Once a man said that his team could go the entire season unbeaten. The entire world laughed at him. The next season, his team did exactly that.
That was Arsene Wenger and his Arsenal side back in 2003. That side will forever be immortalized as the Invincibles, the greatest team to play in the Premier League.
Now we have an Arsene Wenger who says that achieving second is a good result. While it is much better than many expected at the start of the season, that is exactly the kind of statement we don’t like to hear from Arsenal’s manager.
I have always remained a huge fan of the Frenchman and I believe that with his vision, success can be achieved. But at the same time I also believe that while he is irreplaceable at the Emirates for the time being, he too is to blame for the recent trophy drought.
Some of his transfer dealings have been poor to say the least, and his stubbornness in not signing proven players to bolster the squad in certain places can be extremely frustrating and disappointing for an Arsenal fan.
Another frustrating aspect of the recent Arsenal teams have been their inability to cultivate a winning mentality. Wenger’s recent statements may be a cause for the team’s collective failure in developing a winning mentality.
The reason Wenger said this statement only he will know, but Arsenal in recent weeks have come under heavy criticism and maybe Wenger thought that he would have to defend his players.
It is the duty of the manager to defend his players but not by accepting second best as being good enough. There was no need for him to lambast the team and players in the media and by defending the players he has done the right thing but the method of defending the players was totally wrong.
Wenger, since the move to the Emirates, has adopted a very frugal approach in the transfer market that is seeing him buy youngsters and develop them into top-notch players. The current Arsenal squad is a reflection of his philosophy. He chooses to groom youngsters who have been at the club for a long time and such players have been exposed to the club’s philosophies from a young age.
In such a system, the focus lies in long term success and stability in the long run. It focuses on developing youngsters who will be heavily experienced when they are in the age of around 22. The likes of Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey are the products of this long-term plan.
The success of the entire system banks on one single idea: that these players will blossom into great players with incredible talent. There is hardly any doubt that these players have vast amounts of talent and have incredible amounts of skill.
But the number of youngsters with a hardened winning attitude is worrisome. These players will become the great players who can lead the club only if they have a winning mentality.
Out of all of Arsenal’s promising youngsters, only Jack Wilshere has displayed the kind of attitude we want to see from the players. He has displayed the tenacity required to be champions, and whenever things don’t go Arsenal’s way it is always the Englishman trying to conjure up something.
But what about the other youngsters? We need more players of the mould of Jack Wilshere, players giving their best for the club. With these very youngsters who will lead the club in the future, hearing that second is good, will they develop an attitude to win?
No matter the quality and amount of talent in a team there is no way the team will achieve success if they lack a winning mentality. Players like Ramsey will become great players but without a winning mentality that Manchester United are displaying this season.
This winning mentality, this attitude to produce the results will come only if they live and play in an atmosphere that forces them to win every match, an atmosphere that requires them to fight hard for the result.
Sadly, Arsenal have not displayed that attitude.
Every year we say this is the year the team will come of age, the year the team progresses and the initial performances will indicate exactly this and as the season reaches its business end, all of this maturity wanes away to be replaced by an attitude that sees them falter.
So the question we have to ask is why is Arsenal struggling to achieve success?
Wenger says that success is just around the corner, but it is evident that with the right attitude and luck this side has the quality to win the league.
This team has the quality and talent to win a trophy this season and yet Arsenal finds itself trophyless this season.
Wenger’s recent statement epitomizes everything wrong with the attitude of the players.
Like Wenger said, finishing second is not bad. It is definitely nothing to be embarrassed about, but is it something to be proud of? Should a club like Arsenal be happy by merely finishing in the top four and qualifying for the Champions League or should they aim for being best? Arsenal should aim to be the best not just the best among the rest.
Every fan would love to see the latter. But unless comments like Wenger’s recent ones stop, Arsenal will be forever trapped in a cycle of hoping success will be achieved in the forthcoming seasons.
The problem with accepting that second is not bad is the fact that this attitude will creep into the players. The players should be playing with the intention of winning, with the aim to be the best.
Wenger has to know that by stating things like this, the team too will start accepting failure as an option.
Just imagine some of Arsenal’s talented players hearing their manager say that being second isn’t bad. Arsene Wenger’s duty as a manager is to ensure that the team strives to win the league and be the best. Being one among the top is not success. Being the best is success.
Wenger launched this defense after his team came under heavy success from may including fans. Wenger has to realize that what the fans are disappointed with most is the fact that there seems to be lack of winning mentality within the squad.
Wenger needs to address this inability to develop a winning mentality as soon as possible and making such statements will do more harm than good.
Wenger should help the team strive to achieve success, the team should want to win. By merely stating that success will come some day, the team too will take it for granted.
Wenger has to realize that merely qualifying for the Champions League does not quantify as success. Success is winning trophies, not falling second.
Over the last few years there has been a gradual improvement in the quality of the squad, with them improving every season. But yet every season during the March-April period, the team falters with a string of poor results. This aspect has not improved over the course of the last few years. The faltering at the final step still continues and this season too it has continued.
In recent times, Arsene Wenger has looked like a man desperately running out of ideas for the season. It almost looks like he has accepted defeat. But he has to remind his players that all it requires now is two good results in their favor and they can still win the league. It might not happen but this helps to bring out the fighting spirit in the players. At the end of the day it might be wishful thinking, but in football anything can happen.
Many have been calling for the removal of Wenger, but to these fans I tell you this is the man who inspired the Gunners to go an entire season unbeaten and he can bring back that killer instinct with a few smart dealings in the transfer market and by grooming a winning attitude among the players.
The quality is there and it is there for everyone to see.
Wenger’s achievements with a shoestring budget is laudable but with statements like this he is potentially jeopardizing his entire philosophy by creating a bunch of supremely talented players with a feeble attitude that sees them falling short at every hurdle, every season.