The similarities between Arsenal and FIFA 13.

The deal with a club like Arsenal, a reputed and well established club like Arsenal, is that you can’t make changes to the team overnight. There are so many concerns that run deeper than just the starting line-up of the first team that will play in the matches week-in and week-out. As a manager of Arsenal, Arsene Wenger has to be worried about numerous things in each and every decision. He has to be aware of the club’s reputation, the financial stability of the club which affects his transfer budget as well as causes him to modify his wage structure, he has to keep the directors and board of the club happy so they will be off his back and let him manage the club how he wants, he must keep the fans happy by bringing in the victories and keep his first team squad happy by delivering them with victories, adequate game time and a respectable wage. In addition to this he also has to worry about the management of the youth and reserve players who are looking to break into the first team since playing in the reserve and youth squads at Arsenal is almost as good as a promise of first team football.

Now, just for fun, let’s compare Monsieur Wenger’s headaches to the Career Manager Mode in FIFA 13. Without having to explain, everyone should be able to understand that managing a team in FIFA is much easier thanks to reset buttons and quit games, but more importantly, because it’s not real life and isn’t that important. Where Wenger has to worry about losing his job, being a manager in FIFA just means starting a new career from scratch, a luxury which Wenger obviously cannot afford.

So what do we do in FIFA? Buy whoever the bloody hell we wish. Pick the top names in the world and chances are that you can transfer them to your team; if they don’t accept the first time, increase salary and add goal bonuses (if you are feeling generous). This doesn’t work in real life. But our dearest Mr. Wenger has tried to play FIFA in real life. Looking at Arsenal’s recent acquisitions, there have been 8 first team player additions in just two transfer windows between June 2011 and August 2012 (and we are not even considering departures right now). Some of these have just fit in as squad players and some aren’t even relevant to the equation, but it makes a difference. There is a change in balance when it comes to the team’s morale. There is a whole getting-to-know-you process which begins again for every addition. There is the problem of the players getting used to each other’s style of play, positioning and playing to each players’ individual strengths. If this were FIFA 13, who cares, right? Just get a passing game going and you have your wins. But real life has passion, feeling and emotion attached to it.

Over the 7 trophy-drought seasons, there was always a problem of not winning any titles, which was a direct result of not winning any games; of course that wasn’t true for those of us who were playing with Arsenal in FIFA and racking up the silverware to make up for the lack of it in real life. But in spite of not winning any titles, or more importantly, in spite of not winning any games, Arsenal was playing well. There was always the Arsenal style of playing; that flair, that passion, that desire. They weren’t winning matches but they were at the very least playing well. It was fun to watch them play. But last season 2011-12 and the current campaign have been terribly disappointing. It almost looks like the team comes out of the tunnel, shakes hands with the other team and then wants to shake hands amongst themselves, just to ask each other their names so they know what to call out when asking for a pass during the game.

Missed placed passes, runs by forward players which are not spotted by players on the ball, a complete and utterly disgusting lack of communication in the defence leading to the shipping away of goals for fun, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Not to be overly critical, but the team has looked completely disjointed. It can’t necessarily be the team at fault either. The Great Arsenal Exodus of players jumping ship ‘for greener pastures’ like cattle in the mountains has been leaving the squad depleted and Le Professeur has been trying to adjust. But it can’t be done overnight – something he seemingly tried to do last season with deadline day transfers. But in Wenger we trust.

The problem is the cohesion. The problem is the makeshift team. The problem is they need time. But time is not so easily available. Since last season, Arsenal has had a dismal run of form which can be traced back to the above points. The consistency is missing. So what is needed?

Right now, Arsenal needs players who can stand up and take responsibility. Arsenal needs leaders who can charge the team with a winning mentality, keep the team focused in the game and keep the players calm even in losing positions. There aren’t enough players who will stand up and take responsibility. But here is the silver lining. The players seem to be stepping up themselves. From the captain and vice captain to the new signings to the players returning from injury, there seems to be a base for the team which is gradually building. The leaders seem to be emerging and the gaffer may just have got it right after all. But we will just have to wait and hope that they step up their game and play the beautiful style we love them for.

Sean Sequeira

Arsenal supporter through thick and thin. Idolizes Thierry Henry. Considers football to be much more important than life. Other passions including movies and music.