Tuesday, July 12

Facing the Facts

Getty images via @Daylife
Here's Mo Mostowfi (@eyehatemo) With his thoughts on whats happened at the arsenal.

As the 'summer' passes us by, it's all too familiar for Arsenal fans. Everyday, we're linked with players; some names we've heard before and some we haven't. But it's the usual suspects who seem to make the necessary and decisive moves to get their man. It seems however, that no clubs are interested in the players we want to see the back of and the players who do want to leave are somewhat essential. In the meantime, our transfer targets don't seem to pass the 'negotiation' stage, although from what I'm reading, Gervinho's move is proving problematic due to paper work – for now anyway.

As usual, the media portray us as a club in crisis due to the fact that Wenger is – yet again – potentially going to start the season with a dismantled side, albeit a side that hasn't won anything. Wenger says that the trouble is too many clubs are after the same players.
It's not like how it was before; we can no longer boast as having the best scouts in Europe anymore and in any case, even if we still did, clubs these days put such a huge price tag on even their up and coming players, which is a big gamble for a club like Arsenal, as our funds don't match the teams around us.
We've always thought of Wenger as a shrewd and astute in the transfer market. He's unearthed some true gems in his time in England – notably Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry, not to mention Nikolas Anelka, Cesc Fabregas and Freddy Ljungberg. Nobody could have predicted the impact they'd have in this country and it made the club – and Wenger – look very clever indeed. Lately though, I've started to think a bit differently about it all. It's easy to forget about the all the terrible signings he's made when you combine the talent that came through and success we had because of them. Think about these players:

Francis Jeffers
Richard Wright
Igor Stepanovs
Rami Shaaban

That might not seem like a lot, but think about the players Wenger inherited when he arrived:

Tony Adams
Steve Bould
Lee Dixon
Nigel Winterburn
Dennis Bergkamp
David Seaman
Ian Wright
David Platt
Ray Parlour

So, Wenger could afford a few duff signings as the players he was getting to play alongside the men he already had proved to be fruitful. Couple that in an era where Manchester United were the only real force in the country, while the teams around them were lacking in technical ability and creativity to even come close. Wenger arrived at the right time; the foundation of a successful squad was already there, he just needed to tart it up a bit. When I look back, it seems so far fetched to think in 1995 that we'd be playing flowing football with some of the best players in Europe within three years. Wenger was lucky that he had a squad with such a strong backbone to it and that all he had to do was replace John Harston with Nikolas Anelka;, Ian Selley with Manu Petit and Glen Helder with Marc Overmars. Not rocket science, when you think about it?

Not only that, but cast your minds back to the years when Wenger won his titles.
1998 – a great year for Arsenal fans. We were hadn't won the title for seven years and there was some uncertainty around the club as George Graham then Bruce Rioch had gone and it seemed we weren't really going in any direction at all. We played some lovely football that year and went on a ten match winning streak, including a famous win at Old Trafford.
That season however, Roy Keane only played 9 premiership matches. At the time, he was arguably the best midfielder in the Premiership and they were obviously missing him at the 'business end' of the season, where they capitulated in a way that nobody in the country could have predicted – one bookmakers even paid out winnings to people who had bet on them winning it as they were 11 points clear by March.
Likewise, in 2002. Another fantastic season for us; we played liquid football and Thierry Henry and Robert Pires were incredible. But, lets not forget that United had got rid of Jaap Stam, not because he was surplus to requirements, but because of a dispute with Sir Alex. As his replacement, the bought an ageing centre back in Laurent Blanc to partner the comedic Fabian Barthez at the back.
2004 was a fantastic season for us and for obvious reasons. But lets not forget, Rio Ferdinand – their £30m centre back – missed the majority of that season for failing to show up at a drug test. The day before Ferdinand was handed his suspension (19th January), United were only two points behind us and four in front of Chelsea.

The point I'm trying to make is superficially obvious and you don't need to me to explain what I mean. I'm not saying we didn't deserve to win the league in those seasons, because we were the best team in England during the years when we won it, but that won't happen again because the climate of the Premiership is different. We no longer live in a time where if United don't win the title, then we will. Whether we like it or not, Chelsea and Manchester City are going to be the main challengers to United and all we can realistically expect is a scrap with Spurs and Liverpool for fourth place. This is something we, as fans, need to accept and understand. We can't have it both ways; the move to Ashburton Grove has meant we can't afford to the best anymore and now it seems we can't afford to keep them either.
Arsenal's business plan seems to be more and more transparent these days. We buy young, up and coming players and take a gamble with them. Some make it and some don't. For example:

Denilson – flop
Bendtner – flop
Diaby – too many injuries
Eduardo – unfortunate injury
Senderos – flop
Walcott – frustrating
Eboue – flop

The players that do make the grade become discontent when they reach 23 or 24, and you have to ask why?
They start to become great players and then Europe's elite come along and we sell them on to put towards clearing the debt to pay for our Stadium. Wenger may put on a brave face and tell us that he will 'fight' to keep players at the club, but how can he do that when he lets player's contracts run on until they're almost at their end? It gives the player so much power and impetus that I can only imagine Wenger on his hands and knees begging them to stay. We screwed up royally with Flamini and it looks like the same thing could happen with Nasri. It's no use saying that if Nasri goes now then at least we'll get a transfer fee for him, because a) we never replace these players with the money we get for them anyway (think of Kolo; Adebayor) and b) it's not about getting a transfer fee, it's about keeping our best players.
It's clear that Wenger is struggling to rebuild a team and to sustain it with the limitations he has. Nasri isn't only thinking about going to Manchester City because he can get £120,000 a week there, he's also thinking about the potential of winning titles there and you must be a very naïve individual to think that they won't.

I can't see Arsenal winning a major trophy next season and believe me when I say it breaks my heart to admit that. But facts are facts. Football has changed massively in the last five years. Even Barcelona, with their home grown talents still spent over £80m in two years on two players (one of which went on loan for the whole of last season; I am talking about David Villa and Zlatan Ibrahimovic of course). This is what football is like now, and we need to get with the programme. We're not going to spend that kind of money simply because we don't have it, so it's stupid of us to expect to compete with the teams that do spend that much.

I don't know about you, but next season all I'm going to do is cheer the team on and hope for the best and hope that one day, our time will come – again. That's football.

By @eyehatemo

RSD out


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