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More Wenger quotes

Without getting into everything there, let’s focus on one part: “people want me to buy strikers, but where do I put them? I don’t know.”

Who has ever asked him to buy strikers? No one has chanted it at games; Arseblog doesn’t want strikers; Gunnerblog doesn’t want strikers; Goodplaya doesn’t want strikers; I don’t believe Goonerholic wants strikers; Le Grove has talked about strikers, but only out of conviction that strikers were all that Wenger would consider; Myles Palmer mostly just wants very expensive additional players in every position. All the papers focus on is the goaltending, defense and midfield. If you go back through this blog’s archives, the two players Sean and I talked about most this offseason were Patrick Vieira and Blaise Matuidi. Who on earth are these people that Wenger is talking about, and where may they be found? Quotes like these are a lot of what worries me, not just because he’s refusing to spend money but because he’s basically making things up for the sake of argument, constructing a strawman that he can knock down easily. Most fans, rightly or wrongly, have been convinced that Manuel Almunia wasn’t up to the task and wanted him replaced; most fans have been terrified of a defense thin enough to make games for Mikael Silvestre a real possibility; and most fans have had serious questions to ask about a midfield full of very young and somewhat injury-prone players who’ve been frequently not good enough so far in their careers. These are the actual concerns.

Now, there are answers to them as well. If Wenger came out and said: I bought Vermaelen and kept Senderos to shore up the defense, I tried to buy Robert Green and I’m aware of the issues in net, and I told you to trust me and I was right about Alex Song- he’d have a point. It’s not a complete answer, but it’s reasonable and it actually addresses the real concerns (and before you say anything- everyone strongly suspects Almunia is dropped, there’s no point in hiding it). Instead, we get this weird claim that “people” want him to buy strikers. My best guess is that someone gave him a third hand description of some message board muttering about how the team could use some insurance after losing their top striker in the offseason, or else he’s getting some needlesome questions from the press which don’t actually end up forming the basis for columns. Either way he’s not communicating with any actual fans, which is becoming a bigger and bigger issue at the club. It helps alienate fans who tend to turn that anger back on the players who represent Arsene in incidents like the booing of Eboue last year, and it results in wild overreactions from the club to mundane questioning of the type most coaches hear weekly on the rare occasions when Arsene does face the fans. The joke used to run that Arsenal was a French club in the middle of North London; increasingly they’re becoming an Arsene club in the middle of Arsenal fans.

EDIT:

One last thing to note. Arseblog said this today:

“As I said at the start of the season whether he’s right or wrong will be proven by May 2010….The manager could be absolutely correct about this group of players but if another season passes by without a trophy, or at least a real and sustained title challenge, then people will, quite rightly, point to the money we had to add players and say he got it wrong.”

And:

“…if this squad comes through this season with silverware then I’ll be the first to hold my hands up and say ‘Fair play’. If not though, this money, how often we talk about it and the manager’s reluctance to spend it will be a millstone around his neck.”

I don’t disagree with any of this, but I put this caveat to you: if May 2010 comes and Arsenal finish 3rd and lose in two semifinals, what will that mean? The manager will not change, he will not be replaced, ownership will not attempt to change him, the players will not be changed wholesale, and fan attempts to exert influence will continue to be dismissed as disrespectful. What, exactly, is going to be determined by that date? This is part of the issue at the club at the moment: people love to talk of the salutary effects of competition for places within the squad, but somehow that logic is never extended upwards to the man who selects it- and since the reality is that Arsene Wenger will remain at Arsenal until he decides to leave of his own volition and not before, and no one above him is going to dictate policy to him, there’s simply no meaningful deadlines which can be set such that some benchmark must be achieved by them. That’s the reality of the situation, and we may as well face it.

Arsenal have a certain chance each year to win each competition- it’s not as high as it might be with an improved squad, but it does exist; and Arsene will get as many attempts for that (15%? 20%?) chance to pay off as he needs. If it does so, he’ll crow and tell everyone they were wrong and he was right; if not, he’ll claim that the need is for more faith and belief in the squad. This happened through the entirety of last season when the manager repeatedly said to judge him in May, was judged, hated it, and made few changes as a result. It is in essence happening again this year already, and the problem with it is always the same: one year means nothing, consistency means everything. It meant nothing when Arsenal went one year without winning anything; it meant nothing when they went two; it meant a little when they went three; it meant a lot when they went four; it will mean more still if they go five. It means even more still when the reasons for those results are the same each year- questionable players mixed in with excellent ones and very little depth behind them to absorb the endless injuries. If Arsenal win something one year, it will mean a little; if they then win nothing for the next three because of the same underlying factors, what good was that one fluke year?

One thing that can be said in favor of Arsene Wenger is that he has the wisdom to focus on the long term, and I respect the man immensely for that. I absolutely do believe that he should be judged on that basis. That’s why I’m so worried about all of this.

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September 29, 2009 - Posted by | The Arsenal

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