One can only wonder what was said at half time on Sunday to transform the form and performance of a team, who were not playing badly but lacked urgency and cutting edge. Some claiming inside knowledge will tell you that Arsene Wenger said very little and allowed his skipper to do the talking. This may well be the case, but if it was then the passion and belief exuding from Robin van Persie had been given to him by only one man, Arsene Wenger. Like Cesc before him, Van Persie and many in this current squad feel they owe everything to Arsene.
‘He is a second father to me, the most important person in my life after my father. He has been very supportive of me and has treated me like a son. I am part of his family.’ (Cesc Fabregas)
‘The manager helped me a lot. He was like a second father.’ (Alex Song)
I sense we are now at a pivotal point with the current squad and I am convinced that the second 45 minutes performance against Villa was for Wenger. There are some senior professionals like Van Persie, Song, Sagna and Vermaelen who undoubtedly owe their status and esteem in world football to the Arsenal boss. This is combined with a group of talented youngsters in Szczesny, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott, Wilshere, Ramsey, Coquelin and others who know that Wenger has given them the opportunity which they would not have had at other top Premier League teams. The second 45 minutes from Walcott and Ramsey in particular screamed out ‘this is for you boss’.
Many are questioning the future of Wenger and many feel he has taken Arsenal as far as he can. Many are feeling that now is the time for a change before seven years turns into eight and his legend status is tarnished. The other extreme sees those who can see no fault in Wenger and defend him whatever. I sit in between the two camps. Despite my strong backing of the majority of our squad and my conviction that most of the players believe in Wenger, I do see a need for a change and a freshening up within the present set up.
There has been little written about Boro Primorac, and we all know that Pat Ricewas convinced by Wenger to stay on for one more season. Past players have spoken of Primorac, who has been with Wenger since his early managerial days, as a top coach. However, he is also quietly spoken and opts to stay out of the limelight. The closest Primorac came to headlines was when he was caught on camera relaying messages from Wenger to Rice illegally against Udinese. Rice is ready to retire after umpteen years of amazing service as player, captain and coach, so I feel that we should take the opportunity to freshen up the coaching team under Wenger. Insiders suggest that Primorac and Rice have not moved with the times and embraced more modern coaching methods such as video analysis and more specific defensive coaching drills. This may have changed this season but it took events at Blackburn and Old Trafford to prove a catalyst.
One can point to a continual cycle of freshening up as being part of the on-going success at Old Trafford. Even though it has not necessarily been Ferguson’s choice to lose top coaches who have been poached or wanted to try management, it has led to new impetus and new ideas on each occasion. Kidd was replaced by McClaren, who was replaced by Queiroz, who was replaced by Phelan, all during a period where Wenger has always been supported by Rice and Primorac.
Critics have pointed to the weakness of our defence and Wenger’s failure to replace Campbell and Toure, but I don’t buy this at all. In Sagna, Koscielny and Vermaelen we have three of the best individual defenders in the league, so it must point to the team’s organisation and coaching. It is obvious from my Twitter feed that you all share these views on these individuals quality and Kozza is fast becoming a legend.
So where am I going with these musings today? I still believe the current squad are playing for Wenger, but I would like to see the coaching staff changed. If this were to happen then there is no shortage of candidates from Wenger’s own successful era. He has obviously inspired many of his great players to take their coaching badges. People have mentioned Bergkamp frequently and Dutch sources suggest he will be in our set up in the next few years. Tony Adams has not kept it a secret that he would love to be back in north London. Nigel Winterburn is taking the first steps with Gary Smith at Stevenage Borough. Many would love to see Martin Keown back in the fold and I would include myself in that number, but it could be a big first step for Martin. No, for me the answer right now lies within the current set up, and I would love to see Steve Bould step up to the frame as soon as possible. In an ideal world Keown could replace Bould to work with Liam Bradyin the youth set up.
Bould is perfect for so many reasons. He has a superb record with the Under-18′s in recent seasons, which also means that many of the younger members of the squad will have recent memories of a good working relationship with him. He was one of the best centre-backs of his generation and part of the legendary back four that conceded only 13 goals in a whole season in 1991. So if Bould cannot organise our group of individually talented defenders into a unit I am not sure who can. First and foremost of course Bould is one of us and knows what it means to be a Gooner, and I am certain he is feeling the same pain we are feeling as fans not winning. I also see no reason to wait until the end of the season when Rice steps down and would like to see Bould integrated in the first-team coaching set up now. He has been coaching at Arsenal for 11 years now and has all his UEFA coaching licences. Just in case you are not convinced on my views or younger readers may not know Boulder as well as older fans, perhaps you might respect the views of Patrick Vieira. Patrick was asked who should succeed Wenger at Arsenal as recently as the 30th of December and his answer was concise and emphatic.
He told the Metro:
‘Steve Bould has been doing really well.
‘If I had to say a name then it would be him because he deserves it.’
Lastly as the title suggests, I would like to touch on new signings. Regular readers will know I have certain players that I would love for us to sign, such as Dries Mertens or Olivier Giroud, but today I am actually going to go with the Wenger line that players returning from long-term injuries are like new signings. I am smiling as I type this as I imagine Wenger saying this at a press conference, but I do not think I can overstate how important the return of Sagna will be for the home stretch. This being the case, we can hope to feel the same about Wilshere and Gibbs or Santos, but the player I actually see as a type of new player is not a long-term absentee. I would like to single out Tomas Rosicky for huge praise after Sunday’s match. I have been critical of him on occasion this year but on Sunday he turned the clock back to 2007 and I admire his deep self-belief. If Rosicky can continue to perform as he did then he can certainly soften the blow of the delayed return of Jack and allow Wenger to rotate the midfield three.
Until next time.
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