Over at EPL Talk, the Gaffer has an interesting piece up explaining how Arsene Wenger will never win a Champions League and how, in general, Wenger’s not the man for the job if Arsenal wants to win trophies.
Well written as it is, I disagree with him on that point. Barcelona proves that you can play that kind of style and succeed on the highest of stages. Wenger’s tactics are more flexible than he’s often credited for. Additionally, even if you’re willing to grand that he’s not quite as tactically acute (or at least flexible) as other managerial giants, Arsene opponents must grant that he does possess the motivational skills to get the best out of his players. Sven Goran Eriksson he is not. The first leg against Barca should be all the evidence you need on that count.
He continues on Barcelona:
Gaffer makes is sound like there is some sort of “structural reason” that Arsenal’s players could never beat Barcelona. I disagree with that too. London is a big city, with lots things that would (and does) make it attractive for the world’s best players. Now, if he is referencing a difference in terms of money, then maybe I could go along with that point. But, Arsenal fans are told over and over that there is plenty of money to spend. So, until I see evidence otherwise, I won’t say that Arsenal simply cannot attract the same caliber of players as Barcelona.
The reason that the Gaffer leaves out is in fact the critical reason why Arsene Wenger’s teams cannot compete with Barcelona. It’s that the players that Wenger brings to and keeps at Arsenal, are not, no matter how many times he repeats it, as good as those at Barcelona. It’s not Wenger’s tactics or motivation that holds Arsenal’s back, it’s his player-personnel skills. It’s Wenger the GM or TD that’s the problem.
Back when Arsenal was at its best, David Dein was still at the club advising Arsene Wenger. Dein served as a another, often dissenting, voice in Wenger’s personnel decisions. These weren’t fights, of course. Wenger was hugely close to Dein and trusted him and his judgements. Dein could steer Wenger away from some of his more stubborn moments that helped Wenger and Arsenal push to new heights. Since Dein left in 2007, Arsenal has not won a thing and I do not think it’s a coincidence.
So, my point is that I think it’s a mistake to blame Arsenal’s tactics and style for the club’s lack of recent trophies. Instead, the blame be laid, as I often do) at the feet of Arsene Wenger’s stubborn lack of movement in the transfer market to strengthen the team at defender, holding midfielder and striker.