Previous names: Dial Square, Royal Arsenal, Woolwich Arsenal

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Wenger’s three experiments that went bust and two that didn’t

By 1970’s Gooner

Wenger’s stinginess and the Arsenal Board’s tight purse strings has been a match made in heaven.

While the other big three have been splashing the dough making big money purchases during the last two transfer windows, Arsenal, apart from Sagna and Eduardo, have been recruiting youngsters mainly under 18 years old.

Reliance was therefore placed on a squad that was thin and littered with younger players with as yet unproven ability on the big stage.

This approach had made Wenger take a chance on many positions and rely on squad players to fill in if and when required. And this is where eventually a lot went wrong.

Experiment Number 1: Not buying a centre back during the January transfer window

It was known beforehand, of course, that the Africa Nations Cup would take Kolo Toure away during the significant January period.

Yet Arsene refused to bring in cover choosing to rely on the services of two error prone and relatively inexperienced youngsters. Philip Senderos and Yohan Djourou.

And on top of that Kolo Toure returned crocked.

As he did during the previous Africa Nations Cup (and so did Alexander Song a possible adequate replacement as it turned out to be)!

Senderos had a few good games and even scored.

But he also had a few bad games; and when you make mistakes in defence they count more than if you make them in other areas of the pitch as an attacker….

Yes it is important to allow the youngsters to get valuable experience.

But letting Djourou play in very demanding games for relegation threatened Birmingham and then recalling him in the middle of the season meant that his fatigue levels were high as also was his susceptibility to injury.

He only played in the Carling Cup semi final against Spurs and then he got crocked too! He hasn’t started a game since. It’s difficult to say, of course, whether he would have made fewer errors than Senderos…..

Experiment Number 2: Anointing Eboue as a winger

Eboue showed weaknesses last season as a right back. He did however sparkle when he ventured forward being very incisive and thrusting.

But promoting him to a more permanent role as a creative wide midfielder backfired pretty quickly.

Especially when the injury prone Rosicky began to miss one game after another.

And then Wenger had to choose between Eboue, Diaby and Walcott to play on the wings.

Two of them proved to be square pegs in round holes.

The other needed time and games to grow up a bit. Need I say no more….

Clearly a real winger, either left or right footed, has been badly missing from the side. This meant that in his absence, opponents were not stretched enough thus forcing Arsenal to attack mainly from the middle.

But that is the easier way to defend, by packing the central areas in front of the defence and making it really difficult to get through. And this is what Arsenal faced throughout the season……

Experiment Number 3: Relying on a newly bought forward to blend in double fast and on a rookie with promise

You can’t win games in football unless you have pretty potent and experienced forwards. And you need more than two as injuries are always part of the game.

Yet Wenger chose to rely on only two relatively experienced forwards in Van Persie and Adebayor (who admittedly proved to be up to the task), on a new to the Premiership recruit and on a youngster who showed promise but in a lower League the year before.

This was indeed an experiment because although Eduardo blended in fast it did take him the best part of half the season to do so. Until unfortunately when he was coming good he got taken out by injury.

However during the time it took him to acclimatise there was always the real danger of either Van Persie or Adebayor getting injured. And Murphy’s Law says that if anything can go wrong it will go wrong!

Van Persie got injured on international duty with Holland in October.

He hasn’t really been back since.

Injuries are part of football life and everyone knows that.

That is why you are taking a real risk when you are really relying on only two proven forwards to get you through the best part of the season.

This forced Wenger to change the system from 4 4 2 to 4 5 1 by bringing Hleb in the central areas of midfield and playing Adebayor usually as a lone striker.

No wonder the guy was so tired in many of the latter games of the season (and probably why he kept getting caught offside).

This also meant that Wenger had to find other players to occupy the wide midfield positions as Hleb had to fill infield; but of course Arsene then had to improvise as there weren’t any genuine wingers in the squad that he could rely on.

And talking about taking risks; Togo failed to qualify for the Africa nations Cup otherwise we would have been without Adebayor as well as Toure during January (may be Murphy’s law is not foolproof after all).

Experiment Number 4: Signing a new right back

This is a move that really proved very successful as Bakary Sagna has excelled in that position; rightly picked in the Premier League’s best 11.

He is strong and tenacious in the tackle but more importantly has excellent positional awareness. He will be Arsenal’s right back for years to come.

And with Clichy blossoming as Europe’s best left back leaves as the only tinkering needed in defence the recruitment of another top class central defender who can also tackle the long balls.

Experiment Number 5: Promoting Almunia

A lot of fans may disagree but in my opinion Wenger had no other choice after mad Jens begun dropping clangers early in the season costing us points.

Almunia has defied most of his critics making some great saves and even saving a crucial penalty against Spurs at the Emirates.

He will be even better next season as the experience gained as first choice this year will be invaluable.

A note of optimism

The best way to look at it is that this season has probably been used by Wenger as a learning process and to provide a hands on assessment of areas in the team that need strengthening.

A calculated experiment towards getting the youngsters ready for a real onslaught on glory for next season.

Then all the above were experiments well worth taking…..

Arsenal and Barcelona play the beautiful game…… and then get knocked out

Kolo Toure stretchered off the Africa Nations Cup

Sagna: get your hair on please!

Song shines for Cameroon as they reach the Africa Nations Cup Final


Anonymous said...

"Almunia has defied most of his critics making some great saves and even saving a crucial penalty against Spurs at the Emirates."

I can't remember any except that penalty. Can you enumerate a few?

On the top of my head, Lehmann would have saved Drogba's second goal at the Bridge, McFadden's first at Birmingham and Downing's penalty at Boro.

I think he was clearly the better GK despite his histrionics.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with the above. Lehman would have won us at least 5-6 points this year = still in with a should of winning the title. He is by far a better keeper than alminia, who has done well, but has certainly cost us a few points. He has been steady without being exceptional, he doesnt often produce a world class save, nor does he drop a real clanger. He is just OK. But lehman has shown over the years he is a match winner and can produce that one amazing save that can win a game, and i think possibly the league this year.

Anonymous said...

Agree with above. Almunia has improved but is not good enough to be Arsenal's number 1. When you consider the quality of Seaman and Mad Jens who were both world-class, Almunia is distinctly second rate. He makes the odd good save but is weak on crosses and lacks the authority of a world-class keeper. Yet another position that has ben dumbed-down due to inadequate investment in the taem

Anonymous said...

Arsene needs to wake up and realise that his stupid gambles have not paid off and will never pay off. If the board can't make enough money available they should go.

We need real investment, not just promising kids.

Anonymous said...

I agree also that Lehmann should have been in goal. He did well while Almunia was injured and should not have been left out. Other than the penalty against Spurs (and all keepers save pens now and again) I can hardly remember Almunia making any pointsaving stops. Lehmann made at least 2 stops Almunia wouldnt have just at Old Trafford.

Anonymous said...

I'm still convinced that Adebayor is not Arsenal material. You've given some excuses but I don't think he is good enough. His goals came against weak teams (7 on Derby) and when we needed him he wasn't there. Offsides have been all season. Poor passing decisions, etc. He simply cannot play the "Arsenal way."

Anonymous said...

Absolutely agree with the above, Mad Jens is way better than Almunia. Unless Wenger spends some proper dosh & gives us a proper team next season then we'll end it the same way as this season & he will be gone, mark my words. 3 years without any silverware is pathetic & I for one have run out of patience. Both Man U & Chelsea have rebuilt their teams in the last couple of years yet have kept winning trophies so what's Wenger's excuse?

Anonymous said...

Its long overdue that people question the current recruitment policy. We used to have world-class players like Bergkamp, Vieira, Petit, Overmars, Pires, Henry, Adams, Henry, Mad Jens and these players did not cost the earth. Why have we not replaced any of the above with players even approaching the same level of quality? Arsene and the board must realise that the recruitment of youngsters needs to be supplemented with quality and if this is not done we will continue to win f*** a***.

We have been patient but mine patience has run out. Some of the performances from the likes of Eboue, Senderos, Hoyte have been well below thr required standard.

Anonymous said...

ALMUNIA will never be better that JENS. It was a mistake to drop JENS in the first place. Peter Cech has made worse mistakes but Chelski have kept faith in him and he continues to produce. SKY made it its business to slaughter JENS at every opportunity and somehow some fans have been taken in. I agree we need a proper central half as a matter of urgency.

Personally I would be happy if GALLAS cried off. He cannot run, he cannot jump, useless on crosses, always looking to apportion blame!!

I still however cannot understand why WENGER and his Board are so mean. These boys have proved they are good players, what else must they do to get what they are worth?? I would not be surprised if Clichy and Sagna are below £20K per week, not fair when you conisder they are the best full backs in the Premiership!! Its a bit of a disgrace.

Anonymous said...

Hey Alumina is good, but why couldnt he save that second Drogba shot. He makes good saves that are in the air but low on low (slow) shots he does not seem to be able to get down quick enough. Have u seen some of the saves goalies make when you feel they have no chance? Alumina doesnt do that as far as i can see. I watched Brad Friedel against Man U and i was thinking Alumina would have got toasted!

Anonymous said...

Why the hell are we crying about players we HAD? did we win every year with these players? NO!! Look if u dont have the same amount of money you have to be more screwd than the rest and it will not be instant gratification. someone said we have been patient but we have not been patient enough! The Dynamics of football have been changes by these foreign investors and unless u want Arsenal to be sold to one of these money hungry wolves!!!

Wrighty7 said...

Great post 1970's, Wenger learn from this season I'm sure.

Arsenal are just a couple of players away from winning the League next year.

Anonymous said...

Agree with 100% of the article. I hope AW reads this site as well!
Just wanted to see if you see any connection between recalling Djouroo from Birmingham (that failed since he was out of play most of the time) to Martin Taylor's tackle on Eduardo.

Anonymous said...

"crucial penalty against Spurs"


Anonymous said...

To anon 10.24
Thanks for your support.
I think that Djourou was recalled because there was not enough cover in the centre of the defence and not for anyother reason!

Anonymous said...

To 1970's Gooner

What I meant was that Martin Taylor's tackle on Eduardo came to "revenge" Arsenal calling back Djouroo from Birmingham the month before the game.
I know it sounds conspirative but after thinking about it for 100 times I don;t see another reason why he came out like that with an intention to injure/scare.

Anonymous said...

For all the Almunia bashers who are so certain that Mad Jens would have gained us more points, let's also remember that he dropped 4 points at the beginning of the season. That was the reason he lost his place at all. Also, Jens is very close to retirement, so Wenger felt it was time to move on. Wenger believes Almunia will improve and become world class. He thinks Fabianski will soon become world class.

Anonymous said...

playing Eboue in place of Walcot and Diaby as proved to be the greatest mistake ever...and to those critics of Adebayor I think they should check RONALDO's record and then judge ...Ronaldo has ever scored against a big team this season but Ade scored against Liverpool ( oh ronaldo did too ) and AC plus his work rate is wonderful methink he will be better in a 4-4-2 than a 4-5-1...any soccer lover who will like to interact with other fans and dicuss any soccer related issues should check out Soccer fan base dot com it is free to join.

Anonymous said...

SOS, Wenger pull your head out and buy quality not value. Put one or two adults on the damn pitch. Lehman was(was) world class, psycho, but world class. Almunia is good value with potential but he also has potential to be out of position. Shore up the defense ala Richards. Spend some money. Where is Spurs getting their funds, their stadium is half the size of ours(financially speaking).

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