A new dawn again for Wenger?
27th October 2015
Arsenal and Wenger stunned Pep Guardiola and his unbeaten Bayern Munich side on Wednesday night in a 2–0 victory. Could this become a springboard for a title winning season or is history going to repeat itself? History suggests work is still to be done.
In minute 31 on Tuesday night at the Emirates the 60,000 in the stadium bared witness to one of THE great saves from Manuel Neuer denying Theo Walcott a headed goal from point blank range. It was a pleasure to see. Some would say Walcott should put it in the corner and it’s a definite goal. But there is no harm in being more romantic when it comes to football. That’s the whole point. But that romance wasn’t to last as the Bayern keeper was at fault for Girouds goal late in the second half that proved to be decisive.
Brilliant in one moment, fragile at another. Sound familiar?
Neuer’s performance was symbolic of Arsenal as a team for the last decade. Not to say that Neuer isn’t anything other than the world’s best goalkeeper just to be clear. Arsenal though in recent years have had a great philosophy under Wenger and a fragility to go with it. The sleek, intergangeble passing, swift attacking play and ability to control possession almost as an instinct. That style was blended with focus and a solid defenseive strategy that pulled Bayern in different directions throughout the 90 mins. Also talking of keepers Petr Cech had an excellent game especially to keep out the seemingly invincible Robert Lewandowski. There was a calm assured nature to Arsenal’s display.
But does that mean this is a blueprint for the team going forward? I’m afraid I’m sceptical.
Arsenals main criticisms of the past decade has been the inability to grind out results in the big games at pivotal points of the season. Finding themselves too open and being countered despite the nice possession play and a lack of mental toughness shown in all Premier League title holders. There has become evidence to the contrary recently however. Winning 0–2 at Bayern Munich in 2013, 0–1 at Dortmund, 0–2 at City last season and grinding out an FA Cup win against Wigan and Hull City in 2014.
These games showed at team capable but not able to perhaps capture that consistency needed. But is it something else?
Not just solidity, but balance.
Anderlecht, Monaco and Olympiacos are hardly Europe’s elite but all have managed to score 3 goals at the emirates in the last year garnering 7 points between them. Despite Arsenal having majority possession in these games and were billed as massive games in the Gunner’s season. A lack of intensity for 90 minutes and over attacking mind set has cost them in the past. Coming into certain Champions League games with an attitude of ‘show up and win’ apathy. That issue carries through to the manager who encourages to express themselves without the tactical details in the teams set up to stop the opposition whilst in control.
This approach is heralded for the most part with its vibrant brand of attacking football, but its not a way in which the Gunners can clinch a first title since the Invincibles. Whether it’s the lack of variation in signings across the side with Coquelin the only genuine defensive midfielder in a 3 man midfield. As a result he has become there most important player due to a shortage of options in the same position. Cech being the only signing in the summer didn’t encourage much optimism either.
However since the opening day defeat to West Ham Wenger’s men have come a long way in a short time. The solid win over Everton on Saturday highlights how much that’s true.
With four successive league wins and a victory over Bayern Munich last Wednesday the mood has changed around the Emirates momentarily and lead some to view Arsenal as real force this season. The concern isn’t if they can park the bus, it’s if they can drive it and take the initiative. Possibly to a Premier League or Champions League title without breaking down again. They still need to find a balance that I don’t think they will manage this season at least.
Wenger is good at turning things around, it’s time to lead the pack.