Speaking at the Soccerex shindig earlier this week, David Dein recalled the following tale,
“In 2014, I was hosting a dinner at the World Cup in Brazil. Gilberto Silva and Edu were my guests. I said to Gilberto, ‘what was it like playing in the Invincibles team?’
“He said to me, ‘Mr Dein, I’ve thought about this and I’ll give you an example’. And he stood up for this.
“He said to me, ‘when we were in the corridor waiting to go out on the pitch, we would all be in a line, with Patrick Vieira first, then Jens Lehmann, then Thierry [Henry], then Kolo [Toure].
“‘We would see the opposition opposite us. Patrick, just before it was time to go out, would give a knowing nod to Thierry and then it would pass down to Jens and to Kolo. We’d all give a nod and know we’re going to do it today, we’re going to beat the opposition. We would turn around to the opposition and see the sense, almost, of fear in their eyes. We just felt the confidence’.
“And from game to game, they didn’t feel they were going to get beaten.”
The boot is firmly on the other foot this season. Walking into the tunnel and seeing two left backs, two right backs and a £50m player not in the starting line-up will bolster the opposition, not intimidate. Would that we could get back to a level where confidence among the players was high.
Reconvening at London Colney this week, it’s reported that Wenger has been using different ‘systems’ which suggests that using 3 – 4 – 3 is a short-lived experiment. Unless Arsène has something more unusual up his sleeve, a flat back four is set to return at some point.
Which I have no issue with particularly.
On Lines of Clear Confusion
The problem is not the system, it’s the players and its implementation. Wenger fielded two full backs in the middle despite having fit central defenders; that’s the problem, not the formation. That’s also the hallmark of a manager who isn’t ‘sold’ on the formation or the players at his disposal.
We know his appeasement of Oxlade-Chamberlain failed; the tales since that transfer tell how foolish a policy it was anyway with the club standing accused of not taking the player’s words seriously. When they did, the reaction of the manager was of a man scorned, who realises that he lost at least three points as a result of fielding a makeshift defence to keep a player happy.
It’s (hopefully) in the past now and Wenger has to adjust the squad which remains at the club. The media will focus on the likes of Alexis and Mesut Özil but the reality is their situations are a minor distraction. We know they are leaving – certainly in the former’s case while the latter’s silence says it all – so it’s not such an issue. The bigger concern is the team selection and the bizarre omissions / inclusions which brought about the poor start to the season.
At his press conference, Arsène identified Alexis’ state of mind as a key issue for the club. His international duty sounds like it was a chore with back-to-back defeats and press criticism. Is he bothered by it? We’ll see; he was certainly unfit at Anfield which makes the decision to leave Lacazette on the bench all the more baffling. What’s done is done; that we’ve learned from it is the most important aspect.
A Cold Wind Blows
There was a hint Jack Wilshere might be involved in tomorrow’s match. Is his return to fitness prompting the look at other systems?
Whatever the club hoped for when Wenger renewed his deal, the seismic change needed didn’t happen. Wenger was no more the catalyst Ivan spoke of than before. It’s business as usual; the new boss is the same as the old boss.
In his eyes, the media is still the root cause of discontent between the fans and the club. It’s not; he had a very short honeymoon period after the renewal of his contract. Unless we had became an efficient winning machine over the summer, it was always going to be a quick return to the fractious atmosphere. Anyone who expected things to improve was naive at best.
Two abysmal performances set the tone for the season and the transfer window didn’t help; there are still glaring holes in the squad in the same positions as last season. Even winning games isn’t enough to mask the problems we have. The lack of confidence in him doesn’t need the media to take root; it’s there already. They are, for the most part, reflecting the situation. Some feed off it but it’s a sideshow.
We’d all be happy if Arsenal were challenging for the title but the inertia, of seeing the same season time and again, which leads most of us to think Arsène ran his course long ago.
While Stan maybe happy with us plodding into mediocrity, fans never will be nor should they be: it’s the passion for the club he lacks and despite owning a number of sports ‘franchises’, he’ll never understand.
Finally, over at Dad’s Jukebox there’s a new post in the series Jukebox Classics. This time, it’s the songs The Specials covered.