A guest post from Muppet @MuppetGooner
The story of this season so far has been that all events have conspired to support the negative narrative supported by a number of über bloggers and media commentators. You will know it well. The unbalanced team, the groundhog day scenario of competing for a top 4 place just to appear in the champions league, with no chance of actually winning it or proceeding beyond the quarter finals. The insistence on attacking football. The lack of fist pumping leaders in the side. The suicidal decisions to bolster the attack and neglect the defence, letting two experienced defenders go. The weekly evidence, showing a clueless manager, incapable of making tactical substitutions, unsure of his best team, out of his depth.
The (negative) narrative is that the common denominator of all of these events is Wenger. The same lack of organisation and generosity in defence manifested itself in the same way, say, 5 or 6 years ago, and therefore he is to blame, and the reason for all our troubles. The negativity is exacerbated, as well by time, by the weight of expectation, heightened from last year’s FA Cup, and having more money from commercial deals. And magnified by Twitter and the press. A few über bloggers are also to blame, passing off some events as evidence of Wenger’s or the club’s incompetence, without being challenged. A bunch of idiots on Twitter letting off steam is not as worrying as the über bloggers and media commentators, as they carry some influence, and get followed by the herds.
On to a different narrative later, a positive narrative. But for the moment a simple example to illustrate the point that seemingly intelligent people, supposed experts, can spout utter BS, fuelled by a narrative, and get away with it. It was during the world cup, and Özil was playing against the U.S. The commentator said something like, “and Özil has been a passenger in this game”. The moment that he said that, Özil, far advanced up the pitch, received a ball on the right hand side. He was surrounded by 3 players. The ball, travelling at some pace, was tricky, but his 1st touch was magnificent, simply sublime. He could have been easily dispossessed. Instead, in the blink of an eye, he managed to lay the ball off to his left, in field. Surely, no English player would have been capable of those 2 seconds of exemplary technique, ensuring on-going possession of the ball?
More recent examples of an absurd narrative have been that Sanchez is carrying the team. Have we yet witnessed a tweet that credits Wenger for the signing of Sanchez? The reason for pointing this out is that in the face of accusations about positive dogmatism, it should also be said that negative dogmatism is just as bad, and unfortunately it seems to be preached by those who believe they are somewhere in the middle of the two. A well known blogger, pontificated that “we predicted all the problems as a result of not signing an extra central defender to replace Vermaelen”. Well, we know the defence is not perfect, but at this stage of the season, we have conceded 11 goals, 1 fewer than Chelsea and City, who have “world class” managers and “world class” players including Kompany and Terry, the 2 best central defenders in the entire galactic universe. If Chelsea, with their pragmatic genius manager, have conceded only 1 fewer than us, then doesn’t that surely mean that extreme negativity as well as hyperbole is at play here?
In a recent interview, another well known über blogger discussed the state of the defence with a journalist, and they discussed the problems of Monreal as a centre back, at length, and the paucity of options. The assertion was then made that these problems were those that had never been addressed and will never be addressed. But this is where the positive narrative comes in. Perhaps not even positive, as the events over the last 2 to 3 years has shown that we are making progress, however slow it is deemed by some. We killed the idea that we had an ideological block by smashing our transfer record and signing Özil. Then came Sanchez. By any stretch of the imagination, both of these signings were from Harrods. Man U and City may have paid more for a few players recently, but haven’t they been screwed? The signings of Welbeck and Chambers have also been excellent. But the problem has been the perceived inactivity in the signing of a centre back and a defensive midfielder – the mythical DM. This is the fuel on the flames of the negative narrative. Wenger’s achilles heel. Unforgiveable, for some. But would one be deluded if they believed that we have made several attempts to sign players in these positions – not from Lidl or Aldi, but again, from Harrods?
This season, on the evidence so far, has shown us that problems are not fixed overnight, and world class players do not grow on trees. Man U are in transition for a 2nd season, and despite spending more in 2 seasons than probably the entire net spend in Wenger’s reign, are in mid table. They couldn’t find the defenders they were looking for, and are paying a heavy price for not replacing Ferdinand, Vidic and Evra. Liverpool, despite spending colossal amounts of money in the summer to replace Suarez, are a shadow of the swashbuckling side they were last year. For me this points to 2 things, a successful team needs excellent players to succeed and these obviously take time and money to sign and acquire, and also they need time as a team to gel. So hence we are told, now, that these clubs are in “transition”. Fair enough (well actually, utter tosh), but, if this is true for them – and one has to snort somewhat, then it certainly applies to us, as we have not yet had the time to fully capitalise on the transfer market, as it’s only in the last 2 years where our financial muscle has significantly strengthened. And if you believe, as we do on here, in Wenger’s acumen in the market, then, imagine the effect of what Wenger will achieve when our net spend matches that of Liverpool and Manchester United. It will be very interesting indeed. One has looked forward to it ever since the realisation that austerity restricted us after the stadium move. To let Wenger go, or even demand his departure at this point in time, for me, is a sign that you didn’t understand the stadium move. You never understood what is was about, which was to put ourselves in a position to compete with the bigger clubs in Europe, by having the financial power to acquire players in the top tier.
If we are not quite there yet, and if you believe that all it takes are for these remaining jigsaw pieces, a top tier centre back and defensive midfielder, then it’s going to take time, because, known players in the top tier are jealously guarded by their clubs. My assertion, if I may, is that Wenger won’t buy if the quality doesn’t fit, and he has little option but to wait or to nurture younger players to maturity – Ox/Ramsey/Chambers etc. We know that this is frustrating to many, but what is the alternative? The detractor argument is that anybody is better that nothing or that there are copious amounts of players out there that will fit the bill. Really? I would wager that the amount of players that Wenger is looking at is probably under 5, worldwide. And that none of them are currently available. We know of whispers about Khedira. Certainly, Gustavo, the Brazilian. One of the Bender brothers has been linked for 2 years. For whatever reason so far, and please don’t tell us it’s because it’s not on Wenger’s priority list, the deals have not come off. We must believe they will come off, and we have to be patient.