On Sunday afternoon two weeks ago, Arsene Wenger sat in the visitors’ dugout at Anfield with a frustrated and distraught expression cast across his face.
He had every right to look so glum. Arsenal had just conceded their fourth goal of the afternoon and once again there was a sense that the vultures, both in the media and amongst his club’s own supporters, would be circling again when the final whistle blew.
A defeat against Liverpool on Merseyside is no great reason to be disheartened, but the abject nature of the performance was a genuine indicator that all is not well in North London.
But Wenger’s inactivity on the touchline is characteristic of Arsenal’s failings over the last decade or so. Regardless of the state of a match the Frenchman sits in his seat, leaning forward, but does nothing of note.
On Sunday he sat alongside a stone-faced Steve Bould but there was no sign of dialogue and no indication that either of the pair had any great desire to engage in a conversation about what they were witnessing before them.
The trouble for Arsenal supporters is that they know that when the going gets tough Wenger either refuses to act or makes a move too late. They know that nothing is going to happen – nothing is going to change.
Despite the obvious flaws before him the Frenchman will continue to plod along and do things his own way, with his inactivity and passive nature ultimately costing matches, points and trophies.
Sir Alex Ferguson, arguably the best manager of all time, was renowned for being able to pluck victory from the jaws of defeat. During his quarter-century in charge at Manchester United whenever the team looked in danger of having a meltdown or crumbling the Scotsman would do something – anything.
Whether that was a substitution, the hairdryer treatment or changing the kit at half time like he infamously did against Southampton in 1996, Ferguson would take action and attempt to change the course of the game.
However, on Sunday Wenger’s initial ineffective team selection was compounded by a definitive inability to alter the dynamic of the game. There were no significant tactical changes, the substitutions made minimal impact and there was no attempt to galvanise his team from the touchline.
Unable to achieve competitive consistency
Arsene Wenger’s inability to take any action worthy of note on Sunday is a micro-representation of what Arsenal as a football club have been experiencing for almost a decade.
The key fundamental issues and weaknesses that have haunt The Gunners have continued and persisted due to Wenger’s unwillingness or incapacity to do something about them.
How long has it been stated that Arsenal need at least one solid and reliable central defender? How long have the team been without any genuine leaders? How long has the central midfield unit been without a commanded defensive midfield powerhouse?
Is it any real surprise that Arsenal are incapable of challenging for major honours when Wenger continues to either ignore or fail to resolve such basic issues?
Of course some onlookers will point towards the club’s recent success in the FA Cup. The Gunners have won the trophy three times in the previous four campaigns but that only proceeds to add to the frustration of the Arsenal supporters.
It demonstrates that the team have the potential to beat any opponent on any given day, but also indicates that Wenger is unable to build a side that is capable of achieving competitive consistency.
For those fans that pay in excess of £1,000 a year for a season ticket, is a handful of notable victories in a domestic cup competition really value for money? In reality Arsenal have the financial stability and facilities to suggest that they should be capable of challenging for major honours – league titles and European trophies – but the club are hamstrung.
They are hamstrung by Wenger’s inactivity. He was sat on the touchline on Sunday at Anfield unable to alter the course of the match and he has been unable to solve the basic errors that undermine Arsenal’s failure over the past decade.
The Frenchman signed a new two-year deal at the end of last season but there are no signs that anything has changed.