Cohesion the key for Arsène Wenger

This summer has seen Manchester United, Liverpool and Manchester City spend big in their attempts to bridge the gap with reigning champions, Chelsea.

Arsenal have been less active, with just one new arrival in the form of Petr Cech. And despite the addition of a top-class keeper to their ranks, many supporters remain concerned about Arsène Wenger’s lack of business.

 

As last season drew to a close, pundits dissected Arsenal’s failure to mount a genuine title challenge, citing the need for a ‘new spine’ at the Emirates. With just one of four boxes ticked, the assumption is that Wenger is making the same mistakes.

However, the 65-year-old spoke recently about the importance of cohesion.

We have a stability that gives us strength. It is undervalued but that’s what we want to show. Chelsea have a good stability, especially defensively, and they took advantage of that from the start of last season.

He may have a point. While rivals rebuild their squad, the likelihood is that their newly assembled sides will take time to develop an understanding with one another. Meanwhile, Arsenal will boast a relatively settled, stable line-up, one that proved their quality in the second half of last season.

Wenger has always been keen to improve the players he has before considering adding to his ranks. During his 19 year tenure in North London, the Frenchman has often persisted with players who many felt weren’t quite good enough.

It’s easy to forget the level of criticism that the likes of Laurent Koscielny and Theo Walcott were forced to endure just a few seasons ago. Now, the pair’s quality is rarely called into question.

Mesut Özil is another example and while the German playmaker has yet to completely justify his price tag, his form at the back end of last season showed signs of his potential coming to fruition at the Emirates.

For the 18 months that preceded this upturn in his fortunes, however, the 26-year-old was subjected to a barrage of abuse from media and fans for his poor performances. Despite calls for Özil to be dropped or even sold, Wenger persisted with his record signing.

The emergence of Francis Coquelin last season provides further proof of Wenger’s faith in his players. Following a brief loan spell in the Championship with Charlton, the 24-year-old was recalled to provide cover for the injured Mikel Arteta.

But instead of warming the bench for the gunners, Coquelin cemented his place in front of Arsenal’s defence with a series of impressive performances.

While the focus for Wenger appears to be on developing the talent he has at his disposal and gradually forming a cohesive team capable of competing for titles, his rival’s respective approaches differ substantially.

 

Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal took over at Old Trafford last summer and recruited seven players in his attempt at piecing together his own squad.

The Dutchman also got rid of 24 members of his inherited squad on either permanent or loan deals. Those exiled included boyhood United fan Danny Welbeck who was sold to Arsenal for £16 million.

Many praised the former Bayern Munich boss for his ruthlessness during his opening months in charge but his actions could equally be construed as lazy or impatient.

Instead of developing the likes of Welbeck or Javier Hernandez, van Gaal agreed to pay a £6 million loan fee to secure the services of big name striker Rademel Falcao from Monaco, only to shun the Columbian international to the bench, or even the reserves, for much of last season.

Alongside Falcao, another marque arrival was Real Madrid midfielder Angel Di Maria for a club record fee of £59.7 million. Despite the excitement surrounding his arrival, the Argentine disappointed last season and often found himself out of favour with his new manager.

This summer, Di Maria looks likely to join Paris Saint Germain as van Gaal seems unwilling to persist with the 27-year-old.

Incoming ahead of next season are Bastian Schweinstiger, Morgan Schneiderlin, Matteo Darmian and Memphis Depay. More arrivals are expected at Old Trafford, with a striker and a centre back reportedly on the agenda.

But without any more new signings, the total amount of players brought in during van Gaal’s 12 months in charge amounts to 15, at a combined cost of £229 million, something which is anathema to Arsène Wenger.

We want to continue to combine stronger financial resources with faith in our philosophy. We want to give chances to young players and build players from inside our club. Afterwards we can buy exceptional players, but that will not be the basis of our policy. With (Manchester) United’s success they have created huge financial resources and today there is no patience

Much like United, their rivals Liverpool have splashed the cash in recent windows. Brendan Rodgers brought in nine players last summer in the wake of Luis Suarez’ departure to Barcelona.

Last season’s Anfield debutants included Mario Balotelli, Lazar Markovic and Dejan Lovren. Rodgers’ new signings found Anfield life difficult last term and amid media criticism, the former Swansea boss removed most of his new acquisitions from the starting eleven.

This summer has seen £67.3 million spent on seven new players as Rodgers attempts to rebuild yet again. Christian Benteke, Roberto Firmino and James Milner are amongst those tasked with returning Liverpool to the top.

Alternatively, the considered approach of Arsène Wenger could reap full reward. ‘Le Professeur’ continues to value internal development over external gains and while one or two more signings may arrive at the Emirates in the coming weeks, his settled group will be confident of beating their big-spending rivals in the race for next season’s Premier League title.

Author Details

Patrick Mills

23 year old Psychology student, Coach and Writer. Link to Tactical Theory and Sports Psychology website below.

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