Tony Pulis let the Wenger sized cat out of the bag on Saturday afternoon, the Arsenal manager confirmed to him that he had signed on for a further term at the helm of the good ship Arsenal Football Club. Sadly, this particular crate is holed beneath the plimsoll line and is taking on water at an alarming rate.
The Arsenal manager is a peculiar character, in that his intelligence is matched only by his arrogance and stubbornness. An Alsatian King Canute, he believes implicitly that he alone has the plan to revitalise the club and make it genuinely competitive once more, despite specific and blindingly clear evidence to the contrary. I actually turned off at half time in the West Brom game on Saturday, we were spineless and clueless. This should have been a great opportunity for Welbeck and Walcott to show England what they were missing by not picking them for the two matches this week, Oxlade Chamberlaine was handed his favoured position and provided little. Xhaka and Ramsey played like they'd just been introduced to each other in the tunnel, much of the passing was rank and Arsenal got what they deserved, nothing. Two shots on target in 90 minutes?
The Baggies, on the other hand were disciplined and scored two identical goals from corners - two! Look at the photo beneath, there are two West Brom players virtually on top of Craig Dawson, and not a single Arsenal player within five feet of him, let alone contesting for the header. That's not schoolboy defending, that's an insult to schoolboy football. This particularly galling to supporters of a certain vintage (like me....) who grew up with centre halves like Peter Simpson, Terry Mancini, Tony Adams and Steve Bould.
Steve Bould is an Arsenal legend, but in crisis times, you are either part of the problem or part of the solution. I've mentioned this before, and it may not be popular with Arsenal supporters, but one of Alex Ferguson's greatest strengths was his willingness to shuffle his coaching pack. Over the years he worked with Archie Knox, Brian Kidd, Steve McLaren, Jimmy Ryan, Carlos Querioz and Mike Phelan. Although outwardly he was famously combative, Ferguson actively sought and encouraged advice from all quarters. This was a quality also famously attributed to Herbert Chapman, it was said of Chapman that he would listen to a ball boy if he had something to say. Look at Guardiola's bench, he has specialist coaches for defence, midfield (Arteta indeed) and forward players.
Wenger has been at the Arsenal for over 20 years. His front line coaching staff has been Primorac and Rice and then Primorac and Bould. It's stale, it isn't working. In the first seasons after Wenger's arrival, the excellence of the defensive players he inherited, the shrewd purchases he made and the innovations he introduced, gave Arsenal significant marginal gains in English football. That ship sailed a long time ago, of course he should do the decent thing and walk away, whilst offering to assist in the search for his successor, but he won't. The fact of the matter is that the arrogance that runs through his DNA like writing in a stick of rock, convinces him that he is the only one who can save us.
The only way forward is for Wenger to recruit some new coaching ideas onto his staff, sadly, I don't think he will. Compare and contrast the way Chelsea are set up and play to Arsenal, look at the ways in which Mourinho is prepared to change his formations and look at the conditioning work that Tottenham's squad is putting in. Wenger might drop Monreal for Gibbs, or play Giroud up front instead of sulky Sanchez but that's the limit of his thinking.
So, we have another year (at least) of the blinkered one, further proof, if needed, that as far as the Arsenal board are concerned, turkeys do vote for Christmas.
By Ian Byrne