Arsène Looks To Heal Growing Pains
Whilst Robin van Persie and Samir Nasri were both away enjoying their international appearances, as Jack and Aaron face-off, Arsène was left to ponder some issues over the remainder of the season.
The first of which was his goalkeepers. To the dismay of many, Wenger chose not hang, draw and quarter Manuel Almunia. Instead, publicly at least, a mild chastisement was administered over the mistake which led to West Brom’s second goal.
That he has commented on the Spaniard being aware of his mistake being the ‘wrong decision‘ is sufficient to suggest that harsher words were spoken between the two.
No doubt the media would love the story if Jens Lehmann was reinstated into the starting XI. I am sure for the German it would be some kind of closure, particularly following the manner of his departure from the club last time around.
Would this vindicate Oliver Kahn’s comments earlier this week about a goalkeeping malaise in England? No, simply that there is general shortage of good goalkeepers around the world, who were out of contract at the time Szczesny injured himself in the Camp Nou.
Arsène though is absolutely right not to become involved in team selection issues in the media. If he did, he was backed into a corner, ready to be painted as a tinkerman or indecisive. He has enough detractors in the press as it is, enough trying to fuel the campaign to remove the Frenchman from his job.
Robbie Savage this week joined that club, perhaps the BBC could sack the Welshman next time he fails to string a coherent sentence together. The P45 might as well be sent now for that will happen tonight.
The international break has left him with time to work on the minds of those at home whilst hoping that those away benefit from the change in surroundings. It might well be the truth; it will need to be if his assertion of a stronger second half of the season is to come true.
Wenger believes that this is a recurring theme of his tenure,
Every year we have a stronger second half of the season. I think in the last five or six years we have always had a young team, and they grow up during the season. This year that’s happened again.
Wenger is referring to the mental strength of the players, their belief in themselves. The ‘young team‘ is constantly disparaged, the youth and perceived lack of ability are remorselessly hung as millstones around their necks.
There have chances to remove that burden, spurned or ripped from their grasp depending on the occasion. Even then a Premier League title is going to be the measure that finally sees that weight lifted. A Carling Cup would alieviate the burden a little, the FA Cup help but domestically at least, it is the title which will be the key to unlocking potential.
Interestingly, Wenger’s theory is not entirely borne out by points totals.
Since The Invincibles equalled their total points of the first 19 games of the season, the second 19 of subsequent seasons has been a hotch-potch. The point or so differences recorded between 2004-05 and 2006-07 have disappeared into a peak and trough cycle.
2007-08 saw a five point drop in the two halves, 2008-09 an eight point gain. Last time, seven less points were gained. The tangible is not supporting the intangible. Much depends of course, on the fixtures. The mix of derbies and top four encounters will influence the final totals. If history is anything to go by, this season Arsenal are looking at a total of between 75 and 80 points. Will it be enough?
Time will tell. One thing is certain though. This Arsenal squad has shown tremendous consistency in its results in the Premier League since December’s defeat at Old Trafford. That run needs to carry on, United are still there to be caught with the importance of the fixture at The Emirates between the two sides still the key to the title.
We shall see. The business end of the season is upon us, key players returning to fitness. This is the time to prove their manager’s faith was not misplaced.