I find myself writing this letter not out of anger but out of frustration. As a fan (not customer, fan) of the Arsenal I find it hard to get angry with the team’s performances these days because to be frank, nothing surprises me anymore. I have seen it all before. Arsenal are, to some extent, masters of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
So why am I writing this? As I have touched upon above, it is a letter borne out of frustration. Frustration that the club, run by you Mr Wenger is in a never ending cycle of mediocrity when things can be so much better given the resources at our disposal. If you love Arsenal as much as you say you do, please do the best for the club and accept you have taken it as far as you can, resign and allow another manager to take the club forward. You can enjoy your legacy of revolutionising English Football and enjoy the fact you had a hugely successful first 10 years at Arsenal.
No doubt you will read this and think “what does he know? he hasn’t worked 2 minutes in football or won the FA cup” and you are quite right, I haven’t. That doesn’t make my opinion any less valid, nor does it prevent me from having one. I am a pragmatist, to me, to flourish is to adapt, to be questioned, to be challenged and in top level sport, to win.
Since you have managed the club your style and philosophy hasn’t changed, hasn’t evolved but English Football has. Failure to adapt is costing us dear. Failure to address obvious weaknesses within the squad, the failure to bring in adequate or superior replacements for those players departing. Failure to address the lack of discipline in the team, not from a fouling perspective but from a tactical one, 3-2 up at home and we have 5 players in an advanced position against a team who by your own admission are excellent on the counter attack.
It isn’t just this week’s capitulation against Anderlecht that prompts this letter it is a culmination of events throughout your tenure. The team do not learn lessons; the defence still make elementary mistakes. Blaming the players is the easy option but was the back four the same as last night when we conceded 4 against Newcastle at St James Park, 8 against Manchester United, 6 against Manchester City, 4 against Tottenham at home in 2008. No they weren’t, was the manager the same. Yes. That isn’t bad luck; it’s a trend, one you haven’t addressed over the years.
There is no doubt you are stubborn, can that work to one’s advantage? Absolutely but it can also be detrimental if left unchecked, unfortunately it seems the latter is true. So you won’t resign, what is next? How do we change things? How can we ensure mistakes are not repeated? May I suggest the following?
* If Steve Bould isn’t coaching the defence, let him, if he is then perhaps it’s time to delegate that away from him or bring in some ex-players who know a thing or two about defending, Messer’s Keown & Adams would be a good starting point.
* Address the team’s obvious defensive weaknesses, accept the Wenger way may not be what’s best for Arsenal FC, not Arsene FC and purchase accordingly. There is a good reason the saying “you get what you pay for” exists and in most cases, rings true. There are some excellent defenders in the Premiership who would love to represent such a prestigious club like the Arsenal. Winston Reid was a good example.
* Bring in a tactician who can be a pragmatist as an assistant manager, someone who can offer a different opinion, challenge you and can set up a team according to the opponent. That’s not to say attacking football to which we are known for is compromised, it’s a pragmatic approach to ensure a good solid defensive foundation is built enabling the attacking players to express themselves.
* Bring in an external party to evaluate the training methods & playing surfaces in order to better understand why so many of the players suffer muscular injuries. Shad Forsythe is an excellent addition; let’s focus on prevention rather than cure / rehabilitation.
* Play players in their natural position, this sounds simple and it is, a number 10 (Ozil) is played as a number 10, not as a winger players who aren’t performing are taken out of the limelight to regain form (Ramsey) and players who are in form are played regularly not because they are a favourite of the manager. (Sanogo over Joel Campbell / Lukas Podolski) Now that may not be the case, but looking from the outside in, that’s the impression we get.
* Make substitutions based on the needs of the game. If a player isn’t performing, be a manager, break your loyalty to that player and take him off at half time rather than the 70th minute. Be pragmatic, again, using Anderlecht as an example, if we are 3-2 up, don’t bring on attacking players, get on the touch line, organise 2 banks of 4 and if you absolutely have to have an attacking player on, use Walcott to hit them on the break and / or run into the channels to hold the ball up and keep possession.
* Have a plan and listen to counsel – Identify the teams weaknesses, identify replacements and start doing the ground work as much as you can (within the rules of course) before the transfer window opens. Pay the asking price, using the Arsenal brand to sell to the player, get the deal done, the player settled well in time for pre-season as Manchester City & Chelsea have done in the past to their benefit. As a manager it is your job to identify the players you and your coaching staff think we need, not to negotiate fee’s or argue on what you think a player is worth. That is for the Chief Executive and Finance Director to worry about.
I have decided not to mention the issues at board level, I wanted this letter to focus on what can be changed on the field and training pitches. This is not a personal attack; it is to raise concerns, to point out flaws, offer constructive solutions. It may not always seem obvious but the fans criticise because they care. We like you Arsene, love Arsenal FC. Let’s either see a change of manager or a change in approach. Being challenged and admitting mistakes isn’t a weakness it’s a sign you are prepared to change, prepared to evolve and hopefully be as successful as you were in the first 10 years as manager of this great club.