Tag Archives: assistant

Could a Different Assistant have Helped Wenger?

The announcement of Arsene Wenger departing the club has led to the inevitable thoughts of the many years the Frenchman has been at the helm of the club.
After twenty two years of ups and downs, the search for Wenger’s disappearing mojo has led us all down a variety of paths.
Some scenic – some desolate.
Was it the start of the financial restraints and the need to sell our star players year after year?
Perhaps it was down to the changing face of football tactics and Wenger’s taciturn approach to his methods under fire?
The influx of cash that flooded the game was always a weapon that Wenger liked to furiously brandish, waving it with enthusiasm as United, Chelsea and City began to spend money like Mario Balotelli in a fireworks factory.
Or was it simply Wenger’s recalcitrance?
It’s probably a combination of the above, but his choice of Assistant Manager could be a contributing factor.

Wenger and Rice.

Arsene Wenger inherited the services of Pat rice when he joined back in 1996. The Arsenal stalwart bleeds red and white and through his playing and coaching career, Rice accrued invaluable knowledge of the club.

Rice was a huge reason Wenger’s strange and new methods took so well at the club. It helped that the results soon started to flow, but the playing personnel had a familiar face and one that was convinced by Wengers actions. This would help convert the masses.
Rice was no manager though. He was the perfect Assistant, and it meant that when results started to go south and an objective voice was required, Rice was the perfect ally rather than the difficult words that needed to be said.
Rice left Arsenal in 2012, when our ship began what was a particularly rough patch of water. This stretch of choppy seas we are still navigating, and another former Gunner has taken the coveted seat next to Arsene.
Much has been speculated about the role of assistant to Wenger. Some have said his rule is absolute. His reluctance to scout opposing teams and instill rigorous defensive training is yet another piece in the Wenger falling star jigsaw, and you would think two of our finest defenders would be just the answer to our backline blues?
Maybe it’s true that Bould and Rice have not been allowed to impart their wisdom on proceedings, maybe it’s fallacy. What isn’t myth is that perhaps, these men weren’t the answer? Rice perhaps in his later years was not the right man, and is Bould the right hand man Wenger needs when the ground became rockier and the incline steeper?
Some of the greatest triumphs involved a Manager who realised his limitations and stuck to what he was good at, and relied on his Assistant Manager to plug the gaps. Brian Clough leaned on Peter Taylor and look what they achieved with Forest and Derby. Sir Alex Ferguson used a number of Robin’s to his Batman and his trophy cabinet bulged. Kidd, McClaren, Quieroz, Knox, Smith and Phelan were just some of the names that were allowed to have an impact on the training field.

One of the finest examples of this involved our own Bertie Mee and Don Howe. Mee knew his own boundaries and so did Howe, but together they formed a formidable coaching unit.
It is increasingly difficult for just one man to play every part at a club, and with Wenger going from Arsenal, this is maybe one of the last Managerial postings where the manager has his fingers in a multitude of pies. Now is the time of the coach, and now we have Sven Mislintat and Raul Sanllehi, we have the expertise to supplement a great coach on the training pitch.
Arsene Wenger at times could have really done with a partner to pull him to one side and make him realise where his errors were. Whether he would have listened or not is another matter entirely.
Wenger is still undeniably – along with Chapman – the greatest manager we’ve had. We’re lucky to have been able to witness what we have during his tenure. Even in his later years, we were still treated to some football from the gods.
Wenger’s legacy is where we stand right now, and our brand of football. With or without a change in Assistant Manager, we still have this to remember him by.
With a different Robin though? Batman could have really made Gotham a better place.

Published in the Gooner Fanzine.

Old Pals Act to Help or Hinder Arteta?

It’s often said about the workplace, that having your closest people around you is a mistake. The phrase, ‘don’t sh*t on your doorstep’ can probably surmise this far better for you, but does this also apply to former players returning to the club in a coaching capacity?

Mikel Arteta is the name lined up to succeed Arsene Wenger, and the Spaniard’s lack of managerial experience will be reportedly offset by the coaching framework around him.

There are other names that are being mentioned though, that may well be as big a gamble as hiring our former player himself.

The names in the frame to form a coaching team around him are all former Gunners, could this unbalance Arteta’s own vision, which is hewn from his own experiences under other managers and styles? .

Can former teammates and ex-Gunners benefit the status quo?

Does friendship between Arteta and Mertesacker, for example, undermine any potential targets however?

It was often said about Wenger that he needed a sounding board for some of his ideas, and he needed an objective voice occasionally. Someone to allow him to see scenarios from a different set of shoes.

Is this same chemistry set to continue? Does a buddy-buddy relationship or other strong ideas about the club mean that Arteta will lack the ability to give decisions the extra thought they require from a different view?

No, quite frankly.

There may well be doubts surrounding Arteta’s capacity for this mammoth role, but hiring Santi Cazorla – as discussed before he reportedly decided to leave the club – or any other former Gunner to lend their wealth of experience can only benefit him and the players under his tutelage.

Henry, Pires, Ljungberg and BFG are also well versed in the ways of Arsenal, something that is high on the priority list for the Board.

Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry and Robert Pires each have different likelihoods of coming in as part of the extensive team that will back up Arteta,, and each of them would be a huge plus for our side – for differing reasons.

Per Mertesacker is now our Academy man, watching over our kids as they attempt to make the grade. Freddie Ljungberg is also set to rejoin us as a coach, and both are excellent appointments.

Not only do they have the necessary badges, but they also know Arsenal and what it takes to represent us at the highest level.

Crucially though, they also love the club. Isn’t that an ingredient that is important?

Of course, we could hire some merc who has a chest full of glittering medals, but when it comes to the crunch, will they give everything? Will they go above and beyond?

Ljungberg, Henry et al would make sure our kids and our first team would play for the cannon above all else.

We shouldn’t judge these men on former coaching merits. With the likes of Mee, Graham and Wenger himself having precious little experience in the way of top flight management, we should see these appointments as the heralding of a new era, rather than a cut-price attempt at success.

Arteta in the dugout, aided and abetted by A club icon, can only help Arteta. Much the same as if he had an old hand next to him, slowly handing him the reins. Arteta needs to do this his way – and if he had an assistant manager who had seen and done it all, then that may muddy Arteta’s field of vision.

We need to take a big gamble, but if it pays off, we could enjoy a Spanish renaissance.

Friendship could just be the icing on this particular cake.

Tips For Wenger

There has been much talk surrounding Arsene Wenger and his tenure, and whether he will leave Arsenal before his contract ends.

Possible managerial replacements have been bandied around the media and social media avenues, illustrious names hoped and wished for to take our club back to the zenith of the Premier League.

It’s clear that Arsene Wenger, while deserving of our respect, has reached the end of the road.

Whether the road ends at the end of this season or next is very much unknown.

So, what about if Arsene does see out his contract, like he has done every other one he has signed?

What about if he extends?

Is there anything that can be done that could remedy the malady that is Wenger’s weaknesses?

For the sake of conversation and nothing else, here’s a few options that could possibly add a salve and maybe even paper over what have tormented us over recent seasons:

A New Assistant

One thing is abundantly clear; Steve Bould is by far a better defender than he is an assistant. It is all hearsay regarding how much sway he has on proceedings in training, but on the sidelines, he is nothing more than a chewing statue. It pains me to say that as he is an Arsenal legend, but you have to separate the player from the role they are in now – just like our legends who dabble in punditry.

Arsene could really do with a sounding board to bounce his ideas off, or better still, have someone with enough nous and balls to let him know when he needs to address something. Who could fit that bill? Well, there’s a whole queue of former Arsenal players who are tooled up with modern day tactics, coaching badges and a voice that can reverse any dodgy potential decisions that Wenger makes. Keown, Parlour, Henry, Vieira, just a few that could give Wenger’s last year, or years, a boost they sorely need.

Listening to current staff

We went on a recruitment drive recently, and now we can boast some of the best in the business. Raul Sanllehi, Darren Burgess, Sven Mislintat, Huss Fahmy, Shad Forsythe and Jens Lehmann – all new blood with new ideas. Sven Mislintat especially could have a big impact on Wenger’s last moments at the club.

We are all painfully aware of the failure to be able to replace Gilberto, and that was over a decade ago. Since then we have had a succession of stand-ins, and none have come close. That is down in part to recruitment, and Sven is said to be an expert in talent spotting. Give the man a brief this summer and ask for a defensive bloody midfielder! Ask Steve Bould to teach our lads the basics of defending zonally! Use the skills we have to hand!

Monitor opponents

It has been said by more than one departed player, that Wenger fails to look at the opposition before we play them, preferring to concentrate on the merits of our own team instead. So convinced of our team’s attacking strength, Wenger feels that it doesn’t matter how the other team plays, because we can outscore them. He has often cited his lack of defensive work and his oversights in terms of scouting out opponents – this one is simple. Just look at our opponents! Just imagine what a difference it could make!

Of course, a tactical overhaul would be great too, but let’s not get our head stuck in the clouds…

The suggestions above are nothing more than ideas that would I think would go a fair way in redeeming what could be another painfully mediocre season for us under Wenger.

Can you think of any helpful tips should Wenger stay? Just leave a comment below!