A guest post by @MuppetGooner
The Liverpool result opened the usual can of worms in some quarters. The resurfacing of people that want Wenger out embittered by 8 years of failure. To remind those people, yes, there are no trophies to speak about, but he has taken Arsenal to a Champions League final, a semi final, 2 quarters and the last 16 twice.
In the league we have one 2nd place, two 3rd places, and four 4th places. A lot of clubs would enjoy this record. Look at Everton, a club similar to us in stature and historical record – they come nowhere near this. Villa too, with a greater net transfer spend than us in the last 10 years, fall into this category.
With regard to the Champions League, historically, we have never been in the final or semi final of the European Cup. In the last 8 years, in the league, we have never finished below a team with a lower wages spend except for maybe Liverpool on 1 occasion, when they finished 2nd (the Rafa rant year).
Last year, we finished just behind City and Chelsea, who had a higher wage bill and substantially higher transfer bill. The people who continually attack Wenger and his record blithely ignore the huge amounts of money spent by City and Chelsea do it in a way that they somehow believe that the money shouldn’t make any difference.
Last summer showed that the small pool of the best players were mostly not available to us. Yes, we managed to get Ozil, but there were other players that we did not get, simply because they were unobtainable, in the price bracket of the likes of PSG and City. The likes of Fernandinho and Cavani spring to mind here. Other players, like Cabaye and possibly Higuain became overpriced, and didn’t represent value. The market price being set and skewed by the sheiks and oligarches.
In general the debilitating effect of not securing the best players is two fold. You are left to skirmish for the best players in the 2nd tier pool. You then have to fight the opposition, who have those best players, with inferior ones.
In the wake of the Liverpool result we hear that the transfer market in January was a missed opportunity. We should have signed a striker, a midfielder and another player. These demands are risible. We face all the problems that we had in the summer and players are more scarcely available in January.
The pool of top class players is a very small, finite one. And to get them is not easy. Every club has scouts posted now, not just in Europe, but worldwide. The trick that Wenger pulled, when he managed to secure Vieira, Henry, Petite, Gilberto etc i.e. 4 world Cup winners, will never happen again. Can you imagine, in today’s climate of information, news and awareness, being able to sign 4 Spanish players who had just won the World Cup – absolutely no chance.
The goalposts have been moved considerably.
A couple of years ago we went to South America to sign an Argentinian player, Alvarez. Who was on our tail ? Inter Milan and Spuds. Spuds follow us everywhere. He went to Inter instead of us. We were linked to Holtby (somewhat tenuously at the time), look where he ended up. We were actually in for Vertonghen , who ends up at Spuds because he wants 1st team football. Last summer, Higuain went to Napoli when it looked like he was coming to us. There were other players too, who went elsewhere.
For these reasons the detractors are wrong to come out with such ludicrous demands for players that we can supposedly so easily get. They are also wrong to dismiss the previous 8 years as being a failure. Moaning about a failure of winning a trophy despite a large wage bill. But we have still not underachieved based on our resources, even if you include the wage bill. You can argue that we have underachieved based on expectations, i.e your view of what we should be winning, but as an apologist, I would argue the impact on our resources of the stadium move. One soundbite I never hear in the press is that the Arsenal stadium move cost half a billion.
The detractors complain instead about other stuff , like we don’t have a “winning mentality”, which is just pure nonsense. Or about the “Bould Effect”. Arguing that Bould should have been brought in sooner. Conceding 6 goals at Man City and 5 at Liverpool kind of puts paid to that argument I think.
The stance the club have adopted is that we should be self-sustainable, with plain vanilla economics. Yes, the long term commercial deals that we have signed give us more spending power, and we will be able to incrementally add marquee players of the quality of Ozil to the squad. But if you demand instant success, then you are deluded. Financial fair play has not yet arrived, and to my knowledge, I haven’t seen a single club sanctioned by UEFA for having massive debts and breaching the rules. Also, the science of squad building takes time. We are not able to spend £250m over a couple of transfer windows, and nor would we want to, even if theoretically possible. In any case, what Chelsea did at the time, around 2003, would no longer be possible now, as there are more players (clubs) in the market.
Despite these difficulties, I still believe we are in a great position. Even if you don’t agree, which you can do, that the Liverpool performance was a blip in an otherwise consistent run of over 40 games in the premiership, where we have amassed the largest points total. The majority of our players are in long term settled contracts, they are young, we can hold on to them now. The Ozil transfer has proved a marquee player will come to Arsenal, which proves further players will come. But this is not a galactico argument. We are already benefiting from the long term foundation and strategy laid down years ago. The Hale End Academy with it’s indoctrination of the Arsenal way. The new training ground. Signing a core of 6 young british players on long term contracts. The realisation of the potential of young players brought in such as Szczesny, Ox, Ramsey, Wilshere, Walcott, Gibbs.
But being optimistic is not being expectant. It is arrogant to expect success. If you spend a lot of money on Arsenal, you may have a right to complain on the return on your investment, if you view things in that way. But for me, the point is that the winner takes all culture is nauseating. The sensationalism of the press, depicting our season as either a success if we win all 4 trophies, and a failure if we don’t win anything, is nauseating. We can hope for incremental improvement, but to call for heads to roll without any perspective of what we are up against is stupidity in the extreme. Some clever people on the board are taking the long view.