I have watched Arsenal from North American shores since the nineties and grew from an admirer to a supporter over those years.
Wenger’s brand of football, intelligent, controlled, forward-thinking, called out the aspects of football I appreciated most.
I played the game all of my growing years into adulthood. The combinations, the decision-making at speed, the timing and economy of players like Patrick Vieira, the overlapping runs from the back, and the ability to finish enough of the chances created, delivered a checkmate to the labored English game time and again.
It was irresistible, much like Barcelona today, and many tipped their hat to a unique way of playing football. Of course, these performances masked and deflected attention away from inherent weaknesses of such fine tuning, but arguing with success never was and is an acceptable way of life.
To be the architect of such a display and record must be a heady experience; and Wenger became a master of really a new way; and a master will defend his or her craft.
Even into today, with those aforementioned weaknesses coming more and more to the fore, Wenger enjoys a great deal of trust and hope that he can retain that magic he introduced, but fix the structural problems that are getting in the way.
Just to call out one of these weaknesses — the inability to score.
Football, like all great sports, is a tough taskmaster and requires that you score or land a killer blow.
Wenger and Arsenal’s path to goal was never an easy one, and of course presented a weakness to exploit. There are weaknesses to be discussed all over the pitch for Arsenal, but that is not the reason for this note.
As a supporter and increasingly dedicated sympathizer of what the manager and the team are trying to do, you start to wonder exactly what Wenger sees and try to establish what exactly he plans to do to address the problems. That is the foundation on which you look forward.
Wenger’s statement on Saturday released on the team’s web site revealed the way forward to me if he means it (and he usually does), and it is not good.
“I have said many times that we have been very close, despite the disappointment we had at the end of the season, we were very close again to winning things. I hope that provokes a response from my players to think we were so close. We want to come back and achieve it. My responsibility is first of all, not to lose players and then to add and make us stronger. Let’s hope we can bring in one or two more additions of top quality.”
There are ways forward in any challenge. One is to change the tools applied or the application of those tools. Another is to apply more strength and pressure using the same tools and applications. If these words are true, whether the reasons are financial or the inability to attract players, Wenger has revealed that he still bets on the latter way.
A manager in any field looks at what it takes to get sustained peak performance out of workers. Getting that peak performance out of his players is not the problem at Arsenal; unfortunately, Wenger suggests that he thinks it is.
Furthermore, what he does not say is what many still look from him and these are new ideas.
Arsenal raised the bid, but other managers have managed to meet the ante. Football leagues tend to do that worldwide spurring even more competition and new ideas to the benefit and fascination of many supporters.
Maybe Arsenal will start a period of renewal this season, and his comment and this note are moot.
But that comment, to this supporter, confirms the onset of a down cycle and a sense, for this supporter, that there is no more for Wenger to contribute in this situation.
Further, one looks at Barcelona and wonders whether the inevitability of this cycle will prevail. Their disregard for financial order and their strong activity in the transfer markets each year suggest they see the weaknesses and are developing effective measures.
I look forward to see if history repeats itself.
At Arsenal, I am not predicting a downfall like this unfortunate Argentinean older gent River Plate fan experienced watching his beloved club fall to the B division:
But those that don’t learn from history…..
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