Wenger Strangelove: or how I learned to stop worrying and love this team

The pre-season is officially over with and it ends with a sort of sloppy fart rather that the trumpet of victory that we’d all have liked. Oh well, it’s pre-season and I don’t think we should read too much into it. If we don’t take winning the Emirates Cup too seriously, we also can’t take losing 2-0 at the Mestalla at the end of a grueling training camp with a side full of players who didn’t play a minute together all pre-season, erm, too seriously.

I will say basically what I said in the comments yesterday which is that I thought Arsenal played very well in the first half. Diaby looked a bit rusty and ponderous but he’s certainly bulked up quite a bit since last year. Song looked quite the business breaking up attacks and shielding the back 4. For those who complained about his “fouling” well, that’s what I want him to do! Arsenal need someone like that on this club, even Theo admits that.

Up front we had a damn fine attack which just seemed a little tired rather than lacking teeth as in previous campaigns. Arshavin in particular looked jaded and more than once I was quite disappointed with his lack of movement. But rather than get all up on him about it, I just figure he’s probably never trained this hard in his entire life and since I’ve seen him turn it on more than once I trust that he’ll do it when the chips are down.

At the back, our fullbacks looked fantastic, as they always have, and I would like to be the first to hail them Backary Sagna as possible “hairstyle of the season.” He’s shorn off the beads and now has just gone with dyed braids. It’s quite magnificent.

Questions remain at the center back position and I’m going to just come out and say it: that is not because Djourou or Gallas are crap, it’s because of Arsene’s system. Arsene’s system has seen some of the world’s best center half’s used up and spit out: Sol Campbell, Phillipe Senderos, and William Gallas have all had spectacular mental breakdowns playing in Arsene Wenger’s system. The high line, ball holdery, offense-as-defense system that Arsenal play requires a specific type of center back (someone with quick recovery, is intelligent, who can handle the pressure of being constantly exposed, and is able to make desperation tackles) which, in turn, means that Arsenal don’t generally have the height to defend well from set pieces.

It’s the system and if anyone should come in for criticism, it’s Arsene Wenger. I don’t want to get down on Djourou, he’s a fine young man who gives everything to the cause and is just doing what the boss asks of him. And as for Wenger, personally, I trust Arsene Wenger to see any problems in his system and fix them. He’s the most successful, longest serving, manager in Arsenal history, if anyone sees a problem in this team, it’s Arsene Wenger.

Which raises THE question, the one thing that I’d really like to put to bed here once and for all — can we criticize the team?

Yes, sure, why not? Personally, I’m going to try not to do it this season but I completely understand where that comes from.  By and large the people who criticize the team and the players do so out of love. Maybe they are mad that we don’t play the way we did 5 years ago? Maybe they have a keen insight that I don’t have? I don’t know and really, I don’t care. If people want to get on some blog and talk about what shit so and so is or how worried they are about such and such, let them. Eventually they’ll either stop supporting Arsenal or they’ll learn to stop worrying about everything so damn much.

What I won’t stand for is fans booing at the Emirates, or fans taking the piss out of the manager and players face-to-face. Save that shit for the blogs. In real life, try to be respectful and if you can’t do that then maybe you should find a pack of cunts that would better suit your mentality; Chelsea come quickly to mind.

I also want to mention that just because someone criticizes a player in the comments on a blog, it doesn’t make them “doom and gloomers.” A “doom and gloomer” is someone who worries constantly that Arsenal aren’t going to make the top 6, that Cesc is going to leave half way through the season, etc etc. That term is used quite a bit to describe anyone who ever criticizes anything about the club and has basically worn out it’s welcome with me. Let’s stop using it.

Anyway, my basic approach this season is going to be positive. Positive toward the fans, positive toward the team, the manager, and the club. We have enough people out there being negative that you don’t need it from me as well. I’m not going to be a Pollyanna and I will be honest about a player when he has a bad game, but I think I’ll try to keep it to just that one game rather than see it as a flaw in the player as a whole. Same thing with the club and the manager.

If I have any insight into this club to pass on right now, it would be that I think I can let go of all the criticisms because I think that this club and these players are doing the best that they can with the resources they have. One of the things that Jon Spurling shows us with his book Rebels for the Cause, is that Arsenal have a long and proud history of doing things their own way.  Wenger is just another in a long line of iconoclasts, and I would expect no less of him that to follow in that proud tradition. If the last four years have taught us anything it’s that Wenger is doing this his way, you may not like the way he’s doing it, and that’s your right, but me? I trust Arsene Wenger.

Anyway, we’re going to have a full season preview on Thursday, where I will blow so much lovely smoke up your ass you’ll think you’re a chimney, until then the blogs are going to be relatively light as I expect that there won’t be much news. Try to enjoy the week as much as you can, maybe get out, run around, play a little football, enjoy the end of summer.

Football starts in earnest next week, and I expect so too does the hand-wringing.


  1. Riiiiiight, you should speak to Wenger about this problem. You seem to know everything about it and how to solve it. Why are you writing blogs? You should be a manager of a multi-million pound football team in the center of London.

  2. Great blog and a great title for this piece.
    Let’s not use the title “doom and gloom” in vain or lightly because it certainly can’t be applied yet and certainly not on the basis of yesterday’s game.

  3. Yeah donjon, if you want to say that kind of shit go read Arsenal Action and come back to this site and see how your opinion changes.

  4. Anyone else watching the Charity Shield?

    Ballack elbows Evra and while Bobblekoph is off the pitch getting treatment Chelscum go on to score.

    They really are the dirtiest scum I’ve ever seen play the game.

  5. Chelsea win the Shield as Man U look pitiful taking PKs. As I’ve already said, Chelsea will be the team to beat for the title this season.

      1. @Tim, I didn’t say Chelsea were the best team. We are the best team. Chelsea, elbows and all know ‘how’ to win and thus become the team to beat. No one Chelsea epitomizes the ‘professional’ back alley tactics that it takes to win than Ballack. He will kick you, elbow you and get away w/ it because of his ‘stature’ in the game as the German captain.

  6. Tim, I think criticism of the team is acceptable, but under certain situations and within limits. I fully expect the team to give their all, to not capitulate before the final whistle, to represent the club on and off the pitch. You can criticize the team for a lack of effort, not fighting for a result, for in-fighting with other team members, stuff like that. But these guys are still humans. When wigan came to the emirates, eboue was in the middle of a slump. But he was immediately involved when he came in, ran onto balls, and made challenges. His passing was piss poor and he couldn’t control the ball. He had no confidence and perhaps did not have the teammates around him at 100 percent, and he got subbed off. The boos were inappropriate in my opinion not because he played like shit, but because he was one of the few players constantly involved and was actually giving his best for the club he has repeatedly said he loved. It would be like saying Peyton Manning is a piece of shit because he took the colts to the superbowl and got picked for six when reggie wayne tipped a ball he should have caught. Everyone has bad moments, but the measure of your character should be judged by how you respond and change. Eboue came out and had a wonderful end to the year. That is the kind of player I want on teams I support.

    On another note, Chelsea looks revitalized by ancelotti’s tactics. I had them all but written off, but the midfield diamond looks like it fits chelsea really well. United, especially without EVDS, need to have a strong start to the season, because they looked somewhat shaky. I guess changing tactics after having a seemingly perfect gameplan in place for two or three years will take some time. Also, they looked relatively slow- it seems they have a much more “industrious” approach.

    T minus one week! I am so excited for the whole week in general- DC and Madrid followed by the Titans playing tonight, Azteca on Wednesday, then something like 6 or 7 arsenal matches in fourteen days?

      1. @Fabregas’ Dad, Ancelotti is far different than Scolari. Scolari isn’t really a club manager and had gotten used to planning months in advance for the next international. Ancelotti has been a successful club manager everywhere and knows how to deal with the weekly pressures of games. Chelsea definitely look like they could take the league this season because if anyone can gel older players together it’s Ancelotti.

        1. @WC,

          Sorry, don’t buy it. Anybody with such a poor league record as Ancelotti, especially considering the priviliged position he held as manager of Milan, is simply overated!

          The guy presided over a side that failed to qualify for the champions league two years back, and only just did so this year.

          Chelsea, an ageing team that lacks any true dynamism on the wings. That being said, i think zhirkov(?) is gonna be good. But still, can’t see them taking the title.

          I had to look twice at the man utd midfield though…, park, fletcher, carrick and Nani. One thing is for sure, they are weaker than they have been for a few years.

          If the boss gets that rugged CB, and that human wall DM…., i’d really fancy us for the title.

  7. agree wit ya with this one..

    shame on those who boo’d the team.

    shame on those who wanted wenger’s head after a few trophyless season.. how sure are they that the next manager could deliver us a trophy instantaniously? just look at chelsea.

    in Arsena i DO trust.


  8. my solution put steve bould in charge of team tactics, team selection and defensive coaching and let wenger handle the rest of the coaching and recruitment…… wenger a great coach but dnt think he would have led our youth team to the youth cup like steve bould did for us…….. steve bould bout winning however and whomever u have wenger wants the perfect victory in key games its ridiculous…………. and im a wenger knows fan

  9. great post can i translate your season review into Mongolian and post it to forum coz i like your writing style it is different from others keep it up!!!

  10. u right we have to give everything that we can support the club cuz we love arsenal we’ve keep in faith as the manager said this young team will go far as we believe them so please let us keep the faith on them

  11. Nice to see Man U and Chelsea showing their class again, in the charity fund raising opener to the EPL season.

    Ballack commits a professional foul and Chelsea go on to score; Man U surround the referee and complain like whining girls, with even Ferguson confronting the ref at the end.

    At least we have class. I’m with Tim; we go positive on Arsene, the players and the club from here on in. It’ll be a bumpy ride but I, for one, have faith. We can do it.

  12. Will you please shut up you old cunt peter hill wood,another 3 years of the clueless inspector clouseau and i am gonna top myself.

    1. @Danish Gooner, I just don’t know why someone who so clearly can’t stand this club and so clearly doesn’t respect the great things that Arsene Wenger has done would stick around.

      I’m not really one to tell someone to go support another club but seriously, why put your self through this much pain? Surely there’s another sport to follow, like Texas Hold’em or Golf that would cause you less angst.

      Go watch bowling and come back to us when we’ve won a trophy this year.

  13. Ah hello, Danish.

    So have they finally got fed up and turfed you out over at ‘A Cultured Left Foot’ then? Piss off and sit in your black bedroom listening to Emo. Or go and support Newcastle. We’re right behind the manager, the club and the team here. Spout your nonsense elsewhere.

    Sorry, Tim – your witness now…

  14. so much positive vibe, feel like bursting into a gospel song.

    still, for now, i say, i love watching the gunners at their best. the football is almost poetic. BUT

    fans have been saying we need a CB for 3 years. Thats THREE YEARS.
    how can it take a seemingly intelligent guy like AW that long to try and fill it? what was the silvestre purchase all about? who is it that we have that sillyve was holding the spot for?

    plus i dont go with the flamini come back crowd. he had one good year, just like adebayor had 1in 3

    these are key areas of the side that i just do not understand why AW has failed to fill. Hate the bloke but Fergie would have sorted them i suspect.

    still the mouth does drool at thought of arshavin, persie, eduardo rosicky nasri and fab in same side, which if he is really trying to convert nasri into a more defensive sort is true, well could happen

  15. Dave; wenger is a master of palying dirty as in playing perfect football. do you remember vieira, petit, parlour, grimandi. he has just changed his philosophy. one day in recent times he was angry and resorted to dirty play to beat man utd on penalties in the fa cup, without playing any football of note. he has just decided thats not football thats all. just wanted to remind you of what wenger is capable of

  16. I hope none of our players get injured on their National Team duties this wk.
    I hope Vermaelen will be ready to go on Sat.
    8/9/09 and all quiet on the transfer front. No new news on Senderos, Chamakh, and the media have not unearthed any new “Wenger” like players to match his 1 defensive and 1 offensive player comments.
    Should be concerned that RVP and Bendtner of our ‘1st’ team lineup have done much offensively?
    Will Vela make the bench on sat. after coming back from Mexico?
    Will Arshavin recover from his first EPL training camp as oppose to a Zenit camp which we know from Pavyluchenko was easy by comparison.
    These are things that concern me in this final week.

  17. This blog Le Groove is so patheticaly anti-Wenger that its hard to believe its an Arsenal blog after all. And they run it like the Chinese government; the only reply showed are the ones that psychophanticaly praise Pedro and Geoff for whatever gibberish they have for the day. Tell em any truth about their blog and they will not publish it. And they have this abnormal hatered of most of our black players ( Eboue, Song, Diaby, Denilson).
    It must be investigated, I m afraid its a project for the Spuds.

    1. @BloodyGunner, Or a project from Usmanov. If you’re trying to stir up negativity and resentment, hiring someone to do a blog talking about how shit everything is and how the Uzbek will solve everything is a way to do it…

    2. @BloodyGunner, I tried a tactic on them once; gave them a dose of their own medicine. I did an indepth analysis of pedros post and pointed out the (pathetically damning) holes in his argument and his logic. They didn’t like it at all; labelled me an AKB and promptly removed my analysis. They made damn sure that my comments no longer ever gets through. So I did another indepth analysis of pedro,s post and pointed out the incongruities. Using another identity, I manage to get it through. They all went into a tail spin and quickly removed it. They like to dish it out, but don’t like to take it.

  18. where has all the money gone? Will fans continue to pay the highest prices for the lack of trophies and for the first time last season when we had to suffer a 4/5 month period of mediocre football, remember the draws in Jan/feb/etc……….. I hope the fans keep faith with wenger and the team but I fear the eboue treatment against wigan will be a sign of things to come if the team do not get of to a decent start. The fans seem restless and there is definetly a negativity around our great club which I have not witnessed since the early 80’s

  19. At last, someone who has written something that analyses both our defensive difficulties and the almost impossible task of finding someone who has the pace to defend what I believe is a ridiculously high line and still be able to defend set pieces. Tall and imposing or fast to recover. It’s mostly one or the other.

    It would be instructive to see how the latest centre-back messiah, Hangeland, would cope with Arsenal’s style of play. Poorly I would suggest.

    It was instructive to watch Barcelona play Manure in the CL Final. The Barca back four was far less attack orientated. Admittedly, Dani Alves was missing. But I’m not sure how much difference it would have made if he had been playing. Manure’s ball of choice, a diagonal ball from either defense or midfield played to the either corner, did not cause the problems it causes Arsenal simply because the Barca fullbacks did not allow the likes of Rooney/Ronaldo/Ji-Sun Park the space. How many times do we see an Arsenal fullback chasing back towards their own goal-line trying to defend such a ball.

    I was very impressed with Valencia in the first half. Their ability to find a team mate both under pressure and at speed was Arsenal like of old. It reminded me of the first half, first leg against Villareal in last years CL. I though they were going to murder us in both games. Strangely, in both the Valencia and Villareal games, Arsenal came back strongly in the second halves. Until Valencia’s goals that is.

  20. I want to respond because I feel like this post was partially directed at my comment about the doom and gloomers in yesterday’s post. And I had to go out to a BBQ right after I made my post so I didn’t get a chance to respond to the people who responded to me.

    I wasn’t referring to the people who were criticizing certain players, and I certainly wasn’t referring to Tim. I love this blog and I’ve been reading it for close to a year now. After Arseblog, it’s my 1st stop for Arsenal reading on a daily basis.

    I was actually referring to a couple comments that were made after the game along the lines of “We were totally outclassed, Wenger needs to BUY, BUY, BUY!!!” And “We will never win the league, yada, yada, yada.”

    Total overreactions after one meaningless friendly with most of the players only on the pitch for one half.

    Sorry for using the term “doom and gloom”, just using something I’ve read here many times before. I will stop using it in the future.

    Anyways, keep up the great work Tim!

  21. i seem to remember deco scoring in his 1st match and starting a few more games and chelsea were invicible came the cry from fat franks cuz and scholari could walk on water! chelsea diamond? haha

  22. Great post!

    I had a eureka moment reading your comments about why our defensive challenges are a result of our system and not really about our defenders.

    You are right, of course, and explans why Toure did so well for us through many seasons.

    Great blog…do you have a sidebar index with links to previous posts?

  23. Also, seeing you are (were?) a basketball fan, let me set you this puzzle.

    I see many similarities between Phil Jackson’s coaching style and Arsene’s. What do you think, and if you agree, how would Phil Jackson coach defence for this Arsenal team?

    1. @PDT, Phil Jackson would have the defense read Zen koans!

      Actually, he would probably use each player’s qualities to an advantage for the team. Which is exactly the opposite of Wenger. Wenger seems to take players and challenge their abilities by putting them in strange and unfamiliar positions. Sometimes this works brilliantly, Thierry Henry, and sometimes not so much, Eboue as a midfielder.

  24. Great post yet again Tim. As for the use of “doom and gloomers”, I fisrt started using it here and I make no apologies for it. You will agree with me that there far too many of them who call themselves Arsenal fans; shame that. To criticise constructively is good and healthy and can only help make things better. Berating and denigrating is quite different; and that’s what these gloomers do. I really cannot stand them. They attempt to demoralize all the rest of us. What for? Why would anyone claim to support a club only to constantly denigrate it just because the club has not gratify them with a trophy fix? Why, even, would anyone berate players in their so called team to the point of almost rendering them ineffective by taking away their confidence. No matter what job we do, we need confidence to perform well. I remember when I started my first teaching/lecturing job in 1978, a play ground misadventure nearly ruined my career before it started. A group of students who I had helped with their work, even though they were not my students at the time got talked their parents to support me. Their support gave me the confidence that I needed. I was therefore able to punch above my weight that fisrt year and have had a really good career since then. Now I help people who have lost confidence and I enjoy it. So forgive me if I cannot stand anyone who makes it their duty to ensure that others lose confidence. I cannot tolerate them. They can go try supporting Newcastle for 2 years and come back to tell us how coping with relegation feels.

  25. sorry about the typos. I was in a hurry. (…first…)…(…that there are far…)…(…gratified…)…(…got their parents…)

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