Monday I went rogue and wrote a blog for another site (shhhh, don’t tell GC!). It was about every Arsenal fan’s current favourite subject, Arsene Wenger. The piece was about how almost every gamble by Arsene Wenger had failed. It can be found be read over on You Are My Arsenal.
The reason I published it for them rather than She Wore is I recalled writing a blog very similar for this site, and did not want to be repeating myself. After a bit of research, I discovered that my original blog, titled Wenger the failed gambler was actually published on 2nd December 2012 when this blog used to be hosted on the FansOnline network.
A couple of years ago, after 5 years without a trophy, I wrote a blog for this site calling for Wenger to end ‘The Experiment.’ That he had to take a step back and admit ‘The Experiment’ had failed. ‘The Experiment’ of course was trying to build a title winning team using as little funds as possible, relying on a group of 20-something growing together as a team, as a unit to become champions.
It was always going to be a tough experiment. One so close to working. You feel were it not for greedy players leaving (Adebayor, Nasri) and others getting frustrated at lack of success (Cesc, Van Persie) we might well have challenged for the title. Probably last year. Almost certainly this. But we move on, Wenger stopped the experiment and bought in established players. Mertersacker. Giroud. Cazorla. Arteta. However, with the experiment over, Wenger seemingly embarked on a new game this summer. This time, he embarked on ‘The Gamble.’
Over the years, Arsene Wenger has always gambled in the transfer market. And more often than not, especially in the early years;
Gamble – Signing a young Frenchman from PSG for 500k to replace legend Ian Wright
Gamble – Signing & building the team round Patrick Vieira, plucked from AC Milan’s reserves
Gamble – Signing a blonde haired porn star average CB & playing him CM
Gamble – Signing an injury ravaged Marc Overmars when many had written him off
Gamble – Signing a Frenchman struggling on the wing for Juventus to turn into the World’s best striker
Gamble – Signing the ageless Kanu, who had just had heart surgery
There are many, many more examples of gamble’s Wenger took during his early years. Young players signed. Written off players signed. Talented but struggling players signed. Almost every transfer in his early days was a massive gamble. Almost every gamble in his early days paid off.
However, this summer, his gambling failed. Whereas previously, all his gambles were about signing players, this summer, his gambles were about not signing them. Gambles which many said, even at the time, he was wrong to take. These gambles have left us where we are today. A squad short on both quality and quantity
The Goalkeeper Gamble
The last 5 weeks of last season, Wojciech Szczesny did not train and played through pain killers. With Euro 2012 in the summer, it mean the young goalkeeper would not get the time or assistance to get fit for the beginning of the season. His breakdown during the Sunderland game, failed comeback v Southampton has led our number one to play just 6 from a possible 22 games this season.
An injury to Szczesny would’ve been not so bad had Lukasz Fabianski not played just 1 pre-season game, and, like Szczesny, was still suffering from an injury suffered the season before.
This left us with a realistic possibility of starting the season without our number 1 & number 2 keepers. This would leave us short. Without even opening the discussion on whether these guys are good enough. Wenger gambled. Why did he not sign Julio Cesar from Inter Milan, who ended up going to QPR in a deal which reminded me of when Van Der Saar went to Fulham. The old Wenger would’ve taken a gamble on a talented, yet out of favour player.
Or more short term options; Alan McGregor from Glasgow Rangers who was also available on a free after The Gers tax affairs. Or Jussi Jääskeläinen from Bolton. Paddy Kenny from QPR. All decent, whilst not World Class, keepers who could’ve done a job till Szczesny got back, who would not of cost much and I am sure would’ve jumped at a chance to join us.
What we ended up with was Vito Mannone. Who whilst did his best, is never going to be good enough, and our defence looked shaky in front of him.
Wenger gambled on the goalkeeping position, and that gamble did not pay off.
The Left Back Gamble
Kieran Gibbs is a talented player. He has it all to become a superstar. Strong, quick, tall, can defend & can attack. But he has glass ankles. He can not be relied upon to play 38 league games. And as the only left back in the squad (I refuse to acknowledge Andre Santos as a footballer, let along a fullback) it was always going to be a gamble by not buying someone to either play ahead of him (Baines) or back him up (Anyone).
Manchester United, sitting with only 1 LB having let Fabio go out on loan, went and signed Alex Butner. A decent option to back up Evra. Wenger gambled. He decided that in Thomas Vermaelen we had sufficient cover. A gamble, which once more, collapsed. As suspected, Gibbs got his usual injury. As suspected, Vermaelen moved out to LB and, already being in shocking form, deteriorated even more.
Wenger gambled on the fitness of Gibbs and the cover of Vermaelen. Both gambles did not pay off
The Midfield Gamble
Sell Alex Song. Not a massive gamble. Put faith in Diaby’s fitness. Not only a massive gamble. A stupid one. It would be like putting £1 million on Spurs to win the league. Your sanity should be questioned.
I mentioned earlier that 90s Wenger would have taken a risk on Julio Cesar, a talented yet troubled player. (90’s Wenger would have certainly taken a risk on Yann M’Vila. A talented, yet troubled youngster. Wenger would of backed himself to assist him fulfilling his potential. Maybe it is the stab in the back by Nasri & Van Persie. 2 troubled youngsters who Wenger supported, that made Wenger not have the heart to open up to another one. Stabbed too often in the back by those of ‘The Experiment’ has clearly left a scar, one potentially affecting his judgement when it comes to similar attitude players.
The signing of Yann M’Vila was a gamble Wenger should of taken. Instead, Wenger gambled on Diaby’s fitness. Who whilst his performance v Liverpool showed what he could do if fit, the problem is he was never going to be fit. I am never going to be 100m Olympic Champion. Diaby is never going to be fully fit. That is the realism for it. We all knew it. Wenger should’ve known it. But he gambled. And the gamble failed.
Due to a lack of midfield giant, the midfield is now imbalanced (more on this next time) and, like when Michu picked up the ball for Swansea’s first goal yesterday, it leaves the defence horribly exposed. In Makelele & Gilberto, the importance of having a man between the defence and midfield was highlighted. The likes of Chelsea (Mikel & Ramires), Manchester City (De Jong/Garcia & Barry) and even Spain (Alonso & Busquets) started to play with 2. We went into this season without a proper one. With 2 men ‘capable’ of doing the job (Diaby & Arteta) but the most important one (Diaby) having the injury problems. It has left us exposed.
He chose not to go for Marouane Fellaini. He pulled out of the done deal that was Nuri Sahin. He decided that M’Vila’s personal problems weren’t worth working through.
Wenger gambled on Diaby’s fitness. The gamble has not paid off.
The Striker Gamble
Olivier Giroud was bought to replace Marouane Chamakh. To be a plan B. A physical presence with technique. He was bought to be back up for Robin Van Persie. What he was not bought for was to be Van Persie’s replacement. When Robin left, Wenger took yet another gamble. He gambled that Giroud would be good enough to fill the Dutchman’s boots.
Giroud – 14 games, 4 goals
Van Persie – 15 games, 10 goals
Whilst Giroud has done a job. He clearly is not a replacement for Robin Van Persie. His performances have been befitting of a 2nd choice striker. Wenger’s judgement failed him again. When Van Persie left, Wenger should of gone straight out and bought a top class replacement. Whether this was Llorente. Cavani. Or A N Other. Failing to do this meant another failed gamble.
Wenger has made 2 gambles on striker position. Once he decided that Olivier Giroud was going to be number one, he then gambled that Podolski/Gervinho would make adequate cover as the number 2 striker. The goalless and chanceless game v Swansea highlights that not only should neither play down the middle, but playing them both on the pitch at the same time is often akin to playing 9 men. When Wenger made the decision to make Giroud number 1, he should of bought in some decent back up.
Kevin Mirallas, Steven Fletcher, Dimitar Berbatov. 3 players who moved after the Van Persie deal went through. 3 players who could of added strength behind Giroud. Could have backed him up. 2 established Premiership strikers. 1 talented European. Then you have Jermaine Defoe. He was looking for a way out at Spurs. Would he of improved us? Of course. Imagine him and Giroud up top together. He would have anticipated every knock down that no one else gets near.
Why did we not go for one of the above 4, or any other striker, to provide competition, back up, or whatever to Olivier Giroud. Again, he gambled. Again, he made the wrong decision.
Wenger gambled that Giroud would come good. Not just come good as a back up striker, but come good as a first choice striker. This gamble did not pay off.
Wenger gambled that Gervinho & Podolski could provide back up for Giroud. For the 2nd time, the gamble did not pay off.
Throughout all of this, I have been thinking, has Wenger just been unlucky, or should we now seriously be questioning his judgement? For me, for the first time, I am questioning his judgement. These were gambles that we all saw would not pay off. Gambling of fitness of players who weren’t fit is criminal. His lack of judgement rightly opens him up to criticism.
The question is, does Wenger still have time saved up in the ‘Good Faith Bank’ to make right his failed gambles, or did he use up all that time in the failed experiment?
Whilst I might look back at some of the options and laugh, they have not exactly proved Wenger wrong, it has been proved that the gamble Wenger took did not work. 4 years on from that blog and we are still talking about Wenger’s gambles not paying off.
It is time the board took a gamble and replaced Arsene Wenger.