“For my next trick….” – ‘Magician’ Wenger must turn this squad into a team
This piece is courtesy of the excellent Wenger Boy, who can often be found posting similar ramblings on Arsenal Vision; enjoy.
Good day Goonerists of the world. How are we doing today?
Personally, I’m feeling completely confused. I think I’m meant to feel happy after the window but I was so pissed off at one stage that I can’t decide if that’s how I should still be feeling now. But then I look at people who are normally pissed off and they’re excited and as an optimist I think that means I should be feeling jubilant.
On balance I think I’ll stick with perplexed for a bit and just hide behind the sofa, waiting for everyone else to decide what they feel before jumping out and claiming I knew what I felt all along. Reckon I’ll look proper clever if I do that.
A lot of my confusion, I’ll admit, stems from not knowing. Our squad has seen the most radical overhaul its had in years and though we can discuss the supposed state of it until our tongues fall out it’s pretty much impossible to judge accurately how well it will perform in the only area that matters – a game of football – until we actually see it performing in that area.
The general feeling appears to be that our squad is comparatively – in relation to the other top teams – weaker than it has been in recent seasons, and most seem content with fourth and, perhaps, a cup. I may well be happy with that come May – especially as I have never seen Arsenal win so much as a raffle, let alone a trophy – but it’s only September and right now I can’t bear to hear fans aim so low, especially given how promising things looked not so long ago.
However pessimistic I may get I still won’t be content unless we offer a serious title challenge and if I’m setting myself up for a predictable fall off improbability cliff then so be it. It’s what I desire, it’s what I expect and it’s what I will hope for until the day my delusional breastplate is pierced by the long sword of mathematical possibility.
But there is a chance – a chance that we can mount a serious challenge. But this chance would require Wenger to achieve something I believe he has struggled to achieve in recent times.
Despite all the talent this club has witnessed these past few years there have been too few occasions when those talents have truly meshed into single, unified force. Wenger’s ability to unearth players of real quality has in the past led people to label him a ‘magician’ but his ability to create a completely coherent team has at times been more illusion than reality. This is the power that he needs to rediscover. It is absolutely vital to our hopes this year.
When we’ve had a player on top form we’ve often talked about them in isolation – Nasri last year or Arshavin in 2008/09 – but when our team as a whole is on form we begin to talk about partnerships or groups of players – Cesc and Flamini or Theo Van Nasregas, for example. While great teams need individuals on form merely having those individuals playing well does not guarantee a great team. To my mind we have not found this balance nearly as often as we should and as a result we have never quite utilised the squad to its fullest.
I am not suggesting our teams have been bad. Nor am I suggesting that Wenger hasn’t done a fantastic job or that circumstances haven’t hindered his work – injuries and departures in particular. But the potential to success ratio has been fairly low – phenomenal potential, minimal success – and even if, like me, you see a consistent top four place as a real achievement you can’t help but be disappointed that a team featuring Nasri, Cesc, Van Persie, Arshavin etc hasn’t achieved more.
Most people seem to agree that now without Cesc and Nasri our first eleven, on paper, is weaker. But you also have to admit that, as sad as it was to lose them, with Cesc and Nasri playing together we still didn’t manage to win anything. And perhaps we never would have.
There are positives to be had here – their departures can help to even out responsibility and ensure the players at the club to work better together, as a unit. But this won’t happen by accident and nor should we expect it to. The impetus for this transformation must come from Wenger himself.
Alex Ferguson has always been lauded for his ability to create magnificent teams with some relatively ordinary players and it is his work that needs to be the blueprint for our own success. The key factors in many of MUFC’s title winning teams have been their desire, commitment and teamwork. These are the exact qualities that can push this current squad to a higher level than expected. These qualities can turn a Cesc and Nasri-less Arsenal into a genuine title contender.
If we can add the missing ingredients there are easily enough exceptional talents at the club to create a recipe for success. With the experience and depth that has been brought in this summer I truly believe that the pieces of the puzzle are still there, they just need to be arranged. If we can take a step back and see the bigger picture then we have it within us to rise above expectations and compete with the best.
Wenger has produced some great teams in the past, so we know he can do it. And now with a fresh set of players he has a fantastic opportunity to do it again.
Some may no longer see Wenger as the magician he once was but he is an amazing manager with more surprises up his sleeves then people think. But turning this supposedly weakened squad into a formidable team could yet prove to his biggest and most impressive trick ever.