26 March 2011

Coincidence (part 1 of 2): Arsene

By Dr3

Silverware

Coincidence. It’s denial with the reasoning being, that there is no possible reasoning. It’s when we can’t accept a fate that we can't "prove". It’s a denial that is substantiated by some existing truth that says that this cannot be ‘cause and effect’. Try as I might though, I rarely believe in coincidence. Call it sinister-minded, or deluded, or watching too much Columbo, Monk, and Law&Order, I believe that even though correlation doesn’t imply causation; it usually does. Over seven years though, two men have emerged from the fickle football-world somehow absolved of any wrong doing, with their failures being coincidences and anything but them. Even worse these two men are managers, the Christmas trees of modern-day football; good for one season.

Firstly, there’s Arsene. Since August of 2005, Arsenal has the same record as the West Indies cricket team for the same time period. By now, one would imagine that the desire for a nice, tall, cold glass of Gramaxone would be almost insatiable to “lifelong” Gunners’ fans. Yet, like ‘Balotelli is the devil’ rhetoric, the faith in Arsene never seems to end. While some question his thriftiness, the hope of a group realizing its potential under his stewardship never dwindles. Every season, for more than six years, fans who just six months before were on the brink of depression based on capitulation on all fronts of their team, were back, in solid voice, chiming out about the realization of some ‘potential’.

Noble? Genuine fans? Or an orchestra playing to the directions of their conductor?

If ever there were real life Jedi mind tricks, it would be the cunning of this Frenchman that still can’t grasp English. Arsene Wenger deserves credit for the transformation of Arsenal into a genuine football ‘power’, and an aesthetic superpower. For building a legacy based on economic sustainability, and being a consistently competitive team, he should be lauded. “Boring Boring Arsenal” as a chant seems so ludicrous for a team that now, viewed in the right context, can be said to be the most entertaining club in the world. Arsenal has been in the top four in that same time frame such that the criticism, if any, should still hold some perspective. Yet, he deserves a lot of criticism.

I am not a mathematician, but from my understanding of probabilities, it is nigh on impossible that Arsenals winless streak isn’t his fault. In six years, the team has changed players at least six times. While a lot of players have remained, the revolving door that are all football clubs means that a lot have gone and have been replaced. Super-Conservatively if Arsenals entire squad has seen twenty changes in personnel in this time frame, what is the probability that this ever changing group would lack the same winning mentality? What is the probability of the same errors and bad luck plaguing the same team, with different players for six years? What is the probability of different players, of different ages, on the same team, capitulating at the same stage of every season for six seasons? Coincidence?

While second place is not by any means a catastrophic failure, in the context of leading the league and being in strong positions for silverware in every one of those six seasons, it is a glaring failure. It can no longer be the players. And even if it were, who is responsible for recruiting these players? Yet, nostalgia and a frightening command of the little English he knows, leaves Arsene unscathed, while Almunia, Lehman, Bendtner and the witless Theo become shit. By saying the right things, and standing before the backdrop of his accomplishments, Arsene’s prestige is reserved; he just needs the right players, remember the Invincibles?

He complains about long throws, grass, and wild spending, and refuses to adapt to changing times, while his hapless followers allow themselves to daydream about his reputation; remember the Invincibles? He talks about quality, and potential, and the best group that he has ever had, while his hapless followers salivate about just what that means; better group than the Invincibles? The glue that holds this denial together is his reputation, one that he built, through hard work, and a pioneering vision of development of young talent. A vision whose contextual genius, is now, out of context. He is a glorified Ranieri, shaping his team into a glorified Roma; nearly men. A team that on its day is as enthralling as it is comedic on others. Ranieri was fired though, and never won the league, and certainly didn’t go an entire season without defeat. Yet like Ranieri, he’s as modest and likeable, as he is a laughing stock, ask Special1Tv. But unlike any other coach, his ability is beyond repute. Remember the Invincibles? Remember how boring we were before him? Remember him converting Henry to King Henry? Do you remember? I do.

But unlike you, I don’t think that what is happening is a coincidence. I see a man whose guile, eye for talent, and ability to nurture that talent, have smoothed over the crack that is his lack of character for fifteen years. A man whose inability to adapt to changing times was spotted by King Henry when he left; I’ll never win again here. A man whose meekness pervades his teams; an Arsene DNA. I see a man that is the yin to Sir Alex Ferguson’s yang. I see a great coach that needs to reinvent himself to win again, but won’t. Ancelotti couldn’t reinvent himself and was “terminated by mutual consent”, but what of Arsene? Lippi, Capello, Van Gaal, and even Mourinho are all coaches who despite their reputations and achievements, have either been sacked, or tipped to be sacked with no mitigating circumstances. No nostalgic memories. No defense articles. But what of Arsene? Will this year be the year that he has been talking about for five years? Is this the one where ‘the Arsenal’ returns to the throne? Will Special1Tv need a new punch line? Or will it be next year? Will they bottle it again; coincidentally?



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