Dreamer Arsene Wenger Must Become a Pragmatist Again to Bring Arsenal Success

Stan CollymoreFeatured ColumnistMarch 27, 2014

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Arsenal don't need a new manager; they need Arsene Wenger to become a new man. He needs to go from being a dreamer to a pragmatist, and revisit the past to understand how he earned his reputation.

Wenger's early teams at Arsenal were physically imposing. You'd stand next to the likes of Martin Keown, Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Petit and Co. in the tunnel and know there was a fierce battle ahead. They had a mob of street fighters back then—tough players who stood up to be counted.

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But at some point Wenger decided on a change of philosophy. Perhaps inspired by the rise of teams like Barcelona on the Continent, he turned his focus to signing smaller, more mobile players. It might have been the right approach for Europe, but it neglected the fundamental requirements of the Premier League.

Fans in England want to see physicality. They want to see players who can win aerial battles, thrive in close-quarters combat and handle themselves in a challenge. The Premier League is a reflection of that, and you can't win it without having that element to your squad.

Manuel Pellegrini and Jose Mourinho know this only too well. Sir Alex Ferguson was well aware of it also.

That's why Mourinho brought Nemanja Matic to Chelsea. And why he has players like John Terry and Frank Lampard in his squad. The team that succeeded in his first spell at Stamford Bridge included players like Michael Essien and Didier Drogba.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 22:  Nemanja Matic of Chelsea and Tomas Rosicky of Arsenal battle for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Arsenal at Stamford Bridge on March 22, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill
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Ferguson always had players of that ilk in his teams. The team that won the Champions League in 2008 was driven by the physical presence of Nemanja Vidic, Darren Fletcher, Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo—amongst others. 

Pellegrini has his share of scrappers at City right now: Pablo Zabaleta, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero, to name but a few.

These are street fighters, born and bred. If you held a WWE SmackDown with all 20 Premier League teams, these are the guys who would still be standing at the end of it. Where would Arsenal be? They'd be at the bottom of the pile, having taken a pounding.

Arsenal are fine against 80 percent of the teams in the Premier League, but when they play the big clubs, they get rolled over. Chelsea out-played them last week. They also out-muscled them.

The only way back for Arsenal is for Wenger to appreciate that fact, and act on it. Arsenal can play all the beautiful football they like, but without a core of physically dominant individuals in their squad they won't be challenging for the Premier League anytime soon.

Wenger could start by signing a powerful striker—somebody in the mould of Diego Costa, who'll sweat blood for the team and put himself about. Arsenal also need a Matic type in midfield to set the tone and make them hard to beat.

If Wenger needs inspiration he should watch the clip of Keown jumping around wildly in front of Ruud van Nistelrooy at Old Trafford. Arsenal had a mean streak back then. To be successful, they need to discover it again, and Wenger needs to fundamentally change his outlook.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 21:  Martin Keown of Arsenal shows his feelings at Ruud Van Nistelrooy of Man Utd after Van Nistelrooy missed his penalty during the FA Barclaycard Premiership match between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford on
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When failure starts to feel cliched, as it does at Arsenal this season, a manager needs to act.