Is Signing A Superstar The Answer For Arsenal ?

A guest post from Tim ( @foreverheady )

“If you think you have more than one Derby horse in your yard, you haven’t got a Derby horse.” So went the advice given by an eminent trainer sometime last century and you can see the logic. To win the most prestigious prize in racing you needed something exceptional, and the chances of having two exceptional colts at the same time were not only unlikely, but also suggested that neither possessed the true hallmark of a great champion, that restless inner fire that dominates all opposition.  Times have changed a bit of course in the racing game, with expensive bloodlines the preserve of only a few owners, and top quality congregated in a handful of yards. The global expansion of racing has played its part as well, and with operations like Godolphin or Ballydoyle now seeking to compete on a variety of fronts a proper squad of equine talent is needed each year for a season to have any chance of being deemed a success. Winning the Derby is no longer the only mark of greatness. Nevertheless, the search for a real superstar that not only dominates his own generation but those before and after remains compelling – and, of course, extends far beyond racing and is true of all competitive sports. It is certainly true of football, and much fun can be had comparing the games greats: Pele or Best, Cruyff or Maradonna, Messi or Ronaldo? They are all different, but what each seems to have in common is the ability to dominate and stand head and shoulders above not only their own team mates, but also the opposition. Single-handedly they change the course of games, tournaments and seasons: we recognise them when we see them, not just because of their sublime skills, but also because of the aura of greatness that surrounds them – their own personal force fields, if you like.

I often find myself thinking of the Derby horse idea when I hear people debating the ideal Arsenal starting XI. Should Giroud or Walcott start up front – or should it be Welbeck? Where might Ramsey and Wilshere play – and where does that leave Cazorla and Oxlade if Ozil and Alexis also need to be shoe-horned into a midfield that needs at its base Coquelin or Arteta or Chambers.  Should we play Gibbs or Monreal, Debuchy or Gibbs? They can’t all play, but does the fact it is so hard to say with certainty what the best team is mean that the reality is that while the players are plenty good enough, not many, if any, are really great? And does that also mean that unless the manager can pull off a masterstroke this summer and sign a world-class superstar, we are destined to spend a season competing well and playing nicely – but not quite winning a trophy.

Well possibly, but if it applies to The Arsenal, it applies to many other teams too. Partly because despite a number of very competitive teams,there are only two serious prizes in English Football (although I have noticed in recent years the very top clubs seem to be claiming the League Cup as a valuable achievement as well) and of course the Champions League for the top four – and partly because there aren’t that many real game changing superstars floating about waiting to be signed. In fact, there is an argument that says any club that is too reliant on just one galactic player is actually quite vulnerable, even if they do occasionally produce extraordinary results. I can only think of two in recent years – Bale and Suarez – who have individually made a significant difference, and it is telling that once they left both Liverpool and Tottenham slumped. The chances are that had they encountered injury their clubs would not have been easily able to sustain whatever challenge they were spearheading – and rival teams would have been very aware of that. The performances of Messi for Argentina and Ronaldo for Portugal have at times been less than spectacular, which also suggests that well-organised teams full of very good players are capable of nullifying the threat posed by ordinary teams that possess only one real star.

But what happens when you add a brilliant player, a genuine worldy, to a team full of really good players? Surely that is the ideal scenario, and I am sure it is what all managers aspire to. City would love to sign Pogba, Chelsea Bale, United Cavani, and I have little doubt they are trying their hardest to do just that, just as Arsenal will also be doing their best to find another Alexis, if such a thing exists. But even this approach comes with its own health warning, because the balance of a sports team is a delicate thing and the only predictable thing about human nature is its changeability. I don’t know this for sure, but it appears that the arrival of Bale at Real Madrid has caused problems that now seem so obvious with the benefit of hindsight. Ronaldo has seemingly not enjoyed the prospect of playing second fiddle, and Bale has found it hard going from a situation where everyone was trying to pass to him to a state where it has almost seemed as if the players were finding reasons not to do so. You could argue a similar situation has occurred at United recently, where again it appears to an onlooker that Rooney is only happy when he is the undisputed star attraction. Ferguson perhaps knew this, and side-lined him in favour of Van Persie, but left the new manager, David Moyes in the impossible situation where he either had to sell Rooney or integrate him: since Ferguson retired Rooney has outlastedMoyes, Van Persie, Falcao and Di Maria, and it will be interesting to see how the coming season pans out at Old Trafford. My instinct says not well.

Arsene Wenger has been around top, top players for a long time now, and I would argue that no one in the game has a better understanding of the surprisingly brittle egos of world class and epoch defining superstars. I think this is why he has developed the notion of team-play to such an extent, and why he so admired the style of the Barcelona of old– and indeed, the way they are playing now, albeit in a slightly more direct and pacey way. It does not mean he is not looking for superstars (despite what the media would have us believe)  for he has signed or made enough of those over his career, but it does mean he is very aware of finding the right player.  A player who will augment the team and help develop the talents already at The Emirates, as well as providing breath-taking moments of unique brilliance. And he also knows that he needs a squad that will compete on a number of fronts over a succession of seasons, rather than looking for a one-season wonder who might provide an instant hit for sponsors and fans but who could upset the balance of a painstakingly assembled team – a team who showed towards the end of last season just what they were capable of, if remaining free from unusual and unprecedented patterns of injury.

So tempting though it is for me to secretly hope that Bale might harbour a desire to return to a better part of North London, or that Messi might feel his career incomplete without a spell in England, I know that these things won’t happen – and that it is probably best if they don’t. I am all for the pursuit of excellence and admire long-term planning, but unlike a Derby Winner, it is not as if you can breed future superstars from the girded loins of a Mertesacker.

48 comments on “Is Signing A Superstar The Answer For Arsenal ?

  1. Great stuff Tim,I think our business is done,and I’m absolutely fine with that,let the others bitch and moan,we’re here to enjoy ourselves.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Perceptive stuff Tim and my congratulations on shaking of the Summer torpor to say something interesting and new about Arsenal.

    World class players, the handful of superstars, have exceptional technique, and a brain that sees the pitch and players around them more sharply than the average professional. They also have imagination to be the entirely outrageous.

    I would like to see a little more of the outrageous.


  3. What Mel said.
    PS: As my summer vacation stirs slowly to an end.


  4. Lovely stuff Tim. Really well argued and a very good analogy. The part which especially struck a chord with me was

    “the balance of a sports team is a delicate thing and the only predictable thing about human nature is its changeability.”

    and this is where the scouts and the manager really earn their corn. Integrating any player without upsetting the balance must be an incredibly difficult balancing act. It seems with Sanchez Arsenal managed this well. The other players were motivated and inspired by the presence of such a special player and his effort, work rate and enthusiasm appeared to galvanise those around him.

    However, imagine a divisive egotistical bombshell landing in our happy camp. No matter his price tag, it is a team game and it’s the balance and harmony within the squad which is the single most important factor.

    A conundrum indeed.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. divisive egotistical bombshells are never world class players,

    nor are players who dive or feign injury to get other players sent off or carded

    yes Cristiano I do mean you


  6. Reflecting upon The Ego, and team spirit, there is some symbolism in his arrival at Fenerbache:

    They were destroyed by Ramsey.

    Although he’d found his form for the previous half a season it was the goal in the last game against Norwich where he ‘gave the ‘keeper the eyes’ which set him up to blast his way into 2013/14.
    And that Fener game was where he truly announced that he could still be the player that he was starting to look like before he was assaulted by the coward. The Fener fans were impressed with Rambo.

    Godolphin? Never heard of them till the doping scandal broke. And even then that story was not a surprise!
    I’ve read that in 19th century before they hype, the fixing and other irregularitites destroyed their reputation, that racing and rowing would draw bigger crowds then the footy.


  7. Super happy that Jenkinson was happy to sign up again. Will he be able to force himself into the England RB spot from West Ham/ I suppose he’ll be happier then at Southampton, as long as he was happy to re-sign that is all that matters.

    Someone, somewhere, has had a plan!


    Liked by 1 person

  8. Just watching the full Singapore game – didn’t realise we took one of our referees with us


  9. The first half as I said we were smooth and liquid, tending at times toward the frothy


  10. Despite all the examples of big money, big name signings regularly going wrong at other clubs, many of our fans feel so certain that only buying players can bring success. The hysteria the media stirs up around transfers, perhaps combined with Arsenal’s shrewdness in the market, appears to leave fans unrealistically optimistic about the suitability of almost everyone we are linked with. Strange when you consider how depressingly pessimistic the same people can be about our chances once the season gets started.

    Also, studies have shown there isn’t much correlation between clubs’ transfer spends and where they finish in the table. The link between wages and league position are much stronger, which lends credence to the theory that rewarding and keeping who we have will be more important than adding players and spending lavishly.

    And yet believing the current squad can seriously challenge for the title is seen as blind faith. Despite the strong evidence of the last two seasons, in which we won a huge percentage of our games for extended periods whenever we weren’t missing a handful of key players. It seems clear to me injuries have been our biggest obstacle to greater success, but when transfer fever gets into full swing everything else has to take a firm backseat.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Hey Edu
    That intvw with Brady was fking brilliant. Thanks.

    Which reminds me somewhat of you, PG, and your mate from across the water, and your podcasts.

    Get ya finger out!



  12. Very insightful piece there, Tim. That’s what I expect from an ex-professional sportsman. This is why I value your comments, they come from experience at the top.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Pellegrini:

    “I think that Raheem can play in different positions – he can play as a forward because he has a lot of speed or he can play also on the wing,” Pellegrini told the Manchester City website. “He’s a very young player so he has a lot of things to improve. I think it’s important for him to have a new challenge in our team where he will play with great players which will improve his game. He will also improve us as a team.

    “I think that Raheem has already demonstrated what he can do as a player at Liverpool but he’s just 20 years old so he has a lot of things to improve.

    “It will depend how he works over the next few years but I am sure he will be very important in our team, especially for his speed.”

    I.E.: he is NOT a superstar yet. MP is going to work on the player’s game. Therefore not really a £50M player! This didn’t stop the experts groaning when hazard Gazprom pumped up the gas on hazard’s fee.
    Pellegrini helped developed Cazorla.

    I’m not making this next bit up:

    Robson on talkshite:
    “Rodgers is better at developing young players then Pellegrini”

    Too funny for school.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I don’t know whether I really want Arsene to do 27 years Ranty – as Mrs Nicoll invariably says when the wedding anniversary comes up – in fact it is our 27th this year “I’d have got less for murder. ” ( Makes note to self)

    Managing a football club is a massive physical and mental strain – Sisyphus and his rock but with Talksport, LeGrove and similar scarfists jeering his every step.

    I would like Arsene to walk away upright, happy, content, and with a few years o enjoy a well earned retirement. If he wants to be involved with the club, or with football, then fine, but give the heavy weight to someone else.


  15. I like Sterling as a player, and although I can see every reason under the sun not to, I also quite like Manchester City, so it was a move that pleased me for a number of reasons, not least for the howls of hypocritical bilge from the Liverpool dominated media. (I loathe Chelsea, United, Liverpool and Leeds? I am also delighted that Liverpool have signed Benteke as I have not been able to stop imagining Jamie Carragher saying his name, in much the same way as I did when Liverpool announced Dunkin Donuts as their new sponsor.
    And now a genuine question: I keep hearing Benzema mentioned as a genuine target, but to me he is no better a player than Giroud, nor one with the potential of Welbeck. Would love to hear the views of sensible watchers of the game about him.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. so Wenger says everyone of the 27 man squad is fit and available for selection tomorrow, someone needs to tell the AAA that it seems they have their Arteta “injured” story a bit awry



  17. Wenger confirmed today that Sanogo is set to join Ajax on loan for the season, I wonder did anyone ask him how Arsenal, Crystal Palace and now Ajax have been fooled into thinking Yaya is anything other than shite, this question needs asking, if only to give the AAA peace of mind.

    Wenger said

    “He will join Ajax certainly, but we have not finished the paperwork. He will go on loan.
    He is at that age where he needs to play.
    He came to us injured and it took us a while to get him to top level.
    I am sure it will be good for Ajax and he has an opportunity to play in the Champions League and that’s vital for his experience.
    Dennis Bergkamp and Marc Overmars work there and we have a good relationship with them.”

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I really don’t know about Benzema FH -there are times when he displays flashes of excellence but long periods when he is anonymous and prone to spurn chance after chance, even though he is in front of a creative Madrid side that any striker would die for. His finishing is not consistently clinical enough -that is the issue.

    And as a single striker attempting to batter open the bus doors ? I agree he is unlikely to fare better than Olivier

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Not sure I like city but I’ve enjoyed their contribution to the new Arsenal Stadium. The only player who they pinched who was missed was clichy and even then it was only a season or so before the club had two good LBs again.

    IG and AW probably high five each other on the anniversary of the adebayor sale. A £7m punt on a troubled soul when the club couldn’t afford top tier was turned into a £20M profit, that’s almost at the Anelka level.

    It’s hard to not like M.Pellegrini.

    Benzema? Many like him, I think the gaffer has been a fan. But for me gains summed it up as France went out of the last WC: DD made a mistake in that game not subbing on OG for KB.
    If he can’t beat down international buses then he might not be the player for the arsenal. Karim never made it onto my list of fantasy signings: that list started off with Silva, replaced with Aguero, replaced with Sanchez and now that I’m lion or seeing the fantasy before me (Ozil and Alwxis!) I don’t have any more fantasy signings, certainly none who caught the eye like those above. Mata was a favourite for many too. Benzema doesn’t have as many admirers.


  20. living > lion

    though there are some lions in this team. My favourite since his free kick at Wembley if not before has been the cuddly cub Cazrola.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Insightful read Tim! There is nothing to argue about. Like Arsene always says, team cohesion is a very important factor in football and if lacking, a collection of 11 superstars may not be successful (Man city for the first few years of their wealth).
    What doesn’t sit well with me is that groans seem to rate every other player exept Arsenal’s and fantasize about phantom players. I’ve seen people draw up team sheets and have players called “New DM” and “New CF” in them, I kid not.
    On a different agenda, thanks Rantetta for that link of the boss on passing. The man is so knowledgable in football and has an intelligent view on the aesthetics of the game. #legend.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. you need to put some text or it goes into moderation eddy

    Liked by 1 person

  23. reports now that Fabian Delph has changed his mind and will join Man city after all (how much more wages did he get to change his mind),


  24. Sanogo already set for his first game time with Ajax

    AFC Ajax ‏@AFCAjax 41m41 minutes ago
    Line-up #Ajax vs W’burg U23: Onana; v Rhijn, vd Hoorn, Viergever, Savastano; Andersen, Warmerdam, Gudelj; Muric, Sanogo, Acolatse.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Wenger said today that those players who did not play in the first game will play v Everton tomorrow

    so i’d expect the team to be

    Bellerin Chambers Koscielny Gibbs
    Arteta Ramsey
    Walcott Ozil Cazorla


  26. what sherwood now thinks of delph


  27. I don’t understand why they want Delph – other than his nationality he is an average to decent player – he’s 25 – clearly is a bit indecisive



  28. The sort of player Spuds or Brendan might sign but Pelligrini ?!?!


  29. nationality defo tops.. i think they are really short… no lampard, sinclair, richards, jagiellka, to mention a few that spring to mind

    Liked by 1 person

  30. milner immediately cam after posting



  31. Can bellerin please whisper something to walcott about how these things are done? even jenks can put a Word or two so he can sign da thing!


  32. Excellent article, FH. As others have stated, having the perspective of a former pro is invaluable.


  33. I’m very happy for Sanogo – I think that boy has talent and I really hope he makes it.


  34. Bellerin’s emergence will see Chambers used more at CB according to Wenger

    “I will use Calum Chambers more as a central defender but he can also help out at right back as well.”

    Read more at http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/20150708/-i-knew-that-bellerin-could-be-special-#pDTfAsKEYJybIXLj.99


  35. Nick Ames ‏@NickAmes82 3h3 hours ago
    Ainsley Maitland-Niles has just scored his first goal for Ipswich – a very neat finish at Fortuna Dusseldorf. More than 600 ITFC fans there


  36. Scudamore is a deluded fool if he things Arsenal letting spurs share the Emirates for a season is the best solution to their problem. As if it would make any sense for AFC to let a shower of scum in to wreak our stadium and that is not even taking into consideration the damage that would be done to our pitch, 38 league games, domestic cup games, and of course Arsenal playing CL games on the Tue or Wed and then spurs playing on the thurs, you could have the situation of the Emirates staging games on a Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, imagine the problems keeping the pitch in order. No matter how much spurs would pay it really would not be worth it.



  37. anicoll

    True, it could be weird if Arsène does 27/30 years, but I liked IG putting it out there.
    Pat Rice put in a good shift, innit.(ok, he came straight from the womb, but…) How long has Vic Akers been around?
    Speaking of stability, congrats on 26 years.

    I can’t help thinking I’d heard the “passing” thing long ago, but it may simply be that I fawn over Arsene’s every utterance. Can’t help it. Not sorry.

    Liked by 1 person

  38. I feel the same passenal. Sanogo reminds me of the young Adebayor but with better work rate, technic and intelligence. Ajax is an excellent choice for him and the fact they want him is a good measurement of his talent.


  39. Even more glad about Jenks signing a new deal thou!


  40. “Told to move in with Arsenal”…since when can the FA demand such a thing? What bollox!

    Liked by 1 person

  41. Or the Premier League even, I don’t give a flying f**k, the spuds are not sharing our stadium…..


  42. Very good read. I think if the whole squad is fit for the whole season then we have a very good chance of winning the league. Of course the chances of that happening are extremely slim. Do we need a superstar or two? No, but I wonder if squads are sometimes more motivated when two or three new faces arrive especially when they see their rivals apparently strengthening. The addition of Cech to the team has apparently boosted the squads spirits, if they were ever sagging in the first place. There seems to be universal panic among Arsenal fans because we’ve only bought one player. So many forget that there is well over a month before the window closes and I feel we will see at least one more addition. If we don’t then that’s the manager choice and he obviously has faith in what he has.

    I see Eduardo is a regular on here. He used to exercise his wisdom on Arsenal Times some months back and for much of his time he was a strong Wenger critic. Now he seems to use that pernicious and rather silly term AAA far too frequently. I’ve always disliked that stupid moniker. Fans are allowed to have different opinions, every team has a section of fans who decry everything their team does, that’s human nature. The only so called AAA are Spurs fans.


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