Sweeney’s Cut: is Arsène Wenger the new Bruce?

Eric, flanked by friend and brother

Monsieur Salut is an unashamed admirer of Arsène Wenger’s. But Eric Sweeney, an occasional additional voice at Salut! Sunderland, combines appreciation for the job Martin O’Neill is doing at Sunderland with serious misgivings about yesterday’s once-mighty opposition …

Sunderland continued to make massive strides forward under Martin O’Neill with a well deserved victory over Arsenal.

It is fair to say the opposition were below par and are not the force they once were but the victory was testament to old sporting virtues such as hard work and determination.

The tactics employed by O’Neill worked spendidly again, the slight tweak being to employ a three-man central midfield with Campbell sacrificed in attack: a move perhaps inspired by Milan’s effectiveness in midweek.

That trio in the middle was key to victory in a dogged performance.

Arsenal where forced out wide where they were ineffective’ I can’t remember a single time our full backs were beaten all game.

O’Neill set the team up to play largely inside their own half, the players sitting off the opposition giving about 10 yards but quickly pressing once they gained possession, forcing Arsenal back time and time again.

The wingers chipped in to dealt comfortably with advances out wide and Arsenal, for all their possession, posed little or no threat to our solid back four.

What must be a frustration for the newly suffering Arsenal fan is their slow and pointless passing.

It reminded me a lot of West Brom under Tony Mowbray, most of it happening sideways or backwards, lacking in tempo or penetration and invariable ending up with an aimless long ball that was easily dealt with. The scoreline didn’t lie, the better team did win this game.

It is incredible to think this is the same Sunderland squad of players under which Bruce struggled to keep out of the bottom three.

Central to its success is playing to the players strengths and realising the limitations of the squad, hence the counter offensive game. I couldn’t help but wonder what effect O’Neill would have on this Arsenal squad and how would he set them up for games? It may be considered harsh but the similarities between Arsène now and Bruce then are evident.

They are one dimensional and lacking in confidence and conviction. It seems they are playing a type of game not suited to their level of talent.

I’m sure O’Neill would set them up similar to the current Sunderland setup, tighten the space between the back four and midfield and counter attack. I do apologise for commenting so extensively on Arsenal but it really is interesting to see the decline of a once great football team.

My man of the match award goes to Jack Colback; he was superb in midfield.Yet this was the toughest of decisions to make, such was the strength of the team performance.

Larsson and McClean’s workrate is so impressive that they would be worth having on the park even if they couldn’t deliver going forward.

Nothing came through the middle with Cattermole, Gardner and Colback working well as a unit. I was surprised with how well Sess did up front on his own given his short stature and our direct approach but he was remarkable once more and is proving his worth as a forward more than a winger as I once thought would be more suitable position for him.

He was helped, however, by the lamentable performances of the Arsenal defenders, who kept misjudging the ball flight in windy conditions. Sess was able to take the ball down perfectly, so questions must be asked about the quality of the Arsenal back four. In contrast, O’Shea put in what was arguably his best performance of the season for Sunderland.

I must say I am really excited about the prospect of going to Wembley. We have a realistic chance now to go and win a trophy for the first time since 1973.

There is no doubt that it wouldn’t have been possible without a change of manager. The impact he has had since taking over has certainly inspired others to do likewise with Warnock and now McCarthy departing. It is unlikely however that anyone else will repeat the impact that O’Neill has had on Sunderland (unless Arsenal poached him – ed?).

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9 thoughts on “Sweeney’s Cut: is Arsène Wenger the new Bruce?”

  1. Saturday was yet another example of why MON is a renowned manager. I think Steve Bruce has been given more stick than he deserved in that he undoubted left us stronger than we were when he came, with a fairly low net spend. He (or one of his team) clearly as a great eye for a player – both of the players everyone us talking about were spotted and bought by Bruce and both are now worth way more than what was paid. There may be an element of luck in that McLean would not have been ready in the first few weeks of the season (and I only read rave reviews from the reserves in that last couple of week’s before MON picked him, but I don’t think that Bruce would have thrown him in so quickly. As for Sess, it has been said that Bruce couldn’t work out where to play him. On Saturday, he played exactly where he played against Brighton, which Bruce got slaughtered for. The difference was that he played well there, perhaps because the team was set up slightly different and actually used his strengths! Finally, look at Lee Cattermole. Headless sending off waiting to happen under Bruce (probably from trying to hard). A small tweak from MON, stopping him chasing all over the field and having him work in specific areas, and he again looks the player that top teams were looking at. We should thank Steve Bruce for the players he brought and thank Ellis Short for bringing in a man who is making the best of them.

    • Dave,

      I think you are right that Bruce did leave us with a stronger squad and some good players. But the overriding point is that he was incapable of getting consistent performances out of the talent that he had. Yes he did balance the books but at the expense of selling the family silver.

      Its the same as having a Ferrari but only driving it Tescos, just a waste of resources, whats the point of having it if that is all you are going to use it for.

      • That was basically my point. He brought in good players but couldn’t organise or motivate them. In sacking McCarthy, Wolves should be careful what they wish for. Taking Bruce as manager will almost guarantee relegation as he won’t be able to use his undoubted skills at spotting and bringing in good players and will have to rely on his motivation and organising skills, which we all think are clearly lacking.

  2. I would agree whole heartedly with Hilary on this one , there is simply no comparison and I can’t believe that some sections are still saying he wasn’t given enough time.

    Bruce only ever had a plan ‘A’, Wenger as we saw last Saturday has more than one plan even if its just insoired substitutions, something Stevie Boy was not renowned for.

    Wenger is light years ahead, but he does have a nasty tendancy to display his ‘selective recall’ on major instances in a game. It was never a penalty last night and was one a the few correct decisions that Webb gave us, Doujour could have seen red for his two footed lunge, but like Bruce Wenger needs to look closer to home as do his players regarding their committment to the club.

  3. I do not think that there is any comparison between Bruce and Wenger. Wenger has been a great manager for Arsenal. Yes he is struggling now with lack of investment in players, but it is also the case perhaps that he has lost momentum after such a long spell with the club and could do with moving on. I certainly dont think he deserves the insults coming his way. He has been a great and successful servant of the Club and is obviously a very skilled and intelligent manager.

    Bruce did have money to invest-and we dont know the full story as to why we lost our strikers to other teams. We only have to look at what O’Neill has done with the same squad to see that Bruce wasnt scapegoated. We played poorly for over a year under him and issues of discipline, organisation etc were at the heart of our failure. I dont think that Bruce is a good manager, let alone a great one. There is no question of Wenger’s professionalism and expertise.

  4. Gooner here – well done to Sunderland, totally deserved the victory, good luck in the next round….

  5. I think there are big similarities between Bruce and Wenger.

    Both are good mangers.

    Both have had their better players sold off by their respective boards.

    Both didn’t get the time/money to do anything about it.

    Both will be the whipping boys of the fans thus shielding the real culprits.

    Very similar

    • Bruce won about 3 home games in a calendar year, that is quite a bit time. New regime seems to be doing ok with his players. Anyone who attends matches and could try and claim there was a tactical plan under Bruce, or that the new manager isn’t doing anything different, needs taking away. End of.

    • Apologies to frequent visitors to the site who have seen me make this point ad nauseum.

      The owners and the Board of a top flight club these days view it as a business where making money via transfers, TV rights, Europa League etc. is more important than winning trophies (except where the latter leads to the former).

      A manager’ job these days is to produce on field success with the players at his disposal. With the same squad the onfield organisation, the players’ belief in their own abilities, the work rate, the goal threat from our midfield etc. are all so much better under MON than they were under Bruce. Bruce is an OK manager who seems to lack the intelligence and the vision to change things around when his plan doesn’t work.

      Bruce had time and brought in players he wanted. Some of those were flops and are no longer at the club and some of them are now performing under O’Neill at a level they never achieved for Bruce. O’Neill has had no choice in the players he has, except the two loanees who he brought in as back up. The results speak for themselves.

      Wenger is an intelligent man and maybe has lost players he rather would have kept, but yesterday there was no comparison between the attitude and workrate of the two sides.

      And like Bruce and Pulis he is now finding excuses. A man who never sees any incidents involving his own players foul play had 20/20 vision and could see O’Shea bring down Van Persie, when it was apparant that he won the ball. Even Howard Webb who gives penalties for players tripping over the turf got that right as subsequent viewings of TV replays have proved.

      As M. Salut said elsewhere it is nice to welcome Arsenal (and Man Ure and Chelsea) fans to the reality that trophies are not the God given right of certain teams. Wenger has been good for Arsenal but I can’t see him being kept on if they finish below Spurs.

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