By Dan Ferguson
24 hours can be a long time in sport.
Certainly long enough for those of us suitably vexed by the Munich result to abate, and the Wengernistas to recalibrate and come again warning us to be careful what we wish for.
As many people have said, sport is about cycles and so is PR management, or spin.
Today Wenger was bullish in his press conference pre-Sutton. He reminded us of his passion and desire, his experience and ability to reflect, and his confidence that he will go on managing next season, be it at Arsenal or elsewhere.
This is his rallying cry for his supporters and sympathisers to remind everyone of Wenger’s (not Arsenal’s) bouncebackability.
He is defying the fans and the media to not only forgive and forget, but to reflect and plead with him to continue. It is typical of the PR man, though he is now more Sean Spicer than slick Wenger. He still finds it hard to hide his contempt for all those who doubt him and besmirch his record.
This leaves everyone in a strange game of blink first.
Wenger is now trying to separate himself as a brand and asset from Arsenal, yet claim that he is all the good the Arsenal has achieved. “It’s not as if they won 5 European Cups before I came here… Arsenal will lose games after I leave as well…”
Funnily enough, he’s right.
Except he bought, trained and picked these players. And they don’t have to play to have a negative effect on the team/squad/club.
Case in point would be Sanogo. This boy loves football and wants to play, but in Premier League terms, he’s rubbish and blocking the path for others to come in or come through.
Not only that, his lack of challenge and ability will surely diminish the desire to improve in Giroud, Welbeck, Akpom, and Sanchez. They must really wonder how management and a squad system works with Sanogo around.
So while Wenger demands respect for his failure to improve the side, I would like to highlight the glass ceiling in the club.
No team has ever won a major title with a weak midfield. There is always a balance of grafters and craft.
On paper it looks like we have many of those players, but the reality is somewhat different. Why? Because the midfield cannot raise their game.
Walcott, Oxlade, Iwobi (this might seem unfair but run with it), Ozil, Ramsey, Coquelin, Elneny, Xhaka, Cazorla, and Wilshere have all peaked.
They are as good as they are going to be.
Now they can progress in an improved system, but that system needs to change considerably to take them to another level.
It requires a different type of forward play, and a different type of defence-minded protection. It demands some new faces who will carve out victories or draws against better opposition because the beautiful game comes second, and graft is always king. It requires people to punch their weight and above, and not accept poor performances, (or for their transgressions, be punished with reselection in the next game).
The problem is this can only change with a change of management, and then a change of success ratios in games over a season. I’ve said before that Wenger will win more often than not.
He will take us to where ‘more often than not’ gets you.
But that is equally dependent on league results elsewhere, transitional teams exploring and shaping new identities, and deceiving a viewing public that stability is an asset in such a volatile industry.
I would like one of the more daring press people to ask Wenger directly to define the difference between stability and stagnation.
I am no longer sad for him. He did this to himself and it is sad, but sad for all involved. Not just for Wenger. We all put effort into our club of choice. The emotional investment is huge, irrational, embarrassing, euphoric, perpetually demanding and destructive to other social and emotional demands.
I don’t think it is unfair to state that since the Second World War ended, Arsenal in the ‘modern game’ has been pretty stable in the main.
However, the periods of stagnancy within this period far outweigh the flirtations with relegation or the successes. Wenger has been at the helm for the majority of those successes/near misses/successful stagnancy, but he has also been manager for 25% of the club’s existence since the War. Isn’t it time to change the structure, conversation, identity and dogma?
The ECL is the holy grail for Arsene and he is not going to win it with Arsenal.
The competition is all about what you bring to it, and Arsenal is a predictable laughing stock. We are the A-list comedian wing-man who has to suffer for the film’s real star to succeed. Except Wenger would have the world believe that we are Tom Cruise in Top Gun, when everyone can see that we are Ben Stiller in Something About Mary, with our testicles caught in our zipper.
The board of the club needs changing. The ownership structure will hopefully change as soon as the new manager and his team do a David Moyes. But then we will see the green shoots of genuine change.
It will have to get worse to get better, but so what?
I put this to every Wenger fan out there: What realistically happens in the next 3-5 years if we stick with him?
Give me a good answer and I’ll go away.