Wenger Isn’t To Blame… Sort Of
“I’m Wenger Out no matter what the result is”
Beirut and Mogadishu can sometimes look like 5* all-inclusive destinations if you go to the pubs, check social media or mill around outside the ground after an Arsenal defeat and the blame game starts as soon as the final whistle blows.
Often you will see and hear reams of people blaming the manager whilst others try to exonerate him and thus arguments ensue and anger and bitterness deepens and clouds rational thought. The aftermath of the Southampton match was one such occasion and most fingers were pointed squarely at the manager.
I’m sick of pointing out the difference between rational thought, logic and proportionate allocation of blame, and being up Wenger’s backside so I won’t waste my time beyond saying if this is read as being up Wenger’s rear end, accepting mediocrity, making excuses or any other trite cliché then that person needs an intelligence transplant – there are plenty of urban pigeons to swap brains with. (I’m on the attack and I don’t care any more).
One other tired cliché often trotted out by those who believe anything other than howling at the moon in a state of undress whilst effigies of Wenger burn around you is tantamount to lapping at Wenger like a dehydrated traveller at a desert oasis is a banal reference to video games like FIFA and Football Manager.
When it comes to transfers you could be forgiven for thinking these people actually play the games themselves because they seem to think it’s as easy as finding someone with 85+ stats and offering a programmed sum. However when it comes to results the reality of the result and the realism of the video games have quite a bit in common. Control.
“Wenger buys the players, coaches the players, picks the team and chooses the tactics – it all comes back to him”
In the crudest and most parochial of senses yes it all does come back to him if you try hard enough to ignore all other factors and focus intently on blaming the manager completely.
I can blame my parents for me being slightly overweight as an adult if I am so obdurate as to assign all blame for the things I am unhappy with to them. I have a propensity for burgers. Not the fastfood kind, the gourmet kind with double stack meat patties, two types of cheese, pulled pork, bacon, onion rings, sautéed mushrooms and onions and a rich sauce of either BBQ or pepper jack cheese variety. I eat too much and I don’t exercise as much as I used to.
Did my parents feed me up on junk as a kid fuelling my desire for heart attack burgers as an adult? Did they shape my taste buds so I will always crave crap? If the answer was yes I guess I could blame them but they didn’t. No, they only fed me on nutritious home-cooked meals. So how is it their fault? Well, if I wanted to find a way to blame them I could apply what I call the WOBLogic™ and say that them steering me away from junk food and never allowing me any gave me an unhealthy obsession with it and once I was in charge of my own food purchases I went straight for that which was denied me and in great portions.
I was never fat as a child so why when able to make my own choices did I put on weight? Surely it is my parents fault, right?
Wrong. They gave me the tools to succeed or fail in life and I choose how to apply them. They have taught me, mentored me, coached me, parented me – however you want to look at it – and now I make my own choices, obviously influenced by what I have been taught.
I actually have quite a healthy diet which has been influenced by my upbringing however I take in more calories than I usually burn because I never completely broke my old eating habits when I stopped weight-training and now I have the diet of a moderate athlete but the exercise regime of a potato – every now and then I turn over. Enough about me.
It’s the same with footballers and their managers. Yes, Wenger chooses the tactics, the players, the formation etc but once on the pitch the players make their own choices determined by the paths set out in front of them by the run of play and influenced by the training they have received. In FIFA, one of the most infuriating games for people who like to be in control like me, you do not control all of the players all of the time. You control one player at a time and the rest of the players act in accordance to their programming and the formation you have chosen.
In the real world Wenger chooses the formation and “programmes” the players but when each player is in control of the ball or attempting to win the ball they make their own choices – they are the video game player, they choose what buttons to press.
Wenger is not blameless and this post is not suggesting that once the players take to the field the manager has no power. He does, he can choose to change tactics, make substitutions or switch formations and whilst that may yield more favourable results it doesn’t make him any more in charge of the player’s minds.
A manager’s battle is with the other manager but it depends on the performance of the players he chooses. In the case of Southampton he was let down by the players. We all were.
We played our first choice back four for the first time this season and it was a shambles. Against Liverpool and Chelsea last season the players just didn’t look up for it. Sure, a part of his job is motivation but I’m pretty sure Audley Harrison looked motivated for his fight before being knocked out early on or Amir Khan before being knocked out in 30 seconds by Breidis Prescott.
There’s only so much a manager can do to influence a result and whilst Wenger is guilty of not doing enough on occasion it should not mean he has to shoulder the responsibility of defeat on his own on every occasion. It’s a team sport and he is part of the team that succeeds or fails. When we lose it is partially his fault and when we win it is partially down to him to. He doesn’t score the goals, make the assists or the saves in the same vein he doesn’t fluff shots, hack people down, give away penalties, rush out of his area like a maniac or let the ball fly past him.
Tactically he did not do enough to win the game against Southampton but nor did he to lose it. The players lost it with their poor decisions, lack of desire and wayward passing. When we consistently have one of the best passing success rates in the league we can’t say that his training methods are the reason we have an off day or 10 in a season.
Does Arsenal have a squad of exceptionally talented players who are being mismanaged? People who no longer believe in the manager would say yes. I’m not sure. For many years we have a group of largely average players who were being expertly managed to achieve more than maybe they should have. Liverpool and Tottenham will pay testament to how hard it is to lose your star player and still finish in the top four – something Arsenal did for quite a few years.
Now we have a squad full of wonderfully talented players who on paper should be doing more than they are. Is Wenger mismanaging them or are they exceptionally talented players guilty of performing at an exceptionally average level? I think it is a mixture of the two.
It may well be time for Wenger to go and you may well be vociferous in calling for that and that’s cool but please don’t be so narrow as to blame Wenger for everything when at least some of it is out of his control. Otherwise you might as well blame your parents for everything in your life because genetically speaking, it all goes back to them.
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