Stan, Stan, where were you all these days? Ah, making sure your teams spiral into mediocrity. Got it.
It's amazing how the Arsenal PR machinery moves into double overdrive when it comes to saving Arsene Wenger's bacon. When it comes to making transfers or retaining players who can make all the difference, not so much. And so Stan Kroenke will reiterate his unflagging support at a boardroom meeting which comprises him and a obsequious wall for the beleaguered manager who is going through all the "why me" martyrdom normally associated with Mario Balotelli.
The first word that Arsenal should learn to become an effective team once again is "conditional".
Clearcut expectations and performances:
Wenger's future at the club should be built around clear cut parameters of expectations and performances. Not some woozy headed shifting of goalposts or redefinition of success. Fourth is not the Rosetta Stone, it is a bypass to the league title. Player wages and bonuses should be prioritized not through a Keynesian one size fits all but soundly structured through metrics and minutes on the pitch. Goals are welcome. Saves and clearances too. Shots off target are not. Losing balls are not. Running harebrained down the channels is not. Crosses and corners that lead to goals are muy bueno. So is tracking back. Putzing about like bystanders is not. Spending two years on the bench collecting £60,000 per week is not. A complete and collective 90 minute + performance on the pitch is well worth socialism while capitalism does its work off it in making sure players deliver and are recompensed well when they do. This will save about £25m in an inflated annual wage bill. Enough to retain a player essential to the side and at the same time afford Yann M'Vila and his wages.
Wenger needs to refocus on defense:
We can't talk about past Arsenal success without whipping up those Tony Adams and later Sol Campbell led legendary back fours. We get all rheumy eyed and develop a catch in our throat at the mention of their names. In perfect context, we saw Bayern, we saw Blackburn, we saw Bradford, and we saw Birmingham two years ago in a final that stuck a collective shiv in any title (no matter how looked down upon) aspirations we have because of our unbelievable talent in giving up cheap, cheap goals. That psychic blow has never been lived down. Now we're just chokers. Those killer B's will still be around. We dodged Barca this time and maybe seeing how they played yesterday, that's the B we should have faced. But we need a killer D and not a filler D. Please no more Silvestre's, no more Squillaci's, no more Santos's, nor more recycled Sol's. The bottomline is the opposition should be made to sweat and sweat hard and when they have sweated (whoa, that is a word) to a puddle, we can then score and/or score before and make them sweat to a puddle or muddle or fuddle thereafter. Whatever. Arsenal fans should never have to live in fear of the first half and the last 15 minutes of the second. Spend on quality. Let Steve Bould do what he needs to do. He once had ideas, now he has none. The man's basically been reduced to an unsmiling visage avoiding all eye contact, not even stealing a glance even when his manager is fiddling about with a stuck zipper for days on end. Wasn't that bizarre?
Wenger needs to play "fitba" not "FFP"
One of the many dilutions of Wenger as a coach has been his evolution as the chief pontificator of the sport over the years. This does not get much airplay but whereas Sir Alex would say, "Ar" to the doping scandal or financial doping and resume his focus on the X's and Y's of the match, the Frenchman is much sought after for his opinions about what ails the sport. And he's very erudite and listenable to when in that sort of audience. But sport is the here and now. What ails Arsenal should be his first and foremost concern and there is plenty to be concerned about. His pronouncements on those issues have been less sure. The players are "nervous", they "lack height", they give up "cheap goals". Why? For an economist and supposed guru of sabermetrics, these should be unsatisfying non-sequiturs.
Wenger's unerring eye at picking rough cut gems has also suffered over the years. His answer is that France is no longer the goldmine, the market has moved to Germany and Spain. Arsenal fans expect Leo Messi to waltz in. No, they don't. But its all part of this giant ball of stimulus response (reaction times for those in the field of cog psy) that now define Wenger's explanations. The sad trap of nostalgia also seems to infect his mien where one off performances are worthy of Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry anointments. Or the quadruple. His experimentation with Emmanuel Petit and Henry paid off handsomely but what once looked like a discerning eye is a now a series of blind spots. The homegrown youth revolution ended three seasons ago. The team is no longer teenage heaven for Francophones, it is a polyglot of older, more varied add ons to cement fourth place. Wenger's shift towards experience has been unmistakable but it has not paid off because we have not paid money for first tier replacements. When Bayern won, many said it was boys against men. That was untrue. Knockoffs against men, more likely.
Arsenal's downhill performances coincides with the emphasis on economic success, the milking of their brand, and their arrival at the Emirates. Yes, its brought in huge unmatched matchday receipts but it also meant that the new management at the club could tout another shining metric to distract from the gathering cobwebs in the trophy room.
Perhaps success came too soon after Wenger's arrival in the English league. And more importantly, the sort of football that defined that success. It had not been seen before. But with every passing year, Arsenal's passing game is well found out while others have adopted it without giving up the basics. Sound goalkeeping, sturdy defending, and one or two players up front who can score. Swansea? These are self inflicted wounds. The debt is down to very manageable levels, the club has made millions and continues to take in a profit, and it still is still attractive to many talented players who would love to make Arsenal their home. Attitude adjustments and a plan B, C, and D, should do it.