I’ll start where I left off in the previous issue, one that went on sale at the home match against Newcastle. I wrote, “It will be a big ask to catch Chelsea, but if the team are switched on and cut out the kind of errors they should not be making at this level, there will be no complaints here if they fall short. You can forgive a lot if you are getting commitment and attitude.” Since I penned those words, we’ve since seen both sides of the coin where Wenger’s Arsenal are concerned. Away wins at Wolves, Everton and Villa, coupled with defeats in Donetsk and Braga, but more worryingly at home to Newcastle and Spurs. What has been most striking is the inconsistency of the performances, sometimes in the same 90 minutes. It’s particularly frustrating that this group of players have shown that they are good enough to win any individual match if they are switched on and focussed. However, alarming lapses in concentration, or just plain stupidity (such as Fabregas’ handball to give Spurs a penalty), have cost the team points. I am not sure if the other main contenders dropping cheap points of their own makes the situation better or worse. Incredibly, in spite of four defeats with the season not even halfway over, Arsenal are only two points off the lead. The table looks very encouraging, it’s just the evidence on the field that has many wondering if the club are better served remaining with the current manager. Ivan Gazidis, within a few months of taking up his position as CEO, promised an examination of the staff in all departments of the club from top to bottom, and in many areas there has been a shake up. But I was left pondering recently that there cannot be any other major companies where the three key employees in the management of the business’s core area remain unchanged. Wenger, Pat Rice and Boro Primorac have been in situ since 1996. And there are suspicions that things have gone a bit stale as a result, hence the lack of trophies. It certainly seems unlikely that Gazidis would have examined this area and genuinely believed that changes were not in the best interest of the club. However, Arsène Wenger is very much king of his own castle, a de facto director who attends every board meeting. He will not contemplate challenges to his way, and chooses to be surrounded by sympathetic voices. And he is pretty much unsackable. The result, I feel, in spite of the manager’s words about giving every drop of his blood to make the club successful, can be seen in what I have referred to as the culture of complacency at Arsenal. It is a culture that is being addressed by Gazidis in all the areas he can influence, but the manager’s domain – the most important – is one he cannot. Remember that Wenger was the one who rejected Paul Donavon for the CEO job, so an employee is picking his own boss. I actually believe that the group of players Wenger has assembled are good enough to win
trophies. He is a pretty decent spotter of talent, although it should be remembered that for every Marouane Chamakh there is an Amaury Bischoff, a player who was given a first team squad number and made a total of four substitute appearances, all of them meaningless with the games concerned safely in the bag. Strange one that, and not without precedent (Mendez, Malz, etc). But to return to the point, the reason that these players do not produce the consistent results their talents indicate they are capable of is due to the lack of appropriate coaching, and to Wenger’s inability to coach on his feet. The man doesn’t do tactics, which generally help win football matches. What he really needs to do is acknowledge the areas where he has fallen short and get help, but he is too proud, too set in his ways. So it is left to the players to work it out for themselves. Okay if you have experience. It was George Graham’s centre backs that sorted out the Vieira–Petit midfield to get them to provide better cover and go on to win the Double in 1998. The side that won five trophies in four seasons between 2002 and 2005 was stuffed with experience of having won trophies both at Arsenal and elsewhere. However, let’s face facts here. The current club captain is a 23 year old who is no Tony Adams, no Frank McLintock. Yes, he is a world class player, but this group needs more than a young man leading by example. Someone actually needs to grab a few of these players by the throat and get a message through, but it has been admitted that no one shouts in the dressing room. We overheard William Gallas give a prematch team talk in a huddle, thanks to the Sky Sports cameras, I think in 2008 at Chelsea. The message was ‘Play, play, play’ – one assumes the dictate from the training ground. Okay, fair enough, but what about when the other team has the ball? The fear is the slow, lingering malaise that seems set to continue as long as the manager is indulged. I simply do not see the situation changing. The Board seem content as long as the stadium is full and the Champions League income rolls in every year. Historically conservative, there is no indication they are prepared to gamble, even by at least challenging their key employee to examine his own coaching structure. As fans, we support the team, but with the amounts being asked to watch them, the next few years will prove an interesting test of what people are willing to pay for. If it’s unpredictability, with doses of excitement and entertaining football, then you won’t be disappointed. Spurs fans have been stumping up for that for ages. If it’s a team with a credible chance of winning pots you wish to part with your money to see, then I suspect you won’t be coming quite as often. I think that all I am saying is that whatever you think of the current Arsenal, get used to it, as I can see nothing changing for a good while yet. When Arsène Wenger leaves the club he has remade, it will be in a wooden box. If he lives as long as another reigning monarch currently on active duty in the London SW1 area, the next change of manager will not be until 2033 at the earliest. However, I have some encouraging news for you all. Pat Rice will have retired by then.
- Kevin Whitcher
BCM Box 7 499, London WC1N 3 XX
Ansaphone/Fax: 0 1233 665682 Admin/Subscriptions E-Mail : t email@example.com Edi t or i a l E-Ma i l : firstname.lastname@example.org
Website: www.onlinegooner.com Fo l l ow us on Tw i t t er @GoonerFanzine
CONTRIBUTORS Kevin Whitcher, Mike Francis, Phil Wall, Steve Ashford, Mike Slaughter, Warren Swaine, Brian Dawes, Charlie Ashmore, Marc Ollington, Simon Rose, Joe Mardon, Robert Exley, Peter Le Beau, Rich Stevenson, David O’Brien, Howard Lamb, Mark Halfpenny, Tim Stillman, Andreas Kokkinos, Simon Blackburn, Adam Bernstein, Ian Tredgett, Matt Braddock, James Dodd, Jamie Cole, Tony Huegdon, Deb Bunt, Kevin O’Connor, Paul Regan, Phil Venton & Tony Porter ARTWORK Darren Rackham, Tim Symonds, Ron Hill, Mike Murphy, The X-Man & Tony Eagle PHOTOS Offside Sports Photography & Professional Sport MATCHDAY SELLERS Dave, Mrs B, Andrew, Rich, Frank, Alex, Griffo, PJ, Marc, David, Paul, Pete & James PRINTERS Regal Litho 01908 270 400,
SUBSCRIPTIONS Mail order subscriptions are available in blocks of ten issues. UK & BFPO - £20; Eire & Europe - £27; Rest of the World - £34. Please make cheques payable to “The Gooner”. A list of available back issues can be viewed on our website, where it is also possible to subscribe online using a Paypal account. Visit the ‘Gooner Stall’ section at www.onlinegooner.com CONTRIBUTIONS Contributions are welcomed by e-mail to the editorial address above. All views expressed are those of the named contributor and not necessarily of the editor. The Gooner is completely independent of Arsenal FC. NEXT ISSUE: v Chelsea (h) (27 December)
© The Gooner 2010
Fulham match is Centrepoint day
The club have asked us to help promote the fact that the Fulham game when this issue goes on sale is their dedicated matchday in support of their Charity of the Season, Centrepoint. The players and directors are giving a day’s wages to the charity and there will be bucket shakers galore in the stadium area, so please give generously.