Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Contract updates + dissecting Wenger's injury comments


On Ramsey's and Cazorla's deals...
Once again, it shows the club's willingness to retain their star players (as well as youth players like Zelalem, but let's face it, he isn't the elephant in the room). While renewing the contracts of Ramsey and Santi were not exactly necessary, it nevertheless comes as welcome good news to the Arsenal community. Renewing the deals of this season's best player and last season's best player has shown foresight from the board, boosted the positive atmosphere around Ashburton Grove and also been a positive by-product of Ozil's signing.

I hardly need to emphasize how important these players are. Especially Ramsey, who was one of the league's best midfielders (at 23!) before injury struck. Cazorla's renewal might not be as exciting (or perhaps, as wise), mainly because he hasn't really lived up to his expectations and is approaching the dreaded 30. However, he still remains a vital component of Arsenal's creative hub and is far from a liability yet.

While he may not be out-and-out world class, one would rarely find a player who is gifted with such a variety of traits. Two footed dribbler, passer, long striker, goal getter... the list is endless, and possibly more than Ozil's merits. These are really important players to Arsenal, so it's good to see them tied down for long-term.

Having said that, we still might witness an exodus...
Bacary Sagna has remained stubbornly quiet on his Arsenal future. I have already said that I reckon his future at Arsenal depends on whether we win a trophy the FA Cup or not; yesterday's events don't change that. The solution is literally simple - defeat Wigan and Sheffield/Hull, and in all likelihood Sagna stays. At least that's what I think.

Fabianski is departing as well, not to mention possible follow-ups from Vermaelen and Podolski. If Tommy and Poldi do leave, then I shall solely lay the blame on Arsene Wenger's door. Even though he had talented players in reserves to call upon (read Fabianski, Vermaelen, Podolski) he chose not to rotate.

Instead, he overplayed his first team members until they got injured (read Ramsey, Ozil, Walcott) and then sent out his reserves to cover their absences. It truly is frightening to imagine what happens if the reserves fall prey to overplaying as well, especially young legs like Gibbs' or Chamberlain's.

I think Arsene can convince Podolski to stay if he tries. However, if he wants to keep Vermaelen, he must rotate him in place of Koscielny and Gibbs much more often than he is currently. I don't think Wenger would handle the situation well though, another reason why I want him gone.

And that's become a real possibility now.

There really couldn't be a better time for Arsenal to announce Wenger's renewal...
Yet here we are. The club is wise enough to know that the coming fixtures (Chelsea, Swansea, Manchester City, Everton, Wigan) have a lot of potential to destroy the club's current upbeat mood. However, they have strangely chosen to announce Aaron's and Santi's deals instead. Wenger's contract remains unresolved, three months from expiration.

It's getting clear now that the board are rightly stalling over Wenger's contract. I have no doubt that Wenger wants to stay at Arsenal, but I'm having doubts that the board want to keep him. Either the board want to see how the season ends before making hasty decisions, or Wenger's holding the club to ransom (for a better deal) or there already is a mutual agreement in place regardless of how the season ends... I really don't know what's happening behind the scenes.

I'm oddly hopeful that he will depart, though. The below example is one of many that illustrates why I want him out.

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Talking about Arsenal's injury crisis, Wenger said:

[P.S. I know that the below comments were last week in the pre-Bayern press conference and that it's a bit outdated to dissect now, but I wanted to do this for a long time and work prevented me from typing this out.]

"I am concerned that this happens. If you look at our overall injury list going into such a decisive part of the season, we have no Wilshere, Ozil, Ramsey and we went to Bayern without Gibbs and Monreal. It's very difficult to find an obvious reason why."

I'd like to congratulate Wenger on noting that there were regular injury crises even though it was apparent for five years. It's shocking and almost laughable for one of the world's supposed best managers to bear half a decade of injury crises and then make the startling conclusion that maybe, maybe it isn't coincidence that Arsenal top the injury list every season.

Wenger not blaming himself for Arsenal's injury woes is yet another instance (of many) of how out of touch he is with the real world and why he's long overdue a departure from Arsenal. Getting players injured has been purely Wenger's fault (most of them, at least). Keeping them injured for more than the required time is perhaps the fault of the meds - who are hired by Wenger, by the way.

Let's analyze Arsenal's currently injured players, shall we?

Abou Diaby: A special case, but we don't need any special cases at Arsenal. Even if he makes an indispensable contribution for Arsenal towards the season-end (a tall order), the fact remains that he has still cost a bomb for Arsenal in wages. He is injury prone and always will be, and I can't believe that Wenger rejected a £10 million bid for him in 2011.

I don't hate Diaby, but I feel that his plight is a perfect symbolism to show how far the board have cluelessly allowed Wenger to carry on his flop 'Project Youth', and how much he has cost the club financially (like thousands of other duds). At Manchester United, Liverpool or Everton, Diaby would not be paid more than £15,000. At Arsenal, he's paid £50,000. 

Aaron Ramsey: Injured against West Ham in December 2013. Wenger overplayed him even when he had the chance to play Flamini. Here's an extract of my blog about that match:

"As it happened, it was Ramsey who fell prey to Wenger's incompetent man management, suffering a thigh strain which would rule him out of the Christmas schedule. I still don't know why Wenger decided to field him ahead of Mathieu Flamini, who had 12 days of rest going into this match."

Relevant much?

Jack Wilshere: Injured on international duty, which wasn't Wenger's fault, it was Agger's. However, most of his niggling ankle injuries have been a direct effect of Wenger overplaying him towards the end of the 2010/11 season, pushing him to the red zone. After he recovered (after 17 months!), Wenger threw him back on the field instead of easing him back in. Wilshere promptly got injured again.

Wenger doesn't seem to understand that young legs - while fresh - are also quite tender. He's overplayed countless amounts of youth talents who were around their twenties (Gibbs, Ramsey, Wilshere, Cesc, Nasri, Theo), so much so that they succumbed to regular injuries and/or became permanently injury prone.

There were some who survived this gross mismanagement - tougher players like Adebayor, Song - but on the whole, Wenger has been key in ruining key players.

Mesut Ozil: The number of minutes for which he's been thrown on the field by Wenger is frightening. Mourinho (at Real Madrid) always took Ozil off around the 70th minute because he knew that Ozil didn't have the legs and the workrate for it. However, Wenger threw Ozil in the English game for 90 minutes straight; flu or no flu.

Add to that the fact that the EPL does not have any winter break, and it's actually surprising that Ozil survived until March before falling prey to Wenger's man management.

Again, buck stops with Arsene Wenger.

Theo Walcott: Returned from injury in the end of November. Encouragingly eased into the game by Wenger. However, is then forced to play 90 minutes for five straight matches until he injured his anterior cruciate ligament (as pointed out by Raymond Verheijen). Enough said really.

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Clearly, Wenger is the problem. While his medical staff might be incompetent enough as well (Ramsey's injury stretched from four weeks to three months; Diaby's injury stretched from eight months to more than a year), the fact stays that they are Arsene Wenger's medical staff. In the end, he hires them and he fires them.

If Wenger is too polite/blind/stubborn to fire his staff (if they are at fault, mind you), then they can kindly sod off from Arsenal Football Club and help Moyes destroy United instead. We don't want you at Arsenal, we'd rather have progress, thanks.

Imagine if that happens, though.

P.S. Once again, I apologize for not being that active on Arsenal-related stuff recently. For two weeks, I was at work making a website which was finally launched yesterday. Give it a whirl, it's called 'Brangled Minds' and has a football section as well.

Would love to hear your feedback at brangledminds@gmail.com or the comments sections. Until then, stay safe and stay a Gooner.

-Santi (Follow me on twitter: @ArsenalBlogz )