Arsenal Club Focus – Wenger suffering from lack of on-field leadership

Leadership is an innate trait that is necessary for success in football. Without leadership on the field adversity is difficult to overcome and confidence diminishes. At Arsenal there is a glaring lack of leadership presence, especially on the field. The Gunners do not possess individuals that control the tempo of the game when need be and ones that showcase authority. Whether it is players that lead by example such as Steven Gerrard and Javier Zanetti or those that are affirmative talkers like John Terry and Nemanja Vidic, Arsenal come up short.

A quick glance at the Arsenal squad list would reveal an abundance of players who lack mental fortitude, fight and grit, all characteristics that are of utmost importance if a team has aspirations of winning the Premier League. In the midfield the likes of Alexandre Song, Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey are all quiet individuals with timid personalities. In times of strife they become easily over-awed by stronger players that are more aggressive and most of all display a greater presence. Once a tidy passing move breaks down opposing midfielders pounce on the frailties of the Arsenal midfield. They lack the voice and bite that are characteristic of all great teams, especially great Arsenal teams.

In the forward line the likes of Theo Walcott, Andrei Arshavin and Marouane Chamakh are consistently inconsistent. Over the past two years, Arshavin has developed into an uninterested forlorn figure who shirks responsibility. Walcott has never and probably will never showcase the ability to take the game by the scruff of the neck and Chamakh has been a hidden squad player since his arrival from Bordeaux. Gervinho struggles with the language and is still settling into life in North London. Club captain Robin van Persie has evolved into a world class forward who has grown up and shaken off his petulant side that haunted him during his time in Feyenoord. His position as a central striker has somewhat stifled his ability to lead as he is often far up the field with his back facing the play.

The Arsenal defensive unit is filled with defenders who try their best at their job but are quite limited. With the exception of the injury-prone Thomas Vermaelen the back line does not instil fear in opposition strikers. The likes of Johan Djourou, Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, Andre Santos, Bacary Sagna, Kieran Gibbs and Sebastian Squillaci are all tentative and tend to play within themselves. When problems arise they fail to take responsibility and often look to the next person for guidance. Despite being 6”6’ Mertesacker is a gentle giant who fails to exhibit authoritative verbal characteristics. His nickname ‘Mr. Clean’ exemplifies the fact.

When entering the transfer market, scouts and managers should highlight players with characteristics that complement the existing crop, not mirror them. Over the past two years Arsene Wenger has done just that and his team is suffering now for it.

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