Arsène Wenger: The Beginnings – Themes and Philosophy through the lens of AS Monaco vs. Galatasaray 1989 – Part 1

Twenty-two years ago Arsène Wenger’s AS Monaco were one of the best football sides in France. The manager, who had been relegated to Division 2 in 1987 at cash strapped AS Nancy-Lorraine, had led his new Monaco team to the French championship in 1988, winning Coach of the Year award and qualifying for the European Cup in the process.

The following European campaign began inauspiciously in Iceland; a 1-0 defeat to giants Valur Reykjavík was attended by only 4,000. However Wenger recovered and led his side, including an in-form Glenn Hoddle and newly signed African starlet, George Weah to a Quarter final against Galatasaray, after destroying Club Brugge 6-1 in the preceding round, with Wenger signing Jose Touré in particularly stunning form.

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Introducing Arsène Wenger, the Early Years: Failure and success in France from Strasbourg to AS Monaco. A Call for Writers.

Arsène Wenger changed the face of English football in 1996. A controversial view, but undoubtedly the statement contains some truth. The Frenchman was one of the first successful foreign managers in the country. He can be credited with the introduction of a unique footballing philosophy which persists to this day, complemented through added nuances after years of experience at the top of the world game.

But what of the past? Much is made of the fact that Wenger managed a young Thierry Henry at AS Monaco, or that he managed Nagoya Grampus Eight in Japan, but there is little widespread coverage of his time prior to Arsenal, what he achieved, and his playing style, apart from the obligatory Wikipedia entries, and cursory histories.

Continue reading “Introducing Arsène Wenger, the Early Years: Failure and success in France from Strasbourg to AS Monaco. A Call for Writers.”

How to beat Stoke City: Tony Pulis, Wenger and Mental Strength

Stoke City represent somewhat of an unassailable wall to many teams. Arsenal are an opponent who have struggled against a particularly rugged Tony Pulis side since their rise to the Premier League in 2008. Stoke have beaten Arsenal twice in the last three games at the Britannia, but never at home in two appearances.

Image courtesy of Ronnie MacDonald. Under Creative Commons Licence.

The contrast in styles could not be greater, and my sensibilities are in principle much against the Stoke method. On the other hand arrogance is a deeply unattractive trait, and Pulis deserves credit for his very efficient work with Stoke  no matter what the feelings you have over his style.

In reality survival in the Premier League boils down to money, and for clubs such as Stoke City, that resource is at a premium. Not only that but it is permanently limited by the fact that Stoke itself is a smaller club with limited ability to bring in large turnovers, or increase their fanbase drastically.

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Arsenal’s form at Old Trafford: Analysing Man Utd vs. Arsenal stats and videos in the Premier League Era

Considering Monday’s fixture at Old Trafford we’ve looked at the statistics for Arsenal vs. Manchester United fixtures in the Premier League era, and added in some video highlights too.

Both sides have a rich history of Premier League rivalry since Arsène Wenger’s arrival at the club in 1996, with some classic matches and infamous incidents. The Van Nistelrooy penalty miss and Keown’s celebrations, the Wiltord title winner at Old Trafford, or Man Utd’s 6-1 victory against a central defence of Stepanovs and Luzhny were all defining moments. Add into that various tunnel fracas, the Keane Vieira rivalry, pizza throwing, and last season’s debacle which saw Wenger sent to the stands, and you have an all action fixture.

Arguably the rivalry has diminished in recent years as Arsenal have slipped away from consistent top two finishes, but the fixture is still one of the most infamous in world football.

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Do Arsenal have the worst defence to lead the Premier League at this stage?

The Premier league has a new leader. On Saturday Arsenal ascended to the top of the table thanks to a misfiring Chelsea and a frozen pitch in Blackpool. Everyone knows about Arsenal’s fantastic attacking options providing the goals; Samir Nasri in particular is in the form of his life. But the most problematic, often criticised area is a defence which can give way too easily.

Image courtesy of Ronnie Macdonald. Under Creative Commons Licence.

On Sunday night, Robbie Savage was asked on Match of the Day 2 whether the Arsenal defence are the worst to top the league at this stage. Robbie’s answer was a definitive yes.

The question is – is this claim true? And whether it is or not – what is the relative state of the Arsenal backline compared to seasons past?

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Is Arsène Wenger taking the Carling Cup more seriously? Comparing Arsenal selection policies since 2004

Arsène Wenger has a well-known reputation for using the League Cup as a stepping stone for star young players, the likes of Fabregas, Van Persie, Walcott and Alex Song are all established first teamers who have played in previous campaigns. This season Wenger’s selection policies have changed, but how much, and does this mean he is desperate for any success?


Courtesy of Wowtheworld under Creative Commons Licence

Much debate centred over whether Wenger’s youth policy devalued the competition. The answer is yes. However, the value of a fourth competition, with an unbalanced system where the richest teams enter with only four games to the final is debatable. That debate continues elsewhere (see WSC here and here).

In light of the fact that Arsenal have won no major trophy since 2005, Wenger is under pressure to take the League Cup more seriously, and use first team players to try and pick up a trophy, creating a winning mentality.

This season a change has been noted in the approach, with much of the press picking up on the fact that Arsène Wenger has actually been taking the League Cup ‘seriously’. The question is, how different is the policy compared to previous years?

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The many sides of Andrey Arshavin: An all round performance at Villa in context

A torrid week for Arsenal ended with three points after a six goal clash at Villa Park. One aspect that caught my eye this week was the difference apparent in one Arsenal player, Andrey Arshavin, so much so that it required a little more in-depth investigation.

Image courtesy of Ronnie Macdonald

Arshavin’s poor form has been criticised of late, and not unjustly either. A goal drought extending from September, combined with poor passing, and a distinct lack of fitness has contributed to a poor season by his standards.

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In Contrast: Two different results, two different Fabregas performances

There was one clear contrast between the Newcastle and Wolverhampton games, which revealed the difference between a 1-0 defeat and a 2-0 win. That contrast was Cesc Fabregas.

Fabregas had one of his worst ever performances in an Arsenal shirt against a determined Newcastle side on Sunday, and that game ended in defeat. Of course there are more factors than just Cesc, but his performances are a fascinating strand of this story.

Against Newcastle Cesc misplaced almost 27% of his passes during the game, and this epitomised the way Arsenal played as a team on the day. In the end the team found little rhythm or flow, and were beaten deservedly.

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An In-depth Look at Greek Super League Playoffs: In Bed With Maradona

If you are interested in world football, then you might just like my latest post over at In Bed With Maradona.

My first article looks in detail at the implications of the Greek Superleague’s decision to introduce a playoff system for European qualification, and the feasibility this might have in the Premier League as it was proposed and backed by some clubs, but opposed by Wenger and Arsenal.

PAOK AEK and the Big Fat Greek Playoffs Last season Premier League bosses controversially proposed a playoff system to decide the qualifiers for the European places. The Greek Superleague or Σούπερ Λίγκα Ελλάδα (literally soo-per liga Ellada) has used a version of the system since 2007-2008, and in some ways, the Greek model could serve as a test for any wider applications…

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Arsenal Score Six: How they took Braga apart: Highlights of The Fab Four – Wilshere, Fabregas, Arshavin, Chamakh

As Marouane Chamakh left the field last night, his name reverberated around the stadium, and for good reason. The striker has been a breath of fresh air for an Arsenal side which has all too often struggled with injuries up front. Together with the passing of Wilshere and Fabregas, and the movement of Arshavin, Arsenal pulled a new Braga side apart last night, scoring six goals.

Technically Chamakh is gifted, but this is only one of his strong points. He has the ability to create space for others, in holding the ball up superbly with a mixture of balance, strength and exquisite control. His touch is good enough that he generally holds on to the ball, even in very difficult situations, and his aerial strength means he can win headers and make knock downs.

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