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Is Wenger’s Tactics Outdated?

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Arsene Wenger has come under criticism in recent seasons for his Arsenal side being too monotonous and predictable, and the lack of a plan B. With yet another potential title dream beginning to shatter, there are doubts in people’s mind whether Wenger’s tactics are becoming outdated.

Arsene Wenger is the longest serving manager in the Premier League now, and throughout all these years, he has built a certain footballing culture at the club, and the passing game has become a trademark of Arsenal. However, they have failed to win the Premier League since 2003-04 season and their challenge has fizzled out far too often.

The calls that Wenger’s tactics are outdated is perhaps going a bit too extreme, as the Frenchman is not the rigorous tactician like Jose Mourinho or Rafael Benitez, managers who have had success in England in the last decade. Wenger is more of a believer in his own philosophy than anything else, and his focus is always on the betterment of his players and the team rather than what the opponents are going to do.

One thing a number of past players have touched on is the fact that Wenger doesn’t burden his players with a long list of tactical messages- the focus is very clearly on the patterns and their own movement in the game, in relation to each other. With the right personnel and understanding, something that Wenger is so keen on perfecting all the time, this approach allows for greater spontaneity which gives access to more solutions to opposition setups – the idea is for Arsenal to impose their game on the opponents.

This has perhaps been to their detriment at times when they have come up short against teams that have identified the movement patterns and exploited and chinks in their armor to the fullest- the very recent 5-1 drubbing at Anfield comes to mind. Liverpool identified potential weaknesses in the Arsenal midfield and went hard from the first whistle, and were ultimately 4-0 up inside the twenty minutes, but these capitulations are few and far between, and the focus on themselves rather than the opponents allows them to bounce back straightaway.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has been criticized for being too one dimensional in his debut season at Liverpool and when asked about a plan B, he said that Plan B was to make Plan A better. Wenger is very much in that mold and his only focus is to ensure that Arsenal outplay their opponents. On most days, it works, but on the off day it doesn’t. It gives fuel to the voices baying for Wenger’s blood.

For a manager who has given so much to the game, he deserves the faith that has been shown by the club’s owners, and while there are talks of his tactics being outdated, it barely matters- he doesn’t send out his team to stop the opponents from playing their game, he sends his team out to outplay them. And that’s what makes Arsenal so attractive to watch.