Is Wenger changing?
The stereotype of Wenger, at least before this season, has been:
- A (formerly) great manager
- A manager who seldom ever changes his team to suit the opposition
- A manager who cannot motivate his players for the big games
- A manager who believes that tactics is moot, and that sexy football conquers all
- A manager who buys players with a weak mentality, who are technically sound and bottle it at crucial moments
By examining several games this season, is it true that he is changing?
The Liverpool game away was terrible. Though since then he has seemingly sought to adapt to suit the opposition. Let’s examine if the old stereotypes hold true.
Chelsea fans were, possibly with some justification, pretty cocky about this. They were saying that it was going to be a smashing, but they were gladly mistaken. Wenger, the supposed dinosaur, turned out a good tactical display and against a supposed tactical master, Conte.
The key here was that pressing, denying space, and being defensively resolute was paramount. This frustrated Chelsea, and it was pretty much stopped their attacking intent. A draw overall was a fair result, and if Mustafi’s header was onside, we could have won it.
Yes, we lost. But Wenger did have a plan of sorts. Coquelin was a “false-centre back”, and this was some recognition of City’s attacking prowess. City was not at their best, though the plan was at least some means to cope with City’s liberal scoring.
Well, we beat the scum via pressing, intensity, and physicality. Conversely, their wonder manager employed bad tactics, and our good tactics paid off.
In a glorious win vs. the sh*t, we were also efficient in front of goal, and were able to nullify Kane (injury notwithstanding), and perhaps more importantly, Alli.
Compared to last season, or even the previous few seasons, there were few instances of a defined game plan against top teams. The City game in 2015 is a now classic case of the team adapting and being resolute. Yes, the result in itself meant little. However, it was like an oasis in a desert of tactical woe.
We are playing Man united very soon, so will he do it again? We can hope so.
But what does this mean for Wenger? Does it mean that he IS adapting? Does it mean he is realising sexy football cannot conquer all anymore? Who knows?
But then the Premier League today is very different to the Premier League of, say, 2002. Back then, there were very few teams of high technical quality. Or high coaching standard. Sir Alex Ferguson’s Man United was the evident exception, and possibly Liverpool, Chelsea, and Leeds United at a stretch. So the exquisiteness of Henry, Bergkamp, Pires, Ljungberg, Vieira, etc. was essentially unmatched.
As for now, well Pep is here. Jose came, went to Inter, came back to Chelsea, left Chelsea, and is back at United. Klopp is here. Poch is here (the odd one out, since all of the other top managers have won a trophy). Conte is here, as is Benitez. Yes, he’s never won the Premier League, but he did win the Champions League at Liverpool, and La Liga with Valencia. He is thus a manager of pedigree, not to be underrated.
The issue with Arsenal is consistency. We saw how we played against the enemy lately, and if we can replicate this level of performance consistently, then top four can be ours, again.
The test though is Manchester United. Jose is a proven tactical master, though he will park the bus (most probably). Can Wenger out-think his “long-time friend” to get another victory over him? We’ll see. Let’s hope so, since Jose must know that Wenger has this new weapon in his arsenal (pun very well intended…)
MarbleHallsTV is an Arsenal social media account on Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. Been a Gooner since the 90s, inspired by Ian Wright, then Bergkamp, Vieira, Henry, Pires, Campbell, Rosicky, Koscielny, Ozil and Sanchez. A digital marketer/entrpreneur by profession, born in UK living in the Americas now.