“No matter what you do, even if you get it right at some stage, people say ‘Why didn’t you do it earlier?’ It’s like the opposite is right, is wrong as well. If you get your starting line up wrong, you change it at half-time, people say ‘You see, he is a tactical magician!’ because he changed the team at half-time. But they forget that we got it wrong at the start. So you can always judge on both ways. I think what I did is just to give a bit more security to a team who conceded three goals in the last three away games, at West Brom, at Liverpool, at Crystal Palace and at some stage even to focus on something different for the players recreates some confidence.”
– Wenger on playing the back three against Man City and the perils of being a manager, 23 April 2017.
This is what I love about Arsene Wenger. It’s one of the many things but this penchant for dropping a line on us which just makes me stop for a moment and think about things and then laugh is easily my favorite thing that Wenger does.
I read that quote and thought “ha! Antonio Conte!” The Chelsea managers was hailed as a tactical genius for bringing on Hazard and Fabregas against Tottenham in the FA Cup semi-final. Late in the game Chelsea needed a result and Conte went to his bench, bringing on Hazard and Fabregas. Within minutes, Chelsea were up 4-2. Maybe “hailed as a tactical genius” is a little hyperbole but the announcers on my broadcast here in the States said “at the very least, you have to give him credit, he must have planned this” while also criticizing him for not playing them from the start.
I think there is something a bit more radical in this quote, however, than Wenger just saying that critics are silly. He’s saying that every decision that we make is both right and wrong. If we have to think in dualisms, which I suspect that humans have a strong proclivity toward, everything contains varying amounts of rightness and wrongness.
Think back through Arsene’s career:
Won the League with the Invincibles, early exit in Europe.
Sold Fabregas and Nasri in the same season, but was forced to because both players quit on the team
Sold van Persie to Man U, also sold a huge arsehole
Bought Mustafi, but the good part there is… well we have a lot of center backs now and who knows, Mustafi might turn out to be a decent center back one day.
Jokes about Mustafi aside, the points is that every decision we make, like everything else, isn’t so much a dualism of right and wrong but part of a spectrum of wrongness. More wrong some times, less wrong others.
I’m sure you all think I’m more wrong today.