Wenger On United, Mental Health and Waxing Moons

The press took Jose Mourinho’s threat to play with a weakened side on Sunday seriously, raising the prospect at Arsène’s press conference yesterday. The prospect is linked to United’s Europa League progress although it strikes me that the Moaning One, having witnessed the performance at the Swamp, is trying to make the match a sporting contest. For a bit anyway. It’s a bit like the yob on the beach who jokes about kicking sand in your face, only to let you start getting up before actually doing so.

Mind you, when I first heard Mourinho’s comments, I thought he said he would play with a weak side, to which my reply was that it won’t be as weak as the one Arsenal have fielded in every game this year.

The conversation spread far and wide during Wenger’s press conference, as it always seems to. Granit Xhaka looks like missing out but Shkodran Mustafi is set to return. David Ospina is ready to take his place on the bench again but not much will change. It all went wrong with the back-to-back defeats at Everton and Manchester City, according to the manager. Confidence was destroyed by losing games we took the lead in. If he knows that now, he knew it then and the failure to restore belief in the players raises a massive question mark over Wenger’s suitability as Arsenal manager. It more than hints at a squad which doesn’t believe in the manager but is loyal to him, for the most part.

At some point, “Arsène is innocent” will appear on motorway bridges. Negative supporters and potshots at players perceived as disloyal; anything but considering a manager whose powers follow the path of the waning moon. Pitifully, we’re unlikely to see  a waxing of his career.

Pointless To Be High

The subject of footballer’s mental health in light of Aaron Lennon’s problems arose. The PFA commented earlier this week that a total 160 past and present players sought help with their mental health. Those numbers should only come as a surprise that they are not higher. Lennon’s case is high profile, as were those of Clark Carlisle and Robert Enke but that is the tip of the iceberg. Wenger highlighted the environment in which footballers struggle in silence,

“We help on the mental front the players that want help. It is difficult for the players when they do not meet their needs, and like all of us, they are frustrated and suffer with self-esteem [issues] in some situations. The expectation levels around them are very high; their families, agents, the pressure on them is very big and it is not easy to deal with that at a young age so, when needed, we help them.”

There is a secondary issue. While educating players is top of the list in every case – racism, sexism, homophobia – is enough done to raise awareness of the signs that a player is struggling, among coaches and managers? The Frenchman highlighted that issues remain,

“Not all of the players that feel the need for help want to be helped by the club. Sometimes you don’t know what to show and what could be interpreted as a weakness inside the club and so [they] believe that you understand that most players if they are in a situation where they need help will do it outside of the club.”

When It’s A Long Way Down

As a society, attitudes need to change. Self-help groups, frequented readily by women, are more often than not ignored by men. Barriers hastily erected, slowly come down. Asking a footballer to volunteer that he needs help is looking at the problem the wrong way. Managers and senior figures in clubs need to be pro-active in this field, even if it is for selfish reasons. A contented player performs better; one struggling with mental health issues is going to see form and confidence suffer. That’s the wrong way of looking at it but football is a notoriously insular business, rampant with egos; if that’s what it takes to kickstart a sea-change in attitudes, then so be it. It’s not right but it’s about finding an effective way to help those for whom the stigma of mental illness casts a heavy shadow over their lives.

Football is slow to react to issues; the game must become more enlightened. Work for all outside organisations is hard and progress slow. When it gets its’ act together, football can achieve much but getting it to do so is as much a battle as changing attitudes and taking action.

’til Tomorrow.

77 thoughts on “Wenger On United, Mental Health and Waxing Moons

  1. Morning All,

    Is this the Storm, or are we still in calm waters?

    Mental Health is not just a problem for sportsmen and women but affects all levels of society — if anything it is wore for the poorer people in each country as they rely on the over-stretched state to a large extent – whereas professional sports people have the money and the connections to get the best treatment and support.

    And in today’s world mental health issues seem to be getting worse, and treatment is largely palliative rather than remedial. Horrible for those who contract it.

  2. Thorny topic. I think AW spoke as well about it as any manager would.

    Footballers are probably a little like soldiers in some respects – “let him finish!” – in that self-doubt and introspection aren’t really options (this might change from coach to coach). They’re probably encouraged not to be in their own heads too much, which might mean some underlying problems aren’t dealt with. And they’d only be exacerbated by the pressure, sense of isolation and so on.

    That’s my superficial take on a delicate issue.

  3. Footballers and other elite sportsmen need to move out of the bubble they all inhabit. Their personal entourages shield them from the reality of everyday life and create a false environment for them to live in which inevitably collapses when their sporting career comes to an end.

  4. From two recent pressers (if we are talking dialogue and well being)…

    First Sanchez-

    Sanchez makes an dick of himself against Leicester twice in the final few minutes faking injuries. He got savaged in the papers and on social media. (Wenger post game gave the excuse perhaps Sanchez did not know th rules concerning throw ins).

    At the next presser journalists asked how Wenger had helped Sanchez with the criticism he had heaped on him.

    Wenger said he hadn’t discussed the incidents with Sanchez.

    Next Ozil-

    Ozil kicked out in the tunnel after the Spurs game. Two excuses were given. Initally it was anger after being asked to take a drugs test (the claim being he is targetted). Wenger then related it was frustration after the loss.

    So plucky journo asked Wenger how he handled the incident with Ozil and Wenger once gain admitted he’d not yet even discussed the matter with Ozil.

    Two stars with contracts ending involved in stressful, somewhat embarrassing incidents…and neither merit a discussion, be it a clearing of the air or a shoulder of support.

  5. HenryB,

    Henry my friend

    This time you are completely wrong in your statement about mental health, a subject I happen unfortunately to know a lot about
    Rich or poor in most cases in the UK the treatment is absolutely awful.Funding on the NHS may come into it,but so does training, and no two cases are the same.

    There was a programme on TV last night called STRESS.
    They were explaining that there is good stress and bad stress and used a lemon curd doughnut as an example at a lower league football game and tried to prove that when tasted by the team’s fans that won it tasted better than to those who lost.Complete bollox.Depression today is banded about too much when a famous person goes into rehab for a couple of weeks.That’s a blip not real depression which can make people never ever live a normal life and suffered by many but understood by few.
    Anyway this is a football blog so I won’t continue.
    As far as Mourinho is concerned he is playing mind games with the specialist in failure about fielding a weakened team.

    I wouldn’t be confident of us beating anyone at the moment never mind United.

  6. Birdkamp,

    No actually. As explained, the journalists.

    Two incidents, both followed up with questions about resolution, and Wenger replied he had not even discussed them.

    Is he the manger or not, is that his reposnsibility or not?

    The fact that so many have absolved Wenger for so long is why the club is at this juncture.

  7. Quality stuff Yogi!

    Its a shame that, society as a whole hasn’t done more to help those that suffer from any form of mental illness. The problem that I have with most sport franchises is that unless you can help them they won’t help you just from stories that have been bantered around during my time on this planet. Their is a negative stigma associated with it should you have it so I understand professional futbolers or professional athletes as a whole not coming forth and instead dealing with it by themselves; I mean all their lives they have been told you are the best, or have been given the world so knowing or accepting that they are ill doesn’t sit well because most feel they simply can’t be. I have a couple of friends that either play or have played in the WNBA, NFL and NBA and have had discussions with them about this and confidence as a whole and I was surprised at how much of it they feel is just a confidence thing or something that will simply, “go away”.

  8. Hi Kelsey,

    I hear you. I think we were saying much the same thing, actually, but I would not dream of contradicting you – and I am sorry you have had personal experience of this health problem, and it comes to me now that I do recall you and Eddie discussing something about that 2 or 3 years ago.

    Quite by chance I met a guy this morning, in his late forties who I have known from a contract I used to work on, some 6 years ago, and had not seen for about 4 years. “Hello’ I greeted him, ‘long time since we last met, how’s it going.” Sadly it was quickly evident that he had no idea who I was, never said a word, and just smiled at me puzzled.
    He was with a ‘carer’ who whispered to me that he had had sudden onset Alzheimers – (I think that was what he said), and for someone of his age, it was very sad.

    Anyway – keep well, my friend. 😀

  9. Thanks for the post yogi.

    Mental health issues is an incredibly multifaceted complex problem and it affects footballers just as much as the average person. Hopefully the Aaron Lennon story will increase awareness and make a difference

  10. I have not complained about this for a long time but if we had not dropped 5 points in the first 2 games we would be in a much better position right now with regard to our fight for the top 4. Our record in the first couple of games every season in this decade is abysmal which I think is a result of Arsene’s lack of urgency to have the squad mentally and physically ready for game 1. We have debated this a lot over the last few years and I understand the theory that players are less likely to be injured or burn out if they are given more time off after major international tournaments in the summer. However, Arsene has always been more generous with time off in the summer then any manager in world football and the downside of dropped points in the first couple of games is obvious. However, can anyone honestly say that our players are less likely to be injured and less likely to run of of mental and physical energy during the season compared with the other big teams whose managers insist that they come back to training in time to be ready for game 1 of the season?

  11. The reason your first choice players are your first choice is because you are more likely to win the game if they are on the pitch. Our best players are always going to be playing a lot of football for their international squads during the summer. If they are not available for the first couple of games because we want them to rest then it stands to reason that you will be more likely to drop points in those games. I think this decade has shown quite clearly that the extra week or 2 off that our players have been given has not helped us to avoid injuries or be more competitive over the course of the season. You can’t put rest in the bank in August and then withdraw when you need it in Feb.

  12. Morning from Canada – it’s wetter than an otter’s pocket over here.

    I’m going to light a fat one, stay inside and play Fallout 3 – I think.

  13. Bill,

    I agree on this point. 5 points dropped when all you want is an emphatc start to the season.

    The second points loss of key importance (and I seem to recall we might have agreed on this also) were the two draws against Manu U and Spurs when they were out of form and we should have taken all three points.

    People say the season turned after the two losses when we led against Man City and Everton – Wenger noted that in the presser – but I think the signs were there.

    Imagine if we bagged the five points at the start of the season, then taken four more points in the two November draws. Beating Spurs and Man U when we were flying would now have us comfortably in fourth.

    Man City would be three points behind with Arsenal having a game in hand.

    United would be six points behind us with Arsenal having a game in hand.

  14. DFS

    Agree completely. The notion that we were playing great and results at Man City and Everton knocked the confidence out of us and ruined our season is utter rubbish. We have played great for part of every season in the Emirates era and this years good run was Sept/Oct. At the time Sanchez, Walcott and Ozil were all on pace to score the most goals of any season in their careers and that was never sustainable. We were 1 point ahead of Chelsea on Nov 1 and we dropped 7 points to Chelsea over the next 5-6 weeks and we were 6 points behind before the Man City and Everton games. Based on historical evidence the loss of form was inevitable and the things that had been working in Sept/Oct stopped working around the first of November.

  15. Our record in the league game in the 7 seasons in this decade is
    1-3-3. We have only won 1 of those 7 games and dropped 15 out of the 21 points.

  16. Bill,

    “Based on historical evidence the loss of form was inevitable and the things that had been working in Sept/Oct stopped working around the first of November”.

    Exactly. We had some good games after the draws but a tone (once gain) had been set…then we ran into City and Everton.

  17. Its interesting that, and I’m in absolutely no way advocating that we sign him, how for all the talk of Mbappe(and rightly so), that Falcao has recaptured his form now that he is fit and injury free again and is 3rd in Ligue Un iwth 19 goals in 26 appearances and 25 goals in 35 appearances overall.

  18. Jonny,

    A fat one Johnny? I must confess my last visit to Canada ( Toronto et Montreal) left me not to impressed.

    How was your flight? It was not Air France by chance? I think they are possibly one of the worst European airlines and so expensive.

  19. In a combined total of appearances 84 games between Xhaka, Ramsey, El Nenny and Le Coq they have scored wait for it 1 goal all season between the 4.

  20. Salut, Ras

    I know the situation bugs the hell out of you, and a lot of others, et je te comprend qui c’est peut-être la vérité, mais, cela se répète encore et encore et encore zzzzzzzzzzz 😀 😀

  21. blocking = bollocking —- sheesh —— when computers get touchy, I might as well give up! 🙂

  22. Bill,

    Excellent point to which I would add that AW compounds this by failing to do business early–often by indecision or haggling over the price/wage–and have a squad ready for the start of the season. Happens very regularly. Costs us points. Where is the urgency and priority for competitive points over few quid? After all, points don’t fall from heaven, do they?!

  23. DFS-,

    I agree. I wasn’t so enthusiastic early on. I though wait until MU/Spuds as first test after failing in our opening 2 matches. Earlier during our good run I saw a great deal of good fortune: conceding lots of good chances without letting in goals and some favorable ref decisions. Sure it was exciting–that’s what I liked early in: Sanchez as striker with Walcott on his best scoring g run in an Arsenal shirt. But AW moved Alexis left and Theo predictably cooled off. But I was always worried by how many great chances we were conceding even though we weren’t being punished.

  24. Ras,

    Fine link, thanks! Ronay can be hilarious–the comparison to the Updike character had me laughing out loud. AW is definitely losing dignity at this point. Maybe if he can somehow get the players to perform in the cup final, he can salvage some of what he is losing and show the wisdom to resign at that point.

  25. I’d be inclined to stick up for the idea of allowing a longer break to give players time to rest physically and otherwise. I don’t know if that has any basis in science.

    The thinking is that it would pay off later in the season. But since our players are no less injury prone, and have also begun most matches in 2017 in neutral it’s hard to argue for a physical or mental benefit.

    Maybe that’s what we’re left with; obsolete, pre-GPS and “periodization” ideas cobbled together with all that new sciencey stuff to make something incoherent.

  26. Birdkamp,

    Making something incoherent. Sounds about right. In any case the approach seems to have led to weakened starting teams in the beginning of our league season. Points we can’t afford to drop. It would be worth trying a different policy. Regardless of the physical issue, there is a mental side as well. Demanding more at all levels at AFC might be beneficial.

  27. Btw, I thought DFS pointed out something interesting about AW’s responses to journalist questions. We often debate how the media and fan atmosphere might negatively affect players. Even AW sometimes suggests that players might suffer from these negative atmospheric conditions (while saying they have to be professional). But isn’t there anything the manager should do–in terms of man managing? He’s a wiser older person with insight he shares with journalists. Why not counsel the players? Maybe he just doesn’t want to reveal private conversations. But it is also an opportunity to fight back in the media and support your player or deflect, turn the narrative, etc… Why waste the opportunity even if you don’t reveal the actual advice or counsel?

    I think it is a fair point. I feel like it does seem he is less in touch with the players. For example, earlier in the season, I think he did not support Xhaka properly or handle the media story over Xhaka’s discipline that well publicly. No idea what it was in private but Xhaka has now a reputation that affects how the refs seem to treat him that is harsher than many others and harms Arsenal. Xhaka’s got a bit of a problem to work on, but I would want an experienced manager like AW to spin this better, deflect, counter, or defend better to avoid the disadvantageous consequences on the player.

    It just feels strange. A new dynamic, different energy seems needed rather desperately.

  28. Limestonegunner,

    I mean, if there’s some sort of accumulation. You know, if there’s evidence that despite running the risk of dropping points early on you’ll be that little bit stronger later in games, or in April and May it would make sense. But it looks doubtful now. Most other clubs probably find other ways to sneak breaks in.

    So it’s sort of a vestigial idea, which sums up how things seem to be done at the club these days.

    I’m attracted by the idea that it might be AW’s way of doing right by the players – giving them a full break – in the hope that they’ll reciprocate with professionalism. That would be very Wenger too.

  29. Maybe I misread it, but I thought it was a bit tawdry using AW’s press conferences to bash him on mental health. It’s obtuse to pretend he’s not speaking in codes half the time in front of the press so can’t be taken literally when he’s talking about private dressing room stuff.

    And it’s not like there isn’t enough material to attack him with already.

  30. Birdkamp,

    That would be and I like to think of him having high minded principles like that but he might just be wrong. And the fact that he persists in doing so despite the cost it has in opening the season prepared is an issue as Bill suggests.

  31. I have been reading DFS’ posts and have found them quite reasoned and insightful. Finding new things to say about the sclerotic stasis the club seems to be in isn’t easy, so I do appreciate little glimmers of new insight into the dark unknown behind the scenes that these stray comments might reveal. In any case they seem symptoms of a more general malaise that has many manifestations. I’m pretty fed up at this point as others are. But I haven’t been on here that consistently the last year and a half so I am not sure what the many things you would find worthy of criticizing AW on. Perhaps others might also like to know if you haven’t been regular either (perhaps you’ve said it all recently, in which case, do disregard).

  32. Limestonegunner,

    I think before this week I’d left two or three comments on here since August because of work. I’m catching maybe one in three matches at the moment, but that’s enough to know what this team is about. And to be honest, today’s was the first post by DFS I’ve ever read.

    Also, who couldn’t have grumbles at the moment? I feel like I’d be betraying my rapt 14-y-o self to come out and call for his head.

    But the things that won me over back then are the reasons it’s dire now.

    AW improved players. He did! People won’t admit it now, but in 1996 our team had no midfield and our defence was on its last legs. We were talking about Scott Marshall shaking up the back line. And if Twitter was around today Winterburn would be copping Coquelin levels of flak.

    Wenger transformed them, and I don’t know whether it was physical or if it was just about encouraging them to trust their technique, a host of players looked so much more refined in a matter of months. Parlour in particular was a revelation. You could claim that players always improved under AW right up to about five years ago, but it doesn’t happen any more.

    They now tread water or get worse. And it’s irritating to see wasted potential. I feel Iwobi is a star in the making, and for the first time I’m thinking he needs to leave if he’s going to step up.

    The other was the quality of our football. We’ve been dreadful to watch for quite a few seasons, apart from a three or four-month window when things come together. On this point I resent it when people complain about us playing “tippy-tappy”. We don’t play that way, and we haven’t for years. Our style at the moment is a timid and wish-washy hodgepodge of ideas, with a vague sense that we should be keeping the ball without appearing to know why that matters.

    We traded in our style a while ago. And with me this stuff resonates more than trophies, which always felt sort of empty to me for some reason (well, maybe the CL would shade it).

    It’s partly why the immediate Emirates years weren’t so bad. We still had a style and identity, and were extracting every bit of potential from what talent we had. It felt like there was a process I could take pride in.

    But now we’re just like any other club in this league, and since we’ve found the capacity to spend big we’re cumbersome and rudderless. That sense of inefficiency puts me off more than anything.

    OK, that’s it. I’m not spontaneous; I could try to make this more elegant but I’ve run out of time.

  33. Yikes, if twitter was around back then!

    Also, he improved players who bought into his ideas. The players appear to adore him (publicly) but it doesn’t seem to do them much good.

  34. Birdkamp,

    I agree with all that He did improve players but hasn’t regularly done so in quite a while. Likewise, I enjoyed earlier this season when Alexis was cf even though I didn’t think we could or would win the league because at least it was a pleasure to watch us play exciting attacking football and we have been dull as dishwater for 4 or 5 years in our form of play. He can’t produce that anymore really and also can’t build a more defensive pragmatic team that can succeed either. He’s had huge resources of time and money to do so. But I agree that the most damning part of this is failure to develop young players as he once did. 10 yrs ago Mbappe would have come here when AW called in his teens. Now, why would he trust AW to develop him into Anelka or Henry levels?

    I don’t think DFS was being tawdry or mean spirited. We are all trying to figure out how a great football manager and great innovative/progressive club like AFC has gone so stale and is moving backward. He noticed something about how AW is relating to his players that seems an endemic concern and might explain why they are unresponsive these days to his leadership by external evidence.

  35. consolsbob,

    glad to be appreciated. Just following up on Bill and DFS’ good contributions and enjoying a chat with Big Al. It has been a while. Felt a little retro, vintage early 2010’s a bit on the blog today (mutatis mutandis), didn’t it?

  36. Spuds old habits die hard came in late this year…..Good season but nothing to sure for, at least we are in a Cup final despite being shit all season 🙂

    Nothing to brag about…..But it’s the Spuds and you have to stick it in regardless.

  37. Orson Kaert,

    West Ham played with a lot more heart than we did. Chelsea have a very good chance of opening the gap up to 7 points again. That should pretty much be job done.

  38. Wavey,

    I didn’t watch the game just the last six or seven minutes, my wife, a life long Spurs fan, walked out into the kitchen muttering under her breath something about “they do that every time”.

    What can she mean?

  39. Strange isn’t it of all the team’s in the leagues, my dislike rests on 1) Leeds United, 2) Manchester United, 3) Chelsea. But I find myself wishing the Chavs get the Premiership rather than Spurs, a team I have admired over the years for the quality of their football.

  40. Limestonegunner,

    Just returned to the blog and thanks for your supportive comments!

    Biirdkamp –

    I’ve made no secret of the fact I believe Wenger passed his prime years ago.

    However regarding mental health and a contrived connection-

    Is that not the core of the mental health problem? A failure to recognize issues and discuss them in a constructive environment (specifically to football).

    In a regular work environment, if an employee at end of a frustrating work shift, lashed out and kicked a door the incident would be immediatey addressed. It might be handled clumsily (a threat/warning/) it might be handled deftly (anger management/counseling) but it certainly would not be ignored.

    You have incidents (public and embarrassing) which should be mitigated yet they are not even discussed (I am taking Wenger at his word). Players are expected to man up and handle. If there is no mechanism in place at that level, “superficial” yet profound (ie. will away fans now take to booing Sanchez at every opportunity? They certainly did at Spurs) then how do players with much graver, long term problems ever feel inclined to seek assistance?

    For what its worth, on the very last blog I discussed how two managers Louis Van Gaal and Mourinho had marginalized Schneiderlin for two seasons at United on little more than personal whim. They both seem publicly intent of humiliating Luke Shaw (Daley Blind has even comentated how much the two are alike in methods). They should be called out on it and some fans have.

    Back to Arsenal. I think players find themselves in confused mental states all the time. On the one hand you have the deliberate ostraciism of a player such as Perez -how is this season affecting his well being? That has left a bad taste in my mouth and it isn’t the first time.

    Then on the other hand you have a general lack of direction. Recently Andrew at Arseblog wrote a great column centered around Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

    His conclusion…

    “…He’s a midfield player, that much we know, but where exactly? Wide, central, attacking, defensive? He’s done all those jobs, and more, and he’s now 23. He’ll be 24 at the start of next season, and after six full seasons at the club neither he, the manager, or anybody else, has real clarity about where he’s going to play. It’s a bit mad when you think about it.

    And that’s just one example. I think this squad is littered with players who don’t really know what they’re supposed to be doing, how they’re viewed, what their importance is to the manager or the team, and where they fit. So when individuals are affected, so too is the collective, and that has been evident on the pitch this season”.

    I am not trying to equate this to the deeper level of mental issues Kelsey has touched upon. But that said, I genuinely think (and does not everyone agree) that the mental component on any level anyone cares to discuss is awry at Arsenal and is the root cause of current woes, not a lack of talent?

  41. DFS-,

    DFS – I’m coming around to Sam’s view that Wenger never really wanted Perez (he wanted a big-name striker the club wouldn’t buy) and basically doesn’t want Perez to succeed because that will show he was wrong. If so, it’s terrible treatment of Perez (he doesn’t have many good years left) and the fans (who pay good money to watch games).

    One of the great mysteries this season is why, early one, Arsenal was doing some great pressing, but that fell away (only to return somewhat recently). I thought that was a conscious decision on Wenger’s part. Apparently not, because he spends most of his days in his office watching Days of Our Lives re-runs while, possibly, scoffing Prozac. It now looks as if the early pressing phase came about spontaneously because Arsenal were playing Alexis up front (and he was dropping back into midfield to steal the ball) and Coquelin (who loves roaming forward to press). That persuaded others in the team to put in a shift. But when Alexis got dispatched to the left wing and Coquelin wasn’t playing much (as I recall) we had the sight of Alexis trying to persuade his team-mates to push forward because there was no guidance from the bench. Totally weird. Then it all fell apart.

  42. DFS

    I agree completely that the single biggest problem that has developed for our club is the culture. Sports psychology and the culture of any sports club is obviously multifactorial and highly complex and there is absolutely no way to prove or disprove what is really happening and why. In our case there has probably not been many managers whose personality has become more dominant over the culture of the entire organization then Arsene.

    This is all speculation but my own belief is that the biggest problem is that for the last 7-8 years Arsene and the entire organization has come to accept 4th place as an adequate result and we have come to believe that we can always find a way to rescue 4th place irregardless of how much we might struggle for 1/2 of every season. Why would there be any urgency to disrupt a status quo that has become very comfortable for everyone involved and make difficult and sometimes risky changes and decisions when the things we are doing are bringing adequate results?

  43. Freddo

    For years we have been complaining about Arsene having to much control and now you postulate that he actually does not have control and is forced to buy a player he does not want. We can’t have it both ways. Everything we have ever heard about the way the club is run suggests that Arsene is making the decisions and I don’t buy for a second that he was forced to buy a player he did not want.

    Doesn’t it make a lot more sense to suggest that he bought Perez as a last minute flyer as a relatively low cost insurance policy to hold the fort and cover in case of an injury crisis until Welbeck returned. Perez was never meant to be in the regular rotation unless we had an injury crisis. Most managers would want that sort of insurance policy to cover their squad in case of emergency and it makes complete sense and we don’t have to start postulate soap opera scenarios to explain something

  44. Freddo

    I usually does not make sense to start searching for intigue and looking for complex conspiracy theories when there is another much more reasonable explanation.

  45. freddo,

    I agree – he does not like players forced on him if you will…but I think there is yet another component.

    Yes, it could be he wanted ‘X’ player and for a host of reasons terms were not agreed, therefore he does not take to the replacement

    But, I also sense Wenger has issues with incoming players because they can displace pet players, in essense prove him wrong. For instance no matter the form, we all know Ramsey will be prioritized to some degree if fit. If someone outshines him for a game or two it creates a problem for Wenger in terms of selection – I think Wenger finds it an uncomfortable position to be in.

    If true it is silly, all fans want is to see the squad improve.

  46. For years Arsene has been rightfully criticized for not being willing to spend money to buy adequate cover for the squad and leaving us at risk in case of a rash injuries. He has also been rightfully criticized for trying to get by for 1/2 a season while he waited for a player like Welbeck to return from injury. In years past he would use someone like Akpom to fill in if needed with mostly bad results. My version of what probably happened is this year to his credit he bought Perez to fill the Joel Campbell spot and to be that insurance policy but we did not have the injury crisis so Perez was not needed to be more then an early cup game player.

  47. Bill,

    “This is all speculation but my own belief is that the biggest problem is that for the last 7-8 years Arsene and the entire organization has come to accept 4th place as an adequate result…”

    This and the rest of the post, a 100 times.

    It sprang out of The Emirates era, the construction, the restricted budget and one and all having to ‘limit our expectations’. Which is why I tend to revert to the Bayern Munich parallel arc to dispel some of that narrative.

    I would never fault for example, Southampton, as a lesser club if their highest goal was to establish themself as a top six side (before dreaming of a championship).

    But, you can take a championship winning side, tread water, and in a season they will fall flat.

    If like Arsenal, you unwittingly build in a culture of ‘elite also ran’ not before long it is ‘perpetual also ran’ (the club on and off the field).

    You correctly say ‘its a very comfortable position for everyone involved’…very much so.

    Until, with this season (I would argue last year did not augur well either) the influx of top flight managers and even more money, has shown it quite easy to knock us off the 4th place perch.

    And at the point when one and all look for that particular Champions mind set, the mental fortitude to not just lift ourselves but seriously challenge (seriously challenge?) its not actually anywhere to be found.

  48. Perez would probably have gotten a lot more minutes if Arsene had not decided to hand the LW spot to Iwobe last summer. Alexis was playing well at CF and no one was going to displace him and Walcott also started the season on a great run. Even Wengerian favorites like Ox and Giroud saw their minutes cut way back in the first 1/2 of the season. The return of Welbeck around Christmas added another player in front of Perez in the pecking order.

  49. Unfortunately for Perez all of the players that started in front of him in the pecking order have stayed relatively healthy and he has never gotten a chance. In the past there have been several seasons where he would got a lot of minutes because of injuries.

    Myself I would have given Perez some of those minutes on the LW instead of Iwobe. However Arsene has always used at least one player who has more of central midfielders skill set (false winger) as one of his forwards and this season Iwobe was anointed as the starter and the teams results were quite good in Sept/Oct so there was no need to change anything.

  50. DFS

    There are hundreds of examples of players like Schniederlin who look really great at a small club like Southampton and then move to a really big team like Man U and for some reason never establish themselves in the regular line up. I assume the vast majority of managers make decisions based on what they think will give the team the best chance to win games. When you are a player like Schniederlin and you move to a team that can buy players like Herrera, Mata and a world record signing Paul Pogba then you risk losing your playing time.

  51. Birdkamp,

    “AW improved players. He did! People won’t admit it now, but in 1996 our team had no midfield and our defence was on its last legs. We were talking about Scott Marshall shaking up the back line. And if Twitter was around today Winterburn would be copping Coquelin levels of flak.”

    Sorry I missed this earlier but I am intrigued as to why Nutty would be copping ‘Coquelin levels of flak’??

    Certainly Arsene improved players with his health and training regime, and without doubt our midfield needed a big overhaul (Platt had been a positive addition but the rest were pretty workman like). I’m afraid that the idea that our defence was on it’s last legs was a myth though. In ’95/6 we conceded just 32 goals – the lowest in the league!! It was in attack that we struggled (primarily due to the lack of creativity rather than the lack of ability in Wrighty and DB10).

    While I doubt that Rioch could have achieved what Arsene did we were hardly a basket case though, we’d improved from 12th the previous season to 5th and I think that most fans would have given Rioch more time to improve further had he not surprisingly been let go.

    Wenger’s genius was in building on that defensive platform to produce a more offensive and creative attacking force, something his predecessor had been unable to do (although to be fair he’d only had a single season to try). That he had the genius of DB10 and a finisher in Wrighty to complete the picture certainly helped.

  52. Andy,

    Have limited time this morning, but…

    It was more than just a physical improvement. They clearly always had the capacity to take care of the ball better, but I hadn’t seen much indication before that, apart from with Adams who always had class. I don’t think anyone would dispute the transformation unless they’re trying to rewrite history.

    Winterburn was getting definitely slaughtered. Granted I was young and got to two games that season, but that was one of my strongest recollections around 1995 (?).

    They got rid of Rioch because the players didn’t like him. Very good chance it was downhill from there. Ian Wright for sure wanted to leave, and I think there was talk of Adams to United. That isn’t quite as firm, but hasn’t Ian Wright said as much? Genuinely haven’t looked it up.

  53. I relented too much on Winterburn there! I was around AFC-supporting grown ups of course, and had Arsenal-supporting friends at school. There was a culture around a few players, including Jensen of course.


  54. Birdkamp,

    I think that it was two-fold, certainly Rioch had issues with some of the players, Wrighty specifically but also there was a contractual stand-off between him and the board if I recall which is why they started looking for an alternative.

    I was a regular back then but don’t recall the issue with Nigel, maybe my memory isn’t what it was. I’m sure though that Bouldy rather than Adams was considered to be the more ‘cultured’ defender but certainly they both benefited in terms an extended career and by being encouraged to play more expansively.

    To a certain extent a complete change of culture can stimulate a real change even in the same group of individuals. Arsene was the polar opposite of the Graham/Rioch ‘boot camp’ regime and the players responded. That’s why I think it would be a mistake to look for an ‘Arsene Mk2’ (in the same way that Rioch was the wrong man to replace Graham). We need a fresh approach but I’m not exactly convinced that the owner or his minions can deliver it.

  55. Power shifts quickly and players shift with it. There was certainly talk of Adams to Utd, just as there was a bit later of Terry to Arsenal.

  56. Bill,

    Yes, but you yourself noted Schneiderlin was a French international player etc.

    But, my point concerns Mourniho who appears to have adopted LVG routine of asserting themselves in a really dubious manner. From todays Guardian no less…(funny how these things come up)…

    “Blind simply joins a list of players – Anthony Martial, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Matteo Darmian and Wayne Rooney among them – whose confidence has been undermined by their manager’s words or actions this season. This is perhaps one reason why Mourinho has not tended to stay at the same club for more than two or three seasons”.

  57. andy1886,


    Wenger was the right man at the right time. He knew the French market as the league allowed more foreign players. He had a well drilled defence and Wright and Bergkamp, and Platt as mentioned. His midfielder penchant was of use here.

    The team in the previous 10 years had got to two european finals, and one win, two league title wins, the league cup and FA cup double, another league cup.

    He also had Pat Rice as well who had achieved all of these things with George Graham and was in the double team of 71 as well.

    In this scenario you can attract the quality players.

    When you have not won the league for 13 years or Europe since 1994 or even the league cup since then you are going to get players who cares less about winning and it is a simple downward spiral.

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