Banners, trucks and airplanes. Arsenal fans are doing everything they can to relay the message that Arsene Wenger has to go. With rumors of a possible contract extension flying around we are going to look at how Wenger’s stale ideas are killing the status of the once proud London club.
The easiest way to criticize a team is to say the players are not good enough. While a number of players are clearly not at the level Arsenal need, the squad as a whole is no worse off than Liverpool or Tottenham this year or Leicester last season.
Arsenal have a claim to be the most technically proficient side in the league. The most noticeable difference between Arsenal and their rivals is they are operating in a tired tactical system that has not worked for a decade or more.
The great era of Arsene Wenger’s reign at Arsenal ran from the double of 1997/8 through to the 2005 FA Cup winning team of Henry and Fabregas. If you compare Sunday’s team against Man City with that 2005 team you can see how little has changed or adapted:
Arsenal XI v Man City: Ospina; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Xhaka, Coquelin, Ozil; Walcott, Sanchez, Welbeck.
A flat back four with quick full backs. Two defensive midfielders and a creator. Direct pacy wide men and a central attacking fulcrum. The 2017 side is better suited to today’s Premier League but, frankly, the 2005 side looks a better fit for the system.
In the last 18 months Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester United and Everton have all experimented with a back three. Guardiola is always tinkering with his defense. To my knowledge Arsenal have not tested a back three at any point of Wenger’s tenure. Why not? Xhaka or Coquelin couldn’t be any worse in a back three than they are in midfield; giving away free kicks like candy and collecting yellow cards like Pokemon.
The Frenchman’s supposed tactical nous has been unable to find a way of utilizing either Giroud or Sanchez to any level of consistent threat. Cazorla has been a big loss for the Gunners but he is not uniquely irreplaceable . Surely Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Iwobi should be able to recreate a little of what he does between them all. That they cannot is the fault of the manager.
Without newer ideas, or fluidity to his older ones, Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal reign is coming to an ugly end. It is a shame that his own stubbornness cannot translate into a similar mental resilience in his side. The common assumption has been that Arsenal were just a center back or a defensive midfielder away from returning to the top. Each consecutive season now shows the upgrade Arsenal require most of all is in the dugout.