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Cannon Fodder: Inflection & Reflection

Emotional vacillation is part of being a sports fan, but supporting the Arsenal is dating a bipolar nymphomaniac. One week you wake up to the smell of fresh waffles and the sight her clad in nothing but whipped cream demanding that you eat your breakfast right off her; and the next she’s chasing you around the apartment threatening to cut off your little buddy with a pair of garden shears.

VCC? Nah... Victory through whipped cream!!

VCC? Nah… Victory through whipped cream!!

Off late, I have found myself lost in endless blame games and annoyingly circular arguments with other gooners. The result against City will soothe nerves and radiate some much needed calm…for a while, but it won’t paper over the fact that we threw away any realistic shot at the title race in January. Though to be brutally honest, we were punching far above our weight (financially speaking) to think of the title at all.
No one really knows what’s going wrong or who’s really responsible for our capitulation. But everyone is seething with impotent rage all while looking for someone to nail to the proverbial cross. The pound of flesh is due, the only question, is: Whose flesh are we screaming for?!

There exists to be a section of the crowd baying for Wenger’s blood. Another section seems convinced that the board are to blame. A few seem to be of the opinion that all of it was just bad luck.

All these motor mouth pundits are having a field day too! I can’t help but think that the media’s ability to build pressure through moronic articles and idiotic interviews has a huge part in shaping public opinion. What happen to the good old method of looking at the facts in front of you and drawing conclusions?

Now-days even opinions are out-sourced… That fact alone speaks volumes about the IQ level of your average sports fan!

Talking about “Pundits”, I have seen Gary Nev and his buddy Scholes wax eloquent about Arsenal’s shortcomings far too many times. Why?
Simply because it’s EASY! The answers are relatively obvious and have remained the same over many years. It’s easy to pick out flaws and sound like a superlative pundit if you sound half way literate and avoid vomiting blood on your co-host.
But cursing them solves nothing, they simply answered questions that were posed to them.

As for me, I’m not sure where it all went wrong! A while back, I remember being convinced that Stan and his board of glorified puppets were the vaudeville villains of lore, stroking their villainous beards while conspiring to keep Arsenal profitable rather than victorious. At a time I was all but convinced that these pusillanimous creatures were simply using Arsene as an effective meat shield to continue to do as they please.

But somewhere along the way (probably after umpteen statements from Stan and his
crony-in-chief, Ivan Gazidis about how funds were available to the manager) the blame was neatly offloaded on to Wenger and I was swayed that he was responsible for everything football related at the club which meant that our unstable squad and our endless litany of injuries was also his fault.

Wenger is also the same manager who seems utterly incapable of beating Jose Mourinho in the umpteen times we have played him. Some would call this ‘consistency’ as well.

There are numerous arguments for and against Wenger and yes, the man has his short-coming. But is it really time to show him the door?

Evidently he has both failed and succeeded at different levels, his ability to keep the club in the champions league for seventeen years on the trot has kept the club out of the red for ages. Guess we could call this consistency as well?

I’m not saying that his work so far give him a free pass at the job, especially when the most damning statistic shows how Arsene has struggled to find and retain ‘winners’ in a squad:

The man has gone 503 games without a piece of recognized silverware, which is 50%of his career with the club.

But I use the word “retain” specifically as I do not doubt Wenger’s ability to spot talent, merely the club’s financial capability to pay potential super stars brobdingnagian sums of money that will keep them happy until a sheik wags his eyebrows at them.

I do have a bone to pick with Wenger, it’s regarding the man’s aversion toward strikers, and sometimes I think that Wenger promised himself never to fall for another after Henry. Much like the bitter teenage girl who refuses to date men ever again after she discovers that her boyfriend cheat on here, Wenger too has chosen a plan that revolves around buying semi-competent strikers and trying to source the goals almost exclusively from his midfielders (who usually prefer not to shoot for reasons known only to themselves).

Seems sane.

But to be very fair, it was always touted that the rebuilding process would take time and during which we were asked to face our parsimonious existence with patience and forbearance. The time is now here and Arsenal can once again compete with the elite few to sign quality players and pay the players that demanded the big numbers, in other words buy and retain match winners who can drag you back from the brink of defeat.

Wenger was given two separate transfer windows to bolster his squad, and the man has chosen to add Mesut to the ranks, which is a fantastic signing for any team, but in no way addresses our key concerns in the striking department. Signing a player of Mesut’s ability was an opportunistic master-stroke, but there was no way we could go the season with only two recognized strikers: Giroud and Sanogo, the latter is so green behind the years, he is practically a tree. And no, I do not recognize Bentdner as a footballer, let alone a plausible striking option.
This was suicidal and unsurprisingly, our paucity of strikers has been one of the main causes for our feeble attempt at the title; the other being our calamitous injury record.

I’m sure where to start when it comes to injuries… I have so many possible theories, but no plausible way to confirm any one of them:

Is it just bad luck?

Is it our med team? Are they a bunch of incompetent quacks?

Is it our training methods that cause far too much residual strain on players who eventually succumb to major injuries over time?

Or is it just that we scout players without giving sufficient attention to their injury records?

Unsurprisingly, we usually top the injury table on an almost yearly basis. I think we can all discount “luck” playing anything more than a marginal part in injuries. Being struck by lightning once is bad luck, if happens every week, then you really need to stop making out with that lightning conductor.

Ultimately the manager stands responsible for the squad; its injuries and its overall performance are his responsibility which ultimately means that the (relatively short but fatal) list of Wenger’s shortcomings has been augmented once again.

Sometimes, it feels like Wenger has spent so much of his time worrying about the stadium project while trying to “survive” in the world of top level European football (champions league pot of gold blah blah), that the man has forgotten what it was to ‘thrive’.

To exist for than just survival, to exist to win!
To exist to tonk others senseless, stand atop their bleeding carcasses and hold their severed heads up to the roaring crowds…

What happened to the Wenger who enjoyed humbling Ferguson and taking unceremonious dumps on Liverpool??!

The chips lies as they are, but the important question is: Do we want change for the sake of change or do we want change because we think it will actually bring us close to success? With that in mind, even if a new manager were to come in, he would require at least a season or two to establish his methods and launch a viable challenge for the league title.

Have we extended Wenger the same courtesy? The chance to rebuild after this period of financial austerity. I doubt that we have. Though he’s on thin ice after shooting himself in the foot yet again this season, his ability to repeat the same mistakes year after year does him no favours, but perhaps he has earned the right to a season where he can do enough to launch a realistic title bid with a striker with some semblance of ball control. The real question is will it be any different next season if he does stay?

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About Varun Chand

Profile photo of Varun Chand
Full time nothing doer and part-time Engineer (supposedly). I really hate the Arsenal and that's why I spend so much of time writing/talking/discussing/debating about them. I enjoy mocking YOU because it's fun.

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