Why I Believe

I’ve just read quotes from a l’Equipe interview with Arsene Wenger. They reveal more about his thoughts on this team than I’ve read before. They smash the theory that “arrogance” drives the man and that the team and ultimately the club and fans suffer from his stubbornness. They show humility and maybe a hint of self doubt. They have reconfirmed that the man does not allow himself to operate inside a bubble, isolated from the realities that we fans suffer from. The man, as I have suspected, suffers as much if not more than we do.

During our pre-season campaign, I looked for clues to indicate if we had the requirements to compete for the title. I analyzed the squad additions of even more inexperienced young players while others cringed when Wenger hinted that replacements for Hleb, Flamini, and Gilberto were either not available or not required. Not replacing the latter pair in favor of Song and Denilson gave non-believers more than enough reason to begin distrusting the Wenger model. Faith was beginning to slip away just as the title did last season.

I’ve been called a Wenger apologist, suggesting that either I am not realistic enough in my assessment of his policies or that I simply will not accept that the players are not good enough. In response, I’ve had to reassess my views and positions on our club in general.

I remain steadfast. The policy is not flawed and the players are good enough.

My first true moment of reflection on the squad’s capabilities occurred after the Emirates Cup tournament last August. I revealed to a fellow fan that I was slightly concerned about the state of our squad. She commented that I “should be.” After close analysis of each player, I didn’t develop more doubt but more confidence. Yes, more confidence. I truly believed that we could compete. The addition of Arshavin was something that was always imminent. Wenger always wanted that “special” player. Arshavin’s transfer was a difficult task but not counter to Wenger’s policy as some have suggested.

Was I being contrarian and defiant in feeling that we were good enough to compete for the title? Was I in denial? Was I blinded by faith? I didn’t think so then and I still believe that mine is a fair assessment of the situation. I’ve approached analyzing our club in a structured manner, not like those who take the ‘what have you done for me lately’ position.

I look at the players’ confidence levels. Wenger instills confidence in his players. He does not allow them to believe their own hype but certainly does give them the platform upon which to build their mental strength. I look at the consistency of results and performances. The manager links quality to consistency. But I haven’t told you anything that you don’t already know. Pretty basic stuff, really! What’s not basic is the great divide that has formed between subscribers to the Wenger model and the non-believers’ view that it is fatally flawed.

It is not flawed. The business end of the season is upon us. I have every faith in this team that they will prove that. The players have the confidence that they can achieve great things together. In fact, dealing with the trauma of last season’s failure, the Gallas saga, the injuries to and departure of big players, and managing the challenge from Villa are all potentially damaging events they’ve handled already. The confidence gained from victories over Utd and Chelsea (one offs to many) look more and more like true reflections of our ability. Coming of age in Roma has bolstered squad confidence and identity. Coming from behind against Villarreal and Wigan is further evidence.

Consistency is a good barometer of true quality. Not many teams anywhere have been more consistent that Arsenal in 2009. Please correct me if I am wrong. Not all our results have impressed the non-believers as we’ve drawn matches we should have won. Fair enough but we’ve been arguably the form team in the EPL for some time now, regardless of credit from the media for it or not.

It isn’t blind faith that makes me stand by my manager. It is belief in what he has created and knowing that successful teams are built on small, incremental progress. Sometimes that progress doesn’t come fast enough or isn’t as evident as it could be. That is when you ask yourself questions, not the manager necessarily. He questions himself.

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