A defiant Arsene Wenger says that the success of Leicester and Atletico Madrid will not change his emphasis on possession-based football.
Once again Arsenal lead the league in time of possession with 57%, but with Champions Leicester only 18th in the same table with 44.7%, the criticism is mounting that Arsenal are just keeping possession for the sake of it. That they are not incisive enough in attack.
But despite the success of Leicester and Atletico Madrid, meanwhile, also played defensively to see off Bayern Munich in the Champions League semifinals to reach their second final in three years, Wenger says he doesn’t see a major shift happening in the game.
“I don’t think so. I go to the European managers [meetings] for 20 years, and we always have the same debate. When Barcelona, who always have the most possession in the Champions League, go out everybody says maybe it’s the end of possession football,” Wenger said.
Arsenal repeatedly struggled to turn their dominance into goals this season, which is a large reason for why their match at Manchester City on Sunday is now a fight for third place rather than for the title. Leicester and Atletico both represent a style that focuses more on counterattacking and taking a more direct approach with the ball when the team actually has it.
“It raises questions about efficiency and football based only on efficiency. Because it shows that if it’s done well, it can be very successful,” Wenger said. “I think over a longer period, possession will still dominate. But when you’re not successful it’s questioned, and I can understand that.”
Arsenal have shown on occasion that they can master the counter-punching style of football, like in last year’s trip to Man City when they dropped deep and focused on defending but won 2-0. But Wenger said there is no way he is about to change his approach permanently.
“No, because we have the [wrong] type of players as well,” he said. “If I say tomorrow we only defend, with [Mesut] Ozil in the team it will become difficult.”