Tag Archives: Arsene Wenger

Arsenal face Chelsea in all London FA Cup final

Saturday afternoon at 5.30 pm will see an all London Cup Final between Chelsea and Arsenal. These two London heavyweights will go toe to toe in what will be a unique occasion.

For the first time in its long and illustrious history, the final will be played in front of no fans.

Anthony Taylor will be in charge in his second FA Cup final. By some strange coincidence his first was the Final in 2017 between both of these sides.

These two London giants are used to meeting in a final at the end of the season, having been involved three times in the last four seasons with both sides having won two finals. Arsenal the FA Cup and Chelsea the League Cup Final and Europa League Final.

Arsenal are clearly the cup kings of England, having won the FA Cup a record 13 times and been involved in the final a record 21 times. The Gunners have also won their last six FA Cup Finals.

For Chelsea this will be their 14th FA Cup Final appearance with the Blues winning seven of their last nine finals. However both of those defeats were against Arsenal.

Back in 2017 Per Mertesacker captained Arsenal to victory over Chelsea by 2-1 at Wembley with Aaron Ramsey hitting a 79th minute winner to give manager Arsene Wenger his final piece of major silverware.

Thanks to second half goals from Ray Parlour and Freddie Ljungberg it was Arsenal who were crowned FA Cup winners in 2002, with the final being held in Cardiff.

Saturday’s FA Cup Final will see a contest with two up and coming managers at the helm. Gunners boss Mikel Arteta who is 38 and Frank Lampard 42, are the two youngest Premier League bosses and already have impressed the football world by their courageous tactics and game management.

Under Arteta, Arsenal’s two outstanding performances recently have been victories inside four days against Premier League champions Liverpool and an FA Cup semi-final triumph over Manchester City.

The Gunners have beaten Leeds, Bournemouth, Portsmouth, Sheffield United and Man City on their way to Wembley and only conceding two goals in the process.

Chelsea have had to overcome Nottingham Forest, Hull City, Liverpool, Leicester City and Manchester United in the semi-final to book their place at Wembley. Like Arsenal they have only let in two goals on their way to the final.

Both Arteta and Lampard have not been afraid to make ruthless decisions. Arteta’s refusal to pander to the whims of Mesut Ozil saw him excluded from the nine substitutes for the semi-final.

Lampard recently showed his merciless edge by dropping £71 million goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga for Chelsea’s crucial final game of the season against Wolves.

So the stage is set for yet another London Derby, but for this one a trophy is at stake. It will be interesting to see how both sets of players perform in the extensive heat promised on Saturday and how they will adjust in the surreal surroundings of having no fans present in the Stadium.

Some players will flourish on this, others will freeze on the big stage, whatever happens it should be another classic final with Arsenal set to start of favourites. Whichever captain will get the privilege of holding the FA Cup after the game will be in the strange position of displaying it to no fans inside.

I wonder what type of celebrations we will see come Saturday evening? One thing is for sure the 139th FA Cup Final will be remembered for the final will little noise.

What is going wrong at Arsenal?

In years gone by the defensive woes that have plagued Arsenal would surprise many. Now it’s commonplace, and there are many fans bemoaning the lack of improvement in the last three to four years. The same soft underbelly is hurting them and defensive mistakes seem to never go away.

The return to the Premier League has probably left most, if not all Arsenal fans wishing it had never come back. Their 3-0 defeat to Manchester City was gifted to their opponents on a platter by David Luiz ( a real symbol for the defensive woes) and plenty of fans were straight on his back.

The issues stem further than simply David Luiz however. Despite his dismal performance, mistakes have always been in his DNA and with their other defenders not really up to scratch, you have to wonder what Arsenal’s recruitment system is doing.

The Brazilian is also set to sign his one-year extension, albeit as a 5th choice centre-half, if talks go smoothly. This ultimately shows how Arsenal are seemingly content with average players.

Aside from that there seems to be attitude problems at the club, issues that were brought to light by Neal Maupay in his post-match interview after Brighton’s 2-1 win.

The centre-half position has been a real issue for the Gunners and for several years they have failed to replace what is a glaring issue. Pablo Mari was brought in on loan in January but he’s only played two times and picked up an injury against Man City.

Sokratis had the potential to be an excellent addition but has proved inconsistent too. The same issues have also affected Shkodran Mustafi, who was solid at Valencia but has struggled in London. It seems as though no matter who they sign, the deals don’t work out.

The higher-ups at the club also have to take responsibility for the clubs failings, fans were crying out for defensive reinforcements this summer but the club spent £72 million on Nicolas Pepe instead.

While fans were pleased, you have to sit and wonder why they couldn’t have spent that on their defence. Kieran Tierney was a decent signing for £25 million but one man won’t be able to fix the issues they currently have.

Mikel Arteta said from the start he had a lot of work to do when he joined the club, and the Spaniard was certainly right on the mark. His starting lineups against Manchester City and Brighton weren’t convincing and the mystery surrounding Mesut Ozil is confusing as ever.

He hasn’t started either games, they surely needed him against Brighton but he was nowhere to be seen. The decision to bring Luiz on has to rest with Arteta but even he couldn’t have predicted the ‘disasterclass’ his player would’ve produced.

He has a lot to do with this squad of players, and he needs quality to be able to play the style of football he wants. Whether the club back him is another story.

Charlie Nicholas stated for Sky Sports:

“Wednesday was what I expected. The one scenario I did not expect was the team that Mikel Arteta picked. Mesut Ozil was dropped – he has been dropped before in these types of games. He went for youth and he can see where the future is,” 

Nicholas continued:

“I do not see it as a massive debate or crisis for Arsenal. They are ninth for a reason. There is a reason behind just the nine wins from 29. Over the last five or six years, Arsenal’s defence has been poor, not average, but poor. How a team can let this go on for so long is mind-blowing.

“They spent around £8m on David Luiz, who has won the Premier League and the Champions League. The craziness is that he was better than what was already there. That should show those players just how bad it is and also how bad it is for Arteta.

“There is nothing to say that it will take years. The board and owners do not have years as the crowd will turn on them if they do not identify that the defence is everything. It is the area that matters right now. If they do not address it they will get further and further away from it. This is a must. Whoever you must sell, the funds must go on defenders, and you start building again.”

Arteta will need time but the Emirates has become a toxic place over recent years and whether time is even a factor here is another question altogether. They played City with the mentality of a side scrapping around the relegation places rather than a team competing for titles.

The club very much needs a change in the way they think if they are to progress, in other words being a ‘big club’ with actions instead of pretending to be like one.

A lot of issues come down to Stan Kroenke and his mismanagement of the club. They had hope when Sven Mislintat joined the club as Recruitment Chief to try and revolutionise the way the club approached the transfer market.

The German had great success at Borussia Dortmund but things didn’t quite work out well for either party. Their Director of Football Raul Sanllehi has come under fire recently, with some of their signings under-performing.

Many fans are discontent with Kroenke’s reign and a lot feel there is no clear plan for Arsenal moving forward. They’ve taken a chance in a promising young coach in Arteta and if he’s anything like his former boss Pep Guardiola then they have a great coach at their disposal. However, he needs the support of a stable board and you have to question whether Arsenal have that at the moment.

The post-Wenger Arsenal was supposed to be one of promise and endeavour. Many neutral fans did say to be careful what you wish for and it looks like there could be more truth in that than first thought. Without a revamp in the board we might not see Arsenal improve much over the next couple of seasons.

In Modern football is too much blame being placed on the manager?

The past seven days in the premier league has witnessed two managers relieved of their duties.

Both Unai Emery at Arsenal and Quique Sanchez Flores, at Watford that was his second spell at the club and marked the hornet’s second managerial change of the season. 

Arsenal director Josh Kroenke revealed that the decision to remove Emery from his position had been ‘weeks’ in the making as they felt that the head coach had lost the backing of the fans. The former Sevilla and PSG boss was on a run of seven games without a win.

Former Arsenal player, Freddie Ljungburg, replaced the 48 year old and the Swede opened his managerial account with a 2-2 draw away to Norwich this past weekend.

Ljungburg is the latest appointment by a club chairman and the board of a former player at one of the big six clubs following the trend of Frank Lampard at Chelsea at the start of the season and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United and has prompted Kroenke to say that, “ Ljungburg has Arsenal DNA and understands the club.”

These latest managerial sackings however prompt the question… Is too much blame being placed on the manager?

Head Coach versus Manager role

For a start some teams nowadays have Head Coaches while others have Managers.

The former Tottenham Manager Mauricio Pochettino speaking in 2015, highlights the subtle differences between the roles:

“If you are the manager, you decide many things about the club.  But if you are a head coach, your responsibility is to play better, try to improve the players and to get positive results.”

Pochettino continued:

“At Southampton, I was manager my responsibility was not only to coach the team. With Tottenham, I am a head coach.  A head coach is head of your department. My department is to train the team.”

The attributes needed to be successful are reportedly the same for both roles, being adaptable in terms of training and good judgement on team selection for instance.

The head coach however can protest regarding lack of signings, but there is a lack of authority on the role compared with being a Manager.

It seems that the days are long gone when an Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson figure end up having complete control in terms of how things are run at football clubs.

Ultimately however is enough time given to managers or head coaches these days to implement the changes they require?

Former Manchester United Manager Sir Alex Ferguson, speaking to Harvard Business Review said:

“I believe that the cycle of a successful team lasts maybe four years and then some change is needed.  So we tried to visualise the team maybe three or four years ahead and make decisions accordingly.”

Ferguson continued: “Because I was at United for such a long time, I could afford to plan ahead – no one expected me to go anywhere. I was very fortunate in that respect.”

Is football after all a team game?

Football is supposed to be a team game, so shouldn’t the players, coaching staff and those who run the club be held equally accountable?

There is a squad of 25 players and even though the manager is there to inspire, implement tactics and produce impactful substitutions, he is not out there on the field playing the matches.

Sir Alex Ferguson was often praised for bringing on substitutes that would lead to last minute Manchester United winners. More recent examples include Jurgen Klopp and Brendan Rodgers, who have been praised for the way they set up their teams at Liverpool and Leicester City respectively.

Managers therefore are quickly praised but equally critics are ready to pounce if things are not quite going to plan. This leads to increased scrutiny on the man in charge and he is more often than not, provided with enough time to turn things around.

Flores for instance was only given 87 days so the window provided is getting shorter for managers to make the desired impact that the clubs fans and owners are looking for.

When asked about the recent pressure that Everton manger, Marco Silva was under, England and Everton’s number one goalkeeper, Jordan Pickford said:

“ A few bad performances should not put the manager under pressure”

Pickford continued:

“ We have to look at ourselves as individuals and as a squad.  You are a team and you win together and you loose together.”

Sacking managers is not always the answer

Pickford has currently had 11 managers throughout his Premier League career to date, since his introduction seven in three seasons at Sunderland, who are now currently in League One and four in the past three seasons at Everton.

Although Silva and his team enjoyed an impressive conclusion to the previous campaign, there is little suggest that Everton will challenge currently for the top six positions that they are looking to break into.

Owners expecting quick results

The influx of money, particularly in the Premier League and the spending power of clubs has changed, particularly in the past few years.

It has become harder for the top clubs to get the players that they want as other teams are under less pressure to sell and want to get the maximum amount for the player in question.

When the high transfer fees are spent, Emery for instance had over 100 million to spend on transfers over the summer, including 70 million on Nicholas Pepe from Lille, both the fans and the owners expect the side to hit the ground running.

If the desired results are not being delivered the boardroom will look for someone to blame. The easiest answer will ultimately always be the person in charge, the manager.

Challenging football schedules

Liverpool Manager, Jurgen Klopp eluded to this matter at the start of November as the German said,

“ Crazy football schedule for international players, there is no time for the manager to work with the players on the training field.”

Sadio Mane, one of Liverpool’s key attackers for instance has only had two weeks break all year round. The league leaders are currently at a start of a run that will see them play 13 matches over a six-week period.

It is therefore a struggle for a new manager or one that is under pressure to implement a new style of play or change tactics for an upcoming game if he does not have enough time to coach the players.

There is also the addition of international tournaments such as this year’s Nations League competition that increases the amount of time that players are away from their club sides.

The demanding schedules lead to the increased chances of injuries to significant players for key games as well as player fatigue that leads to a greater chance of players making mistakes out on the field of play.

Pressures of qualifying for Europe’s elite competitions

All the elite clubs strive to be apart of the Champions League with the prize money seemingly increasing year on year, for this season clubs would have secured roughly 15 million just for reaching the group stage.

This would drive club owners to make knee jerk decisions, especially if their team was not performing on the field.

Media scrutiny on Managers

Finally the media scrutiny on managers in this day and age is enormous.  Particularly for sides such as Manchester United and Liverpool, who have former players as pundits such as Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher.

They are quick to point out what the manager should and should not do using video technology in their Sky Sports Studio.

The influence of the Video Assistant Referee is also proving to be a game changer this season.

The manager also has to watch what he says in the pre and post match interview. He is ultimately put under the microscope more than any one individual player as he is exposed to the media every week.

If a player has a bad game he can choose to avoid the media and public eye following the match and can always redeem himself the following week.

When it is going well, the manager is quick to be praised by everyone and can supposedly do no wrong.  When things however start to go wrong, fortunes can change very quickly, owners want to see a return on their increased investment and it is on the whole easier for them sack one person rather than wait till the transfer market to sell and sign numerous players. 

 Feel free to give 24/7 your opinion, is too much blame and pressure being put on the manager or head coach?

 

 

FIFA Appoint Wenger…

FIFA have announced they have appointed Arsene Wenger as their new Chief Of Global Football Development.

Wenger has been out of work since leaving Arsenal, being their manager for some 22 years. In the last 12 months he had hinted that he was looking to return to football in ‘some capacity’ possibly at managerial or head coach level.

In the last week, he was interviewed for and looked set to take the Bayern Munich head coach position, a position he has previously been linked with.

However talks on that stalled, because even at 70… he wanted a longer contract than Bayern were offering.

But now it seems that he has found a more fitting role, given his all round knowledge, global contacts and absolutely breath taking football experience.

FIFA have described Wenger as being a “Leading Authority on Technical Matters” a fact you could hardly disagree with.

Wengers new role has yet to be fully defined, but is thought to be ‘driving growth for men and women across the Globe’.

Certainly it is a role which for those who like Wenger, will be followed with great interest. Another part of the role will involve coaching education and a programme that will encourage former players to become managers and stay in the football world.

Given Wenger’s reputation and experience in the football sphere, his role is expected to be fulfilled well.

3 possible candidates for the Bayern job

Bayern München have sacked manager Niko Kovac following their 5-1 loss away to Frankfurt on Saturday. But who should replace him?

Bayern sit forth in the Bundesliga and top of their group in the Champions League so it has been in no way a failure of a season. With this in mind, who ever replaces him won’t have the biggest job on their hands to turn the Bavarians fortunes around. 

Arsene Wenger

The former Arsenal Premier League winner is one of the favourites to take the job. After spending twenty-two successful years at the Gunners, the seventy-year-old has spent the last few years being a pundit. But the mastermind that lead Arsenal to a whole season unbeaten could go back into management with one of the best teams in Europe.

Max Allegri

A more realistic and probably conventional option for the Bundesliga champions is Max Allegri. After being sacked in early 2019 by Juventus, Allegri has been without a job which is surprising considering his known quality. Allegri started his managerial career at Serie D side Aglianese and has never ventured out of Italy but with more experience of modern football and a more nailed down football style, he would be a much better acquisition. 

Jose Mourinho 

The Champions League winner is the bookies favourite to take the job but he has also been linked to the Arsenal job if Emery gets the sack. The former Manchester United man has publicly implied that he is looking for a job and Mourinho would fit the bill at the German club well.

 

Who ever takes the job has a great platform to build from. Bayern sit just four points behind top spot which isn’t a big deficit to make up over the rest of the season. Add in the form of Lewandowski and the arrival of young defenders Pavard and Hernandez and you’ve got some very big players with a bright future.