Date: 23rd October 2014 at 1:12pm
Written by:

This is a difficult piece to me to write.

Difficult in that I normally do Scout Reports on our upcoming opposition. These reports are easy to write as by their nature they are a somewhat dispassionate view on the opposition. They follow the same format; looking at their style of play, they players and manager and their overall strengths and weaknesses. Its formulaic, straight forward and rarely involves much in the way of emotion. Even my score predictions would nearly always follow what the bookies would say.

Difficult also in that it`s going to pretty much come across as I`m slating a man I have immense respect for. A man, who we can probably all agree, has done more for the club than quite possibly any individual in our history. So first of all let me get it out in the open that I think Wenger has been a remarkable manager for the club. And if the results in the second half of his reign haven`t lived up to anything like what we saw in the early years than that shouldn`t detract from what he has achieved. The trophies he`s won, the unbeaten season he delivered, the fabulous new stadium and the commitment to playing in a positive way should be admired by all and should also give some respect to the man himself. But, and here`s the difficult part, it`s possible to have respect for someone`s past achievements while at the same time be critical of their current level of performance. And by that even be worried about the future. And quite frankly I am worried about the future, very worried.

I know that in the long term the club will do very well. Take out the money that billionaire owners have pumped into Chelsea and Man City and I`d argue that out of all the teams remaining we are well positioned to be the dominant force in England and thru that should become a major force in Europe. We have a magnificent stadium which produces record level of cash every time it`s hosts a game (the need for a 3% rise in ticket prices is a discussion for another day), we have a great training setup, state of the art pitches at a venue that the national team use. The reorganization of our commercial setup has seen us make great progress over the past few years, we are not quite where we should be but the massive kit and stadium sponsorship deals recently announced show us that we are getting there. There are pots of cash to play around with an we now have the financial power to not only bid for players we could only have dreamed of in the past but to bid for them knowing that we have the desire and the ability to match the top level of wages that they expect. We have world class players in our team, Alexis, Ozil, Ramsey and Theo are all players that every top team in Europe would be interested in if they came up on the market tomorrow. In Gibbs, Welbeck, Jack and Schzy we have a group of very talented players are about to enter the peak period of their career. Our bench holds such players as Rosicky, Poldi, Cambell and even Santi. It`s a strong, if somewhat unbalanced, bench. Everything is there for the club to succeed but we are not succeeding and frankly we don`t look like we are even close to success. Success is always in the distance, we can see it, but it always seems to be just out of reach. Frustratingly we are always “just” 2-3 players short. But we`ve been 2-3 players short for years now, 10 years to be exact and it looks very much like we lack the desire to actually address these shortages. Something is wrong at our club, something very wrong.

A few years ago I accepted a job that had declined to an extent that it was fighting for its life and was in danger of closing. I took the job figuring I`d either end up closing the place down and getting a nice redundancy package for myself, or the company could turn itself around and it would be a great experience for me. It turns out it was the latter. I clicked with my boss pretty much immediately. We had the same style of management, focused on the same things and even laughed at the same jokes and over a four year period we turned that company around. It was probably the highlight of my career to date however once we passed the “survival mode” things got rocky. I found it increasingly hard to motivate myself and the team suffered. Suffered to the extent that my boss eventually called me aside and said it was time I looked for another job. It was hard to hear but she said that I`d become so focused on the simply surviving for so long that my brain had become hard wired. I tried to change my approach but it was incredibly hard, a lot harder than I would have thought. I`ve always prided myself somewhat on my flexibility in management but this was something that I couldn`t get over. The business needs had changed but I simply couldn`t.

Just as in business the world of football changes regularly, it evolves and only those managers who have that ability to evolve with it will be able to succeed in the long term. 10 years ago when we achieved that remarkable feat and went an entire season unbeaten it was with a slight variation on the classic 4-4-2 formation. Our objective every game was to hit the opponents fast and hit them hard, when we got a few early goals only then did we ease off. Overtime opponents developed counter-strategies to this approach and as the 4-3-3 system really came into vogue it limited the impact of having a flat four in midfield. Tiki-taka approach showed us all how it could be done and for years dominated in Europe but now pace an power seems to be the way forward (think the current Madrid team or even Liverpool of last season). In order to be a successful manager, over a long period of time, you simply have to adapt. Adapt your players, adapt your tactics and in some cases adapt your principles.

Not for a moment do I think that there is a manager out there who could have done better with the resources that have been available to him in the initial phase of this new Arsenal but the facts are that the new Arsenal arrived a few years ago and yet we, as fans, are yet to see any success (FA Cup last season being the notable exception). And what`s far more worryingly is that we have yet to see any real signs of progress. It`s like the club is still stuck in “we`ve no cash so 4th place is the target” type mentality. It`s become so engrained in the club that results will never change until something drastic happens.

I would love to be wrong but it is looking increasingly likely that Wenger leaving is the “drastic change” that the club needs. And, if we are truly honest with ourselves, we would admit that this has been the case for many years now. There are many things wrong with the club, many things that have been that way for awhile and show no signs of improving. Our injury record is still chronic. Our squad always has glaring holes in it. Our player rotation is poor. Our tactics are flat and predicable. Our record in the big games is simply laughable. And let`s not pretend that we are anything other than a team that just makes up the numbers in the Champions League. All these truths are there and while you could maybe explain one or even two as bad luck taken all together, year after year, it is impossible to suggest that they are anything other than bad management.

The conversation I had with my boss when she told me that I needed to think about moving on was an awful conversation, awful in that we were friends and that we`d been very successful as a team in the past. But that`s the point, it was the past. And at some time accomplishments in the past should be left there.

I think more people are coming to the conclusion that that that the time for Wenger going is here. The fan base mood is shifting to me it seems it is no longer a question as to whether he is the best man to lead us into the next stage of this great club. He is not. The question is now if there is anyone brave enough at the club to tell him?

Because let`s be honest, from that day we opened the doors at this amazing new stadium that promised us the ability to complete at the very top, this club has become nothing more than a busted flush.