Playing Football – The Arsène Way

There is a song which Arsenal supporters sing which goes

49 49 undefeated

49 49 I say

49 49 undefeated

playing football the Arsenal way

In 2004 we played a style of football that was revolutionary in the English league. This style of game was invented by Arsène Wenger and used in its embryonic state when he led Arsenal to the double in 1997/98 and in the successes of the following years. By August 2003 he had assembled a squad of players that suited his style of play absolutely perfectly and moulded them into the team known as “The Invincibles” and the rest is, as they say, history.

Of course all good things must come to an end and gradually, as the squad of 2004 were broken up for various reasons, their replacements were, naturally, not in the same class. In addition, the move to the new stadium caused financial restraints which resulted in Wenger not being in a position to buy the top class players he would have liked and having to sell several star players. Added to this was the rise of Chelski and Man Sheikti and the continued spending power of Man United and Wenger was forced to accept the fourth place was “winning a trophy” and it is very much to his credit that somehow he has guided the club to said “trophy” every season since the stadium move.

In August 2013 the financial restraints were lifted from the club and Wenger was free to buy star players such as Özil and Sanchez. With the squad he already had, it seemed that there was no reason why a challenge for the championship should not be far away. Unfortunately this has not been the case and there is no chance of this happening at the moment. Certainly Wenger has been very unlucky with injuries and obviously is not able to buy the sheer number of players that Chelsea and Man City can buy to help with the injury situation. However I believe there is another underlying reason as to why the current squad of players are not providing any evidence that a challenge for the championship is imminent.

It is of course true that for some reason best known to himself Wenger did not feel it was prudent to buy any cover for central defence nor a natural holding player in midfield but, in my opinion, the real problem is that the team is still playing football the “Arsène way”. We all know that everything becomes out-dated after a while and sadly the Arsène way will not succeed in 2014. Clearly he believes that possession is the most important part of the game and that eventually chances will be created and taken by passing opponents into submission. The reality is that our opponents know this and are quite happy to allow us to have possession up to the final third of the pitch when they simply dispossess us with ease. This has been happening gradually over the last 5 or 6 years but Wenger has refused to react to it and clearly still believes his way is the only way, which is his prerogative as the manager. From a personal point of view this has culminated in a team that do not provide the entertainment that I crave, especially in home matches. It seems that shooting at goal is not encouraged and in most matches shots on target are in single figures and shots in general the same. The worst thing about the possession game is that it mainly involves passing the ball sideways and backwards and then running into defenders at the edge of the penalty area and losing the ball. The biggest frustration for me is that I believe we have a very good squad of players and with the addition of the defensive requirements could well be good enough to give Chelsea and Man City a run for their money.

Sadly Wenger will never change his philosophy and I feel we are seeing the end of an era in the same way as we saw the end of the George Graham “boring boring Arsenal” era in 1995.

I certainly wouldn’t want Wenger to be sacked and no doubt we will continue to finish fourth for the next 3 seasons and then, hopefully, Wenger will not renew his contract and the club can move on with the times.

I must say I haven’t been as bored by an Arsenal team in years and it’s a shame that there are likely to be a few more seasons of this. Naturally I hope I am proved wrong but whilst Wenger is trapped in his time warp I will have to look forward to season 2017/18.

I know there are those who will say I should stop going if I feel this way but if it was that easy I would have stopped going in the early sixties when we were truly awful and 4th place would have been a major achievement. The thing is once a gooner always a gooner through the good and bad times so as always I will look forward with optimism as best I can.