Festivities over, the gloves came off. Jose Mourinho, Arsène reckoned, needs to ‘button it, muppet’.
Welcome to our world, the Frenchman said in not so many, words after the Portugeezer bemoaned his £300m spending spree not bringing results. Pep Guardiola, he boo-hooed, had spent more than him, which is probably true. The Spaniard however, is a better coach; he gets his players playing the best football the top flight has seen in more than a decade.
You might argue that this is just because he’s spent just shy of the GDP of a third world country and there is a point in that. However, like Mourinho, it denies Guardiola any credit as a coach. We know he’s the best coach of his generation and uses those tools to his best advantage. This is the man who has managed to make Kyle Walker into a good defender, for god’s sake.
The nature of modern football is that the wealthy clubs spend their way to success. However, in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, Liverpool did the same and won oodles of titles and cups. Frankly, there’s nothing new about modern football.
The difference was that it was relative; fees hadn’t spiralled out of control to the extent that there is a massive gap between what the elite and the rest can afford.
Remember though, these elite clubs can still only have 25 players in their squad. The rest fight over other players. Now in the modern game, we’re finding out who the good coaches are. The only way to combat the elite teams is to build a balanced squad and be tactically astute. Across Europe’s major leagues, only Maurizio Sarri has done that with Napoli top of Serie A. The rest have gaps of 8 points or more between first and second.
Blinded by the Blight
You may not like it but that’s the way it is. Don’t give me crap about the oil money and everything else; this is about coaching and a lack of tactical nous. Guardiola and Mourinho, the top two in the division. Their gap is as much coaching as it is money.
I was going to put forward a point about a combined Manchester side but then realised that most of the United players were there before Mourinho arrived. His spending has been atrocious. Only Bailly has been a success of the Mourinho buys while he is struggling to get anything out of the seasoned professionals who were there beforehand.
As for youth, it seems it thrives in spite of him rather than for anything he has done.
Which begs the question as to what are the rest doing? And doing badly, as it happened. Klopp has singularly failed to improve Liverpool’s defence and goalkeeper despite the opportunities of three transfer windows. Pochettino’s squad at Tottenham is possibly the best balanced of the top five or six but is incapable of winning trophies. Conte has mostly inherited a decent squad and coached them to success, as well as buying in the transfer market with a dubious record.
And what of Arsenal? We’re in a mess. Of the top six, we have the least balanced squad. If you look at our record, it seems we dabble in the transfer market. Signing players like Sanchez, Özil and Lacazette make us look serious players but key weaknesses remain unaddressed. We’re the old boy who sits at home buying and selling his £50 of shares to while away his retirement and feeling important. We remember the good old days when we had status but now it’s all good fun but nothing more.
Tactically, we don’t know which is best for us. Returning to the back four against United was making a bad situation better; chasing down an inexplicable two-goal deficit. Playing it after that? Folly, to be honest, even with clean sheets. We’re not a side with good enough defensive understanding to play as a four. The full-backs bomb on, playing like wing-backs in a five, while our best centre-back is a left-back by trade.
That situation is down to a lack of defensive understanding in the coaching. No-one at London Colney is identifying our weaknesses and acting to bring about improvement. The players, the manager, the staff; there’s no lasting effect on the way the side is playing.
There was always a feeling five or six years ago, maybe a little longer, that Arsène would leave the club in good shape. The squad would be youthful, full of zest. Technique and talent would be living together in the harmony. It was a fairy tale, an illusion feeding delusion.
How we scoffed when Ferguson left United in a bad way. They plummeted into the same obscurity in which Liverpool resided. He left a champion, Arsène will probably be a cup winner. Can Wenger repeat that? If you think he can, don’t forget your Free bets – Bet with £950 in UK Free bet Offers from Top Bookies!
The difference between the two remains, even in their departures. Ferguson knew when to get out, Arsène didn’t and stayed too long.
There’s nothing he can do about the legacy now. It’s set in stone that we’re losing at least one of our best players for nothing next summer; the ship is taking on water and the only way to stay afloat is to get a new captain.
Whether Arsenal’s board has the courage to take that decision is another matter.