Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Is Wenger feeling the positive after-effects of winning the Cup?

Arsene Wenger is maddeningly stubborn. Aside from showing a chronic reluctance to closing on major deals, he also has a tendency to go into several matches tactically unprepared. He displays an incurable liking towards the diminutive-shaped creative midfielder, adding them to Arsenal despite having us having surplus. In addition, his constant overplaying of essential Arsenal cogs infuriate me. I used to be a huge critic of Arsene Wenger.

Notice the ‘used to be’, because my aversion to Wenger at Arsenal has decreased a lot now. A lot of positives have surrounded Ashburton Grove recently, and not all of them are linked with Alexis Sanchez.

The deadwood have been shown the door. From having Denilson at the heart of our midfield and the uninspiring sight of Bendtner up front, Arsenal now have a genuine Zidane-esque player in Aaron Ramsey and the hardworking trio of Giroud, Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott to cheer on. Wenger has seemingly realized that having a clear-cut substitute starting XI is the wrong way to go, and has built a more egalitarian squad to surround record-signing Mesut Ozil. Imagine having Podolski, Wilshere, Rosicky and Oxlade-Chamberlain for depth, when three years ago it was Andre Santos, Park Chu Young and Gervinho.

My main concerns always lied with Arsene’s backroom staff. Dick Law was making a transfer saga of the average Gervinho, while his scouters were recommending the wrong people to the boss. Indeed, the last rough gem that we unearthed and refined was Laurent Koscielny of four years ago! In addition, our medical staff were notorious in keeping players injured for prolonged periods, while our famed youth academy hasn’t delivered many exciting prospects since Jack.

That’s all changing. Andries Jonker is a man with new and exciting ideas, and a man who will doubtless reform the static nature of our negotiating staff and outdated medical techniques. His appointment has meant that Arsenal have sought outside help for the first time in a long time, something which is uncharacteristic with Wenger’s “internal solutions” agenda. Ivan Gazidis may be taking a firm grip on the club.

Arsenal are knocking down the foundations and rebuilding them, rather than plastering over the cracks.

In the Sanchez deal, more than the quality of the player, what pleased me more was the timing of the transfer. While Mesut Ozil was supposed to be the starting point of a new era, the deal always reeked of a panic purchase. It wasn’t a cleverly thought-of move; it was more of a reactive piece of business to a lackluster beginning to the season.

Alexis Sanchez speaks otherwise. In him, Arsenal have bought exactly what was needed, and unlike last summer, they’ve done it early under not too much pressure. There is no baggage one could attach to the Sanchez deal, simply because there isn't any. I personally reckon that Arsene has regrown profound appetite for the Premier League and the Champions League, which is why he has moved so decisively and early for a marquee signing like Sanchez.

I was mightily pleased when Arsenal won the FA Cup, but a niggling regret always remained because Arsenal had faltered again where it mattered. Towards the end, we were irrelevances in the trophies a club of Arsenal FC’s status should compete for – the EPL and the Champions League. Not to downgrade the importance of winning the most prestigious cup competition in the world, but I have always demanded competitiveness at the highest stage from Arsenal, rather than contending ourselves with cups.
We aren’t a cup team, we’re not Tottenham.

What we saw from Arsene was proper ambition. They were always doubts on whether he had the desire left to take the league home, doubts propagated by his refusal to buy Fabregas, Costa and Vela. However, day before yesterday’s actions showed little room for doubt. Wenger was saving up to push the boat out, because he wants the big prizes.

Winning the FA Cup has rekindled the fire within him. Le Professeur has been reborn.

I still expect some tactical naivety from him in big games, and I still expect his annoying habits of overplaying key players to continue. That’s just who he is.  However, for the first time in a long time, I expect his focus to be greater than ever in delivering the trophies fans rightly demand for.

Starting against Manchester City.

-Santi [Follow me on Twitter @ArsenalBlogz] 

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