Arsene Wenger: Top 10 Mistakes the Professor Has Made as Arsenal Manager
Arsene Wenger: Has Daddy's Hat Fallen Off?
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A win over relegation-threatened Blackpool helped ease the situation for Wenger, but a considerable points gap and some unconvincing player performances means it's unlikely the Frenchman will get his saving grace with Premier League glory.
This prompted Wenger to famously lambaste his critics and insist second is good enough.
"We have done well for our age as we are second in the league. Is that a disaster for you?" said the Gunners manager.
"Trophies are one way to judge a club. They're not overrated as it allows you to say you have won a trophy, but would you swap winning the FA Cup for playing in the Champions League?"
He added: "We do as well as we can, and if it's not good enough it's not good enough."
Such comments haven't gone down well with large sections of the Arsenal support, further disappointed to hear that qualifying for the Champions League is more important than winning titles.
Were these comments a mistake from Wenger, or are his words totally justifiable? And what other mistakes has Le Professor made as Arsenal boss? Read on to find out.
Same Old Arsenal
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We all know how Arsenal play, with a more rigid, up-tempo version of tiki-taka, trying to pass the ball into the net.
The midfield is crucial for the Gunners, with Jack Wilshere pulling the strings and Cesc Fabregas often being the main outlet between midfield and attack.
The wingers also play their role, providing width in the final third, willing to feed the ball to the central striker, with the fullbacks occasionally getting forward and overlapping the wingers, try to double-team the opposition defenders.
And that's the problem exactly. We all know how Arsenal play. Same old predictable Arsenal, using the wings, passing the ball around, making sure every attack goes through the playmaker (i.e. Fabregas) or the wingers or both.
Have those players consistently marked and it suddenly becomes a lot harder for Arsenal, who fail to produce a Plan B in the hope that like FC Barcelona, their Plan A will come to fruition eventually.
Wenger shows great faith in his players by allowing to stick to their footballing principles, but it's blind faith. Arsenal need a Plan B, but just don't have one, as proven recently against Blackburn Rovers.
Lack of Transfer Market Ruthlessness
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Arsenal need a new goalkeeper and a whole host of top, experienced players to help them progress.
But the problem seems to be that Wenger isn't actually as callous as he needs to be when it comes to signing the top talent.
Of course, if a player is massively overpriced there's no point attempting to sign them unless you're Real Madrid or Manchester City, but it appears, in the transfer market at least, Wenger does take no for answer instead of pressurising the board of directors into increasing the transfer budget slightly to clinch that marquee signature.
While it's always good for his job to maintain a healthy relationship with the board, Wenger could've won many more trophies in his Arsenal tenure had he had the ability to attract the top players to the Emirates.
Focus on Technical Ability Over Leadership
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One of the main criticisms thrown at Arsenal is that they don't have enough leaders on the pitch.
And when watching the Gunners play in tough matches with their backs against the rope, it's clear to see they don't have enough men on the field pulling the side together and lifting their spirits.
Wenger can do all he wants on the sidelines to help motivate the players, but there's nothing like having two or three leaders on the pitch spurring the team on in difficult times.
Harry Redknapp summed it up when he revealed he failed in a bid to sign Rio Ferdinand for Tottenham Hotspur last summer.
He said, "I've said many times to the chairman, it's not always about the best players, it's about getting characters in your football club.
"That type of real character, who has opinions and that will to win around the dressing room—a few leaders. You can't have too many at your club."
Arsenal only have their captain Cesc Fabregas and the ever-emerging Jack Wilshere as leaders it would seem.
Even then it's clear Fabregas isn't a natural born leader, but a player with such outstanding technical ability, he might be able to lead by example.
When Arsenal youngster Aaron Ramsey was announced as Wales captain, he summed up Wenger's problem, declaring he was going to "lead by example" after admitting he wasn't the greatest communicator.
There's a difference between leading by example through technical ability and leading by communicating and motivating teammates. It seems like Arsene Wenger hasn't seen that difference yet.
Handling of Robin van Persie
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Robin van Persie has had his Arsenal career plauged by injuries.
Whether it's the main responsibility of the physio team or the fitness coach or Wenger and his assistant Pat Rice, it's clear to see that van Persie's injury problems haven't been handled very well.
And one area which Wenger has made mistakes in his Arsenal reign is by allowing Robin van Persie to return too soon.
Of course it's up to the player to look after himself, and it's his fault at times for getting recurrent injuries instead of allowing his muscle tear, etc, to fully heal.
However, the ultimate responsibility lies with the manager once that player is chosen to walk out onto the field of play to represent Arsenal FC.
And as we've seen time and time before, Van Persie has comeback after an injury, only to come off injured again after just 35 minutes.
It's clear his injuries haven't been handled well, and had Wenger use his judgement and helped get van Persie back to full, proven match fitness before starting a game, he could've got a lot more goals out of the Flying Dutchman.
Faith in Cesc Fabregas
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Arsene Wenger has shown tremendous and admirable faith in his captain Cesc Fabregas in recent seasons.
Whilst this is a great morale boost for the Spain international, which therefore means Wenger can get the best out his star player, it's also a bit of a hinderance.
Firstly, it's meant the Arsenal captain gets recurrent hamstring problems after declaring himself "fit," which have seen him miss considerable parts of the past two seasons and not actually get the best out of him.
And in terms of on-pitch performance, it's been a problem, as proven most crucially in the game against Barcelona at the Camp Nou, where it was Fabregas' mistake that allowed Barca to get that all-important opening goal.
Faith In Youth
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It's a line thrown out time and time again, but it's always proved to be true. Arsene Wenger's insistence on fielding mainly young players has hindered Arsenal's chances of winning major trophies.
And that's simply because these players aren't experienced enough in dealing with the big-time games come the business end of the season where one match can make or break chances of lifting top trophies.
The little time wasting tips to see out games, the cool head required not to get frustrated when things aren't going your way, not making silly spontaneous mistakes that can cost precious points (Abou Diaby away at Newcastle United for example), are all things this Arsenal team doesn't have with players that haven't had enough experience competing for league and cup honours.
Whilst it's good for Wenger to develop homegrown talent to save money, add further prestige to the club's academy, bolster Arsenal's financial repuation and boost his own ego, it does mean the Gunners can be hindered when challenging for the Premier League title.
When Arsenal won their last trophy back in 2005, beating Manchester United in the FA Cup, they had experienced winners such as Dennis Bergkamp, Robert Pires, Thierry Henry, Gilberto Silva and Patrick Vieira in the team.
How many players with that experience (at the time) does Arsenal have at their disposal now? The answer—not enough.
Carling Cup = Mickey Mouse Cup
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Had Arsene Wenger just won the Carling Cup in the whole time his Arsenal side have gone without a trophy, he wouldn't be under such scrutiny now.
Wenger's insistence on always giving the younger players experience in the Carling Cup, no matter how far into it the Gunners progress, has damaged their chances of winning the trophy, apart from this year of course, when they just lost due to a highly comical defensive mix up.
Again it can be a good thing as it can turn these young players into potential world-beaters, winning in big, high pressure games when it matters most. Or, as is Arsenal's case, it can just again leave the club trophy-less.
In the 2007 final, for example, against Chelsea, Wenger fielded a younger side containing the likes of Armand Traore, Jeremie Aliadiere and Justin Hoyte, where the Blues fielded a full-strength team.
The result? Chelsea won 2-1 thanks to a brace from Didier Drogba.
However, had the likes of Emmanuel Adebayor, Aliaksandr Hleb, Thierry Henry, etc, been playing, it could've been a different story altogether, both then and now.
Keeping It French
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Down the years, there have been many French players turning out for Arsenal, and some of them have been total success stories, like Thierry Henry, Robert Pires and Patrick Vieira.
Others however, have been total flops, such as Jeremie Aliadiere, Armand Traore and most recently, the sub-standard Sebastien Squillaci signed from Sevilla.
Wenger's lack of scope when getting scouting done for new recruits looks like it might cost Arsenal quite significantly.
This season's French centre-back pairing of Laurent Koscielny and Squillaci hasn't exactly blossomed into a Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic sort of partnership but rather that of a team like Blackpool, as the Gunners have shipped in goals at all the wrong times.
The likes of Abou Diaby and Gael Clichy also haven't lived up to the hype, while the likes of Pascal Cygan were flops from the very beginning.
One gets the idea Arsene Wenger might need to broaden his horizons in terms of recruitment scouting if he is to find the new Henry, Vieira or Dennis Bergkamp.
Second Is Good Enough Says Arsene Wenger
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Arsene Wenger's recent outburst, defending his team's trophy drought and insisting playing Champions League football is more important, has not gone down well at all with significant sections of the Emirates faithful.
The Arsenal boss insisted the team "should not go overboard. We are second in the league so it's not a scandal. Where is the common sense?
"Some of the clubs behind us have done nothing for 20 years, yet suddenly they get a lot of praise. I don't understand.
"If we are disappointed at the end then okay. Why do you say it's a disaster when we are second in the league? If I cannot defend the fact that we are second in the league and fighting for the championship then I should stay at home."
Such quotes don't exactly come across as the mindset of a champion team. Could you ever imagine Sir Alex Ferguson saying the same thing about Manchester United? Or Pep Guardiola with Barcelona?
Those teams spend big, unlike Arsenal, but win enough trophies and therefore attracting enough revenue, to adequately deal with that and still make profit.
With these quotes, Arsene Wenger could well be damaging the reputation of the club, as well as his own ego, exposing the lack of ambition within.
It all means comments like, "Wenger simply knows the writing is on the wall, and even if Arsenal beat Blackpool tomorrow it only delays the inevitable Arsenal surrender by another week or two," and more simple ones like "Wenger out!" are becoming increasingly louder.
Belief In Under-Performing Stars
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The likes of Tomas Rosicky, Denilson, Abou Diaby, Andrei Arshavin, Nicklas Bendtner and lately Marouane Chamakh have underperformed massively for the Gunners.
Whilst it's of course good for Arsene Wenger to back his under-firing men to try and raise their morale, give them game time and let them prove themselves to the manager, fans and the whole watching world, it has backfired this season.
Denilson has again failed to convince anyone, proving he's not the next Gilberto Silva, while Rosicky has clearly lost that spark from his Borussia Dortmund days following his injuries.
Bendtner has also been less than prolific for the Gunners, with the big Dane lacking the consistent finishing ability and close control required to be a big hit at Arsenal.
Wenger's faith in these players has bemused fans, and while he hopes it may come off and these lads blossom into top stars like Jack Wilshere, Cesc Fabregas or Samir Nasri, it looks highly unlikely.
The 61-year-old might well have put in the final nail in his Arsenal coffin with his consistent faith in his under-performing squad players.