Or to put it another way,
“Dear Bill, apologies for purloining the opening line of your soliloquy and updating it for Arsenal and a cheap gag somewhere along the line.”
Petr Cech put the cat among the pigeons after the win over Everton by observing that Arsenal lost the psychological edge needed to win trophies. In essence, we forgot how to win the title.
When a club wins titles, it means you have a team with the know-how to finish it off and you can see it in any sport. I take Tiger Woods. It’s been some years since he won a Major tournament and the longer it goes on, the harder it becomes.
This club hasn’t won the league for over 10 years so obviouslyPetr Cech, the righteous brother, claims Arsenal lost that winning feeling, Woah-Woah-Woah
,you need to get back to knowing how to do it.
That’s no surprise. It’s the manifestation of accepting a top-four finish as the benchmark of success. Aim low and miss, you finish lower; aim high and miss? At least you’ve got a good chance of winning.
The root cause of that situation was breaking up the Invincibles too quickly and in doing so, not replacing them with players of sufficient quality. Project Youth became a tarnished phrase, spat out with venom as a succession of talented young players aimed for the moon, missed, and then went onto other clubs to land successfully.
We were left with some talented young players, inconsistent journeymen who veered from the sublime to the ridiculous in the space of 90 seconds, and players in whom experience was misidentified as a winning mentality.
That ground was well-trodden in the past, causing fissures in the fanbase which will take generations to heal.
Don’t Shoot the Messenger, Read the Message
Cech spoke of the difference at the club under Emery.
“What we lacked in the past – I would say the ‘Arsenal way’ was more important than getting the points sometimes and this is not how you win the league.
“Sometimes you need to make sure you win an ugly game
when you are not playing completely well but you just dig deep, close the back door and win 1-0 no matter how.
“I think this is what we lacked over the last three years since I arrived.”Cech on Wenger vs Emery
Inevitably, Cech was slated for being disloyal to the previous manager. But not praised for being loyal to a manager previous to the previous manager. Winning ugly? One-nil to the Arsenal? Suits you, Mister Graham.
While that grabbed the headlines, Cech merely said exactly the same as Bellerin, Mustafi, Mkhitaryan and others. We’re better prepared because Unai Emery is more thorough in his coaching. Or to put it another way, footballers like order, they like to be told about their opposition. Emery does that. Stops short of Don Revie’s dossiers but readies the team for their opponents.
Arsene didn’t, which we know is true. Underpinning his philosophy in the beautiful game was an unshakeable belief in the quality of his players. The preparations for games centred on them being the best they could and that was good enough to win the match. Except when they weren’t good enough, we didn’t learn.
The displeasure at Cech’s words boils down to the messenger. When Bellerin speaks, a set of fans, i.e. his critics, gets upset. Mustafi, Mkhitaryan, now Cech; someone is always upset by the messenger because they don’t like or rate them – usually both. The message remains the same which is where the focus must surely lie? Apparently not.
The Good, The Bad and the…
Emery and Wenger’s approach to matches is completely different with the Spaniard more in line with the traditional La Liga mindset. Nacho Monreal said recently that tactical thinking in the lead-up to a match was the main difference between coaching in the two countries. Given the different paths he and Wenger trod in arriving at Arsenal, there should be no surprise their coaching methods are radically different.
Will it be better under Emery? Possibly, but the only guarantee we have is that it will be different. The outcome isn’t going to be seen just in this season but over a number of seasons; Emery can’t undo and rebuild in one year, possibly not even two. The habits of the old regime are too well ingrained, particularly after 20+ years of one man at the helm.
Defining what is a successful season for Arsenal in 2018/19 is not an easy task. There are the tangibles – trophies, league placings – but so much of what the club needs to happen is now able to. Not just in Wenger’s departure but also in Gazidis’, with the clear demarcation of lines between the business and football sides of the club. Nobody has a foot in both camps, allowing clearly defined focus. That can only be a good thing. Or maybe less bad than before