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Managerial Musings


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Some time has elapsed since I last mentioned my son-in-law Gunner on here, but after his club’s CL exit, followed closely by our own last week, I thought you might be interested in one of our (always amicable) conversations after each of these mutually disappointing events. We tend to commiserate on these occasions rather than gloat, whichever team is the first to go out, so there was the usual animated frustration from him, calmed to some extent by understanding [suitably laced with CL indifference] from me. Bearing in mind the fact that he is now established in the Arsenal anti-Wenger camp and is therefore becoming increasingly desperate for a change of manager, it will also come as no surprise to learn that there is now little sympathy on his side for my bleating about Carlo’s perceived tactical deficiencies, so recently I’ve tried to keep my grousing to a minimum. It has proved a difficult task.

That said and with hindsight, I suppose it was asking a lot to expect reciprocal sympathy after experiencing a double-winning season, nevertheless plough on with my argument I did and to my surprise the greater was the scoffing in return, until he came out with this final debate-winning and withering comment... “Well, at least you’ve got an owner who will do something about it!†Lost for words after that and no mistake, yet it did set me thinking about the comparative approaches of both clubs and it is interesting to see how some, admittedly not all, rival fans view the Roman way of ruling a roost. I would suspect that there is a grudging respect amongst some of the diehards, borne of his restless fan-like passion and his reactive ways. Whereas his enemies seek to rubbish these idiosyncrasies as divisive and dangerous, the bottom line will always be ‘he who pays the piper calls the tune’ and during his tenure Roman has recorded more hits than misses, so don’t tell me the frequent managerial melodies, however short, wont linger long in the memory.

I guess that what I’m saying is, whilst there is something to be said for continuity over time in the game, it should never be an ideal for its own comfort blanket sake and nobody knows this better than the quick-fire buying/selling managers themselves. They understand that it is tantamount to a ‘king is dead - long live the king!’ existence out there on Planet Football, as it is in almost every walk of life, and for each club manager you give 100% support to whilst in situ there is always going to be another just around the corner whose allegiance is going to be equally pledge-worthy once the axe falls on his predecessor. In this environment only one thing matters - pleasing your public and your paymaster - and more often than not that means results, acceptable league positions and trophies. To suggest otherwise is to consider the retention of Big Phil Scolari acceptable for no other reason than he hadn’t been given sufficient time to find a level of continuity, let alone pursue a swap deal of Didier for Adriano.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not prompting comparison of Scolari’s club managerial record with that of Carlo, a no-contest if ever there was one, but I am looking for an improvement on this season’s managerial machinations and I’m sure Roman is too. Only the parties concerned know the extent of interference and resultant pressure on Ancelotti, but should Carlo believe this to be unfair or excessive, having previously been under the influence of Silvio Berlusconi and accepted it for years, it would be duplicitous in the extreme. To be fair to him, he has never suggested as much and it is to his credit that all the media niggling away at the subject has been in vain. Therefore, returning to what really matters, Carlo’s future at the club is governed by the same factors that were in governance last season - we all know what they were and realise they were not achieved this time around - and all that remains is a decision by the Big Boss on whether or not he still feels he has the right man for the job.

Anyway, back to son-in-law Gunner’s plight for a summation that puts the continuity argument into perspective. The Arse season ticket holders have bought into the expectation market big time over the last six years and have every right to expect some sort of tangible return. They have turned up in their droves throughout this period, striving for more than equality, only to be ridiculed at the end of each season by the ‘here’s what you might have won’ fraternity. Liberty will seemingly never be theirs either, for, as much as hardcore anti-Frenchman revolutionaries like my son-in-law might try to destabilise the quiet aristocratic minority now embodied in Silent Stan, the eventual ousting of Wenger is still nothing but a bourgeois pipedream. In short, if Arsenal continue to dismiss the growing antagonistic element as a right bunch of Herbertistes, what chance will they ever have of an overthrow?

Then again, perhaps the game show analogy is more appropriate and even though Wenger is no Jim Bowen, given a bright red jacket, bowtie and flashing smile, the transformation could work. Just imagine the scene at the end of next season as he steps into the centre circle, microphone in hand, to address his disappointed Emirates audience yet again. Did you enjoy the show, he enquires, safe in the bizarre belief that beauty is in the eye of every [Gooner team] beholder, he would then doubtless expect the following en masse mantra…

“Well, Arsene… we came here with nothing…. we’ve had a lovely day….â€

Bit of bully**** homage duly paid, together with hiked-up ticket prices, the scenario stretches further as off home and happy they trot, bolstered in no small measure by the media and some encouraging comments on the benefits of long-term managerial job security from Sir Alex Ferguson. Surreal or not, there is a ring of truth about it all, isn’t there? Thank heavens these thoughts don’t register for me as a Chelsea fan because, should our fortunes ever unravel in similar fashion, hopefully over a shorter period of time, I’d have my son-in-law’s comforting words ringing in my ears.

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I think Arsenals position suits Wenger. He is seen as the tactician, the father of beautiful football in the premiership, and the only manager capable of playing the "beautiful game."

Therefore, he can afford these winless seasons. For if they were to get rid of him, what manager could step in and fill his shoes getting the most out of these "kids" and continuing to astutely snap up the most promising youngsters around Europe? No one. The club can't afford to take a risk on replacing him with a manager that's perceived to have no dealings with such promising young talent. So Arsenal will continue to rise the "almost" train under Wenger. But at least they'll look good doing it.

Be prepared for more promising signings, trophyless seasons, and beautiful football. Smattered with the usual bemoaning of the referees.

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