On Reaching A Crossroads and Separations

Sunday at last. So what time’s kick-off? Oh…

How far from grace we have fallen; Monday night football, to be followed next season by Thursday Night Football. Arsène’s ability to dig himself out of a hole looked like it was to receive a healthy boost with twenty minutes to go yesterday, and then Liverpool scored twice. As you were, gentlemen.

He still found time to find humour in the situation. Theo Walcott, captaining the Arsenal on Wednesday, could captain England, according to the Frenchman. That’s right; a player who wasn’t in the last squad could captain his country, says the man who didn’t know who his captain was last Sunday. It brought a smile to my face this morning, I must admit.

Almost as funny as Ronaldinho claiming Barcelona took it easy on us in 2006. Was that before or after they had lost control of their bowels when Sol Campbell scored, and Henry missed chances galore. Oh, Thierry…

Wenger’s future takes centre stage but isn’t the only interesting thing in this morning’s papers. Steve Stammers got the club’s memo about a major shake-up in this morning’s Mirror or People, who knows who these guys write for half the time. Well, other than PR pieces for Arsenal. It’s rubbish, of course, unless there’s another Monchi, who is working in Spain and not the one joining Roma in Italy…

Meanwhile, Alan Smith spoke about Wenger leaving to reinvigorate himself and the players he’s leaving behind. Or would be leaving behind. He mentioned the PSG job which is possible given Wenger’s friendship with the owners, but the French job won’t be coming up for at least a year.

Si Me Voy Va A Haber Peligro

Smith, unlike other pundits, grasped the situation as many see it,

“This is definitely a crossroads. They could turn left or right or stand at the crossroads by allowing the manager to stay.

“Arsene has spoken about reinventing himself but I am pessimistic about his ability to do that after so many years because there is no-one at the club to challenge him now.

“Arsene doesn’t want to be challenged. He doesn’t want any dissenting voices. So the board know they’ve got a big decision to make because of the reaction of the fans.

“Other fans look at Arsenal supporters and laugh. They think ‘what have you lot got to worry about? You have won the FA Cup twice recently, you’re in the top four, what’s the matter with you?’

“But when you are an Arsenal fan, that isn’t good enough, especially when you are paying through the nose for season tickets and you look at the other top teams.”

That he isn’t one of ‘Wenger’s men’ gives him a distance from the club that other, more recent players, those who feel the owe the manager loyalty, don’t have.

There’s no shock value to Smith’s words beyond the fact that someone in the press has taken the time to understand the situation. It’s not sensationalist in the way, say, Merse will speak although his is just how he feels. An outstanding player on his day, very hit and miss as a pundit.

Si Me Quedo Sera El Doble

The scaremongering about how we could drop away like Liverpool is nothing new. Football’s previous cyclical history may be changing. While no one team will dominate English football as before, there will be a small cabal who will do so.

Breaking into that group with a self-sufficient model will be hard enough but with the current lack of leadership on and off the pitch, Arsenal are putting themselves on the back foot, while firing a pistol into it at the same time, by not addressing the fundamental problems at the club. Or being hampered by Arsène from doing so.

Arsène isn’t the only topic of conversation this morning. Mesut Özil’s got a new book to promote, already published in his native Germany and soon to arrive in English, possibly just in time to accompany his departure from Arsenal.

It’s a bit more of an interesting story than some of the books we see published, and he addresses the impact of the racism he faced as a youngster in an interview with the Heil. Oh, the irony…

Özil offers his view on what’s happening at the club now, tellingly stating,

“I think the club know they need to strengthen. But what’s most important is the manager’s opinion. He and the club will make the decision.”

Arsène is the power but there’s a clear separation in his mind between the club and manager. It fits into the recent perception of a schism between the board and Wenger. He won’t be the only one to see it that way, brought in from outside from one of the biggest clubs in the world. Sanchez may hold similar views; it would be interesting to find out.

Yo Me Enfrio O Lo Soplo

The German thinks there is an issue in the squad, mentally,

“Sometimes things don’t work as well in games as they have in previous games. If you lose, or you give a goal away or don’t make an assist, you can’t think about it too much, can’t dwell on it. 

“We need to realise as a team that if things don’t go for us, if we lose, we need to not dwell on it and focus on the next game. Sometimes you have the feeling when we lose, some players may lose self-confidence.”

It’s interesting that Özil thinks there is too much introspection. This raises questions about the whole set-up of the club and how they use sport psychologists because it’s not a new problem. Wenger previously admitted that he takes days to recover from defeat. When you’re playing twice a week, time is a luxury you don’t have.

The interview is well worth a read, as will (hopefully) the book which is unusual in the modern footballer.

’til Tomorrow.

51 thoughts on “On Reaching A Crossroads and Separations

  1. Christ on titting acid – philistines and luddites abound. 🙂 Are we all too weak to use Google?
    This is what a weekend without football does, I suppose.
    Hello from scenic and sunny Krakow…
    …Walcott? Captain material? Fuck me sideways the man has clearly been sniffing diesel oil.
    No offence but if Walcott is captain material then I struggle to wonder who else would be playing that would be considered less suitable for the role – I cannot be arsed to sniff at his playing contributions but CAPTAIN?
    What have we become….

  2. The article is interesting, particularly concerning his childhood, breaking into the game as a youngster and the challenges he faced.

    I have to admit though, once the topic turns to Arsenal I found myself getting irritated.

    I can no longer take crap like this seriously – Wenger is due respect therefore he should stay. Respect for what he has achieved yes – but remain for what reason? If Ozil’s comments are to be taken at face value (rather than PR spin) then I lose more faith in him.

    Again, a player who for all the talk of ambition makes confounding points. Even more troubling is the idea a player (or manager) can present them as an excuse or explanation.

    “’But sometimes you can’t implement that in games where opposition dominate and we think, “They are stronger than us….”

    Some of us had another exchange concerning Spurs yesterday for obvious reasons. Football365 framed Spurs progress perfectly –

    “ Tottenham have learned by now, to know that ‘one of those days’ does not exist”.

    Their superiority is self-determined whereas our inferiority is.

  3. Jonny @ Noon —– Snap.

    I read that comment too – Walcott for captain? Oh, please …… Yogi had the right of it …….. one minute Arsene had no idea who was captain, after Kozzer went off injured — then Walcott sulked like a big girl’s blouse, because he was crap and was given the hook — and suddenly, he is not only Arsenal’s captain [sorry Mers and you Kozzer] but he is the future England captain – and next stop captain of the world?

    OK, maybe a big fuss over a little problem/captain — but then I read that the Daily Star [once Arsenal’s favourite newspaper for leaking ‘sensitive’ material] says that insiders [note the plural] have leaked that Wenger has decided to stay. No surprise there, but read contiguously with the ‘captain’ bollix, and the heart does sink.

    Changes? What changes? The more things change – the more they stay the same!

  4. Smudger has nailed it….Ozil has missed by (insert any big yardstick).

    Walcott for captain ? Aren’t we well past April 1st ?

  5. Wenger inherited a team with real leaders and has gradually denigrated the notion that such a role has any importance to the extent that he claimed they are all captains and then reduced the role to little more than a bargaining chip or afterthought by giving it to RVP, Fabregas and Gallas in efforts to either persuade them to stay or to mollify them.
    Gallas was a cowardly, spineless little shite – i disliked him from the off but i will never forgive him for Birmingham. Never.
    I always remember AW trying to spin it: ‘it showed that he cared’. Fuck off. It showed he cared about himself and had no business being put into any position of leadership.
    I’d have had him out of the door at the end of that season. In fact, whilst I don’t recall our options at the time (probably terrifically limited due to lack of investment), I doubt he would have played for me ever again.
    But Theo? Theo softly-spoken Walcott? He’s shown a wilful disregard for the basic effort needed to fulfil his own talent and make the position his own, never mind inspiring others.
    Injuries aside – had he showed as much grit or determination as has with regards his exorbitant contract demands he would have by now made the right wing his own.
    140K a week and he is still not the nailed on starter that he really should be.
    (Yes C I appreciate his goals have been invaluable but even accepting that I feel the above still holds true).

  6. I’m trying to teach myself Spanish to a level I can use on holiday. I’m genuinely undecided if today has spurred me on or kicked me in the nuts with proress

    Probably says more about me than I’d care to admit

  7. All you need for your holiday:

    1. Dos Cervezas frias (there are regional names, such as ‘tubo’ for a pint or ‘caña’ for a ‘cold one’ but they don’t always travel well)
    2. La Cuenta, por favor
    3. Ola, guapa!

    and if your wife catches you saying that,

    4. Dónde está el Hospital?

  8. Jonny,

    Look how standards have fallen.

    “Christ on titting acid – philistines and luddites abound. 🙂 Are we all too weak to use Google?”

    Google? Did his generation learn nothing at school except how to play with their phones/

  9. He certainly does get it, Bob.

    I think there is a definite demarkation line between Wenger players and those who don’t feel they owe the man loyalty, rather than the club. Merse, for all his comic book utterings, is another.

    There’s a reason why he thinks Arsenal will fall away over the next decade: he can’t see Wenger leaving if he doesn’t go now.

  10. YW,

    1 and 2 I’ve had down pat for a few years

    Three and four are territory I’m trying to avoid. The wife has the same app and goal to learn. Don’t think that’ll fly!

  11. Great start to the Everton/Leicester game. Not the greatest defensively but Leicester know how to score goals. Shakespeare for Arsenal? 😜

    Seriously though Leicester took decisive action and fired a title winning coach and reaped the benefits. I’d go as far as to say that replacing your coach to keep things fresh is a good idea in most cases and ‘continuity’ (as well as ‘constancy’) is over rated.

  12. I have often said that I thought Arsene would be manager until at least the end of this decade. However assuming he stays healthy and we remain competitive for the top 4 spot I suspect Arsene would be happy to stay as manager until his mid 70’s. That means we will be complaining until about 2025. That is a miserable thought.

  13. Arsene might want to give up the daily grind of being a manager at some point when he gets closer to age 80 but I suspect he will want to be involved in running a football club in some capacity for as long as he can.

  14. Bill,

    Now you really are twisting the knife. We’re into Russian leaders on the Kremlin balcony being manipulated like puppets now aren’t we? E’s not dead, e’s restin !!! (beautiful plumage the Alsatian lesser spotted Wenger).

  15. Andy

    It may not be what we want to hear but Do you disagree? I don’t blame Arsene for doing what he loves for as long as he can. I want to be skiing in my mid 80’s. full credit to Arsene for building his situation that gives the opportunity.

  16. At what point do the AKBs wake up? Will he get a free pass for as long as he wants? If we end up making the top 4 and CL knock out rounds every season for the next 5 will those who claim he is the right man still feel that way? I can understand why the club are happy with the status quo, it’s still the optimum way to generate revenue without spending too much. If we have to keep spending a chuck on a couple of top stars every so often, we should still make money when they decide we don’t have any ambition. So this seems likely to be our lot for the foreseeable future. If he signs the new deal, he is never leaving.

  17. Your opinions sometimes baffle me, Bill.

    He hasn’t exactly ‘built his situation’, circumstances have certainly delivered it to him.

    In any case, one could say the same for anybody who has built himself into a position of absolute power and I can’t think that you could stand by that opinion.

  18. Wavey,

    There you go Wavey, this is what you get from the ‘everyone wins, there are no losers in sports’ generation. When I was a kid second was worthless, as the saying goes “no-one remembers who finished second”. The best thing that could happen is if the CL was for actual league champions only. Wenger might then pull his finger out (or more likely Stan would sell up once the CL money and associated sponsorship dries up).

  19. Bill,

    I don’t disagree that he’ll try to hang on as long as possible. Can’t say that I condone it though, a truly honourable man would walk away when he realised he couldn’t cut it any more. If he stays he’s either deluded or selfish. Arsenal Football Club isn’t there to keep Arsene Wenger busy because he doesn’t have anything better to do.

  20. Cbob

    Argue with my choice of words if you like but Arsene has an ideal situation for someone like him who loves football and loves to be in control. Clearly he needed a lot of help from a very passive owner and board but Arsene has used his charisma and his self belief and his smarts to take full advantage of the opportunity and not everyone could have done that.

  21. I think I understand it, Bill. Andy touches on it but he does seem to attract the ‘messianic’.

    They ‘support’ the club because of him, not because they have any particular attachment to Arsenal.

  22. And the proof is that they’re happy to denigrate and belittle any pre-Arsene achievements of the club and to savage any ex-Arsenal player, legend or not, who has a word of criticism for what’s happening now. They don’t give a FF about The Arsenal.

  23. The idea Wenger could be here until his eighties is fanciful if not ludicrous.

    We face a situation where the normal checks and balances have not been in place – Wenger should have never been able to exert the power over the club he does.

    However, the folly is now widely recognized. In every survey conducted over half the fan base would prefer his reign ends. The weight of the media now questions Wenger’s ability in the modern game.

    For all the recent PR conducted on Wenger’s behalf there are serious parties (such as Alan Smith this weekend) countering that narrative. More importantly, there are signs within the club those with actual power have finally decided to stir.

    Gazidis stated the club was to undergo major changes and Wenger publically dismissed the notion, so that cat is out of the bag. We now witness there is a rift, the board/CEO grasp the need for change (even if incremental), brinkmanship played out in public.

    My guess would be Wenger wins this round but degrades his position. Gazidis could leave in summer – if people dislike the power Wenger wields already it will turn more against him.

    Besides which, the scenario of Wenger staying ‘simply because he wants to’ discounts results as if they are a non-factor. Yet the negativity surrounding Wenger has been exacerbated by the clubs heavy spend then regression- results obviously do matter.

    If Wenger stays he will be under a microscope with every game overly significant, every move and step scrutinized. Unless he can turn the squad around and contend for PL or CL this next season he will hoist himself with his own petard.

    If not challenging out of the gate next season (something most believe him incapable of) the calls for him to leave will be deafening. If in 12 months Arsenal find itself in a similar position after a similar season Wenger’s position will be untenable.

    Unless Wenger produces an emphatic turnaround in the squad and the clubs on-pitch fortunes, my guess would be Wenger is gone before the 18/19 campaign begins.

  24. DFS

    No doubt the pressure on Arsene is increased but he can ignore most of that outside pressure as long as he holds the board in his hip pocket and maintain the top 4 finishes. Things will get a lot more dicey for him if he starts missing the top 4.

    The board would never sack him and he will never retire before the end of his contract. He will sign either a 2 or 3 year contract sometime soon and he will be around until the end of that contract. Whether or not he signs another contract in 2019 or 2020 will probably depend on staying in the top 4 in the next couple of seasons.

  25. As we were saying the other day, Bill: this is a perfect situation for someone who would like to be managing at the top level with complete freedom and no expectations beyond a fiscal nature. He really wants to keep this perfect situation. The only reason he would leave is if something changed at AFC. And under Kroenke, it won’t. The big problem AFC has is its owner having no interest in football success or desiring to exercise any authority over AW.

  26. Bill I’m with you, I wish I could ski into my eighties, as it is I only made it into my seventies. If I lived in the Rockies I would die happy skiing in fresh powder under a clear blue sky with the sun shining. What a way to go!

  27. Bill,

    Actually Bill, regarding the immediate future, I’m not sure coming 5th or 6th this season would matter – Wengers is already re-writing the European football narrative.

    I sense Wengers fate will largely depend on the first few months of next season. If we produce another perennial points-dropping start to that campaign, exasperation levels will hit the roof.

    Everyone around us will have strengthened in terms of squad and talent. The new managers will have deeper relationships and understanding with their players (this now including the likes of Everton).

    Wenger was caught out this season by others progressing, which means he will have to produce a dramatic improvement to even keep pace. If he can, more power to him, but I do not believe he will.

    Other teams will surge away from us as we produce a string of inconsistent results and the ‘gap’ will be underlined. If this proves to be the case I could see protests in place before the end of the year and even Kroenke would see the rancour between fans and Wenger needing to be addressed.

    A simple point was made the other day.

    If we were presently two points behind Chelsea and entering the quarters of the Champions League few, if any, would be calling for Wengers head. It is not simply we are nowhere close to either position, it is the idea we are being told we have little right to expect that.

    The waters are being muddied – it’s nothing to do with ‘entitlement’ but everything to do with genuine ambition.

  28. DFS

    I think he will sign another 2-3 year contract irregardless of what happens the rest of this season. It will be interesting to see how it plays out next season. I think it will take at least 2 seasons of missing the top 4 before there is any chance that the owner or the board actually put any meaningful pressure on Arsene to consider retiring.

  29. Cbob

    I have been following professional sports all of my life and almost all fans have fierce loyalty to the club and some become emotionally attached to a few specific players. However, I have never seen such long lasting unflinching devotion to a manager. I can’t believe that support for Fergie would have held up thru 9 years of stagnation the way Arsene’s has.

    May be we finally have reached a turning point for Arsene but I am convinced that a top 4 finish this season will bring everything back to the status quo. If we end up out of the CL spots this season there will be a lot more pressure to make some changes this summer and pressure to have a good start to next year

  30. Just checking in and reading some posts while I sit and have a drink and smoke my hookah while down in Orlando at Disney World. Seems not a lot going on but their is a match tomorrow so lets see how that goes.

  31. Bill, I suspect that Wenger is very attractive to fans because he has given the club an ethos (attractive football) which they like. Other clubs just chase results with whatever style is in fashion. Wenger gives Arsenal an identity (and thus himself an identity).

  32. Sorry to keep disagreeing, but it patently isn’t and hasn’t been ‘unflinching support’ for the manager for several years.

    No doubt five years ago the disaffected were the minority, but by any measure they are now the majority.

    If you are talking about die-hard Wengerites, its a cult of personality, not support for Arsenal.

    There is no more reason to take the phenomenon any more seriously than someone stating they love Michael Caine and he’s the best actor ever.

  33. DFS

    Fair enough

    I still don’t think the truly disaffected types like us are the majority. I think the furor would die down and the majority who don’t read blogs or get involved the way we do would be OK with Arsene as long as he continues to bring top 4 finishes.

    The difference now is the disaffected have reached a critical mass and perhaps even close to a majority and they/we can no longer be characterized as a fringe element and ignored.

  34. Freddo

    The attractive football ethos might have been true in 2008 but its certainly not true anymore. Our football has not been more attractive then the other big teams in our league or in Europe for most of this decade. “We play attractive football” is just a desperate attempt to find an excuse to explain why the stagnation of our results in the last 9 years in not Arsene’s fault.

  35. Bill, I think a majority of fans are ready for a new manager and other changes at the club. It might be a soft majority with some returning to complacency if we meet the typical targets or win the FA cup. It is not just the blogging few and twitterati. Most of the last two seasons I haven’t been on here as much but I have been participating in a what’s app group of gooners who don’t blog but follow the papers and football sites, several of whom are season ticket holders. And they like and respect AW but think Arsenal need a change now.

    I wouldn’t have said a majority felt this way last season but: the prospect of finishing out of the top 4, the humiliating way we went out of the CL again, the inability to win big games despite a feeling that this squad has more talent and depth than previous seasons, the inability to seize our chance last season when other big clubs stumbled, the unwillingness of the club leadership to clarify the future of the manager who likewise is spinning out the decision to the extent that it is affecting team morale and the signing of players, the lack of preparation and vision by the board and owner becoming so evident, and the prospect of losing our best players–this has affected morale among the fans in a profound way. They may not want to protest publicly or hound him out but they genuinely feel AW can’t do better after 3-4 years of massive spending without any substantial improvement in results. There just aren’t any excuses anyone can invent for themselves to make a case for AW. The only case is that the owner/board might find a way to make it even worse under a new manager they choose. As I’ve said, that’s a risk worth taking if only to make AFC interesting again and to create the possibility for a change for the better at some point.

Comments are closed.