A bit of this will not hurt Arsenal
Five matches into the season and a perfect record. An outpouring of 21 goals with just four conceded. And the latest, a win over arch rivals Chelsea by a 3-1 margin. Utd are already separating themselves by their intimidating performances.
His side’s effervescent start is still not enough to make Sir Alex happy. After the Chelsea match he was critical of his players “making things hard for ourselves by giving the ball away so many times in attacking areas.”He was particularly hard on Wayne Rooney for “a terrible pass, a really bad pass” to Dimitar Berbatov that took the Bulgarian further away from goal giving time to Ashley Cole to slide in and prevent Utd from increasing their tally.
This is a manager who was unafraid to publicly shame his best player singling out a specific instance when he could have done better. Contrast this with Arsene Wenger’s mumbo jumbo about “players showing spirit” and “lack of focus”. In parallel with Sir Alex, he could have pulled up Gervinho for a low percentage shot instead of passing to an open RVP for what could have been a sure goal. Another early strike would have changed the outcome of the Blackburn match.
Wenger’s problem is that he treats every player like they have fragile egos that will surely shatter if he uses the public forum to chastise them. Players feel less pressured to improve and mistakes are repeated ad infinitum. One need not go back too far with Denilson, Mikel Silvestre, Lukasz Fabianski, Laurent Koscielny, Sebastian Squillaci, and Theo Walcott being treated with kid gloves after some very egregious blunders.
Sir Alex’s use of “tough love” effectively channels his intensely competitive spirit into his players forcing them to respond to his challenges. Wayne Rooney whose passing skills are already a formidable part of his repertoire is being told he was not good enough. He was unimpressed by Utd’s complacency in the attacking third that allowed Chelsea back into the game in spells during the second half. In both instances the bar is being raised even before the first self congratulatory high five. Who doesn’t believe that Rooney finding himself in a similar position in the future will remember these words vividly and ensure better control?
By all accounts Wenger is equally fierce in his desire to win but somehow this gets lost in translation when it comes to his players. The Arsenal manager’s protective instincts is costing them that edge. He was very prickly in his defense of Lukasz Fabianski, whereas, Sir Alex had no problems shipping out Ben Foster for his lesser trespasses. A carrot and stick policy if used effectively can get the best out of your players. Naming specific instances where players commit obvious mistakes is not character assassination. These are professionals who command excellent salaries and with that should come taking responsibility for their performances. It is time to start calling them out. “Koscielny made a costly mistake playing Yakubu onside”. Words to that effect can spur better discipline at the back. You have to make a direct appeal to their ego, to their sense of pride, to improve themselves. The danger is that after taking so many bullets for them they will stop responding.