s opinion, is madness.