Harry Redknapp is one of the least ‘Arsenal’ football managers in the game. Arsenal and Harry Redknapp are like polar opposites, which is probably one reason why he is making such a good Tottenham manager thus far. Redknapp, while more than holding his own in the modern game, is essentially a throwback to a bygone era. Arsene Wenger is (usually) far to composed to give anywhere near as much away as the new Spurs boss.
Think Wenger and you think loyal lawyer – studious, happy to have a war of words but unlikely to take it to blows, fiercely defensive of his players and mysteriously blind when he knows they have pushed it too far. This approach has had its benefits over the course of Wenger’s hugely successful stint in England, but this season has shown some drawbacks to the method.
The Gunners keep slipping up against supposedly inferior opposition. After the latest humiliating defeat to Stoke, Wenger spent the week reinventing the course of events at the Britannia Stadium in order to aid some bruised egos in their recovery. Victory against Manchester United was presumably the desired effect, and to that extent the plan worked, but it feels like Wenger has gone for the quick-fix once again.
No, Arsenal did not face a gang of brutal barbarians intent on spilling some Arsenal claret last week. In fact, the most dangerous weapon on display was Rory Delap’s throw-in. The defeat to Stoke, like the losses to Hull and Fulham, and the draws with Tottenham and Sunderland, was not caused by malicious opponents but by players unable to motivate themselves against smaller teams.
Wenger’s excuse-making is not going to tackle the core problem in the long-term, nor has prevented repeated lapses this season. The best thing for Arsenal’s squad now would be a big dose of honesty from the top: you are capable of beating Manchester United, so if you don’t put in the same standard of performance against Stoke you will be out of the team.
Harry would have no problem dealing out a reality check to his errant squad, but it is doubtful whether Wenger will be prepared to take such a u-turn.