Saturday, 20 September 2014

Analysing Wenger's pre-Villa quotes

Preview | Pre-match conference | Team news


I don't generally do this, but when I heard Wenger's presser I had to cringe. There was just too much stupid in there.

Loads of evidence-compelling stuff yesterday, one which many may have noticed, but I'd like to point out.

On transfers

When asked about signing free agents for cover (like Yobo, who could provide defensive cover) Wenger said: "We cannot do anything now."

Well, you could in August. Arsenal reported £170m in cash reserves yesterday. It's certainly reasonable to argue that two defenders and a defensive midfielder would have only cost north of £50m at most. I find it nigh on impossible to believe that there weren't any defenders (or DMs) available who would be content being at Arsenal for backup.

On Ozil

Ozil's decline has been clear to most except Wenger. He seems to think that his terrible run of form has only stretched back to a few weeks, when it is actually close to a year.

"It takes a few weeks for people to get back to their best after the World Cup."

Now, I could sound out names like Messi and Fernandinho to dispel this ridiculous equation, but Wenger defending Ozil in such short-term ways worry me. Has Wenger not noticed that, after his bright start to London, he's faded since as early as last November? The media caught on to Ozil failing around February, but I noticed it around November. Here's a quote I wrote around a year ago:

"Which brings me to Ozil's dip in form. I couldn't help but notice how he constantly kept playing back passes and safe passes to his teammates, in recent games. After his brilliant start, he seems to have faded away from the game to the point of almost being invisible at times. And it's not like he's being played out of position. Ozil has being playing almost every match in the central attacking role, but currently not living up to the £42m transfer fee.

Maybe that's the problem. The fact that Arsene is overplaying him even when he's sick suggests that the rigours of the league might be getting to him. And while that may be the case, I think that his dip in form is down to his teammates, and not him."


Has much changed? Well, the runners have come, but he's still being played out of position and overplayed! Wenger has put too much pressure on him - forcing him to take penalties, playing him in almost every single game (including Coventry home, SMH), and saying "He will compete for Player of the Season next season."

And what does Wenger have to reply to that?

"We should not be concerned and just support him."

Supporting is creditable, but blindly assuming that a player is good when he isn't is tantamount to idol worship. We want to believe something when it doesn't. So let's just call it a day and call someone accountable, either Ozil or Wenger.

"Why should he [Ozil] be made a scapegoat? We've lost one game since April. Let's be realistic."

Let's be realistic, Wenger? All right, I'll play your game. Performance wise, we've only delivered excellent showings against Norwich away and disinterested teams like Newcastle or Man City in the Shield. We may be unbeatable, but we could have easily lost against Everton, Besiktas or (would you believe it) Leicester. To bring things to Ozil, he's participated in only one goal for 19 games.

"People have ups and downs in their life."

That'd be a fair point if Ozil's 'downs' didn't last for 10 months.

He did bring up a reasonable point about Ozil, saying: "[His positioning] is a secondary thing. He has freedom to go where he wants, when he has it [the ball]."

He's right in a way, because suggesting that Ozil playing on the left is the only source to the problem is wrong. That's not restricting his game in any way. However, where Wenger misses the point is - why play him on the flank, then? Ozil isn't a guy who will track back if he loses the ball in the final third. We're confining Ozil's strengths as well as weakening our left hand defensive channel.

Which brings me to tactics.

On tactics

"It's difficult for me to explain the subtleties, but [in short] not a lot has changed."

Geez, give me a break please, Arsene?

We've replaced a defensive-minded right back with an attack-minded right back. We've isolated Arteta (already a weak link enough) by removing his support, Aaron Ramsey. By changing Ramsey's position, we've made Arteta weak as well as restricted some of Ramsey's strengths - tackling. So yes, Wenger, a lot HAS changed.

When asked what was his thinking to switch to a 4-1-4-1, he said:

"We failed in some games, so behind that is the thinking. We need to be solid in more games."

Well, the way I see it, this new formation has made us weaker in defence. The answer to stopping away-day blues is isolating your DM, going backwards number-wise defensively, overplaying Mertesacker and Koscielny, giving Ramsey an advanced role (which means fewer tackles from him), and asking Mesut Ozil to track back?

Worst. Plan. Ever.

"We need to find the balance [between attack and defence]. Even when Arteta plays he is initially an offensive player."

So maybe we should have bought that DM, then?

"We need to find the balance, so that is why explaining it is not an easy subject."

I think I'm alone in speculating this, but I got the vibe that Wenger was trying to avoid the tactical phase of the pre-match conference. I think the only reason he switched to a 4-1-4-1 was to fit Wilshere and Ozil in the same team, and play Ramsey in a more attacking position, hoping he'd get more goals out of him. It seems like idealistic thinking, but it failed. Hopefully Wenger's not too stubborn to change it back to 4-2-3-1.

Who am I kidding? We will continue to see 4-1-4-1.

UPDATE: Well, what do you know? Word is we're reverting to 4-2-3-1!

Anyway, after some guff on grass and Chambers, when someone asked Wenger again to clarify on his tactical 'approach', Wenger gave him the classic indirect insult:

"There are plenty of tacticians in the world who have managed zero games."

For Christ's sake, Arsene. You don't need to be a football manager or have an Economics degree to see that Arsenal are weak down whichever channel Ozil is played in. You don't need to work either one day in football or 10,000 to see that Arsenal will not win the Premier League. Could you please have some humility?

To end, here are some more ludicrous comments in the presser. Also, you can read a proper preview here.

"We came out of Saturday thinking that we put in a good performance."

"We dominated physically against Dortmund."

-Santi [Follow me on Twitter @ArsenalBlogz ]