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Mr. Arsene Wenger: The Untouchable? The Lost Legacy of Highbury Part 2

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Mr. Arsene Wenger: The Untouchable? The Lost Legacy of Highbury Part 2
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It is easy for an Arsenal fan to throw his toys out of the pram over the first defeat at the hands of their bitterest North London rivals at home in 17 years.

It is easy to compare what Arsenal once had to the sense of mediocrity they have now. It is perhaps easier, though, to pretend and brush the blatant truth under the carpet or bury your head in the sand, blindly believing that there is nothing wrong.

Perhaps it is harder to look at yourself and realise that you have made mistakes, realize that you have thrown away something beautiful and that the correct changes must be made.

Perhaps that is the analysis of the Arsenal defeat to Spurs at the ever more quiet Emirates Stadium on November 20th, 2010, a date now etched into every Spurs fan's shortlist of achievements.

Perhaps it is also the analysis of Mr. Wenger's reign at Arsenal up until this point. What was once great has lost its way and is now riddled with excuses and mistakes. What pains me is that Arsene can fix the problems, if only he listened and gave up his now famously stubborn nature.

Something has been lost at Arsenal, and this defeat has been a long time coming. Whilst Redknapp has reinvigorated our old enemy, Wenger has stunted the possibility for Arsenal to once again dominate the Barclays Premier League.

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You cannot deny the great things he has done to a once dwindling club (though I always argue Arsenal were a great prospect when he took over), but you must also admit that since the golden era of 1998-2005, Wenger, the board, the fans and the club have gone backwards.

 

Arsenal's True Identity Has Been Discarded and Forgotten

"1-0 to the Arsenal." I can still hear the old screams from the working class lungs at Highbury. Arsenal FC had a true identity and a strong one, a base from which everything else was built. The world famous Arsenal backline, the offside trap, that dogged determination to fight for every cause.

Ironically, I first fell in love with Arsenal when Spurs were the better team, and I remember 17 years ago when we last lost at home. I was 8, and I was in love with the red and white because there was a certain connection then between the fans, the players and the manager.

Arsenal slowly became better, winning trophies here and there. The type of players we had at Arsenal never went down without a fight. Arsenal's defense was at times impenetrable and so well-respected. The football was direct, positive and often successful, perhaps lacking team guile or class.

We had fighters and winners on that pitch: Wright, Seaman, Adams, Bould, Keown, Dixon, Merson, Parlour and company. Class did arrive in the talented feet of Dennis Bergkamp, whom I regard as a greater Arsenal legend and bigger than Thierry Henry—at least he gave us the rest of his career and was never desperate to leave.

Wenger arrived and added skill, pace and fitness, but essentially that old Arsenal center provided the nucleus; the heart and the base on which to build on. Build on he did, but noticeably during his greatest years, the players he brought in had a mature mentality and were able to learn from the mainstays already at the club.

Now, the youngsters (another excuse, how long are they young for?) rule the roost, and the respect levels are low. The arrogance; however, is not.

Furthermore, Wenger has eradicated the great art of defending from the team, which is a shame, especially when it is the one thing Wenger's side needs to be truly good. This is not a new problem, and it is one that must be sorted out if Arsenal is ever going to be taken seriously as complete contenders. Wenger has once again purchased substandard when he could have gone for something more tried and tested.

These players that flood the squad are complacent and arrogant. They need the old guard that embody the Arsenal to knock them down a peg or two.

 

The Stadium, the Fans and the Lack of Interaction

The move to the Emirates was undoubtedly a move that had to be done in order to propel the club into the big league of revenue earners. However, the team and the football have suffered because of it. Yeah, we still play good football, but we are not as potent and definitely not as strong.

The new stadium has split a lot of the core fans and integrated a newer breed: the quiet fan there for a respectable day out, a middle class haven. Gone are the chants made for every player. Only the most loved get sung about these days. Lazy fans, only singing when they are winning, who have no real opinions and are just following blindly.

There is no coincidence that now our better results are away from home, where the real supporters travel miles to support the team.

When Arsenal were 2-0 up complacency kicked in. It spread from the players into the fans. Once Spurs scored their first, the fans did not step up a gear, and suddenly the loudest group in the stadium were the Tottenham fans. When Spurs scored the equaliser there was a deadly silence, and finally Spurs had suddenly taken control of the whole atmosphere. By the end, the Arsenal players did not have the ingredient of old Arsenal teams to remain strong.

The modern, new age fan is way too supportive of Wenger and all he does. Yes, you must support your manager, but there is a time when questions must be asked, followed swiftly by adequate unscripted answers. Wenger has the freedom of the club and is never held accountable to the point where he is untouchable.

The real fans need to have their say and must not be ignored, which seems a blatant practice since the move to Emirates. I, as a fan, feel less connection to the hierarchy and even the players that wear that shirt.

 

The Players

Some of the players are a shadow of some of the greats to play for Arsenal in the past. Wenger has shielded them for so long now that we still regard them as the "youngsters." Well, not any longer. The excuses must stop somewhere, and these players have had years of experience in not only the club's first team but also their national teams.

The players are too complacent, too arrogant and have too much power before they have even attempted to earn it. My girlfriend, who has only been watching the team for the last two years, commented as soon as we went 2-0 up. The first thing we agreed was that Arsenal would concede a goal.

The second thing she pointed out was that Arsenal had to concentrate because they are always guilty of arrogance. These players have been plunged into the first team of a Champions League outfit from a young age, and so there is an air of content within the ranks. What is worse is they have yet to prove themselves.

What these players have always needed were the older guard to bully them into earning their positions, instilling the beliefs of Arsenal into the next generation. It just appears that the identity of Arsenal is no more. It is awash with overrated and unfaithful players.

Explain why Man U can be in a transitional period, be playing the worst they have played for years and yet are still hard to beat. They don't throw games away because the players are still surrounded by Neville, Scholes, Ferdinand, Giggs and even Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. For this reason Man U will never lose their identity, and no matter what team is out there, the reputation of Man U is always at stake. That is why they are still hard to beat no matter what.

Players like Diaby, Denilson, Rosicky, Almunia and Fabianski (despite some good performances) shouldn't be playing in the Arsenal first team. Wenger's cheap cop-outs will not win you titles or instill belief.

Wenger had a chance to go into the transfer market and buy some proven quality, especially with the likes of Sol and Gallas leaving. Players like Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka, Scott Parker, Brede Hangeland and Shay Given were there for the taking.

What this team needs is proven Premiership experience and a little bit of British steel just to connect the team to its surroundings and the fans again.

Fabregas is not a true captain; he only has the title to keep him around and because no one else warrants the armband other than Vermalen, who has only had two seasons at the club. Song should just sit instead of venturing too far forward. We still need a better keeper. The two central defenders, Laurent Koscielny and Sebastien Squillaci, are okay, but I cannot expect them to get to grips with the Premier League straight away, especially when they are not the most imposing anyway. The forwards need to be more potent.

The team will always lack that final product if the personnel are not up to scratch and don't hold the gravitas.

The Manager

Mr Wenger, undoubtedly the greatest manager in the team's history, has now come to a point where he needs to admit his policies are wrong. He has been given the funds to spend, and yet when he does he does it half-heartedly he does not actually solve the problem.

Arsenal will not win anything bigger than the Carling Cup if they do no sort out their defending and their keepers ASAP. The players he has purchased are half decent, but he could have paid for better. All he needed was a bit of persistence, but he is happier to go for a foreign, untested player. This has become a hindrance.

What was said at halftime to turn a winning position into one of defeat? Surely Wenger now can admit to himself that half his players are not up to the challenge and some must be sold to make way for a new breed of player. He needs to be more versatile, and he needs to forget his ego in order to please the fans again.

I personally question giving him a contract renewal at the beginning of this season. Untouchable or what?

 

The Evaluation

Arsenal are still in the title race thanks to the fact that Chelsea have gone off the boil and Manchester United continues to play poorly yet refuse to lose (something Arsenal need to learn). This doesn't excuse the defeat to Spurs and the ones to Newcastle and West Brom (I left out Chelsea).

If we are to be champions we must play like champions and also equip ourselves with the correct talent. We concede too many goals and lack a winner's spirit.

Sell some players, and do something different. Not every player needs to be able to play six a side; every position is a role.

The fans need to wake up and sing. Whether we are struggling or whether it's to voice concern, it must be done.

Wenger needs to be honest and evaluate what he is doing. His excuses are just that.

Arsenal still play great football and have a chance of winning the Carling Cup and more, but to certify their ability they need to sure up in more than a few departments.

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