Wenger-football is a class above Benitez-football
At the start of the season Liverpool were touted in the media as the team most likely to threaten the duopoly of Chelsea and Man Utd while Arsenal were almost written off with a lot of media-talk that big-spending Spurs were going to dislodge their neighbours from the top four.
Shows what the media football analysts know.
Last season Arsenal finished level on points with Liverpool with a young team that discerned football watchers knew were only heading one way: upwards. Yesterday they visited Anfield and put on a performance of total football and fighting spirit to earn a 1-1 draw which was the very least their footballing display earned. In pre-season I wrote about Wenger's Masterplan that has been three years in the making and for me was just about ready to explode. It is happening now and this is just the start.
Wenger is proven as a manager who can build a Premier League winning team. What's more he achieved it- like the most successful manager in Premier League history, Alex Ferguson - by having a philosophy of moulding his teams to play a brand of thrilling attacking football. His third generation team are showing they have got what it takes to emulate their predecessors: and I have no doubts they are here to stay and compete for the next few seasons to come.
On the other hand I'm yet to be convinced by Rafa Benitez. In my view his predominant philospohy of pragmatic defensive football with physically-strong but relatively immobile players combined with a hyper-rotation policy that obviously unsettles his players and disrupts team rhythm is not conducive for winning English Premier League titles.
Further, does he have the coaching vision and skill to maximise the development of talented young footballers? The progression of Ryan Babel will be interesting to watch in this context. Babel thinks he can be the next Thierry Henry and personally I like his pace and attacking drive. But Henry had Wenger developing him and a team almost custom-built to complement his fantastic attacking skill. Will Babel be able to progress into a player comparable to Henry while having Benitez as head coach and playing in a team that favours a pragmatic style of football?
There is no doubt that Benitez is a strong tactician. But for me his vision of football is relatively limited and he complicates things too much. The fact that it is almost impossible to predict a Liverpool XI for any match makes this point. On the other hand Wenger has a supreme vision of how football should be played and it showed yesterday by the way Arsenal passed and flowed their way across Anfield.
For me Wenger-football is a class above Benitez-football and the way Arsene shook hands with Rafa after the match I could tell he was satisfied that this is the case. On the other hand I think it is time Benitez started to revise his strategy if he wants to truly compete for the Premier League title.