Good bye Alexis

Alexis Sanchez cut through the cool spring light of Wembley, a red blur headed straight for the ball. The ball, like it wants to do, looped up unpredictably and hit Alexis in the hand. Punched and now tamed, Alexis took control of the ball with a touch, and drove straight at goal.

The noise of the stadium grew dim, the players around him grew dark and fuzzy. He didn’t even see Ramsey standing offside between him, the ball, and the goal. He probably didn’t even see Courtoise, the giant Chelsea keeper, standing between him and the goal. All he saw was the net rippling. It was the perfect goal to end a career season at Arsenal.

It was also the perfect goal to capture Alexis Sanchez’ time at Arsenal. From the moment he first set foot on the pitch in an Arsenal shirt he has shown this preternatural ability to focus in that final predatory moment before scoring.

His first goal, he literally stole off the foot of Jack Wilshere. Özil played in a one-two with Jack but Alexis, full tunnel vision going, saw nothing but the ball and the rippling net, and nipped in ahead of Wilshere and finished. Everyone in the stands and on the field seemed shocked for a moment, “does that count? Can a player really do that?” Both questions that we asked for his first goal and again for what looks to be his last.

Alexis cut a petulant figure this winter. Often seeming to be at war with his teammates, he sulked and pondered on the pitch while Arsenal struggled. After the 5-0 win over Southampton in the FA Cup, Arsenal lost seven of their next ten matches, including a combined 10-2 destruction at the hands of Bayern Munich.

This was Alexis’ nadir. These were the matches where he would often be seen stooping on the pitch, hand on his chin, staring at a piece of grass and contemplating his future. And right in the middle of this low ebb, with reports circulating that there were problems in the dressing room, Wenger tried to drop Alexis. Wenger tried to punish Alexis and dropped him from the starting lineup only to tuck tail and bring him on at half time in a 3-1 loss to Liverpool.

It was Arsenal’s defense which failed. Arsenal allowed 26 goals in those ten matches. Alexis scored five for Arsenal and added an additional two assists but his offensive contributions were like throwing pebbles at a mountain.

In a panic, Wenger changed the system. He switched the back four to a back five, added an additional center back, and despite conceding just as many shots and big chances, conceded just seven goals in the last ten games of the season. Alexis scored eight goals to close the season out, including a run of six goals in the final five games of the season.

There’s a funny thing that Wenger likes to say.  It’s about how a manager can get praise for changing his tactics at half time and yet no one mentions how that same manager got his tactics wrong from the start. The same applies in this case of Arsenal and their newfound “defensive rigidity”. If Wenger gets the praise for changing the system, we should also wonder exactly why it took him so long to make this change.

The answer is that I don’t give Wenger praise for this change. It wasn’t brilliant planning. It was luck born of desperation. Wenger gets credit for putting aside his ego, finally, and making a change which literally forced his team to stop being so suicidal in attack. But he lucked into this system, just like he lucked into the midfield partnership with Coquelin and Cazorla which was so effective two years ago.

And Alexis knows this. Alexis is used to playing for managers like Pep Guardiola and Jorge Sampaoli (who is a student of the legendary organizer Marcelo Bielsa). Alexis knows that with better organization, coaching, and management, you can take a small team of underdogs – like Chile – and win it all. Or that at the very least you need a baseline of management that Arsenal didn’t even seem to come close to approaching these last two seasons.

Alexis saw the title go to Leicester last season, who did what Chile has done in the Copas America for the last two years. Alexis saw Chelsea play solid football this season. And Alexis saw up close and personal what an organized and focused team like Bayern Munich can do to a team that is trying to play jazz football. Alexis is able to focus, to shut out all the distractions, and to get the job done, and he needs the same from his teammates and manager.

So, it’s no surprise that Alexis cut a despondent figure this winter and is off to a new team this summer. London is too flat for this Chilean. He needs to do some mountain running with his dogs in Bavaria.

And when the story of Alexis Sanchez is told, it will have the same undertones as the Fabregas story and the van Persie story; that yet again Arsenal had a special talent which they wasted. It won’t be long before special talent starts saying no to even coming to Arsenal.

Qq

123 Comments on Good bye Alexis

  1. False narrative. You really believe that the same man, the same club that forged the Invincibles has somehow been exposed by petulant stars like RvP, Alexis, and Cesc as tactically inept? You don’t think that those specific players’ inability to adhere to the tactical system being implemented self-destructed the system? Or at least played a significant role? You and Chris are great resources for Arsenal fans in the US, but this type of crying into the night, creating blame, tearing down the club is a negative syndrome – mostly incorrect and entirely unproductive. Find a craven, petro-wealth club to support if all you desire is a bandwagon for near-criminal victories. True Arsenal supporters are purists, not whiners.

    • I agree with everything that is said but would just like to point out that Cesc and RvP and to a much lesser extent Sanchez grew into the players they are thanks to Arsenal. All the more reason for talented young players like Mbappe who are still in their development phase to come to Arsenal.

      Here he will get the freedom and support to nurture his talent, instead of the high pressure environment that he will face at Madrid / Chelsea.

      Hope AW convinces Mbappe to see things in the same way. Agree that AW needs a large dose of luck to get anywhere close to the title. He achieves perfect balance only when his ‘goldilock’ conditions are met. Anything that disturbs that like an injury to one of CoqZorla and we end up falling off a cliff.

    • The first comment just spoke my mind…AFC is an institution and way bigger than any player( ask thierry, viera n co)…shame on him if he cant reciprocate d loyalty and respect showed to him by d club and fans alike

      • AFC is bigger than any player, but it is becoming increasingly clear that AFC is not bigger than Arsene Wenger.

    • With regards to Ben’s comment – I respect the diversity of opinion on this forum but I’m consistently surprised by how vehemently people react whenever Arsenal or Wenger come under the slightest scrutiny. As a Londoner who’s supported Arsenal since ’89 every single critique that 7amkickoff makes has been made in every single year of Wenger’s era by Arsenal fans in the stadium or in the pubs and bars around Highbury. Even in the Invincibles season we were tactically exposed in Europe.

      Supporting Arsenal is not like going to see Andrea Bocelli live in concert. What kind of bubble are some of you viewing Arsenal through where the merest attempt to document the club’s failings or hold Wenger accountable is perceived as “whining”?

      I’ve said this before and will keep saying it – the individuals flying airplanes over our stadium and people who cannot stomach the slightest criticism of Wenger are two sides of the same toxic coin. Telling an Arsenal fan to go and support a petro-wealth club is the surest indication of both a lack of wit and immaturity.

      • Thank you.

        I remember being surprised by the amount of criticism in the stands, in the pubs, and at after parties for every match I’ve been to. I was there for Arshavin’s debut, people fell asleep in the stands and the criticism of Arsene after the match for not buying sooner was pretty much unanimous. I remember watching Adebayor on a cold Tuesday night and the fans were literally screaming at him to get back onside. I was in Swansea when Diaby was booed and told to “get the ___ out of my club”. I was in Munich with the Tollington Gooners 4 years ago and there were a LOT of those guys who were calling for Wenger to leave. That’s supposed to be one of the most positive groups of Arsenal supporters around. And when I was at the League Cup final loss to Birmingham the atmosphere after that game was funereal.

        Even Nick Hornby’s book, Fever Pitch, is actually a book about how this negative Arsenal fan had a brief moment of joy in an otherwise joyless relationship with Arsenal. And as Nick and others point out, that 2002/03 Arsenal team — the very heralded Invincibles – THREW AWAY the League title!

        I am not even really that negative about Arsene or Arsenal!

        But one thing I have noticed about this club is that whenever there are failings (and 5th place is a massive failing) there will be fans who criticize the club, and the fans who criticize the other fans.

        It’s also always funny to me how the same people who say “Arsenal are bigger than (insert player)” are the same ones who say that I have to stand behind Arsene Wenger. No. Arsenal are bigger than Arsene Wenger. I love what he has done for this club and for me as a fan. I also think he needs to step down and let the club move on. It doesn’t mean I hate him.

        • No problem. I remember you writing years ago that he should probably step down – when he didn’t you were back at the start of the next season giving us optimistic articles and deep statistical analysis. Same goes for Arseblog. Not sure people recognize that season after season there’s a lot of Arsenal fans who hide their disappointment, keep their criticisms respectful and just support The Arsenal. Nowadays some fans *demand* that. That’s not healthy and the way the club handled the unrest and turmoil of the last 6 months and the announcement of the new deal has been disgraceful. I get the sense that Arsenal would like the revenue of a European superclub but still wants to be seen as a plucky little club from North London.

          We have a unique situation at Arsenal with 21 years under one coach. United/Fergie comparable but they had the barren period at the beginning and the success later, but Wenger started like a house on fire and then… We all know the reasons for that, but as time goes on the club and fans who idolise Wenger have to recognise that familiarity breeds contempt, and like you said, it’s not always directly linked to Wenger’s attributes or failings.

          Wenger used to say that signing superstar player would “destroy” the development of our young players. In my opinion we should have given the same priceless opportunity that Arsenal gave Wenger in 1997 to a younger manager.

    • I hate fans telling other gooners how to support this club, or to go somewhere else if they don’t like how Arsenal are doing things. Or that criticism = “tearing down the club”, or is “unproductive.”

      Just stop it. The points are certainly contestible. Contest them. Leave the fannier than thou schtick at the door.

    • Yes, I think Wenger is tactically inept. I have read the Invincibles (by Amy Lawrence) and practically every other book on Arsene Wenger that has been published and the one thing that stands out is that Wenger doesn’t do organization. He expects the players to figure that stuff out on their own. There are countless examples in the Invincibles where the players themselves say that they worked on organization on their own over dinner after practice. Tony Adams’ latest comments simply echo the comments of Ray Parlour, Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, and Sol Campbell. Even Wojciech Szczesny has recently said that he learned more in the first four months at Roma than he did in all his years at Arsenal. Fabregas said the same. Wenger has things he teaches: verticality, through balls, patience in the final third, etc. but he expects the players to sort things out on their own.

      There was another great story about Wenger that I’m going to do an entire blog piece on. He walked into the dressing room one day and drew a wolf on the chalkboard. He then told the players “I want to you play like wolves”. The German players on Arsenal have spoken to the press about how astonished they are by Arsene’s lack of preparation for matches, his lack of organization, and his lack of training. This isn’t just a media narrative, this is an obvious reality when you look at Arsenal over the last 15 years.

      I’ve also read Inverting the Pyramid and in that book we learn that throughout the history of the game there have always been football managers like Wenger who play a more free flowing football and that they are opposed to managers like Bielsa who are strict authoritarians. The book points out that one system isn’t better than the other, necessarily. And in fact some players thrive under the stricter systems and others thrive under the more free-flowing systems. The one thing, the most important thing I learned from Inverting the Pyramid, is that your system is only good if it matches the players in it.

      What made the Dutch system of “Total Football” successful was the players in it. The Dutch wouldn’t have been as successful if they had Mourinho as manager. The same with Herbert Chapman’s WM. Many teams tried to replicate the WM, and in fact that system became the default in England for like 60 years, but without the players Chapman had in his system, the WM turned into “kick and rush” football.

      The system is only as good as the players. And in this case, Alexis needs more structure around him to be at his best. Wenger’s Jazz Football doesn’t work with Alexis. Fabregas has thrived under the more rigid systems of Barcelona and Chelsea and Robin van Persie was afforded a guard of honor upon his return to Arsenal as Champion under the rigid authoritarianism of Sir Alex Ferguson. Conversely, Thierry Henry needed Wenger’s style of football to be at his best.

      I wonder, though, if we aren’t entering an era where data and organization are more important than an artistic interpretation of the game. This is what Andres Galeano would call a “march toward autocracy” in the game and it is a bit sad but we haven’t really seen an artistic team overcome an expensively assembled well drilled team in a long time.

      Anyway, long answer but I will close with… save me your sanctimonious “go support another club” and “true fans do (what i tell them)”. You like to talk about false narratives but that is the falsest of them all. We love a sport. Sport is about competition. Competitors, and really all humans who have a modicum of self respect, are willing to take criticism on board and move forward in life.

      • Alexis just had a career season at Arsenal despite the Arsene’s lack of tactical acumen so I am not buying this argument that Wenger’s jazz football doesn’t suit him. And Cesc thrived under Chelsea and Barca’s rigid system? Yes, so much so that Barca got rid of him after two seasons and now he is thriving on Chelsea’s bench. RVP had two 30 goal seasons at Arsenal BEFORE he went to United. Let’s not pretend attacking players don’t do well under Wenger. He even made Adebayour look like a world beater FFS.

        I agree the system is only as good as the players. So maybe our problem has more to do with player recruitment rather than pure tactics? I’m sure better tactics will help us but there is a school of thought that too much tactics isn’t necessarily a good thing – something Pep might actually agree too after last season.

        I want Wenger gone as much as you. He is definitely lacking tactically, but I don’t think he is completely inept. He is someone who is very reluctant to change things and only seems to do it when his hand is forced. I don’t think it’s fair to call that luck. He is too stubborn and too loyal to his players/ staff and philosophy for his own. Those qualities may make him a better human but it doesn’t make him a better manager.

        • This first paragraph, times a thousand.

          Tim, nycgunner has just exposed your shoddy argument and illustrated exactly what I find so exasperating about your writing, even though I very much appreciate this blog: you made a decent point about systems and players needing to fit, and about neither the jazz nor rigid style of coaching being intrinsically better than the other, and then you ruined it by overstating/oversimplifying the point, trying to force three examples (Alexis, Cesc, RVP) into a mold into which they simply don’t fit. Alexis, Cesc, and RVP were all bloody brilliant under Wenger, which is why the biggest clubs in the world wanted (and want) to take them from Arsenal, and as good as the latter two have been in spells since leaving Arsenal, they certainly haven’t surpassed their Arsenal form, matching it at best.

          Why does every one of your opinions have to be stated in such a provocative, over-the-top manner?

      • Why think artistic teams can’t be expensively assembled or well-drilled? I don’t think Mourinho could ever, truly, build an artistic team. But Pep’s (and to a lesser degree Rijkaard’s) Barcelona was both well-drilled and exquisitely artistic. Ditto Aragones’s and (to a lesser degree) Del Bosque’s Spain. If those sides weren’t artistic, then the definition of artistic is either too narrow or too demanding.

        • Pfo respectfully, you guys are misconstruing Tim’s comment (again). How do you interpret Tim saying “Alexis needs more structure around him to be at his best” to mean “let’s not pretend attacking players don’t do well under Wenger”?

          1) Was the comment about attacking players in general or was it about Alexis thriving in a team where he’s pushed higher up and has reliable distributers behind him (notably when Cazorla was in the team)? His last and best statistical season at Barca he played high up in a 3.

          2) This idea that Barca “got rid” of Alexis is funny. Only Messi, Ronaldo, and Diego Costa scored more goals despite Alexis playing sharing the ball wit Messi and Neymar. After Luis Figo, £35million pounds is the 2nd most Barcelona have received for a player and yes, Luis Suarez was the key.

          3) The individual form of Alexis, RVP, or Cesc aside, isn’t the larger point about what it would take (or would have taken) to actually win a title with these guys in the team?

          We won titles with Henry leading a jazzier type of orchestra. We almost won a Champions League trophy with Cesc conducting a more tightly-assembled counter-attacking unit. What’s over the top or provocative about suggesting that RVP winning a title with the same form he showed at Arsenal was down to Utd’s more rigid system that had more emphasis on defence?

          Debate is good guys, but not when decent points are being taken out of context.

          • NYCGunner doesn’t expose anything. He created a strawman that has nothing to do with anything I’ve said above. Apparently the part where I talk about the defense being the problem is completely misconstrued as the offence being the problem.

            PFO, I get that you don’t want to talk about the points and just want to yell at me and personally attack me, calling me names and characterizing my arguments as childish while doing so in a childish manner.

            Anyway, have a great day.

          • “Alexis needs more structure around him to be at his best”

            Doesn’t that implicitly say that we are not getting the best out of Alexis? And when that is followed by examples of RVP and Cesc, doesn’t that also imply that we didn’t get the best out of them? What am I missing?

            I am debating this point, as you say and hopefully not out of context. I think we are (and implicitly, Wenger) is getting the best out of Alexis – just as we did with RVP and Cesc. That they both went to win titles with better teams has nothing to do with the point I am making. Similarly, that Alexis won two copa Americas under Chile doesn’t necessarily mean he, as an individual, is a better player when he plays for a more tactical manager. As a matter of fact, I am quite sure he went on a barren run of nine games or so for Chile without scoring under Sampaoli.

            I don’t disagree with Tim’s main points which I took them as 1) Wenger is not a good tactical manager 2) Arsenal needs a more tactical manager and 3) Alexis wants to leave (or maybe even has a right to) because he wants to win.

            I think saying Alexis plays better for a more tactical coach is over-reaching the third point. I very much doubt Alexis is looking at tactics. It’s simpler than that. He wants to win and he knows there aren’t enough world class players in this team to challenge for the title, let alone in Europe. It’s the same reason RVP left, and it’s the same reason Cesc left.

            Calling Wenger tactically inept exaggerates the 1st point. Most of us already know he isn’t tactically astute. He does eventually fix the team, although it’s always too little too late. That is one of his greatest flaws, but it’s not ineptitude and neither is it lucky. It’s Wenger being the stubborn fool that he can be.

            Lastly, IMHO, an article paying homage to Alexis while he is still very much an Arsenal player does little to settle the nerves thousands of gooners who are already a little on the edge so a little bit of flak, even from his most loyal readers is expected. Tim, of course, is well within his rights to speak his mind and whether I agree or disagree with him, in entirety or partially, I appreciate that. Tim, I hope you can keep an open mind though because things can change very quickly in football.

          • “Straw man” is the new way to tell the world you think somebody’s argument is entirely specious while assuming a seemingly calm air of superiority. It’s a brilliant way to discredit someone without really trying that hard. I hate that term with the passion of 10,000 burning scarecrows. Everything can be a straw man through a certain lens.

        • While telling someone he’s angry and bitter and commenting on how emotional he is, is the old school way of doing this, I guess. Get off your condescending high horse as if you’re the benchmark of rationality.

    • The guy that wrote this article has poured more of his life into this club than most of the people who read his work. He doesnt deserve to have his support called into question because you disagree with his opinions. It is the most low brow comeback in a debate. So trashy.

  2. I fear you’re right, Tim. My main concern now is that we hold out for a fee that actually reflects his market value (taking into consideration there’s only year left on his contract, of course). We have a long history now of letting our star players go for fees that seem, to me anyway, average to low relative to what the rest of the market is doing with players of similar caliber. But maybe all fans feel that way about their departing players, especially the best ones?

  3. Luck.. Only applies when Arsenal do something well. Not when Arsenal don’t do something well. Arsenal are only lucky, never unlucky.

    It’s luck that Wenger had a player like Coquelin and decided to pair him with Cazorla. It’s not luck that RVP was injured and then a huge a******. It’s luck that Wenger changed the system. It’s luck that Wenger has his job, in a club which by luck became the 7th..or 4th..or whatever ‘richest’ club it is supposed to be.

    It’s all luck, and should we be angry that we’ve not been lucky enough to win a title? No. Titles don’t come by luck. Those only come by organisation and planning and recruitment and stuff that we never ever do because we’re Arsenal and we’re terrible at this whole football malarkey. Unless of course we somehow luck our way to a title.

    Alexis might leave for Bayern, or not. It was you Tim who came up with the term preact, as one of the consequences of the internet. That was brilliant. This, I’m sorry to say, in my useless (if not always humble or polite) opinion, isn’t.

  4. Ridiculous article. As if one of the premier league’s most successful managers has just ‘lucked’ his way through the past two decades.

    • Succesfull Manager ?

      Years in Charge: 20+
      EPL Title: 3
      FA Cup: 7 (Record holder…big deal)
      Community shield 5

      Being in the top 4 for all these years untill now hardly qualifies him as succesfull…

      His time is long gone and its probably the only manager that decides his own future..even after a bad season.

      • in 20 years – who has won more? on a similar budget?

        Who are you comparing Wenger to? currently there are only 2 current Managers who have won the Premier League in the Premier League. An average of a league title per 7 years, and FA Cup every 3 years.. as the claim 4th is nothing – it paid for our stadium… 30 – 40 million a year. Was there not a race for the top 4 as there is every year… but Arsenal do it – it’s seen as a failure…

        • Dear Loo Roll

          I can’t compete with your undeniable logic…One league title every 7 years and one FA cup every 3 years is more than enough.

          Hope we never win the CL…that would be too much excitement to deal with.

      • Dear Mr. Smart, stop embarrassing yourself.

        Any manager who has won the premier league three times, and gotten his team into the champions league 19 times, and won the FA Cup 7 times, has been successful, measured against any realistic gauge of success.

        You can think Wenger doesn’t deserve to still be in his job, without resorting to such silliness.

  5. Just what did Alexis do at Barcelona, he never really made the first team on a regular basis and very few people were excited when he signed for Arsenal. Wenger then turned him into one of the best strikers around. Don’t fall for the Adams nonsense that Wenger can’t coach.

    • False narrative. He was good at Barcelona but did not work in a system dominated by Messi – and so was not great. We all knew that we were signing a genuine talent. At Arsenal he shone. I may only speak for myself, but that year there was only one player I really wanted, and that was Alexis. I was over the moon.

      • The truth is somewhere in between. He was pretty disappointing, by Barca standards, until his last season there (ironically, this was after Pep had left). And even after playing well and scoring goals that season, they were still only too happy to offload him provided they could get Suarez. Yes, we all knew he was a top class talent, but that was as much for his reputation from Italy and his performances for Chile than due to anything he did for Barca. It was not like Ozil, who had been a central component–arguably the key player after Ronaldo–in a title-winning Madrid side.

        Alexis has thrived at Arsenal, and I’m with Shard: I can never understand why we only give credit to Wenger when something goes wrong. Any success stories at Arsenal are all down to dumb luck. The rush to force the facts into a nice narrative means complex truth (Wenger is still a very good manager with some flaws, Alexis is a great player with some flaws) is reduced to simplistic nonsense (Wenger bad, Alexis good).

        • Amazing. Alexis might never play for us again and people are already downplaying the impact his signing had coming the season after Ozil. It was an incredible signing for us coming a year after we signed Ozil and confirmed we were back to competing in the transfer market.

          It was not buying anyone or even selling deadwood the summer after that which led directly to the situation we’re in now.

          • Is this in response to what I wrote? If so, I’m confused. In what way did I downplay the impact his signing has made for us? It was terrific at the time, and he’s been terrific for us (almost) since he first pulled on the shirt (his form dipped a bit in his second season).

        • The only one forcing facts into a neat, tiny, ad reductum narrative is you.

          So, are you making an irony here?

  6. Dear Ben

    Petulant Stars? Is Alexis petulant just because he contributed to 34 out of 77 goals for the team, counting only EPL..That’s a petulant 44% contribution.

    Lets remember that Alexis best performance was during the first half of the season when Wenger played him as Central Striker. His adherence to the tactical changes made after that when Wenger returned him to the wings was what a Profesional player is expected to do. Wenger made that change and yet Alexis is responsible for this poor season?

    I assume that you are a true Arsenal Fan, a purist as you say…On your pure fan opinion, what would have happened if it wasn’t for Alexis 44% goal contribution?

    Pure fans should not comply with a club or Manager that is more concerned about keeping harmony on the dressing room while the team is sinking into oblivion. Pure fans should expect…correction…DEMAND that everyone moved sky and earth to bring the tittle home…bring glory back !

    If being a purist fan, means to accept that a Manager that achieved nothing this season (don’t bring FA cup bla bla bla here), gets a two year extension as prize, well then the club is in deeper trouble that we think.

  7. This is what happens when thanks to the internet people in far flung places think they are experts because they can write a blog.
    Hes such an expert on football he doesnt even knw the chelsea keeper, its Thibaut Courtois not that made up name he used being to lazy to google it, and ignored the amount of times Sanchez failed to pass to better placed players during games.

  8. All of the above is a fair and correct assesement in my view. But lets hope they do something different and not take the money? The league is saturated with money so we are in it anyway. Letting him go to city will be the same as van persie going to utd and being the difference to win the league. For once. Just this once I hope they do not take the money

    • The funny thing about City is that they barely have space for him in their starting lineup. I know some folks will shout “Alexis would get into any team in the world” (except he didn’t at Barca, of course), but City now have…

      Aguero, Jesus, Iheanacho, De Bruyne, D. Silva, B. Silva, Sane, Nolito, Sterling, Navas, Yaya, and Gundogan as attacking players. That’s a hell of an attacking lineup, even if one or two leave, as expected.

      I’m not saying Alexis wouldn’t get plenty of game time, of course, nor am I saying he wouldn’t be a (marginal) improvement on what they’ve got (though a front four of De Bruyne, Sane, B. Silva, and either Aguero or Jesus already looks world class and wonderfully balanced). But with the serious flaws they have in both central and wide defense, and even in central midfield, you’d think they’d realize that’s 50m down the drain for something they really don’t need.

      • I think Arsenal, for once, will make good on their determination to not sell him to a PL rival, which means he’s Bayern’s if they want him (I don’t think Juve have the cash/desire to pull out all the stops to get him, while PSG have the cash but seem to be focusing elsewhere). But I’m not sure Bayern are really willing to shatter their wage structure to get him, and I’m not sure Arsenal will agree to a 40m sale (I’m hoping we’re at least smart/tough enough to hold out for a bit more than that. So Bayern might decide to move on, in which case we might just keep him for the season with one year left on his contract.

        • Yes, I was thinking there is a good chance of this happening as well. I don’t think we will sell him to City – and if we do, perhaps I will take a break from football because it would be a terribly daft move even by our standards. We could make him an offer that Bayern will be reluctant to match and then just let it play out. I mentioned last week that the longer this goes on, the greater the pressure will be on Alexis to re-sign. He will be 29 next year and it’s his last chance for one big contract. Arsenal has already offered that to him. As long as our balls don’t shrivel up and we don’t sell him to a PL rival, I think he could stay for one more season.

  9. Loo Roll

    Apologies…FA Cup is not nothing…it’s just not the EPL or the CPL.

    Im just wishing that the board just stopped putting the business before the club. Pay Alexis whatever he needs, only chance to attract other world class players, show the fans and players that you are fighting to come back and not have a typical “top 4” season next year.

    • You pay him what he wants – it is so easy spending 200 – 300 million of someone else’s money.

      the board spent 100 million last year – what for? self obsessed fans to boo and complain – if it was my money I would think FU.

  10. I am confused. Are you 100% sure that Alexis is leaving? Otherwise, this article seems a little premature.

    I don’t think fair to compare Arsenal’s league performances with Chile’s cup competitions. I understand you can do better with better organization but it’s one thing to perform well for 5 games and winning the final in a penalty shoot-out while playing against mostly inferior opponents and it’s a completely different beast trying to win the title in a much more competitive league over 38 games while have to deal with 3 other clubs that have deeper pockets than you . If you want to compare Chile’s cup competitions with Arsenal, the FA cup is a more fair comparison and in that regard I would say Arsenal have done as well as Chile.

    • nycgunner

      Comparing Chile’s two cup agaisnt inferior opponents? Are you serious?? FIFA top ten National teams holds 4 South American teams. And both titles were won against Messi’s Argentina.

      Really…just inferior opponents?

        • But we do all admit that Cavani, di Maria, Messi, Higuain, Mascerano, Dybala, Banega, Biglia, and Otamendi is like some kind of super dream team, right?

          Also, it’s not a surprise that Argentina went out and hired Jorge Sampaoli. And that they on their first match 1-0 over Brazil.

          • Sorry that’s not a dream team in my books. Great attacking players but the rest fall short of being in a dream team.

            Sampaoli is an excellent manager, no one’s arguing that. I would love to have him at Arsenal but the Brazilian side was missing a couple of players, including Neymar, and it was a friendly. I wouldn’t read too much into that.

          • I’m fairly certain Sampaoli will do very well with Argentina.

            Maybe not.

            But if I were to bet?

            Yeah, I’d put money on him.

      • FIFA’s top ten is a joke, and always has been.

        South American teams are good, but so is Chile. This is their “golden generation”. They’ve been one of the best 3-4 teams in South America for several years now, and it’s not all down to organization. Messi’s Argentina are good but have been consistently flawed, as they have an imbalanced squad (lots of great attacking options, not so much in deep midfield to pull the strings) and have had average managers. nycgunner is surely right that comparing winning the Copa America to winning the PL is a joke.

        • Thank you PFo. My point was surely lost here. I don’t want to go over Chile’s wins game by game – but just from the top of my head I remember them having a pretty easy path to the 2015 finals with a Suarez-less Uruguay being the toughest opponent. The final was a goalless draw which Chile won on penalties. During the centennial, they lost to the Argies in the group stages, trounced a hopeless Mexico side, had a great win against Columbia (which I thought was their best performance in the tourney) and then the final was a replica of the 2015 finals that ended with Chile winning on penalties. I’m not trying to put down’s Chile’s two cup wins here. They were great cup victories. I cheered for them both times since I wanted Alexis to win but the point here is that you can’t win the premier league like that. I find it confounding how anyone can take those victories and make any kind of comparisons to winning one of the toughest leagues in the world.

          • Your analysis of Chile’s Copa America is pretty sound but 7am wasn’t comparing Arsenal’s league performances with Chile’s cup competitions. He was highlighting the contrast between Sampaoli and Guardiola (both students of Bielsa I believe) and Wenger’s managerial style.

            Sampaoli’s team at their peak was one of the most relentless, brutal and direct South American teams in recent memory. Even lesser talents like Vargas ran and pressed like madmen – the contrast with Wenger’s tactical set-up is pretty clear in my opinion, and no doubt it was to Alexis.

  11. I think you’re a brilliant writer Tim. But more than that I thought that you wore your arsenal heart on sleeve and it showed in many of your posts. And it was incredible to me because you didn’t grow up with soccer. More incredibly you chose Arsenal when there was an easier choice. I really respected your love for the club. Combine that with your writing talent I was always glad you chose Arsenal. It would’ve been a shame if you supported Manchester United and were writing about them instead. But things have changed. I think you’ve grown out of love with the Arsenal just as quickly as you fell in love with it.

    And it’s a shame. Because did you really defend judas and that wanker of equal stature who wore our number 4?

    Maybe you are being realistic and all of that.

    But snap out of it, this is football man! There’s nothing realistic about it, and that’s why it’s real. And the season starts in under 2 months!

  12. a single nasiri can spoil a national team, alexis can club. Soccer is a team game, i think so, alone even Messi can do nothing….

  13. It seems most fans commenting here have gotten used to the annual 4th place trophy and have forgotten that there is an actual trophy to be won. The FA Cup isn’t nothing and I do think it might be premature to say Sanchez has gone (I’m still holding out hope!). Bt be honest with yourselves, Wenger hasn’t shown enough tactical nous to disprove Tim. Conte saw a fault early on and switched with great success to something that worked. Guardiola tinkers a lot, Mou has a knack for grinding results out no matter who he plays. What has Wenger done? Win a cup competition on its dying legs? Not won the PL in 13 years? We got thrashed 10-2 by Bayern, lost 7 out of 10, as Tim points out, at a critical stage of the season to teams like Crystal Palace ( a 3 nil loss). Even when he brings out gems like Coqzorla or Alexis at CF, he cannot or does not maintain it, either through stubbornness or inability to change. The past 3 seasons our performances have hinged on Cazorla and all 3 seasons we’ve lost him to no equal or similar replacement. We scream who else has done it on our shoestring budget? As far as I know, there’s no title for most financially prudent. We play the game and watch it too to win on the biggest stages. I love the man, I really do. But it is insanity to repeat history so many times and not change it. It is even more insane to defend it. Nothing says you can’t love the club yet want to see it do much better. Alexis came and his passion infected us, gave us a lot of beautiful moments. While I’d be sad to see him leave, I think the most unfortunate thing was that his team mates were not infected by his drive to win when it mattered the most. And all the player hating is irrelevant. A team lives and dies by the manager. He is tasked to win and has to find all the ingredients required. If the team fails, either through individual player faults or otherwise, he is still to blame as it it HIS teamm

    • I don’t think most folks here really disagree with you: Wenger is flawed, our performances over the last couple of seasons (as a whole) haven’t been good enough and ultimately he must take the blame for that, etc, etc.

      But we can agree to all that, yet still not have much of a stomach for the puerile, one-sided narrative that Tim is serving up today: Alexis is the bestest in the whole wide world and Arsenal and his weakling teammates, and that terrible old incompetent man, Arsene Wenger, don’t deserve him; everything good that Arsene Wenger has done in the last few years was just dumb luck, blah blah blah.

      • Pete.

        Puerile? I believe your characterization of my argument, your strawman, is the only thing puerile here.

        I’m not the first one to point out that Wenger has made some astonishingly lucky changes, I believe Tim Stillman said something similar a few months back commenting on how it looks a lot like Wenger starts with a plan and then doesn’t know what to do after that plan shows some weakness.

        • Good argument. When challenged, yell “tu quoque,” add a sneering tone, and hope that suffices to make it look like you’ve won the argument.

          • Sorry, that comment was placed in the wrong spot. It was meant to respond to the earlier comment about me being the one with the reductive narrative, though I guess it applies to the first paragraph here as well.

          • Tim,
            Over the last several months, I’ve found your writing on Alexis, in particular as he relates to Wenger and the team, to be childishly simplistic. Sorry if that seems like an overreaction. Probably my opinion could have been expressed in a more polite way.

            I don’t always agree with Tim Stillman (though I do a lot of the time), but I always find he expresses his views in his Arseblog column in a good-natured, respectful, thoughtful, measured manner. I think you’re thoughtful (and often insightful), but recently I’ve felt your more critical posts lack these other qualities (as have some of my comments here, no doubt!).

          • And of course my characterization of your argument was ungenerous. It was an obvious caricature, for effect.

            The point was that your description of Alexis on this blog in the last few months has risen to the level of hero worship, and often that has also meant you’ve taken lots of swipes at Wenger and Alexis’s teammates to underline your points (or guard Alexis from any criticism).

            I find this frustrating, because I think we can love Alexis without thinking it wrong to seriously criticize him, and without interpreting Wenger’s actions (e.g. in benching him against Liverpool, in switching formations, etc) in (what seems to me to be) such an ungenerous manner.

          • I’ve been critical of Alexis and when he’s gone he will be gone, it’s not like I’ll follow him forever.

            I get it. You disagree with me and that means that I’m being childish, slavish, hero-worshipping, etc etc.

            Thanks for the personal attacks.

  14. I smelt sentiment in you write up but continue. But mind you Arsenal survived to be in top all these years without Alexis. If he’s so great as you have painted him,he should have singlehandedly won us an EPL title since is arrival. Remember
    he was being used as a squad player in Barca,but Arsenal made him a vocal player.

  15. If Alexis won’t sign a new contract, then keep him; run him into the ground this year, and thank him for his service as he heads out the door next summer. Simples.

  16. Tim,
    Having followed your articles for a while, here’s what I’ve seen. You’re good when you talk numbers, but in opinionated articles, you seem to be going with the fashion these days, which is Wenger bashing. And quite funnily, Alexis is the stick that is used to beat Wenger with.

    Wenger has his flaws, like you and me but if he ‘chances’ upon a solution towards the end of the season inevitably, it’s because he starts with a weak hand and improves his position incrementally. Writing it off as mere luck would be disrespect to enterprise in general, and the man in particular.

    • I’m not sure how long you have followed me but I wanted Wenger to retire 2.5 years ago.

      Also, I write how I feel. I feel Wenger has been well past the sell by date for a while.

      But hey, he’s the manager and it honestly doesn’t matter where we finish next season.

      • Tim, I’ve had the pleasure of following your articles for years. It must’ve been after I’d started following Arseblog in 2009 and some of your articles that Arseblog linked to, were really insightful. So I started coming to 7amkickoff for objective analysis.

        Now, I fully understand you need to write based on how you feel. But I feel obliged to point out when it becomes all feelings and not what you committed to do, which is “Discussing Arsenal in a RATIONAL and CALM fashion”. I’ve respect your feelings, but I’ve a greater respect for reason.

          • With all due respect, if you’re this defensive about your view point and dedicated to the blogs you write and the forum you’ve created, could you fault a man who’s gone a season unbeaten, stood by the club when operating under financial constraints, delivered results on the pitch ( What forms ‘results’ is subjective, agree) and stands synonymous with the club ( Let’s not deny it) ? From Wenger’s standpoint, he’s a right to hold on to the principles that have made him serve Arsenal for over 20 years. Isn’t this what we admire in every Howard Roark? I believe it’s a disservice to the manager to say that he’s tactically inept. Your accusations hurt because you’re joining the Mourinho bandwagon branding Wenger a specialist in failure and he’s the greatest success story Arsenal has ever known.

            I’ve always known you to be an Arsene Wenger admirer ( being fully cognizant of his potential faults) and it’s painful to see you stoop down to the levels of Arsenal Fan TV. I truly hope that you’re going through a meltdown like Alexis did in Feb and that perspective makes a welcome comeback once the season starts.

          • “if you’re this defensive…”

            Uhh… I guess I’m being defensive because I’m defending my position. Wenger is even more defensive than I am. And more vindictive as well. There’s a man who squashes people who criticize him. If i’m defensive, it’s just in service of the argument.

            “From Wenger’s standpoint, he’s a right to hold on to the principles that have made him serve Arsenal for over 20 years.”

            He can, of course do that. Though I would say that it’s not been the greatest the last 12 years and has gotten progressively worse the last three. And I would say that I as member of Arsenal football club have a right to complain when this isn’t going well.

            “I believe it’s a disservice to the manager to say that he’s tactically inept. Your accusations hurt because you’re joining the Mourinho bandwagon branding Wenger a specialist in failure and he’s the greatest success story Arsenal has ever known.”

            I understand why you’re hurt by my comments. I also posted a quote from Lee Dixon where he says Wenger literally can’t teach defense. So, it’s not just me. It’s Sol Campbell, Tony Adams, Lee Dixon, Szczesny, Cesc, Vieira, on and on the list of former players saying that the tactical requirements at Arsenal are far below the expectations of other teams. And it’s not just players, it’s well connected journalists. Amy lawrence says it. Rafa Honigstein says it. All of the guys on the Guardian podcast say it. It has taken me a LONG time to gather all of these quotes from former players together to form this opinion about Wenger.

            And yes, of course I understand that Wenger is one of the greatest ever! I SAY IT ALL THE TIME!! Come on, man. I will gladly praise Wenger for his youth project. That was an amazing and audacious project to undertake at a critical time in Arsenal’s history. When all is said and done, the Invincibles will get the headlines but what he did between 2006-2010 to keep this club in the top four on a shoestring is unthinkable.

            And finally, I don’t think he’s a specialist in failure and have never said such an absurd thing. I am not at all at the level of Arsenal FAn TV and I can’t remotely understand how you can say such things given the context of everything I have written here in the comments and the main article. And finally, I’m certainly not having a melt down.

            Look, we are disagreeing on an interpretation of the facts in front of us. That’s fine for discussion. But you lumping me in with Arsenal Fan TV, Mourinho, and saying I’m having a melt down smacks of some sort of religious discussion. You’re not disagreeing about my ideas, you’re saying “you’re a terrible person”. And frankly, that’s not acceptable.

          • “My articles are rational and calm still. Thanks”

            –I have to agree with the poster here; your focus has changed quite a bit since you started writing and it’s not just about your stance on the manager. Instead of data-driven arguments, you’re much more prone to emotional tirades these days. Look, you’ve said it many times, it’s your website and you write what you want, why you want. I would just point out that you accumulated this lovely community of followers over the years with the former approach, not the latter.

          • “You’re not disagreeing about my ideas, you’re saying “you’re a terrible person”. And frankly, that’s not acceptable.”

            If that’s what I’ve managed to convey with my posts, you’ve my unreserved apologies! Forgive me, I try but I can’t possibly write as well as I’d like to.

            Tim, As Dr. Gooner said, I just wanted to point out the subtle shift in the theme of your articles of late. I attribute that to the disappointments of the season and hence, my usage of ‘Alexis-like meltdown’. Again, the intention is not to doubt your integrity or sanity ; it’s merely to attract attention to the metamorphosis the articles have undergone, if you haven’t noticed them.

  17. Alexis is a great player without doubt.
    Chelsea won the league without him.
    Tot second without him.
    City third without him.
    Liv forth without him.
    Arsenal fifth with him.
    Alexis is a great player without doubt.
    Chls never missed him.
    Arse too can live without him.
    Alexis is a great player without doubt.

  18. A few things here…

    (1) Alexis could barely hide hide his disgust and disdain for the team effort, and it was clear that he’d had enough in those awful days of the winter, when we stumbled through games with heart, organisation, or, seemingly, tactical preparation. That we fell short of CL places by one point is a mini-miracle. We are in freefall. And clearly, something was wrong in the camp, as Alexis showed on the field.

    (2) His mood and the public harmony did seem to improve considerably, and he looked a happier bunny long before the champagne soaked FA Cup celebrations. My view, entirely unsupported by any evidence, was that there were some pretty intense hear-to-hearts through those awful days earlier in the year when Arsenal was disintegrating. I believe (again without entirely knowing for sure), that it took strong guys like Per and Cech to bring back that dressing room. There was clearly a lot happening out of sight that we don’t and won’t know about, but Alexis’ mood certainly lightened, coincidentally with our winning run.

    (3) If I was a gambling man, I’d put money on him leaving, but I haven’t seen anything definitive yet. The candle’s been lit, and prayers offered 🙂

    (4) Arsene has said that he and Ozil will be held to their contracts. It’s not a demand we made of him — it’s something he said, independently. Unless a player does something publicly to make a severance inevitable (like Van Persie did in his message to the fans), the club can make them honour the length of their contract. Of course, they’ll do a Bosman in a year’s time (and get far more salary than they normally would), but there’s also a slim chance (very slim) that they’ll re-sign. So for me Wenger’s dwindled credibility rests on whether he does what he says in this situation. We the fans didn’t ask him to forego £50m — he said he would, or is prepared to. Wenger, btw, has said plenty that wasn’t true over the years. His political savvy makes James Comey look like an amateur. Let’s see what he does with Alexis.

    My feeling is that elite players want elite competition and a chance to win titles. Arsenal, it would appear, offer neither to Alexis. There’s been some fine sports writing in the past few days, particularly out of Oklahoma City, reflecting on why Kevin Durant is a bay area winner today. Maybe that’s where Alexis finds himself now.

    • “So for me Wenger’s dwindled credibility rests on whether he does what he says in this situation. We the fans didn’t ask him to forego £50m — he said he would, or is prepared to.”

      Yes, for me too.

  19. Tim, I am mostly with you in your assessment of the state of things at the club and its coach, but I don’t agree with the point about Arsene being lucky. Arsene should get the stick when we look like a disorganised rabble (like we did for the middle third of the season), and he should get the credit when he fixes it.

    It is a far-reaching change. It surely had to be worked on. Players had to be convinced. Some, who’d been playing reasonably enough in the old one, had to be told that things are changing.

    That’s not luck. Big change actually takes some cojones. I give Wenger credit for turning things around. Of course, he gets the blame for the deep malaise as well.

    Lastly, the Cup run was a marvellous one (as is his record there and out 3 in 4). Let’s not minimise that either, even if we think — as I do — that the manager lost it years ago.

    • Ehhh… the back three isn’t as far-reaching a change as you think. Wenger actually plays and has played a variant of the wingback position for as long as I’ve been watching. His
      “back four” system requires that the wide fullbacks push up in attack and provide width in midfield. Typically in his old system, this left two at the back, which was routinely exploited by the opposition with long balls over the top. That happened for about, I dunno, 10 years? I think that’s about right. 10 years of that. When he added Coquelin a few years ago it provided a sort of advances, roaming third back for Arsenal. He certainly wasn’t a true midfielder.

      So, this latest change meant removing Coquelin and putting on another CB. This crowds the spaces in defense and allows the midfielders more room to play. I actually suggested this formation a year ago and was laughed at but that’s irrelevant. All he’s fundamentally doing is choking space. He’s not addressed the lack of discipline among his players. He’s not organizing the players better. They are still wide open at times and recklessly attacking from midfield.

      The important thing here is that Wenger didn’t set out to play a back three. He just did it. Credit to him for getting the organization right. But let’s not pretend that this back three has closed up shop for Arsenal’s defense. From a shot quality standpoint, there was NO DIFFERENCE between the back three and the back two. What I see instead is that Cech made some important saves. For example, in the FA Cup final Diego Costa had several shots in great positions saved. And let’s not even pretend that Alexis’ goal wasn’t lucky – the ref should have called at least two violations on that play. So, I’m sorry but this looks like a lot of luck rather than some great masterstroke of tactical genius. And maybe I’ll be proven wrong next season. Though, I have to say that I have a pretty good track record when it comes to sniffing these things out.

      There’s another weird thing going on here: Wenger keeps emulating last season’s champs. This summer he tried to buy Leicester. That would have turned his team into a counter attacking side – and there was a lot of evidence that Wenger was morphing his team into a counter attacking team. I think he also bought Lucas to be his Vardy, though why he abandoned that I don’t know. Then this season he emulated the back three. Interestingly, he actually said something about how it’s funny that when a team win the league everyone thinks “oh I should play like them” but that you have to stay true to your own style and players. And yet here he is, doing exactly the thing he said you shouldn’t do.

  20. The way Wenger plays may have failed to bring us a title for far too long and his system may fail the less talented players but the very last player that Wengers system has failed is Alexis Sanchez. Sanchez has thrived under Wenger. The system makes Sanchez the focal point and allows him total freedom to express his talent. Or is his career best year just luck too?

    I know you don’t care anymore Tim but your words seem to spit forth with anger when you write about Arsenal these days.

    • Well, I would say that Wenger certainly didn’t create a system that turned Alexis into a 30 goal a season player. He took a player who scored 29 goals one season for Barcelona and gave him the ball. Alexis finished at a career high in terms of finishing percentage and with as much of the ball and shots as he had last season, he should have scored close to 30 goals. So, there is a huge bite of caprice to this season from Alexis.

      I’d go one step further and say that it looked like Özil abdicated his playmaker role for Alexis which is what paved the way for Alexis to be this season’s assist king as well.

      As for anger? Nope, not in the least. I wasn’t angry or sad or happy when I wrote this piece or any of my pieces these last few months. Sorry if that doesn’t square with how you saw me writing this morning.

      • Fair enough argument thanks Tim. I just read your articles and posts and perceive unhappiness/frustration/anger in the consistently negative arguements put forward and I genuinely worry about how you are doing, so it’s good to hear all this isn’t actually coming from an angry place. Be well and be happy.

  21. This is a rather odd article.

    As the other Tim (Stillman) put it once, Alexis is with Arsenal because this is his level. He has been improved and made to look better than he was at Barca by our manager. A truly great player takes the rest of the team with him. Thierry Henry dragged Arsenal to the Champions League final. Alexis shouldn’t act like he thinks his team-mates are beneath him. It’s a team game.

    Your take on AW also strikes a false note for me. You don’t get lucky for 21 years straight. Three league titles and 7 FA Cups is not to be sniffed at. Even in this season with the horrible Spring dip, we still finished with a trophy. Success in the last 11 years has been comparatively modest – but success it is.

    It wasn’t luck that Francis Coquelin was still at the club when he was paired with Cazorla – in the half-decade or so after FC first came to the club, players in his position had been moved on – Eastmond, Song, Frimpong – and yet AW kept Coquelin. The timing of him coming good may have been serendipitous, but his continued presence was not.

    It’s hard to imagine that almost all the richest clubs in the world would have wanted to lure Arsene Wenger away if he was tactically inept, or that he would win such a high percentage of his matches.
    I would be interested to hear more detail on the players who claim Arsenal are tactically ill-prepared. It sounds very un-Arsene-like and also contradicts what some other players have said in passing about their tactical meetings etc. It also contradicts the evidence of my own eyes when subs are being prepped on the sidelines – what is being said, what are they pointing to on the tablet, if not tactical instructions? He gives brief bullet-point type instructions because he believes that the players will remember them more clearly, and we all know that he likes players to work problems out for themselves on the pitch, but that does not contradict what I have just said – it just means AW doesn’t drill them like some other managers would. Some players like that style, they flourish when given that degree of trust. Others don’t. A jazz musician is just as technically adept and musically gifted as a classical pianist, but the former takes more risks and uses the notes on the sheet only as a starting point or inspiration. The improvisation may not work sometimes, but that’s not because that she or he can’t play the notes, or doesn’t understand the music.

    One good recent example of Wenger’s tactical acumen is the FA Cup Final. Antonio Conte (whom I really rate, btw) had been playing three at the back all season, but was flummoxed by Arsene’s tweak of that 3-4-3, separating Xhaka and Ramsey so that Chelsea couldn’t mark or disrupt our midfield passing, and we could spring attacks quickly.

    Why do you say AW put aside his “ego” to change formation? It’s not like he invented 4-2-3-1. Basically, he likes what works. We were struggling with 3-4-3 in one league game, he changed formation mid-match and then went back to 3-4-3 for the next match.

    I am proudly pro-Wenger, though I recognise that a rational case could be made for wanting him out – but don’t try to make it by traducing the man’s legacy and denigrating his achievements. Be fair – who is actually better in most aspects of management, as opposed to – sorry to quote Tim Stillman again – annoying in different ways?

    • “A truly great player takes the rest of the team with him. Thierry Henry dragged Arsenal to the Champions League final. Alexis shouldn’t act like he thinks his team-mates are beneath him. It’s a team game.”

      I think Alexis did drag this team with him and took them as far as he could. He helped with the FA Cup final and honestly Arsenal would have finished significantly further down the table if not for his goals in the last 10 games. Where the team fell apart was defensively between December and March. How could Alexis have “dragged” the team up out of that slump? Should he have played keeper? What about how the midfield collapsed during that time and Wenger didn’t know who to play? Should he have gone back and played DM? And also there’s a lot of overfantasizing about the role Henry played in that (ultimately unfruitful) Champions League run. It wasn’t Henry who dragged that team through those matches, it was the defense. That was the best defense in Champions league history up until I think this year with Juventus. And let’s not forget that Henry was through on goal three times in that final and missed all of them.

      And back to Wenger’s qualities as a manager and whether he can organize a defense. Think about that 04/05 Arsenal side. Why is it that Wenger now has a poor defensive record and yet he was also the manager of those teams which were so incredibly good at defending? Why can’t he replicate that? He was there in training every day! Right? How come he can’t get any team since 05 to play solid defense? Why did he insist for a decade on playing a kamikaze high line? Mourinho (I hate him) can replicate his defensive plans across teams, across leagues, and across international competitions.

      According to former players it’s because he can’t do it. Lee Dixon said this:

      “George [Graham] drilled us into very knowledgable individuals, and a defence that could almost play with its eyes shut. I don’t know whether Arsene could do that. Well, he couldn’t!

      That’s not his style, he is not knowledgeable about the defensive side of the game. He doesn’t push people around on the training pitch; he creates environments. A perfect example of that is Ashley Cole: Ash couldn’t defend to save his life when he got into the Arsenal team – and he’d agree with me.

      But he had arguably one of the best coaches around for him in Tony Adams standing next to him. Tony had him on a piece of string. Arsene didn’t coach him (Cole) once. Arsene doesn’t particularly know whether the left-back is in the right position or not! But he knows that Tony knows. So he put Ash next to Tony and said, have a look at him. That blend of experience is the perfect platform for Arsene to do his stuff.

      Because that’s what he is brilliant at – creating environments to prepare players to be the best they possibly can.”

      The reason he can’t replicate that defense from 2005 is because he doesn’t have Sol Campbell around anymore. The reason he can’t replicate the defense from 1998 is because he doesn’t have Tony Adams around anymore. I’m not saying this out of anger or hatred. It’s just what it is. I see that quote from Dixon as both positive and negative.

      As for Wenger out, I’m not saying that. There’s no point. I’ve been writing this blog for 10 years (in January) and for 8 years of that I was a staunch Wenger defender. I still love Arsene Wenger and appreciate what he’s done for this club but man, at some point I have to take a look at what’s going on and say this isn’t good work anymore. I mean how many years did we complain about Eboue being too far up the pitch, or Denilson not killing off a counter, or Clichy making brain farts, or Bellerin too far up the pitch, or Coquelin not forming a good partnership in midfield, or Xhaka’s brain farts, or players who want away (and then going on to win trophies everywhere else).. at some point you think, maybe this isn’t all just down to the players. Maybe you don’t. I do.

      And as for this piece, all I’m saying is “this is what happened last season”. Alexis got fed up with the grabasstic organization in defense and that was something he has zero control over. So, it’s not at all a surprise that he’s running as fast as he can away from Wenger.

      • “Where the team fell apart was defensively between December and March.”
        –Yes but why? It was the same players who played respectable defense for most of the rest of the season. Why did the bottom fall out all of a sudden? You see that kind of thing in all of sports when a whole team is not playing together and has lost confidence.

        “Why is it that Wenger now has a poor defensive record and yet he was also the manager of those teams which were so incredibly good at defending?”
        –Arsene is an offensive coach and always has been. We were reliant on superb individuals in defence then just as we are now. It’s a very different style than Mourinho’s, Sampaoli’s or Cholo’s. He doesn’t play the way they play because he doesn’t want to play that way. Is that bad? I guess that depends on your perspective.

        “The reason he can’t replicate that defense from 2005 is because he doesn’t have Sol Campbell around anymore.”
        –More importantly, he doesn’t have a squad that’s head and shoulders above the rest of the league anymore. Sol was brilliant, but so was that whole team. Koscielny more or less is that player on the current squad. Doesn’t Wenger get credit for him? He was not established prior to coming to us. Neither was Kolo Toure.

        “I mean how many years did we complain about Eboue being too far up the pitch, or Denilson not killing off a counter, or Clichy making brain farts, or Bellerin too far up the pitch, or Coquelin not forming a good partnership in midfield, or Xhaka’s brain farts, or players who want away (and then going on to win trophies everywhere else).. at some point you think, maybe this isn’t all just down to the players.”
        –To me it’s down to the difference between our players and the competition. That gap shrunk through the years as financial dynamics shifted so radically. You can view the struggles we’ve had as a brilliant manager squeezing every last drop from comparatively limited squads, or you can view it as stagnation under the leadership of stale despot content with a minimum achievement. I suppose that difference in perspective underlines the arguments we have. There are elements of truth to both sides which makes the argument a compelling one.

        “And as for this piece, all I’m saying is “this is what happened last season”. Alexis got fed up with the grabasstic organization in defense and that was something he has zero control over. So, it’s not at all a surprise that he’s running as fast as he can away from Wenger.”
        –This is all pure conjecture on your part. We can trade in opinions, so I have no problem with you saying it, but it would behoove you to recognize your claims for what they are.

        • Mid-year, mid season collapses have been a feature of Arsenal campaigns for long years now. And you ask why, as if this was something new this year. This is a BIG part of fans’ huge increased disgruntlement with Wenger’s management. Why (in 2016/2017) is the wrong question. Why Wenger hasn’t found a fix (and indeed presided of the worst initiation of his regular mid-season collapses) is the more profound question.

          This is what has frustrated most about Wenger if late. Groundhog Day. And “deja vu all over again.”

      • But in 2005/06 Sol Campbell went missing from the team through injury. And when he came back, got axed from the team till selected for the UCL final. Senderos and Kolo Toure mostly played central defence in the team that reached the final. Add that to the fact that both Clichy and Ashley Cole were injured for most of the season, and Mathieu Flamini deputized there. Eboue was converted to being a fullback and defender, and only started playing for the team after playing for his country at the African nations cup in january. Put that together, you have a backline that was made up of Kolo Toure, Senderos, Eboue and Flamini playing back 4 for most of the season, and they got to the UCL final not conceding a goal in 10 games. And you can still confidently write that Wenger cannot coach defence?

        If Sol Campbell took over coaching duties of the defence after Tony Adams left, then who coached Flamini and Eboue into being the flying defenders they were in that 05/06 season?

        • Yes, Sol Campbell was still the key – he was the one who taught Kolo. This is EXACTLY what Wenger needs in a team, a player to take the others by the hand and show them how to play defense. And your example, again, proves the point: Wenger throws players on and sometimes gets lucky. Wenger has had 13 years to try to organize a defense and still can’t do it.

          • “Sol Campbell was still the key – he was the one who taught Kolo. This is EXACTLY what Wenger needs in a team, a player to take the others by the hand and show them how to play defense.”
            Yes and no. Wenger is the kind of manager who sets the main guidelines: playing a high defensive line or not, playing the ball out from the back or not, when to press high up the pitch and when to retreat, what kind of tempo, what kind of passing in the final third, etc… Wenger is not into micro-managing. He has Bould to go into details with the defenders: what to do if an opponent drops back, if he’s near the touchline, if he’s running at you, how to handle blocks on set pieces, mixing up man-marking and zonal marking, etc… In that regard, Bould is acting like a defensive coordinator in American football. Mertesacker can also help out but Wenger does not rely on him for that (remember, Mertesacker never played in a back three). Mertesacker is much more important for leadership and chemistry in the dressing room than for tactical guidance.

          • Every quote I’ve read from every former player who has spoken about Arsene Wenger’s management refutes this. They all say that Wenger relies on the players to sort out defending. So, I’m basing my opinion on that.

  22. I wouldnt begrudge Sanchez or Ozil if they left. They are quality players with specific attributes and Wenger failed dismally to bring in talent to get the best out of them.

    Buying Cech and NOBODY else, Elneny, Welbeck and Perez showed me Wenger is clueless as what he wants to do with this club anymore.

    I, like Tim, will not be expecting anything from this coming season and the next because Wenger has nothing more to offer sadly.

    • Ghost Gooner, this is my stance as well. No-one took responsibility for the catastrophic transfer window that was summer 2015. Coming so close to winning it with that dysfunctional midfield was like a cosmic joke at our expense.

      At this stage I’d rather Wenger accepted he’s wasted 3 years of Alexis & Ozil, sold the pair to the highest bidders and do a Monaco-style investment in a fresh crop of young talent.

  23. Ben
    “True Arsenal supporters are purists, not whiners”. Is that some kind of a rule or something?
    Exactly what’s wrong with your understanding of football today. Like Wenger, you need some catching up to do with modern football. The ‘fan base’ is not your local working class anymore, the clubs these days whore themselves around the world selling dreams of winning trophies or according to IG ‘we can do some exciting things’ etc.. So if you buy a box of choclate but find a frickn carrot inside then most people will show emotions, in variety of different ways..
    When you bring petro dollars in the argument to justify Wenger’s failings you forget that it also shows that he is a flat track bully, as soon as the competition increased, he got found out,
    his consistent failings against big clubs further proves the point.

    • It’s a risible comment. There’s no orthodoxy to supporting Arsenal, or being a “true supporter”, whatever that is. It has a whiff of Ceaucescu to me. Write positively, or else you’re not a true supporter.

      There are things that I take issue with, I’ve said so, and Tim has laid out his counter-argument. Respectful disagreement. I do think though that his sentiments are generally squarely in line with a significant section of the goober fanbase, and although it’s hard to measure these things with precision, it feels like the majority. Certainly it’s grown massively.

      Tim’s Wenger-skepticims of 2.5 years (mine’s going on 4 years), approximately mirrors the sharpest rate of loss of faith in Wenger among the fans, it would seem to me. I don’t agree with every argument, but the overall sentiment is certainly a rational one.

      And hey, I have every respect for those who want support Wenger, although I’m going to thoroughly frisk a bad argument. There’s no one, approved way to support Arsenal FC.

    • “There’s no orthodoxy to supporting Arsenal, or being a “true supporter”, whatever that is.”
      –Like Kaius said above, much of football traditionally has been about swearing and singing from the stands and swearing and singing in the pubs. It’s an emotional release valve, a diversion, not an intellectual’s plaything, and support means showing up to games (preferably pissed drunk), singing your heart out, and getting into fights with the opposing fans if possible/necessary. But we on the internet experience it entirely differently in this day and age. When you talk about Arsenal, I can’t see the passion on your face or hear it in your voice. I sing terrace anthems in the stands arm-in-arm with you. I don’t share taxis or beers with you afterward. To me you are just a faceless voice who says things I don’t agree with, as I am to you. It’s easy to talk down to a person like that, to reject their view or to cast their view as extreme. I’m guilty of it to be sure. So where am I going with this? Maybe think about what Ben is saying instead of just getting offended. We are all part of the same congregation and from my point of view, it looks weird that half the congregation appears to be cursing at and calling for the heads of the people in charge of the club. I personally don’t understand how that qualifies as “support” of any kind. Who or what are you supporting? And maybe that’s Ben’s point too. Respectfully, I believe it’s gone far past simple skepticism. It’s blossomed into a polarized world view wherein all events/facts can be viewed a certain way depending on preconceived notions and perpetuated by confirmation bias and online echo chambers. I realize this can be true for either side and I am not whiter than white. I do think the notion of “support” as it was once known to football is now beyond recognition.

      • There’s no dissonance at all between supporting a club/team and being dissatisfied with aspects of its management. None whatsoever.

        I know that we disagree on much. But I’m still surprised that you (anyone) could take issue with the statement you cite at the start, and its overall posit that if you don’t like the way things are done at Arsenal, go support a petro club. How on earth is that an argument worth supporting?

        I couldn’t quite get the thrust of your last paragraph, but it looks as you were arguing that people see and begin to believe things through the prism of an echo chamber.

        No one has a monopoly on rationality, Doc. People who want Arsene gone or are critical of the club are not victims of some (unsupported) echo chamber theory. In fact, many of the arguments criticising the manager and the club well-made, rational and thoughtful. As are some that go the other way.

        Beware please of that which can seem condescending, even if you qualify that by saying both sides can be affected.

        • You’re not wrong claude (And I hate the go and support another club bit)

          But it’s not just about what your (or anybody’s) argument is, but how persistent and how ‘loud’ it can get away with being.

          Just as a mental exercise, imagine a world where since 2005, Arsenal and Wenger were consistently praised in the media. Instead of the trophy drought narrative (started in 2007) we had the media bigging up how even while building a stadium, fighting against oil rich clubs, selling their best players, and despite horrific injuries (which often were a result of another media narrative of Arsenal being soft) Arsenal and Wenger stayed competitive and constantly challenged for trophies.

          If the tone of writing was..yeah they may have fallen short..BUT..look at everything they are achieving.Fantastic. In such a scenario, you could still believe Wenger overstayed and wasn’t the right man for the job anymore. And you wouldn’t be any more right or wrong about it. But..I would quite confidently state that your tone of making this same argument would be different. You’d be forced to think more about why you are right, and you’d be forced to present it in a softer form than some of the arguments that are made against Wenger as absolute established fact.

          That is what an ‘echo chamber’ means. This is what I meant some months earlier about how the media affects us. It doesn’t mean you are a sheep, or that your views are less valid or true or intelligent. It does mean that you are more susceptible to ‘bullying’ another point of view without even realising it. This in turn forces an ‘extremist’ reaction, which Tim sometimes cottons on to, probably from Twitter, as the actual counter argument and it just leads to an ever increasing shouting match which people escape by making their safe spaces to talk to like minded folks only. One of the strengths of this blog is that it isn’t like that. Yet.

  24. FunGunner
    Wenger did not keep coq because he was first team material, his loan was cut short because our midfielders were all injured. When Alexis came to us he wasnt probably as good as he is today but with his talent he could’ve improved in any other team.

  25. This thread — which I fear is going to be closed soon — reminds me of discourse during the US presidential elections. Someone would say, “I don’t like Trump for X reason”, and then a bunch of folks would attack the poster and his motives, and not the arguments.

    It started with a guy telling the author to be more supportive or go support a petro club if he doesn’t like how Arsenal is being run. A guy who spent a chunk of his day churning out content on a good football blog he’s been writing for years, only to have someone come on, first up, and tell him he’s not a true fan.

    It continued with someone aligning him with Mourinho’s “specialist in failure” comment. It continued with someone deciding he’d provide qualitative analysis on the author’s recent work (which isn’t against any law) and mindset. If an argument is OTT, demolish it. There’s stuff here that I don’t agree with. This isn’t a David Hytner match report. It’s a blog from a dyed-in-the-wool gooner, who has expressed some strong, even provocative, POVs.

    But some of the responses here are uncalled for. Their tone has veered into ad homs, and that is unfortunate. If ever you needed proof about the strength of feeling in goonerland. Let’s play the ball and not the man. Even if you don’t like his play.

  26. Tim you’ve always been feistily defensive and proud of your work. Justifiably so. Probably even more feisty in the early days of this blog actually.
    But man you’ve got to stop taking every criticism as a personal attack by people bu**hurt about you criticising Wenger. You’ve been criticising him for many years, not just the 2.5 years you’ve wanted him to retire. The way it seems to me, both personally and reading some of the comments, a lot of your readers are simply challenging your basis and line of criticism and questioning where the balance went? Even some of those who believe Wenger should’ve left. But for some reason you view any opposing argument as a personal slight on your writing, your character, or your right to say what you feel.

  27. Reading through the article & most of the above comments, there is a clear disagreement between sections of fans. We stand divided between “Wenger Out”, “Wenger In”, “Wenger the Coach” and so on.

    One thing which I read in the comments above and I completely believe in as a fan is “No player is bigger than the club”. I started supporting Arsenal back in 2010 thanks to my flat mate who used to watch each of their games. I started finding out more about the club and soon fell in love with the way the club had manifested into this modern football club who play the game in a positive way.

    Much of that, I would like to believe, should be attributed to Arsene Wenger. I agree he is stubborn and does not change much. This is clear with his team selections where he wears out players without proper rotation and a clear lack of plan B. But, stating he is a bad coach is a bit of a stretch. Sure, he delegates tasks but, I will not question is tactical acumen.

    Those are my views and I respect what others have said in this forum. If Alexis does leave, I hope we give a good run to upcoming players like Reiss Nelson and almost established players like Iwobi.

    I would love for us to win the title without a talisman like Alexis. I would love for us to win the title with Alexis. Either way, I would love for us to win the PL title and do well. #coyg

  28. A writer’s tone cannot disguise his emotions, when that tone has become consistent.

    I think Tim doesn’t appreciate how closely he is followed, and how somehow your post match pieces over the years have helped us digest disappointments and given us hope.

    These last 2 or 3 months have been a departure. Your anger and frustration with Wenger is as obvious as Myles Palmer’s perfect sarcasm about everything Arsenal.

    I read ANR because of how well he writes not what he writes, and I guess a lot of your readers can stomach your new theme. We just have to look for hope elsewhere.

    Your conclusion implied that Cesc and Van Persie left due to managerial incompetence. That’s okay. But history of your articles will suggest otherwise.
    RVP, Cesc and Vieira left because they felt it was better elsewhere. Because they wanted clubs who have a chance to buy the latest big player. We both know Arsenal does not have that money. We may say that Arsenal has Cash reserves and pay the 4th highest wage now but we also know that our ability to spend and invest in the team is dependent on what Kroenke approves. And while our wages have improved in the last 2 seasons, our willingness to spend big on a single transfer is still absent.

    If Sanchez leaves as you expect, the difference between him and those who did before will be that Arsenal moulded those players,whereas in this case we spent big to get him.
    The argument that Wenger isn’t a good coach or that he cannot coach defense is the one that hurts. It is a lie. You’re talking about a coach who went unbeaten for 49 games with a defence that comprises Lauren, Ashley Cole, Kolo Toure and Sol Campbell. All of whom he brought to the club. Two of whom were not even defenders when they joined the club. Two of whom had not even played first team football in Europe before.
    Let’s be fair while in opposition.
    The argument that the new opposition was stumbled upon for Wenger is as true for him as it is for Conte who adopted it after he got trounced by Arsenal.

    We may debate about the timing of the adoption. That’s okay. But it is credit to him that he perfected the system well enough to beat Chelsea again the cup final.Conte has been using for longer.
    This doesn’t say Wenger is perfect. Far from it. I just wish that we don’t need to make him out as incompetent in order to say his time with Arsenal is done.

    • Wage bill actually dropped to 5th in the Premier League last season and sadly par for the course so did we. But the money in the League just makes it a little harder and certainly not impossible.

  29. One of my favourite things about the blog was that I think you struck a good balance between the positive and more critical articles.

    As someone with a more upbeat view on Arsenal matters it made the more critical pieces seem far less like attacks on the club/manager and more like points of view. Because of that I found it a much easier to engage with those pieces and those discussions. It became one of my favourite things about the site.

    Whether the articles are positive or negative isn’t a big deal honestly, but I do think that there’s a new air of cynicism/resignation in your writing (maybe justified) that makes it less fun to read, even if the points you’re making were 100% correct.

  30. Tim, we may have our political differences but on this post I am in complete agreement.

    We must judge Wenger as a manager only in the context of the modern era. By current standards he is in fact sub-standard as a manager for a club with our resources. Every game is a one-off. There is no excuse for not changing tactics and set-ups game to game. There is no excuse for not customizing your approach based on personnel and opponent. There is no excuse for a scatter-gun approach to transfers or youth promotion to the first team.

    I get the sports as art argument. But I also think sports is a proxy for war. It’s no coincidence that 150 years ago a boy’s heroes were those men who had made it back home after soldiering on a battle field in some distant war. Today a boy’s heroes are footballers who battle each other on a smaller field albeit with a ball and not bullets. Jazz? Wenger had the Knights of the Roundtable when he had the Invincibles, no need to lead them, just set them loose on the battlefield. But today when you don’t have those legends you need to be a well-drilled, well-trained, disciplined and focused group to win. That’s not Wenger.

    Adios Alexis.

  31. Sorry Jack but Wenger did change tactics and set up and personnel from game to game. There was actually an extraordinary amount of chopping and changing done throughout this season in particular coinciding with a poor run of form starting in December and lasting seemingly forever. Wenger searched and searched for some way to get this team playing better football after the 20 game run ended with Sanchez coming so deep from CF that he may as well have been a part of the increasingly dysfunctional midfield. During that period the midfield in particular was tinkered with almost weekly but also various forwards were used too including the moving of Sanchez back to CF on four occasions after he was originally moved back to the left. Moving Sanchez back up top simply didn’t work. A really obvious example was Giroud being used as a direct option to bypass pressing teams when we played such sides. To say that Wenger doesn’t do tactics is more than a little silly. He may not do it how others would do it but he certainly does set up his team to play a certain way and he certainly changes how he sets up his team depending on both how it is functioning and the type and caliber of opposition.
    Just because he once famously drew a Wolf on the board and told the players to play like that doesn’t mean he simply picks a new animal for each game to point at and nor does it mean that he hadn’t already prepared his team of Wolves on that particular day.

    • Nope. Complete revisionist history.

      I don’t want to be another PFo here and type a 1,000 word essay. The examples abound where you are wrong.

      Almost every single one of Wenger’s tactical changes in the past 5 years has been forced on him. The successful ones are basically happy accidents. Cazorla & Coquelin. Bellerin into the first team. Sanchez up top. The three at the back was a last ditch desperate effort to arrest a horrid slide. I’m an amateur tactician and I thought we should be trying 3 at the back last year already.

      Wenger is extremely conservative. You can argue that he makes tactical changes. In retort I will say sure, but when? Always when it’s too late. Never proactively. He’s the same way in the transfer market, the same way in the youth set-up. Everton and Spurs have surpassed us in their youth program. Man City and Chelsea are light years ahead.

      It’s a f**cking mess. He created it. He created the drama about his contract that ended up being a distraction. He delayed in signing Mustafi which probably cost us the Liverpool game and ultimately 4th place. He did it.

      I was a big Wenger proponent until last year. But now, I fully believe he needs to go.

      • So Wenger never planned ahead in the whole “Bellerin into the first team” thing? Like, there were no signs (e.g. loaning Jenkinson out despite letting Sagna go, choosing to buy an older Debuchy rather than the younger, more talented Aurier) that Bellerin was being groomed for the role? (Hint: this is a rhetorical question; I think it’s clear there were signs.)

        Wenger had said Sanchez could be a CF for a long time, and most of us (me included!) rolled our eyes and said it wouldn’t work at the beginning of the season when he started trying it (if anything, it was him too quickly abandoning it, not trying it to begin with, which deserves criticism). Wenger had played Cazorla in a deeper role before the fated period of the season where injuries meant he put him there permanently, and Wenger is the one who brought Coquelin to the club, gave Coquelin a debut in the first team (he played in a NLD way back when, I recall), kept Coquelin at the club long after other youngsters had left and after Coquelin had had underwhelming loan spells, didn’t buy an expensive new defensive midfielder, etc. Maybe the exact timing of his introduction into the starting lineup, and his partnership with Cazorla, were serendipitous, but it was also a number of Wenger’s decisions, flowing directly from his management style and philosophy (having faith to give youngsters a chance, etc), that led to these changes. Many other managers would have made different decisions and Coquelin and Bellerin wouldn’t have made the break throughs when they did, if at all. You make it sound like the man’s an Inspector Clouseau-level bumbling idiot who just lucked into these good things happening. We can criticize Arsene (I agree he’s too conservative, waiting too long to make a change) while still giving him due credit for his recent successes.

        I could go on, but I don’t want to “be another PFo” (didn’t know I had earned such a lousy reputation).

        In any event, 11pm’s point wasn’t so much that Wenger’s been brilliant, but more that last season there was ample evidence of an awful lot of tactical tweaking going on, and eventually he figured out something that (so far) has worked, which is far from the “go play like wolves” picture of Wenger as acting like tactics are all highfalutin ideas he doesn’t bother with.

      • Glad I left you to answer that one – composed a long reply and deleted it.

        The basic requirement of this season was that Wenger show enough tactical acumen for a title challenge. We’ve proved we can win FA Cups. Wenger’s last contract, in his own words, was about “going for the title” and as a team, we failed.

        Wenger has been tactically astute enough to maintain top-four finishes for nearly two decades. With nearly 5 other managers who can match or better him tactically or financially Gazidis’ claim that we can “find no better manager” will be severely tested this season.

      • Fair enough. There is a big difference in saying he doesn’t do tactics and he doesn’t do them well. I didn’t argue that he did them well. I argued that he did do them and this season he was indeed forced into changing things more than ever. Was it too slow, yes. Was it well done, eventually but only after way too long and after many many failures with subtle variations of the 4-3-3 mostly done with personnel rather than shape.

        • In looking at it with as much balance as I can personally aspire toward I can also give Wenger his due praise for when he did get it right. The way the team was set up to counter City in the FA Cup semifinal and overcome them was good. The way the team was set up to counter and dominate Chelsea in FA Cup Final was excellent. In watching those two games the variation in tactics with the same formation to me was obvious. For example watch the positioning of Ramsey against City and Chelsea. Watch where Ozil is to recieve the ball in the City compared to Chelsea game. Watch where the wingbacks set up in the two games (harder to judge because of player changes but they are positioned differently to help pick up the ball to beat the high press in the City game). If the point of tactical change needs something far more obvious then watch the use of Giroud to counter City early compared to stretching Chelsea from the start with Welbecks movement. These changes in how Arsene set up his team to play these games were not forced. Injury and suspension arguably made the job tougher and not easier and plenty of pundits had a reversion to 4-3-3 as the easy call.

          Wenger got it wrong for a long period of the season where he tried almost every combination of midfield and attack in the 4-3-3 and it all failed. No one to blame but himself for the lack of functional midfield combination after the loss of Santi (again!)
          and no one to blame but himself for waiting so long to make the jump to 3 at the back. But I will give him the praise he deserves for winning the FA Cup again and in doing so outwitting Guardiola and Conte. To say that it was just luck and nothing to do with coaching and team management would be as absurd as saying Wenger has been brilliant over the past years.

  32. Wow!! Talk about personal opinion magnified using a blog through a player that the Author has no contact with whatsoever.

    I assume your writing will only become more negative about Arsenal from now onwards. Until Arsene leaves.

  33. And for your information RVP, Cesc and Alexis in this current form were created by Arsene.

    Arsene created them. Arsene can do whatever with them.

    And tbh Alexis might have been great individually, he was an utter shite team player. Thanks for the memory bye bye.

  34. Gooners, I’ve just returned to the Comments section of this blog post after having instigated a riot. Tim, first and foremost, my comments were not meant ad hominem as I don’t know you or any of the other fans here personally. As fellow Arsenal supporters, we’re in this together. When I (wrongly) implored malcontents to support the petro-teams, it was a device to bring attention to the moment circa 2005 when paths diverged between Emirates-building AFC vs. Chelsea (Abramovich), City (Sheikh Mansour), and to a lesser extent, cash and debt machine Manchester United. We were all primed to expect UCL Finalists-caliber, top two in the league, gorgeous football Arsenal from that point on. What could go wrong?

    My sincere apologies for the “pure Arsenal fans” comment – in retrospect, who am I (or anyone) to judge. However, the point remains that reflexive whining seems to dominate discussion these days. When I think about the team on the pitch, they need to hear a roar of support from all corners, rather than a jeering moan whether we’re first or tenth in the league. That’s my way of supporting the team, despite sharing some of your criticisms of our recent inadequacies relative to expectations.

    In closing, the above conversation inspired and informed me rather than making me angry, and that’s why I’m writing back. We’ve got an incredible, erudite group of fans and I’m proud to be a part of it, in all the diversity and occasional acrimony. Thanks for the blog post and thanks to the people who left comments.

  35. just read this article. could not bring myself to read it having seen the title in the mail new-post alert. currently feeling despondent. nice thoughts well put forward Tim. “nice” discussions in the comments as well. we’ll all have to wait and see i guess. fingers crossed and all that

  36. This comment thread is an absolutely spot on indicator of how treacherous arsenals position is. Its a shambles the position Arsenal FC has been allowed to slump to.

    • It’s June 16th and look at the venom. The first slump the team goes through this year it will be nuclear war between the factions.

      The fan base that wants Wenger to leave and to clean out the stables has reached critical mass.

    • It’s a tinder box isn’t it? I think some pro-Wenger types are going to be shocked by the reaction *if* Alexis does leave this summer.

      We were all hoping for a Higuain/Suarez type four years ago and Alexis came in and met or exceeded expectations, scoring against all our big-games rivals without exception, and in both cup finals he played in. My best mate’s a Chelsea fan (watched their Champions League final against Bayern with him thinking it’d be quite funny – what a mistake that was) and was gloating about them doing the Double before the game and I was very confident in calling him a fool for one simple reason; whatever his flaws are, with Alexis we’re never out of a game, especially if the team is functioning behind him. His impact will be nearly impossible to replace.

  37. “Every quote I’ve read from every former player who has spoken about Arsene Wenger’s management refutes this. They all say that Wenger relies on the players to sort out defending. So, I’m basing my opinion on that.”
    I’m talking about what’s going on NOW, not what happened 20 years ago with Adams or 15 years ago with Campbell. Mertesacker said before the FA Cup final he had never played in a back three (http://www.espn.co.uk/football/arsenal/story/3134440/arsenals-per-mertesacker-ive-never-played-in-a-back-three). Can you seriously believe Mertesacker would give advice to Holding and Bellerin about how to play in a back three?
    Holding himself talks about Bould’s influence on the training ground (http://www.arsenal.com/news/features/20161128/rob-holding): “Question: Steve Bould – is he a help for you as a former top-class centre half? Answer: Yeah, definitely. We’ve gone through a few things on video in the training sessions, we’ve gone back into his room and sat and watched some of the training sessions and my body shape and positioning of where I should be. It makes it a lot easier for when I’m next on the pitch to remember what Steve’s advised.”
    You are entitled to your opinion, but don’t forget the indisputable facts.

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