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Is Mickey Harte Quickly Becoming Gaelic Football’s Arsene Wenger?

Allianz Football League Division 1, Healy Park, Omagh, Co. Tyrone 12/3/2017 Tyrone vs Cavan Tyrone manager Mickey Harte Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Presseye/Lorcan Doherty

The All-Ireland semi-final which took place between Dublin and Tyrone was a travesty for Gaelic football.

It displayed the gulf in class between Dublin and the rest of the country in stark terms. Dublin dismantled a hapless Tyrone team which were beaten into submission by a team brimming with attacking inventiveness married with a ravenous hunger when out of possession of the football.

Tyrone were poor and played with a predictability which has become all to prevalent from Mickey Harte’s team. They play with a structure and try to break at pace, but all too often, we see a slow, laborious hand passing transition which allows teams with a certain level of conditioning to get behind the ball and easily repel Tyrone’s attacks.

Tyrone have basically played like this  since he began his inter-county management career in 2003. They have become stale.

Their style of play is out of date.

The great players Harte possessed in his early years such as Peter Canavan, Ryan McMenamin and Stephen O’Neill have all departed. In their place, Harte has built a team of clones, lacking any semblance of individuality or ingenuity.

It has become increasingly apparent that Arsenal are similarly falling apart at the seams. They too have too many similar players brought into the fold by a manager stuck in his early successes.

They rely on a squad which lacks physicality and consistently show a lack of mental fortitude.

They too play in the same manner tactically with very little room for innovation, with Arsene Wenger insistent that they must go out and dominate possession, blowing teams away without contemplating the club’s lost history of prioritising defensive rigidity under former manager George Graham.

They have shown glimpses of success in recent years, lifting FA Cups which have been devalued in English football.

There are even similarities in the lack of significance placed in Tyrone’s provincial wins in the aftermath of the Jim McGuinness era in Donegal.

Both Harte and Wenger have become adept at winning these competitions and strengthening themselves politically, while leaving them free to continue autocratic rule, never attempting to fix the repeated wrongs that dog their team with repetitive limitations.

Both Harte and Wenger revolutionised their respective sports in there early years.

Creating teams of swashbuckling offensive play combined with a defensive rigidity bordering on the verge of nastiness. However, both have moved away from their own templates for success.

Harte has become an even more defensive coach, he has encouraged a culture of sledging in his Tyrone teams which has ensured a whiff of sulphur surrounding his teams.

This is at odds with Wenger’s fostering of Arsenal’s flimsy core, each year they exhibit all the worst characteristics of Premier League  footballers, poor work ethic, lack of desire and outright arrogance. Players that Wenger has nourished for years display these traits in abundance.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 27: Arsene Wenger, Manager of Arsenal celebrates with The FA Cup after The Emirates FA Cup Final between Arsenal and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium on May 27, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Players like Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey and Hector Bellerin, may all be technically gifted, while much like Harte’s Tyrone charges, they have character flaws which reveal themselves in their worst moments on the field of play.

In two sports that are so different it is so very interesting that two of the longest serving managers at the highest level have overseen such periods of prolonged stagnation.

They’ve both moved away from their successful templates in different directions.

Arsenal are expansive going forward and border on incompetent defensively. While Tyrone are an ultra-defensive GAA outfit, lacking guile and individuality.

Harte wrote in his memoirs that his primary goal was to create teams that functioned together like clockwork, while always “respecting uniqueness”.

All Ireland Footballl Championship Quarter-Final Replay Dublin vs Tyrone 27/8/2005 Dublin's Peadar Andrews and Tyrone's Owen Mulligan Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/ Tom Honan

His great teams in 2003 and ’05 allowed the mercurial Owen Mulligan to flourish in a team renowned for work rate and a structure. This is the crux of the issue.

Harte has made Wengerian mistakes, but has done so in radically different ways. Harte has embraced dour, expressionless, industrious players while Wenger has cast them aside in his line of work.

Luke O’Connor, Pundit Arena


Check out the latest episode of The 16th Man, where we look back on Galway’s All-Ireland victory over Waterford.

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Author: The PA Team

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