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Has Arsene lost his magic hat? A new deal for Robin and a gaggle of Captains.

In the run up to arguably one of the greatest seasons (if not the greatest), Arsene Wenger predicted his 2003-2004 squad would go undefeated. It was a bold, rash and rather laughed at statement. But at the time if any manager (besides Fergie) could deliver on it, it was Arsene Wenger. Flash forward to 2011. Now, we are greeted with statements this week that Arsenal will still contend for silverware. Now that statement made by Wenger seems even more laughable considering the current run of form the club find themselves in.

In the run up to arguably one of the greatest seasons (if not the greatest), Arsene Wenger predicted his 2003-2004 squad would go undefeated. It was a bold, rash and rather laughed at statement. But at the time if any manager (besides Fergie) could deliver on it, it was Arsene Wenger. Flash forward to 2011. Now, we are greeted with statements this week that Arsenal will still contend for silverware. Now that statement made by Wenger seems even more laughable considering the current run of form the club find themselves in.

For those of you living in a box or in a cave, Arsenal have basically taken 1/3 of last season and almost a 1/3 of this season to provide their fans with form more suited to a club trying to stave of relegation rather than a historic club looking to battle for honours.

Is Wenger right? Can the club in its current incarnation compete for honours? Or is Wenger doing what every manager does, making boastful predictions to talk about his club while realizing that there is little chance of honours? If  he does realize the futility of it all, is it safe to say at this point that Arsene Wenger has lost his mojo?

Now, I am not talking about losing the dressing room. What I am talking about here is, has Arsene’s way of running a club, been overrun by big money clubs and players who no longer have loyalties to clubs but to their agent’s ability to find them their next big pay day? Arsene’s view seems to me to be one where he thinks he can still play on club loyalty or loyalty to himself in order to keep players. Wenger was reported to have an ability one on one with players to convince them to stay when they wanted to go. But it looks like that is failing now.

Samir Nasri is only the most recent example. In the last six years more players like Flamini, Hleb and others have left. They were left unconvinced by Wenger. So has the game and the way it is run passed Wenger by? It looks like it.

His financial prudence model, is laudable. Running a club without much debt and keeping player contracts constrained to manageable levels should be applauded from the mountain tops. But it isn’t. As a matter of fact, I think it’s probably laughed at in the back room of many other clubs who simply come in, offer better wages to lure talent away. It simply is not the way the game is currently run.

No, I am not advocating for running the club up to the hilt with debt. Given our current form that would be disastrous. Liverpool are the prime example of what happens when bad money management and no Champion’s League revenue combine – near relegation (the Merseyside club recently released information showing that under Hicks & Gillett they were perilously close to financial insolvency) and administration.

In addition to his view of the game, his ability to track, develop and even know when to get rid of players seems to be failing him. No one can ever tell me there was a rationale for signing Mikhail Silvestre from Manchester United. Or that Sebastian Squillaci was wanted by anyone other than a desperate club. Additionally, young players everyone thought were promising stars have failed miserable. When Denilson pipped up on the radar he was thought to be the next Brazilian wonder (or something of the sorts). What he wound up being was an abject failure and ill-suited for this team. How did someone who could find nuggets like Vieira and Henry miss so miserably on the likes of Denilson, Diaby and other dead weight players? Maybe simply, his ability to evaluate talent is leaving him.

There is nothing wrong in the game passing managers/coaches by. It happens. Just ask Chuck Noll the legendary coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tom Landry of the Dallas Cowboys. Both long time, winning coaches who at the end seemed out of sorts in the way the NFL was developing around them. They were revered and loved much like Wenger. But in the end the game had passed them by. While Landry’s departure was handled wrong, it was clearly time for him to go.

Wenger is and was a good manager. But the way he likes to run things seems to be off kilter with how things are developing in modern football. Those expecting that things like Financial Fair Play will come to the aid of our beloved manager are misguided. They won’t as UEFA will be toothless in their management of it.  Secondly, at his age   Wenger has shown an inability to change. Nothing wrong with that. I don’t like change much either and find it hard.

He is married to his system, doesn’t like outside opinions and certainly doesn’t like to be questioned. Again not many do.

Arsenal since the end of last season seem stale to me. Devoid of any direction or desire. Certainly part of that is left to the players but a large part of it has to come from the man steering the ship. Maybe just maybe the course of the river has been lost and Wenger can’t get it back. The only question that remains is how long do we let the boat go up the wrong waterway before we change course?

Bumper Deal For Van Persie?

We have all been down this road before. 2 years left on a contract. No real concern emmenating from the club. Statements like “We’ll get it sorted” or “We have faith” are all spoken and in the end. Getting sorted winds up meaning the departure of a key Arsenal player. But it seems maybe, just maybe the management team at Arsenal are actually getting a clue that leaving it until the summer before the contract runs out is really not the best way to conduct business.

Word came out earlier this week that in addition to Manchester City, their Russian equivalent Anzhi Makhachkala were tracking Robin Van Persie. This was confirmed by their player coach. Arsenal seemingly not wanting to wait around to get things done look set to offer Van Persie an improved deal over his reported £80k a week deal.  First they look set to give him a 4 year offer. This is unprecedented for Arsenal because of his age and the deal looks to pay him more than what Cesc made prior to his departure.

For his part Van Persie has refused to be drawn into any speculation around his future.  He just wants to play. Of course next summer with this being Arsenal and all that we will once again be involved in the will he/won’t he saga.

For my part (and I’ve not been very good at this of late) I am prediciting he stays. Some how I think RvP feels he owes it to the club given his long laundry list of injuries.

Can You Have Too Many Captains?

We have all cried at the lack of experience in this side in the past. We all agreed that this team just didn’t have players on it that when thing got rough could rally other players. So what’s Arsenal go and do? Sign a plethora of international and club captains. But is this what experience means to you?

For Wenger he is of the belief that the signing of these players will help Arsenal in trying times (really?)

“Sometimes we are reproached for not having enough captains in our squad, now we have plenty,” Wenger was quoted in the recent club magazine

“Overall we have more experience and this could be important if we are in a strong position should we have interesting challenges in March or April. That could have a big part to play.

“We got criticised a lot last season for not getting over the line, but I believe that we were so close, so, so close that it was unbelievable to accept. But we have added more experience. Also last year we lost important players in March and April because we went for all the trophies, so hopefully we have the squad to do it and this time it will happen.

Okay, everyone knows I am not an ardent AKB not am I doom a gloomer. I try to see things fairly, but can someone please tell me when we were crying about the lack of Captains in our squad. LEADERS – Arsene. We need leaders. Leaders don’t need to be club or international captains. They need to be vocal. They need to challenge players on the pitch when the cock up and in the dressing room when the team is failing. Van Persie is rising to the occasion on that end but really, we don’t have enough Captains?

As for experience. Yes, we got experience. But only two of those players have the kind of experience I was looking for was PREMIER LEAGUE EXPERIENCE. Experienced players, older more mature are nice. But what we really need is someone who was ready to play in this league. Especially given the lateness of our deals.

We now are faced with experienced players trying to learn the EPL on the fly.  Unfortunately their experience can’t help them with that. The Premier League while, it is slowly losing its status as the best in the world, is still the quickesy and roughest. You can’t learn that. You need to know that or build up to it working with the team in pre-season.

I applaud to some extent the effort to bring in the older more experienced players who have been through some things that many of our youngsters hadn’t. They likely may have the mental fortitude to get through rough patches. What they don’t have is the experience needed for the Premier League – yet.

Let Them Play

I just want to go on the record for advocating for giving shots to both Ju-Young Park and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Both in their respective international duties have done remarkably well. For Park it was 6 goals in 3 matches for South Korea and for AOX it was a hat-trick for the U21s last week. I would like to be able see if Park adds anything to our offencive capabilities some of his goals have been amazing. For AOX, I would ask for a more guarded approach but he is already showing that, yes he is more developed than Theo was at that age but he may very well be more developed than Theo is now.

And Finally . . .

Sorry for the interlull recess but it was a needed rest. We’re back at this week in full force. On Thursday night I (DAG) will be one of the featured guests on the Arsenal America podcast and then we’re back on with our regularly scheduled EPL madness when Arsenal face Sunderland at the Emirates (Sadly Nicky B is not allowed to play for the Blackcat).

Until then . . . Stay Goonerish!!!!


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