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Groundhog Day – Inside the mind of Arsene Wenger

For a supporter of Arsenal Football Club, the period between mid-May and mid-August of each year could be the most frustrating and psychologically draining period of the year – a Groundhog Day that has a recurring nightmare theme. The rest of the year is typically hopeful, expectant and disappointing at varying points but the football off-season is surely the worst.

Worse than watching that fluid and sumptuous passing between defence and midfield that ends in no shot attempt as they Arsenal players attempt to walk the ball into the net.

Worse than seeing your team throw away a four goal lead against Newcastle United.

Worse than that anxious knot in the pit of your stomach as a set piece is taken by the opposition and Almunia, Fabianski or Szczesny leap into the air and flap frantically and fail to catch the ball.

Worse than that feeling of dread when the fateful words are uttered by Professor Wenger that “the injury is not serious and we expect *insert player name here* to be back in training within two weeks, because you know that means a minimum of six months on the sidelines for the player mentioned.

Worse than reading the Arsenal team sheet on match day and noting that the centre midfield pairing will be the dynamic duo of Diaby and Denilson.

Arsene Wenger is the type of person I think a lot of Arsenal fans would like to invite to one of those “which famous person would you invite” dinners that people like to ask about. He appears to be an intelligent sort of fellow, as one would expect of a multilingual man with a masters degree in economics. The type of man who might have a repertoire of amusing anecdotes about being randomly contacted by a father of a wunderkind in a remote Eastern European city and how the player was brought to Arsenal. Or perhaps the type of man who could tell a story recounting the difficulties of coaching in Japan and the communication barriers he encountered there until he learnt how to speak Japanese to counter this problem..

In short, the mental picture is not of a man who does not seem to learn from previous mistakes. It is not of a man who refuses to address obvious shortcomings in his team each and every single year. It is not of a man who does not adjust his football philosophy in order to get his team back to winning ways. It is not of a man who denies that his squad is mentally fragile and does nothing to redress this deficiency.

At times like this it would be fascinating to get inside “Professor” Wenger’s head and try to understand the internal workings of his brain on a couple of issues.

For instance, when Wenger watches an Arsenal game on DVD does he get a sense of trepidation when yet another set piece is launched into the penalty area? Do his palms get slightly sweaty and does he hold his breath as Almunia/Fabiansky/Szczesny confidently shout for the ball, only for the ball to be in the back of the net seconds later? At these moments, does Wenger swear to himself that his priority will be to sign a world-class ‘keeper for the 2011/12 season?

Does Wenger really believe that the transfer market is overpriced and that it would be foolish to (over)spend money to bring in that much needed experience?

When thinking about the possible departure of Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona, does Wenger think to himself that he has enough midfielders to ensure continuity of the team? Does he look at the names of Wilshire, Song, Ramsey, Diaby, Denilson, Rosicky and Nasri and think to himself – yes, these guys will be sufficient for us to sustain a championship challenge. The fact that they are somewhat mentally fragile and have no culture of winning trophies is neither here nor there.

If Samir Nasri approaches wanting to know whether there are plans to improve his present contract that expires the following summer, does Wenger think of breaking the club’s self imposed wage structure that ensures that Arsenal has one of lowest wages to turnover ratios in the Premier League? Does he think to himself that players can depart for higher wages at rival clubs because he can unearth another hidden youthful gem?

What does Wenger see when Abou Diaby or Denilson (both at the club since 2006 and with over 200 appearances between them) needlessly give the ball away, or concede a free kick in the vicinity of the Arsenal penalty area? Does he think of them as players who just deserve another chance and they will eventually come right in the next season?

Unfortunately for Arsenal supporters, what happens in Wenger’s brain stays in Wenger’s brain and it will only be at the start of the 2011/12 season that we shall discover whether it will be a “new” Arsenal or Groundhog Day Arsenal.

As a famous person once said “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome”. Guess we shall discover more about the insanity (or not) of Arsene Wenger soon.


About Ticha Pfupajena

I'm beginning to get the sense that my career as a professional footballer may not happen. As a result, I'll try write about football and sports instead....


18 thoughts on “Groundhog Day – Inside the mind of Arsene Wenger

  1. Well said. I couldn’t agree with you more.

    I still believe though.

    Posted by swissbeatsdiaries | 12/07/2011, 07:14
    • Believe in what though? That the same cycle will repeat itself again this year? Or believe that Wenger will make that change (Man in the mirror style)?

      Posted by Ticha Pfupajena | 12/07/2011, 07:22
  2. sad but true. Wenger wants to prove to the world that he can win with his formula. Even if it takes a million years and as long as the money hungry board allows him, he will continue riding his luck.
    In many ways I can see Arsenal going the Liverpool way under Benitez, brilliant at first but then completely lost the plot.

    Posted by kwezi | 12/07/2011, 07:39
  3. Absolutely ‘smaak’ off-season speculation.

    Ear to the ground with regards to the Nasri move as Man City is looking more likely than United. Either way, it spells trouble for Wenger.

    Personally, I would like to see Nasri honour the remainder of his contract and somehow find Cesc unwilling to move to Spain. I think it will make for another great year in the Premiership and keep the top 4 (even as far as top 6) in contention.

    Posted by Fr. Gérard Joseph | 12/07/2011, 07:47
    • Still don’t understand Cesc’s proposed move to Barca – not sure if Guardiola has guaranteed him first team football, but perhaps being home is enough to make him happy.

      Agreed Arsenal have problems if Man City keep spending, Spurs continue to improve and Liverpool make a step up in consistency.

      Posted by Ticha Pfupajena | 12/07/2011, 08:28
  4. I agree that it’s frustrating for Arsenal fans, but at the same time I have more respect for a club that is consistently in the top 4 without having any real money to spend than I do for the likes of Man City who have spent GBP180m on 8 strikers in 3 years, and still think that coming 3rd in the league is a big achievement. You have to credit Arsene’s ability to turn unknown players into stars. It will be interesting to see if his transfer policies change after the Emirates Stadium is paid for and he has a bit more money in his pocket.

    Posted by Jenks | 12/07/2011, 09:22
    • Jenks, I hear what you are saying. The issue most fans have is that they value bragging rights over financial stability. Arsenal should be lauded for the work they have done in consistently finishing in the top four whilst managing their finances sensibly.

      Posted by Ticha Pfupajena | 13/07/2011, 08:11
  5. Wenger once created the Invincibles, who I believe went for more a whole season without testing defeat. Those days appear to be history and somehow Wenger has contnued to lose the plot more and more. If he can turn average players into world class players, then he must aim win trophies as well otherwise key players become frustrated.

    Posted by Munya | 12/07/2011, 10:42
  6. Interesting article, as usual. Given that most of the points have been well articulated in the other responses, there does not seem to be much one can add to this story.

    Posted by mupamombe | 12/07/2011, 12:06
  7. Well articulated and to some extent right on the money. I think that the Arsenal board have set different KPAs for Wenger and maybe winning the premiership is not one of them. I think the club might have some policies iro player transfers that we might not be privy to. I think Cesc has become a distraction to the team and needs to GO. As for Nasri Arsene should cash in while he can and perhaps look at a hard man in the middle like a Parker, get himself a couple of English defenders and a world class keeper (Shay Given could do the trick for the next 2 seasons at least).

    Posted by Tanaz | 12/07/2011, 12:36
    • The Cesc saga has become like the Vieira/Henry saga before it. The club needs clarity as you rightly pointed out so they can get on with the business of finding replacements. Look out for my next article on “English grit” as well.

      Posted by Ticha Pfupajena | 13/07/2011, 11:29
  8. Awesome Article dude. You are so right. Its frustrating as an Arsenal Fan, and I do feel that times are changing, so we gotta get with the program and start spending. That way we can keep our key players happy, build a stronger more experienced team and start winning. Yes, Arsenal does have debt, but who doesn’t? The money is there, from what I understand, but for some reason the “Professor” chooses not to use it. Investing in your football team usually pays off, look at Chelsea and Man United. I’m not saying lets just go crazy and buy everyone, I’m saying lets bring at least one big name to the club. If things keep going like this, Arsenal will not be able to stay part of the “Big Four”(my opinion though). It’s quite scary, because you would imagine that the Arsenal board and Wenger know what they doing, so there could be something going on that we not aware of. Thanks for a great article Mr Pfupajena.

    Posted by Leith | 13/07/2011, 10:15
    • Thanks for the feedback Leith. I reckon a lot of Arsenal fans feel the way you do, but financial stability seems to be the board’s preference…. for now.

      Posted by Ticha Pfupajena | 13/07/2011, 11:30
  9. I feel sorry for A. Wenger and hope he finds a winning
    formla soon or else….

    Posted by Rose Pfupajena | 14/07/2011, 09:40
  10. It’s simple. The optimum amount of time for a manager to remain in the job is 6-8 years. Beyond that he molds the club too much into his own image. Fresh ideas are stifled. Less than that, and he isn’t able to assert his positive energy and views. Wenger and Ferguson are liabilities to their squads, despite the latter’s success. Ferguson has become bigger than Manu, and no club member – manager, owner, chairman, or super star player – ought to be allowed to do that.

    Sam Allardyce at Bolton at the beginning of last decade. That’s who I would set my managerial trajectory to. Built Bolton up into a decent Premiership side on a shoe-string, took bold and inspired decisions (not least bringing out the best of supposedly ‘over the hill’ players such as Jay-Jay Okocha), and moved on after he took the squad as far as he could.

    Ferguson ought to have left after the treble (1999 I believe), and Wenger after the year of The Invicibles (2003/04) or at the very latest, after failing to retain Henry’s services in 2007.

    Posted by TC | 17/07/2011, 15:36

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