Wenger rages against the dying of the light

There are some things that the English - and English football fans in particular - tend not to understand as well as their continental peers. Things like post-modernism, abstract art, existential philosophy, the thought processes of Italian referees… and patience.

Some of these issues are closer to the Emirates than we might care to admit currently. For all the anguish and the angst that Arsene Wenger’s teams have put us through over the years, this season is in danger of turning into one of the most fraught and frustrating in many a long year. There may be a harsh winter ahead.

In general terms we all know what the remedy is, but somewhere between our big picture solutions and the manager’s implacable resolution things aren’t quite goingaccording to plan.

We all know that Wenger has a stubborn streak. On a good day we’re prepared to describe this as a matter of his being a man of principle, a man of sound footballing credentials with a commitment to playing the game as beautifully as has ever been seen. Wenger’s footballing vision speaks of a free-flowing, exhilarating and libertarian spirit. His resolution may be that of a no-nonsense roundhead, but his footballing ethos is unquestionably that of an incurable romantic.

Source: by  Ronnie Macdonald 

And that footballing ideal is indeed a thing of unquestionable beauty. When we pause to reflect on some of the footballing heights that have been reached under his admiring eye it must be a hard heart indeed that doesn’t skip a beat. Henry and BergkampRoscki and HlebWilstshire and Walcott and the Ox in full flow… if only these shining glimpses of footballing paradise could be converted into silverware more often and more meaningfully.

There is no doubt at all that as wise and ands worldly as Wenger is, he knows full well that his side needs a stronger spine. His long-term aspiration to turn Mikel Arteta into a midfield anchor was a long shot at best. It has been nigh on four years since Arteta arrived from Everton where he caught the eye as a ball-playing creator. Someone should tell Wenger that just as you can’t convert shire horses into race-horses, you don’t get the best out of a thoroughbred by shackling it to a plough.

Arteta deserves our undying gratitude for the willingness with which he has, game after game, surrendered his better attributes and his appetite for creativity in the interest of the greater cause. At times it has been like watching Michel Roux waiting at table, serving up second rate fare, only to see him return it to the kitchen, overcooked, under-seasoned or - dare I say it - half-baked.

But Arteta’s worthy plight is a symptom, it is not the disease. There is a withering of Arsenal in the defensive aspect of the game that is redolent of advanced old age. Feeble and brittle, the Gunners’ rear-guard consistently looks like it should be settled down in a comfy settee with a hob-nob, cuppa and a rug on its knee. It seems only a matter of time before infirmity and indignity elide in a permanent state of redundant disuse. The Gunners’ defence might have passed muster in 1914 - before hostilities began, of course - but it is a hundred years away from being fit for purpose in the Champions’ League. 

The trend across Europe, and increasingly in the Premiership is for a pair of midfield anchors. Twin buttresses on which to base the sort of attacking fluidity that Wenger loves with such evident passion are the order of the day. Chelsea’s unlikable but impregnable progress this season is testament to the pragmatic qualities which such an approach can bring. In contrast, the Gunners have none. 

Rather than being presented with a well-spiked barricade to surmount, opponents are invited in for a cucumber sandwich and the offer of a second if they’re still peckish a moment or two later.

Of course this is agony for us all. What we owe Wenger is beyond all counting - never mind the stadium and the balance sheet - those ancient titles, the Invincibles, the memories… those are debts that cannot be easily erased. But we must move forwards. And no-one know that more than Wenger himself.

In the face of that future he often casts an anguished shadow. His features creased with the concerns that chew at us all, he hears the murmurs in the stands, he’ll be aware of the media talk that his time has come. More than anyone he will know that what he has produced has let down the people who have loved him for years, and who he has surely loved in return. And where there is love there is always pain.

Let us return to the motif of post-modern art and existential angst. There is surely nothing in the world that sums up the current crisis of conviction that Arsenal fans are afflicted so much as that famous Norwegian image known simply as The Scream. Edvard Munch’s evocation of a soul in torment - hands on head, eyes and mouth wide open in an agonised expression of disbelieving horror - is to be seen replicated around the Emirates and elsewhere too often and too accurately to for any of our comfort.

And that horror is Wenger’s as much as our own. He is, increasingly a tortured soul, and the Emirates is becoming his purgatory. Too proud to walk away without glory, too inflexible achieve it, his torment is one we are all bound to suffer. Munch’s scream is an icon for us all.

Source: by  oddsock 

It would be fitting if the board announced a change in the club’s badge - the cannon replaced by The Scream. The Gunners would become the Screamers, but such a cathartic gesture might, at last, bring our anguish into a therapeutic place where we can talk about it calmly and rationally, and possibly even sanely.

So having got the tantrum off our chest, let’s take stock. Let’s see if we can’t restore some sanity to proceedings.

Wenger is way down the list of betfair and their ilk to lose his job. Even so at 16/1, he’s considerably shorter priced to be the next PL manager to lose his job than the Gunners are to lift the title. That is not an equation to calm the nerves.

Those on the outside would say that we are being pessimistic,that our glass is more half full than it is half empty. They would say that in Wenger we have a manager who has an unsurpassed record in bringing through the sort of young talent that every fan loves to see flourishing. This aspect of Wenger’s version of ‘good business’ is as good as it gets.

And if we survey the squad, putting injuries and the vagaries of form to one side, there is plenty to be pleased about. Admittedly, all the attacking potency that we could point to counts equally in the argument for what is being wasted, but in the likes of Sanchez, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wiltshire, Ramsey, Walcott, Welbeck and Osil we have attacking riches that any side in the country would be proud of. Cynics might say that it is only a matter of time before Manchester City arein that position, but that is a discussion for another day.

With the return of Olivier Giroud, who only grew in stature in his enforced absence, that attacking wealth should be enough to challenge for the very highest honours. And the majority of those players are yet to peak. If they can be backed up by a rear-guard capable of consolidating their goal-grabbing feats, there is no cause for concern going forwards.

It is further back that the problems lie. We will never know whether the signing of Kim Källström might have been the straw that broke the back of Wenger’s stubbornness. Solid, competent, experienced, tactically adept and defensively sound, the Swede looked a perfect addition to Wenger’s callow squad. It seemed our prayers had been answered. 

And it is that move that is more puzzling than anything else amidst the current miasma of uncertainty. If Wenger saw the Swede as a solution to a problem, why has he not moved to re-address it since? Källström’s injury in his first training session was a blow for us all. Did Wenger produce a Gallic shrug at that point and philosophically conclude that it was simply not to be? 

Meanwhile, talk continues to flourish of Arsenal’s depleted defensive ranks being picked off by rivals. Vermaelen came and went, who is next? In this context talk that Per Mertesacker is trying to persuade Borussia Dortmund’s Mats Hummels to make the move to the Emirates is doubly welcome. On the one hand Hummels World Cup winning defensive qualities are exactly what the Gunners need more of. Equally encouraging is the suggestion that Mertesackersees his own future with the Gunners. He could be forgiven for thinking that playing behind the current Arsenal midfield is no place for a serious defender to enhance his reputation.

Players will come and go: Wenger remains. And as far as fears over the playing squad are concerned, Arsenal have been here before. Wenger is not a man to carry too much fat in the squad, and although he has a bizarre belief that injuries are something that only happen in the rarest of fate’s cruel twists - rather than that they are something that all teams suffer all the time - that is how it will be.

Of more concern is the mounting storm over the manager himself. Allisher Usmanov’s recent criticism of the squad was of course criticism of the manager. Last season Wenger took us to the brink of desperation before his faith in his squad was revived. He cannot afford a repeat of that interrogation of his abilities going forwards. It is not just on the terraces where impatient criticism is being voiced.

Murmurings in the media are fuelling a sentiment that is less an angry ‘Wenger out’ than a weary acceptance that if he isn’t going to change, then someone else is going to have to make the call. That in itself is a step towards a final parting of the ways. 

All the signs are that when it comes, the end will be ugly, bitter and messy. Wenger is not a quitter. Shakespearian treachery in the manner of Julius Caesar’s my well be the model of his going. And that did not end prettily.

Instead, and in the face of all reason, it seems that Wenger is to persist with the mind-set and the frugal approach that has served him so well (or so ill) over all the years. A man given to lamenting the cruelty of his luck there is every reason to suppose that he will continue in the vein we have come to respect and resent in equal measure. Dylan Thomas’ famous lines about raging against the dying of the light stand as the perfect swansong for a man who determined to live and die according to his footballing philosophy.  

Source:  by  wonker 

Perhaps it will only be in hindsight that we will truly be able in our blunt Anglo Saxon way - the true depth and complexity of Wenger’s achievement. When he first arrived there was wonder at his methods - Seaweed, grilled broccoli and quiet reassuring words were not the norm in 1996. 

Since that time a lot of building work has taken place in North London and a certain amount of metal work - of the Silversmith’s variety - has taken place as well. Three titles and five FA Cups stand in the record books as his honours currently. And he will tell you he hasn’t finished yet.

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