Arsene Wenger has become arguably the most influential manager in the English Premier League and has provided a similar impact in the wider football world. Clubs such as Lyon to Newcastle look to follow Arsene’s and the clubs methods which includes financialy to youth policies. Arsenal Column looks at the great manager’s coaching methods and footballing philosophies.
If you want to see a taster of Arsene’s coaching, here’s a video promoting Nike Five.
First of all if one wants to understand why Wenger implements such a coaching style we must understand his thoughts and philosophies on football. Arsene usually plays a 4-4-2 but this formation can be easily reverted to a 4-5-1 if required. (One thing to note Arsene constantly looks to refine his system in some way, big or small). This is because he prefers to play one behind the main striker (Van Persie behind Adebayor, or Diaby behind) and on the flanks two wingers who are creative too. The following quote from Wenger can maybe go some way in understanding Cesc Fabregas’ lack of influence this season and the lack of impact of the wingers this season especially against defensive teams.
“I like to have one behind the striker, and one or two on the flanks who come inside. I always feel that if you have players who can deliver the decisive ball in all areas of the pitch, you have many more chances of being creative. If it’s only focused on one central part, where it’s usually more concentrated, you have more space on the flanks to create.”
” You always build a team to adapt the position that suit players best. For example I don’t see Kaka, who has a tall frame, operating on the flank. When you have a creative player who is shorter, then I’m more ready to move him out wide. Because usually they are quick on the turn. Somebody like Dennis Bergkamp or Kaka though, they have to be central.”
The team is required to press high up the pitch hence at times you can see and hear Pat Rice shouting at Adebayor and co. to pressure during matches. The defence must be able to pass the ball and look to build from the back, keeping the ball one way of denying pressure on the Arsenal backline. He stresses quick short passing and rates movement from his players. When they get close to the goal, players are encouraged to take risks and go for the goal with confidence and determination. If this is not a viable option, keeping the ball to a better opportunity arrives is recommended. Players must take advantage of of the whole pitch, almost practicing walking the ball in during training with quick, short passes, cut back and score with all members demanding the ball in what can be described as triangles. This tactic is meant to be very explosive and can destroy teams when implemented to the maximum.
Communication has always been emphasised on and off the pitch, giving encouragement, being aware of the danger around and helping provide options etc.
When Mr. Wenger first arrived at Arsenal he didn’t believe players would be able to perform at optimum level at 30 but was convinced by Arsenal’s old guard. This stubborness still is evident these days to some extent but when one believes in a philosophy it is hard to fully change their mind.
Adams, who was pushing 30, recalls: “He would say things like, ‘Physically a professional footballer is finished when they are over 30. It is not possible to play at that age.’ He believed that players over 30 were dead. Steve Bould, Lee Dixon and Nigel Winterburn proved him wrong. They proved that with desire, commitment, and by looking after themselves, they could play well into their 30s at the top level. He acknowledged that and let them do it instead of getting rid of them. If you are in a beautiful house you don’t go moving to a terrace. That’s what he realised.”
Diet consists of pasta, boiled chicken, steamed fish, raw vegetables and water.
Read more to find out Wenger’s methods on the training ground. Coaching and Training
For training sessions, Wenger was the first to arrive and the last to leave preferring to run things by the stopwatch. The first day after a match is a day off allowing the players to recover and socialise with friends and families and to recoup mentally. Sessions start at 11:00am and start with warm up and then moves on to the main session which lasts 45 minutes or so. Players are to arrive a hour or so to training to prepare and at eleven they start with warms up which are usually indoor actvities, speed, balance, fitness and strength tests (also done throughout the season).
One area where timing was applied even more strenuously was in a form of muscle-strengthening exercises known as plyometrics. Isometric exercises are a form of muscle-strengthening exercises that don’t put any strain on the joints. Plyometrics involve much more strain but produce vastly more dramatic results. Long used by sprinters, hurdlers and jumpers to build up power levels, the exercises were new enough to English football that Wenger had to demonstrate them himself. They involved sudden ballistic movements in the form of bounding exercises – hopping, skipping and jumping. Wenger used them to top up the conditioning of super-fit players in the midst of an endless blur of matches.
The main session can vary due to inaccuracies and observations from the previous game, but also to concentrate on next oppostion tactics. They follow these concepts:
- Coordination training and technique combined with speed round out the program.
- positional play without opponents
- group and team defence tactics
- coordination training
- games in tight spaces
- games on one goal
The main session starts with small games focusing on attack tactics: short pass combinations, moving up from the backfield, and 1 v. 1 situations on the goal. Alternatively, this part of the session may also focus on technique, coordination or speed.
Players then move on to practice positional play and finishing, as well as individual and group tactics such as the back four, defensive play for midfielders and attackers, offsides situations and defending in 1 v. 1 situations.
The session concludes with endurance training: primarily practice games, occasionally running without the ball.
According to Wenger’s training concept, these methods are essential for successful tactical play (compact defence, forward passes, short pass combinations).
Other methods of improving an individual’s or team’s skill and tactical levels are also implemented:
· Players practice the flat four with 4 v. 4 or 5 v. 5 games on one goal.
· 8 v. 8 exercises on one goal focus on cooperation between the back four and the midfield.
· 9 v. 0 positional games on one goal (without opponents) help players reinforce and solidify passing and running patterns.
· 8 v. 8 exercises on two goals (in a half or two-thirds of a field, always extending across the entire width of the field) let players practice moving the attack forward.
Most of these activities last around no more than 3-4 minutes, while matches will be around 10 minutes.
To the annoyance of the players, games were timed to the second – no more than 10 minutes each way – and if they ended in a draw there was no golden goal, but penalties. When the goalkeeping coach Bob Wilson prepared Seaman and the reserve keepers, he would know his time was up when Wenger called over and said, “Bob, you’ve got two minutes.” Which meant 120 seconds. According to Martin Keown, “We don’t overtrain by a minute. It’s all timed scientifically.” A typical session would last no more than 45 minutes.
There are also other training activities but these are some of the examples.
Wenger lets the coaching staff do a lot of the work but likes to analyse players, give tips and encouragement. The reserves follow a similar concept to the senior players but the youth staff have flexibility in deciding how to implement this. Reserve and youth players have the chance to train with the senior players and which is discussed by the staff on who should do so before such a training session.
Two days before a match, practice lasts only 60 minutes and typically focuses on set plays and short-term exertions (like sprints and shooting) that require lots of takeoff power.