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The Gunners have the carrot, where's the stick?

jokman arsenal writer dan betts

A manager requires plenty of arrows to his quiver. Harking back to the game of previous generations saw successful managers blend a potent mix of fear and tactics to instill their charges with confidence and just the right amount of trepidation when they took to the pitch.

Brian Clough was one of the finest, and the stories that surround his tenure at Derby County and Nottingham Forest were both hilarious and eyebrow-raising. His players knew who the boss was, but they respected him as the results were evidence alone that he knew what he was doing.

Sir Alex Ferguson, George Graham and Graeme Souness all had the ability to keep their star-studded players on their toes with their mere presence.

Arsene Wenger built a career on the polar opposite of this. Speaking to the brighter lights who enjoyed glory in his tenure, they all reference the faith that was shown in them that gave them the strength they needed to perform on the pitch. They all knew that Wenger had their back.

At what point does this faith have an adverse effect on things though?

We have seen an extended version of Groundhog Day in recent seasons. We build up a head of steam, but we also collapse like a wet cardboard house, seemingly unable to shrug off defeats like top teams are able to.

We regularly put in performances against Premier League sides that wouldn’t be out of place in League One, never mind the Champions League but can be unpredictable against practically everyone else.

Players that have been regulars in the side have let Wenger down, floating like apparitions on the turf as they fail to make a difference. Whose fault is this though? Is it the player for putting in a lightweight performance? Or is it Wenger for allowing this to happen to him time and again?

The reason why Fergie, Clough and other managers garnered success with a touch of fear wasn’t a physical thing. The players simply knew that if they stepped out of line, they would have to work bloody hard to curry favour and get back in the team. They would be dropped.

This is a criticism we can fairly level at Wenger. He lacks the ruthlessness to drop players when they fail to put in a shift. This breeds the possibility for players to put in more unacceptable performances. They can rest on their laurels, they can avoid giving the extra 10% that makes a difference but hurts to produce. They can operate just below capacity and that will be enough.

Wenger cultivates confidence in his players, but he also is responsible for letting standards drop, and then not culling these players from the starting lineup.

Alexis, Laurent Koscielny, Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey, all the way back to Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, Robin Van Persie and many other integral players to our operations over the years, have been guilty of underperforming and getting away with it. They carry some blame, but it lies at Wenger’s feet too.

Players need the stick just as much as the carrot.

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