We Will Miss You
Last Saturday was Arsene Wenger’s final home game as the boss of Arsenal. It was an emotional day, in which everyone stood up and actually reflected on the incredible title wins Wenger has brought to the club, the FA Cups, and the world class players he has created.
Unfortunately, few will have chosen to remember the sacrifice he made, to stay with the club during one of the most ambitious transitional phases during modern football, by moving the club to the Emirates Stadium.
It has been reported several times that the clubs funds plummeted during that spell, and at one point the club was one week away from being unable to pay players wages. But, under the guidance of Wenger, the team pulled through, and trophies were won once more.
Nowadays, bringing up such a feat seems like clutching at straws, particularly as teams such as Spurs move to their new ground with minimal impact on the transfer dealings at the club. Of course, had Wenger had today’s Premier League TV Deal money available to him in 2006, Arsenal may well have won the league again under his reign.
But, money or not, the one thing fans from all around the world new Wenger could produce, was beautiful, magical, “Wengerball”.
More impactful than Tiki-Taka, but less chaotic than a Liverpool counter attack, a proper Wengerball goal utilises quick passing and movement, invariably involves at least one backheel, and often leads to a world class goal.
This season, however, Wenger’s Arsenal have maybe tipped the balance too far on the side of passing, and not enough on the side of movement. The team have played 22,528 passes this season. This is their highest tally since the records began in 2006/07, and there are still two games remaining.
More tellingly, Arsenal are one of only five sides in the league this season to not score a goal from a counter attack, according to WhoScored. This is difficult to judge, as it can be hard to determine when a counter attack simply becomes build-up play, but may explain why Arsenal are, unfortunately, bound for Europa League football once again.
Back to Basics
Speaking of tipping the balance, it may appear that Arsenal have focused too heavily on a part of their game that has dogged them throughout the Wenger era. Set-pieces. Arsenal are regularly derided for their ability to defend corners and free-kicks, and generally do not have the players of the required stature to score from them.
But this season, Arsenal have scored an enormous 15 goals from set pieces, second in the league only to Bournemouth with 16. Add to this their remarkable defensive stats, conceding only 5 all season, fifth fewest in the division.
It may be that the cause of Wenger’s final season to end as it has, poorly, is simply an upset in the balance. Too much considered passing, not enough incisiveness. Too much work on headers, not enough work on what we are good at. Scoring great goals.
Wenger still has his legacy, we will all love this man for the rest of our lives. Off the pitch incidents meant that this season was doomed from the start, and we can only hope that next season is more stable. We don’t yet know whether we shall be watching Allegriball, Enriqueball or perhaps even Loewball next season, but we can only hope that they don’t stray too far from the philosophy of Le Professeur.