Arteta Hints At Mental Strength In The Simplicity Of It All
It’s the lunacy that gets to you in the end. It’s been creeping in for a while, manifesting in the bold promise that there would be a preview of the Champions League clash with Borussia Dortmund this morning. There won’t, it will be tomorrow. The idiocy is a contagion though, not limited to the premature senility of a blogger. The media have it as well; Ancelotti to replace Wenger? Wenger to replace Capello? The latter is a hint of treason; King ‘Arry cannot be stopped, not even by Her Majesty’s finest.
These presume to continue with the story that Wenger is in the death throes of his Arsenal reign. It is an interesting interpretation of the phrase ‘short-term‘ that the Frenchman used to describe his managerial tenure at the club. It would be strange if a 62 year-old man who has professed no desire to manage into his 70s, referred to his career as anything other than short-term. Replacing him is going to be a poisoned chalice. Much like Liverpool found when Roy Evans ended the reign of the fabled Anfield Boot Room, promoting from within is not necessarily the best option. Ask Wilf McGuiness what it is like to be an unknown replacing a legend. Ancelotti or his ilk will be the calibre coming in.
The players will adapt but it takes time. Wenger does things differently. Mikael Arteta attests in The Times this morning,
Players aren’t weighed down with 40 different instructions. Wenger gives a player six or seven clear ideas and that’s it, in 20 minutes you know what you’re doing. If I try and replace Cesc, that’s where it will go wrong. I’ve been here weeks, he was at Arsenal for eight years, it would be impossible for me to replace him in that sense
In other words, Keep It Simple, Stupid. Except for the last word of course, Wenger is famed for requiring intelligent footballers. Whilst they are at Arsenal of course, departing the club seems to bring out the stereotypical stupidity. Doesn’t it Mr Bendtner?
Back to Arteta. He is ramming home the message he is not Cesc-lite. The current trio in midfield have gelled into a cohesive unit with Song and the Spaniard’s combined experience compensating for the exuberance of Ramsey’s youth and his sometimes casual approach to possession. Those injured and recovering have a tough job to replace the current incumbents. Why would Wenger change a winning team? Many believe – not myself I hasten to add – that Diaby is a definite starter. I cannot see it. Many believe – myself included – that Wilshere will be a definite starter in the New Year but is that the case? You would not have thought of Arshavin struggling to get into the starting line-up but Gervinho has taken his chance there. Missing them on the pitch, mind, but as a provider he is on a par with the Russian.
Wenger has always tried to make Arsenal impose their game on others. It has mixed results, normally working but when it doesn’t, it backfires spectacularly and that is not just limited to this season either. However, sometimes those games where it goes wrong are cathartic. The recent run has been stronger because of them. Arteta hints at more unity behind the scenes,
The dressing room is a mirror of the bad times a team have out on the pitch, or rather that spell of 15, 20, 75 minutes even, when the team really suffer. In those moments you look at how your team-mates react, the looks between them – that tells you everything. When all seems lost a good dressing room pulls together. That’s invaluable.
How many times in the past has the dressing room been accused of being too nice a place to be in? A different, more confrontational leader in van Persie will change the dynamic, as well as new, more experienced personnel who want to be at the club. Looking back at last season, you wonder if half of the problem as Winter turned to Spring, was that certain key players had decided to leave and simply had no enthusiasm for the fight? Combine that with the fickleness of youthful confidence and the implosion which followed, is hardly surprising.
The fragility has not entirely gone but persistence in pursuit of victory is not the sign of a weak squad. Gradually the defeats at the start of the season are being erased from conscious thought. The lessons are more or less learned and being put into consistent practice. Individual errors will always happen, the key is not to repeat them. Once that happens, anything is possible. Well, not anything but the impossible seems less unrealistic.