Arsene Wenger is known for showing faith in players, even when they’re not performing at their best.
A recent example is Olivier Giroud who was finding it hard to hit the net consistently for club and country. Although the boss continued to start Theo as our main striker, he still gave the Frenchman a chance every game and when he did start scoring again, he regained his place in the starting 11. If it wasn’t for the manager’s faith, I’m not sure Giroud would have found his form again so quickly.
However, it can work in the other direction, and as much as I love how much Wenger believes in our players – at least publicly – it can also get frustrating when the players are consistently messing up.
Case in point, David Ospina.
Although the goalkeeper is currently injured, before this, the Colombian gave a very memorable performance against Olympiacos in the Champions League. Memorable because he managed to drop the ball over our own goal line. We lost 3-2.
Before this blunder, there had been a few signs the keeper wasn’t up to scratch and was prone to making some very bizarre mistakes. Notably, against Swansea last season at the Emirates when he scooped the ball backwards out of our net after it’d crossed the line, and then earlier this season when he dropped the ball away to Spurs right in the danger zone. Fortunately, the latter didn’t result in a goal to our north London rivals, but what I’m saying is, the signs were there.
Wenger, however, stood by him…
Another example is Gervinho. Before we eventually sold the forward to Roma, he was missing goals for fun rather than scoring them. In his final season with us, he only scored seven goals and even this flatters him. I remember watching a match with my dad and him genuinely believing the man had taken a bribe because he was playing that badly.
I don’t think I need to bring up that miss against Bradford away… do I?
Well here is it if you’re a complete masochist and want to relive it.
Again, Wenger stood by him and continued to play him, much to the confusion of Arsenal fans.
Former players such as Denilson, Manuel Almunia, Eboue – all players who have made mistakes but were given chance after chance to prove they were good enough to play for Arsenal Football Club.
How many points did we lose to individual errors from these players Wenger backed but just simply weren’t good enough?
Again, flipping this, some of the best players we have are still with us because Wenger believed in them.
Aaron Ramsey is one such example. Now, he’s an integral part of our team and the fact that he’s out for a few weeks after tweaking his hamstring fills most Gooners with dread. He’s become such a complete midfielder that the notion that he could be playing anywhere else is heart-wrenching.
However, a few seasons ago after returning from his horrific leg break, he couldn’t find his form at all. He was constantly losing the ball, backheeling it off the pitch and looking nothing like the player we know him as now.
The fans started to become disillusioned with the Welshman who had been so promising just seasons before. Wenger, however, stood by him and now look where he is.
Theo Walcott wanted to be a striker and many of us respectfully (some not so respectfully) disagreed that he could be anything but a pacey winger. He didn’t appear clinical or skilled enough to play in front of goal regularly but he was fantastic at sprinting and getting in behind defences.
Wenger gave him a chance to start up front, putting his reputation on the line once again and he’s now becoming a fantastic striker.
Koscielny also had a bumpy first season or two with Arsenal (Carling Cup Final anyone?) but after gaining invaluable experience because Wenger continued to play him week in, week out, he’s now one of the best centre backs around.
It’s this that makes Wenger such a special manager. Although he doesn’t get it right all of the time, he’s only human, and more often than not, when he puts his faith in a player it pays off. If we had sold Ramsey or Walcott when other teams came a-knocking, we wouldn’t get to enjoy the brilliant football on display now. And that’s what matters.