As has become the norm following our general downward trajectory over recent years, there has been a lot of soul-searching this week following the loss to Man U.
One item that caught my eye in particular was this analysis and assassination on Arsenal News Review about where things have gone wrong.
In short, ANR’s argument is that Wenger is a control freak who was always going to sub the Ox at that time against Man U. He daren’t keep him on despite playing so well because he was showing Walcott up and that could lead to descent in the camp, a camp that is focused on earning its next big pay day.
I disagree with a lot of it – every great manager is a control freak to a greater or lesser extent so it’s not really a major flaw; Wenger has been inflexible with substitutions since day one; and I don’t sense this group of players are motivated by money any more or less than every other. You can’t attribute our lack of success to those factors, however lamentable they are.
But what does ring true is the idea that Wenger seeks harmony inside the squad.
When he first came to Arsenal, Wenger brought with him a sense of Japanese serenity and order to a squad that was desperately in need of it. A side containing ‘volatile’ characters like Wright, Adams, Parlour, Keown, Merson et al stoked up by Bruce Rioch benefited massively from Wenger’s calming influence; he brought the yang to their yin (if you excuse the levering in of a bit of Asian philosophy).
Players drafted in around that time like Cole, Vieira, Ljungberg, Lauren, Henry and Lehmann, were schooled alongside the influential old brigade. The balance prevailed and it continued to bring success.
But during the years either side of the move to Ashburton Grove, Wenger – through a mixture of economic necessity and under-estimating the importance of experience – shipped out most of the key players from the earlier era.
Meek and mild
He replaced them with a new breed who haven’t brought the same fire required to balance the influence of the scholarly Wenger.
Some of it can be attributed to the youthfulness of the new Arsenal – a teenager will rarely be as headstrong as a veteran. But look at the older players that have been brought in too, people like Rosicky, Chamakh, and Arteta who can’t be called passionate.
Arguably there are some exceptions to my argument. Gallas, Van Persie and Szczesny are hotheads but generally we now have a squad that is meek and mild.
The balance has gone. We have a team and manager that are both yang.
I don’t think that is down to control-freakery on Wenger’s part. I think his obsession with the technical side of the game to the detriment of the mental side has cost us. His approach worked when the squad contained world-class players and the vocal influence of people like Adams but without them we struggle as the balance is lost.
So when the manager is yang and the squad is yang, what is the solution? We could always offer Jose Mourinho a way out of Madrid as I’m pretty sure he would fall into the yin category.
I think I’d rather get The Romford Pele out of retirement…