The Never-Ending Search for Motivation: Can Arsenal Emerge From Their Slough Stronger?

Arsenal’s decline has been sad to witness, no matter which team you follow. Under Arsène Wenger, the Gunners produced some sublime football over the last 22 years. Wenger introduced a host of world-class stars to English audiences and helped bring innovative changes to English football.

But, other teams caught up with Wenger’s ideas, and the weight of money shifted the Premier League balance of power, leading Arsenal to slip from their perch. Years of failing to challenge for the league title were offset by regular Champions League football and, in recent seasons, a string of FA Cup victories. However, this season, the Gunners slumped to new lows and the club has an end-of-an-era feel to it.

The only remaining bright spot is the Europa League. That Arsenal are in this competition rather than the Champions League is a measure of their decline. Yet it remains the one piece of silverware that they can win, and the last four beckons. They are strong favourites with sports betting companies to beat CSKA Moscow after the 5 – 1 aggregate demolition of AC Milan.

They are also clear second favourites with most sportsbooks to win the competition outright. That will give Wenger the first major European trophy of his career and end his unwanted record of being the only manager to appear in the finals of all three competitions but never win them.

Premier League Woes

One look at the Premier League table reveals the depth of Arsenal’s decline. After beating Watford at the Emirates on 11th March, they were two places and ten points behind Tottenham, who held the final Champions League qualification place. They were also an eye-watering 30 points behind runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City.

The obvious place to look for evidence of their problems is away performances. Wenger’s side have lost ten games overall – the same record as Leicester City and worse than Burnley – but eight of those came on the road. The Gunners lost at Stoke, Watford, Bournemouth, Swansea and Brighton; outbattled by teams with more desire and resilience. That this Arsenal squad has top-four ability is not in dispute, but motivation certainly appears to be a problem.

To an extent, you question why the players are unable to motivate themselves. They are, after all, some of the best in the country. However, ultimately, the blame has to rest with the manager and the coaching staff. The players at Tottenham, Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City are all able to please their respective managers. Motivation is not a problem for Arsenal’s Premier League rivals.

In the short term, the arrival of former Borussia Dortmund teammates Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan will give the squad a boost. It’s an injection of new voices in the dressing room and new talent on the pitch. Certainly, the encouraging back-to-back victories over AC Milan and Watford were a welcome surprise for the fans. Were they a reminder of the talent in this squad? Maybe but the question is for how long can Arsenal continue that form?

Cue Unbeaten Run

The last few months of the season bring out the best in Wenger’s teams. While a top-four spot in the Premier League is beyond them, there is at least the opportunity to finish the campaign strongly. Progressing in the Europa League offers hope over the summer.

The prospect of major changes amongst the playing staff may also have an effect on squad motivation. With Arsenal’s new head of recruitment, Sven Mislintat, already making his presence felt, we can expect a lot more transfer business to be done this summer, which should have the effect of motivating those players already at the club to raise their game if they want to remain part of Arsenal’s plans next season and beyond.

Ultimately, however, a change of manager is needed to clear the air, to bring new methods. It’s a new voice to the dressing room, and to mark a fresh beginning at the Emirates. Wenger will go down along with Herbert Chapman as Arsenal’s greatest ever manager, that much assured. However, his ability to motivate the team has declined along with their recent fortunes; it is time for another manager to take the club forward.

Only then will Arsenal reclaim their place at the top of English and European football.

15 thoughts on “The Never-Ending Search for Motivation: Can Arsenal Emerge From Their Slough Stronger?

  1. Hello,

    Thanks for the post and some spirit lifting in the long, forever and never ending dread of interlull. Only a couple o days. Yet it feels like its been going on for ever (which it actually has as its freaking interlull every season and we begin the seasons with 2-3 interlulls almost before the season is up and running). Damn, that interlull and those greedy bastards at FIFA!
    Ok, end of rant, thank you.

    Ahm, “Wenger along with Herbert Chapman as Arsenals greatest manager ever”. Ouh, hasn´t that ship sailed? More like “thank you for all you´ve done and don´t let door slam your arse on the way out” goodbye kind of last words?

  2. Thanks Matt. Should we not treat the Europa League as a new competition in it’s own right? Arsene has lost in finals of both it’s predecessors the Cup Winners Cup and the UEFA Cup as well as in the Champions League as we know only too well. So potentially he is going for the record of losing in the final of four different European competitions (saved only from completing the perfect set as he never made the final of the old European Cup as a manager).

  3. Good post, thank you.

    I have a question (please answer)

    Why has the club’s share price peaked to an alltime high today of £37K ?

  4. Nice post Matt. Wenger can buy himself a stay of execution if he can lift the Europa League. Which will mean he sees out the remainder of his contract. But should he fail, do we trust the board to have the cojones to eject him? Better the devil you know (remember Moyes at Utd!). It will take a while before the ship settles in the following storm of Wenger’s departure. A lot of rebuilding will need to be done and I see us in the doldrums for at lease 2 season’s before we see any return on investment. I’d don’t want a recognised name in the box seat. I want an analyst, tactician and a motivator to be the next guy in charge. Much like Wenger was, when he first came to Arsenal.

  5. I just came here for the pictures. The dark glasses seem to be doing their intended job of terrifying the poor woman.

  6. I think the way things are, we cannot guarantee that the Bod is lacking direction or sporting expertise to recruit the right coach after Wenger. The fear of Wenger’s replacement doing a Moyes, will only happen if the bod cannot set targets and they employ a mid range candidate. As things stand, we should be aiming for Jardim or Luis Enrique as the next coach. I am optimistic that a coach who knows his job and who can strike a good balance between youth and experienced players is what we need.

  7. Kelsey

    The economics of supply and demand. Only a limited number of shares ever become available and buyers far outnumber them. It isn’t the Rat or the Slug buying up more shares at that price, it’s fans. Maybe they hope that one of the major shareholders will buy out the club and they may make a small profit. The only flaw in that plan is that Rat/Slug only have to pay their top price of buying shares which I believe is around £28k.

    Suffice to say, it isn’t anything which will benefit the club.

  8. Good writing thanks although we are back to the miserablist approach I fear

    In my 40 years of watching Arsenal I have never once considered ourselves top of Europe so reclaiming that position seems a bit fanciful.

    Of course 20 odd years of CL was considered terribly pedestrian for many posters if that’s what you mean.

    It has been a poor season so far although we have already played a cup final and I am looking forward to this QF

    We all went AFC to be successful but I feel no need to treat AW like Alan Pardew. He deserves better.

    Apart from Man City those teams you mention are all scrabbling around now trying to win the same fa cup which is deemed not good enough for us.

  9. This is why we will remain divided, this is why we will continue to slide from greatness to mediocrity.

    For those like Arsetralian, we are greedy and have never had it so good. For the rest of us, things are getting worse and we could do better.

    One group rewrites history and creates a never never land anchored on one man, the other looks outward and sees a world.

  10. My magnanimity of course goes only so far

    We are divided by opinion

    I feel the worst of you guys rewrite history to disparage AW

    I also manage my expectations- this sustained ‘greatness’ you speak of is just too much

    We take the highs and the lows as supporters

    Only Sheiks and Dictators seeks greatness

    And here we differ

    I am proud of what AW achieved as I am proud of GG and TN

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