Where did it all go wrong?

Today, I’ve woken up to the news that Alex Ferguson was very close to becoming Arsenal manager before he took over the realms at Man United… Interesting news, but for me, I think I’ve heard it before and in reality, it doesn’t make a difference now. It does show that we have decent pedigree when trying to pinpoint good managers, but in reality, that is it! I don’t think Alex Ferguson would have lasted as long at the Arsenal as he did at Man United. It took him a while to get their squad into a title winning squad. The story is similar to Arsene saying “I nearly signed Cristiano Ronaldo”… etc… which we don’t have to worry about, because it didn’t happen.

The question I have for everyone today… is… where did it all go wrong?

There are three major reasons that I am going to explore today.

  1. The stadium
  2. The transfers
  3. The manager

Let’s start off with the stadium

Back at Highbury, things were absolutely fine. We were sold out (and I mean sold out) for every game, queues outside the stadium every week… The ambition of the club was to be the biggest and best club in the land… and to be the richest club in the land. To do this, a new bigger state of the art stadium was required. We spent the £400m to get that stadium and it forced a change of policy. Gone were the days of signing the likes of Thierry Henry, Jose Antonio Reyes etc for club record fees, and into a new era we dawned. The era of not buying, the era of managing our squad and of course the era of selling.

No matter how good a manager you think you have, if you sell the entire first team over the course of a few years including the players who won you the title and then continue with sales of players like Adebayor, Kolo Toure etc… you’re going to find it hard to compete – when you replace them with free transfers and home-grown talent, you’re going to struggle.

Next up… the transfers

Briefly touched upon already, the transfer policy has been much different in the last 5 years than the previous 8 or so years. The questions have to be raised about our prudence in the transfer windows. In recent times, we’ve tried to buy players and embarrassingly failed – cite the failure to bring in a goal keeper in the summer before last season. Cite the inability to secure the defensive midfielder we believed we needed, believed to be Xabi Alonso, the season before. We are actually terribly bad at negotiations, and pretty much have been since the departure of David Dein.

But, the annoying thing about all the transfers is the ones we let go. Gilberto Silva was definitely sold before his time was up, and has continue to play for Brazil and in the Champions League for Pathanaikos, quite impressively since he left us. Was he worth selling for a couple of million and sacrificing all that experience? Flamini and Gallas are two players whom we let leave us on free transfers. Why? We’ve seen in recent seasons that we lack that “bite” in midfield – a bite that Flamini proved he still had with his games in the Champions League this season… And of course, this season, we’ve been one key defender short – a defender with experience and know how… and surely Gallas’ performances at Sp*rs have shown yet again that Arsene and the team made a mistake in letting him go prematurely? Lassana Diarra is showing the world how good he is, he cost Real Madrid £20m… and yes, we bought him for £2m and sold him for £5m… Arsene?

Then, if we look at the incoming, we’ve brought in Chamakh, who has yet to convince us that he is a Premiership player. We’ve brought in Arshavin, who despite being a good player, doesn’t really fit that well with our team, work ethic etc… and if we look at the likes of Vela, Diaby and Silvestre, Squillaci etc, then it’s obvious that we’ve not done that great in the market.

When was the last time you were genuinely excited about a signing?

And finally the manager

The manager has done us proud over the years, but he’s surely taken on too much? He even sent out the renewal letters this year for the season tickets – the first time the manager has done this! He’s involved in the pennies, which hampers his ability to focus on the team, motivating the team and enhancing his squad. Arsene is too close to the financial side of the club, the business side. He needs to detach himself from the money side of things. We lost Flamini because we wouldn’t pay him £60k, but instead wanted to offer him £50k, the money situation also made Ashley Cole leave us too (I know there is more to it than just that!)…

The manager has a lot of faith in the youth project – players like Bendtner, Walcott, Denilson, Diaby, Djourou etc are backed a lot and given their fair amount of chances. They aren’t actually good enough and none of the aforementioned players would get into any of the top four teams at the moment. Yes Walcott and Djourou have been better this season then last, but will they ever become the players that we need?

The managers stubbornness to change formation or vary tactics is also very worrying. Seeing us trying to accommodate Bendtner, Van Persie and Chamakh into a rigid 4-5-1 formation is worrying. See us not use the tried and tested 4-4-2 at all this season is equally worrying. With Pat Rice retiring this season, we have a to make an appointment that will challenge the manager. Someone who will force him to think more about formations and tactics. It’s not the end for Arsene, by any meaning of the words, but is it the beginning of the end? This summer and next season will be one of the biggest periods of Arsenal’s history.

The question is then… how do we change it all?

  • yemi

    For me, i think the team needs a psychologist..Why ? I have discovered that team is not usually motivated for big occasions. It has become so consistent.
    We beat b’ham 3:0 on the first of january at the emirates when there was no pressure, 27th of febuary when it mattered most, the boys did not show up. A FINAL with no 2nd chances !!!
    After we were disappointed by the draw against l’pool and spurs, mathematically, we needed to win our remaining 5 matches to be on 79 point, chelsea to win theirs to be on 79 points and man u having lost to us and chelsea to 3 of 5 games to be on 79 points. What did we do ? We went and lost to bolton. OK.
    We played early on sunday before man u and chelsea, we needed to win to put us on 70 points and hope that chelsea beat man u. This will put chelsea and man u on 73 points and us on 70 points with 2 games to go. What did we do again ? We went and lost to stoke.

    I think what is really lacking in the team are these.

    1. A big defender with height. I don’t see that jones scoring if we had a Sol campbell-like defender. Having said that, i also agree that we need defenders like KOs who have speed when playing teams like man u, barca etc. But when playing stoke, sunderland, b’ham, villa we need the big guys in.

    2. We need a motivator on the field. Did you see gallas in the spurs/city game ? We need someone who can move the team spirit up a notch when they are not playing well. I would prefer such a player to be a midfielder so he can affect both attack and defense.

    3. We need a bully striker in the mold of drogba, heskey, carew, keweyne jone, ricardo fuller, jason roberts, zigic etc.

    4. We need a wide player who can run at defenders and beat them and cross the ball perfectly.

    All -n all i think we need four players:
    1. Defender
    2. Striker
    3. Wide player
    4. Midfielder

    I think TV should be able to deputize for clichy/Gibbs/song and KOS should be able to deputize for Sagna/Song.
    I also think We should let go of fringe players

    1. Diaby
    2. Denilson
    3. Bendtner
    4. Rosisky

    I dont think That is whole sale changes.
    I have doubts about Arshavin and clichy though.

    Finally i agree about the manager but what of if that is the mandate he is given by the board ? Why did martin o’niel leave villa ? At least from reports, he complained of not having total control, same for keane….
    I think wenger/arsenal need to take a poll to feel the pulse of the fans, they are too detached from reality or is it that they don’t care ?

    For me, the only positives i can take from this season are:
    2. RVP not injured for too long
    3. djourou stepping up 2 notches. playing well and staying fit.
    On the field of play, nothing !!!

  • Sharad

    expecting some unknowns again

  • Kodjo


    Felaini & Parker/Melo
    Striker – interesting thing is i dont know of any tough dominant striker around. Lukaku is untested in the premier league…it would be a gamble going for him. Not sure if he is as good as the media reports. But I’d go for Odemwingie for his spirit and energy.

    I’d bring David Dein back!

  • devday

    @ Kodjo:
    Massive shouts to bring David Dein back, but in reality, someone like him, with experience would be also very useful. Dein has other commitments and there are differences between him and the club!

    Re – transfers – the big questions is whether Arsene has money and if he does will he use it – he won’t be signing Fellaini or Melo, they’ll cost too much. Parker? Maybe, but of course, Sp*rs want him… and would he have the guts to get rid of Denilson, Diaby etc?

  • simon

    Throughout all what has been written above, many which are valid emotional points you have not acknowledge that Arsene may be feeling like “poo” at present.

    Here is a man who has announced to the world that his present team is world class, world beaters, yet with such high accolade the team lets him down. Arsene Wenger has had the worst year in his life; he actually has aged by at least 5 years in one season.
    When the 11 players step on the pitch, they are in charge of their destiny. He can only prepare them. I am not an “In Arsene we trust” kind of person… but I look at the fragility of management, and recall last year that Mancini was perceived to be the worst manager at ManCity supporters because they did not get in CL. This year on TalkShite radio Spurs fans are asking for “arry” to go because they did not get into the CL or even in Europe. They actually call him bad names… the same fans who would kiss his backside in the period to February 2011.

    We are all so fragile and temporary… it’s almost funny.

    I love my team though the good and bad times, through the top four and mid table mediocrity, through the spectacular and through the 6-1 throbbing by Man U a few years ago. Arsenal will shine and it will be with Arsene Wenger… because if we recruit anyone else, it will be another six years without a ******….and P.S. Mourinho will not come to Arsenal, Stan will not approve.

    We are where we are…. and he WILL fix it. He has too.

  • adam

    I totally agree that priority no. 1 should be to bring in a football-savvy director to handle signings / contract negotiations etc. David Dein was never properly replaced leaving a huge void in the management structure that AW himself has had to partially fill. The departure of Pat Rice calls for an appointment (or two) and this summer would be a good time to strengthen the management team and give Arsene some support to let him do what he’s good at and not have to worry about every detail on every player contract!

  • Sharad

    incidentally 2008/2009’s record was won 20 drawn 12 lost 6 Goals 68 Against 37 Pts 72. This is not a team that is developing and improving rather we are standing still. Wenger’s signings have not taken us forward for three years but only served to maintain the status quo. I suspect he is looking down the table to see how he can preserve a 4th place spot rather than upwards to see how he can challenge Man U and Chelsea. I am doubtful that he will buy at all in the pre-season – we’ll hear that Sczeszny and Fabianski are the solutions to our goalkeeping issues, TV will be like a new signing at CB, as will Ramsay in midfield, and Frimpong will be our cover as a defensive midfield player. Also a new striker signing would see Wenger admitting he’s got it wrong with Chamakh after one season – it’s not going to happen. Wenger also hates “halting the development of his youngsters so JET, Lansbury, Bartley, Gibbs, Eastmond may all be added to the 1st team squad. Even if Fabregas goes, I predict 3rd/4th place next season, and no significant changes in the summer.

  • Sharad

    Trophies are not everything, there are only 2 maybe 3 trophies worth winning these days and no one team can win them all season after season. What i want is improvment the last 4 years the club has been stagnent and its all down to one mans lunacy to have a ‘project’

  • Sharad

    @simon – Incase you haven’t noticed we go further backwards every season.

    Wenger has had 6 years and done fuck all. We still have the same obvious weakness we have had for 6 seasons, they never get fixed.

    Wenger was a legend but not anymore. If he arrived in 2006 would you still think he is the best man for the job? Any other manager for any big club would have been sacked by now for doing fuck all in 6 years. We are not spurs, Everton or Aston villa, we are a huge club so 2nd, 3rd or 4th should not be a target for us.
    Arsene set a bench mark and if he is not hitting it the last 6 years then he should be found accountable and either rectify the mistakes or be sacked.

    If he doest get sacked or rectify the mistakes then its us “PAYING FANS” who give there all to support the team the whole season who suffer the most

    Many of us making sacrifices attending every home game and travelling around the uk to northern dumps for night games taking time off work spending money on credit cards we haven’t got

  • Berth

    It went wrong when Mr Dein left the club. OK he did well in 2007 with the most beautiful squad and play I have ever seen, instead of improving the squad he sold Hleb and Flamini. Guys what do you think would have happened if the manager had retained that team and had added Nasri to it; your guesses is as good as mine.

  • Sharad

    Its amazing how some people still have hope, and can always find positives in a bad situation.
    BUT i want to ask a question, we finished 3rd last season and it looks likely that we may finished 3rd again, what does that represent.???

    Improvement would be 2nd and if god forbid we finished 4th (I won’t even contemplate that)
    The facts are simple this team has not improved simple and plain. Wenger can talk all he wants but the league table does not lie.

    Wenger and the board boast of doing things the right way, they may not spend millions on players but if that’s the case why is our wage bill so high (3rd)???
    and why do the fan have to pay more for tickets??? this is just very unfair,

    Arsene wenger and the board have been outsmarting the fans for the last 6 season simple and plain

    Some time ago i too shared the notion that we have to buy, but the events of the last 3 seasons have caused me to think about this deeper. All the players are not bad as some people have made them out to be (Some are for sure) this team should have at least one the title once. The fact that they have not won anything is not a coincidence something is wrong.

    People say buy cahill but if he comes and the teachings that are present remain he would fail. We can bring vidic, if the philosophy remains we will still be second best. And that’s the problem, don’t get me wrong wenger’s philosophy is not all wrong it just need some fine tuning BUT for someone so inteligent it been too long.

    I will take a bet for sure that may be 1 or 2 players might come in may be none cause depending on who he buys it could still represent none. Wenger will never change he has a point to prove, and when men have power unopposed they don’t listen to reason
    I read on another site that 3 years ago they interviewed clichy and sagna and the same comments they made back then is the same comments made this season. That says only one thing no improvement.

    How can i be Optomistic about this, people on this very blog wants readers to make logical comments and so fourth BUT when problems so easy to see are left unchecked and unaddressed how is that logical.

    I mentioned on many occasions that the players are not to blame, wenger buys them and coaches them (or don’t, looks that way) gives them huge contracts. Arsenal is the only team where a player can make mistakes weekin weekout and still play next week, so how can we blame the players .

    A lot of you come here saying the players have let him down, his job is to assemble the best team to win trophies and if does not happen its his fault not the player.
    There is going to be a head on collision at arsenal for sure because enough is enough…….

    The philosophy at Arsenal must change for us to go forward if it remains then we will continue to have seasons like this. It will be very hard to win the title next season because chlse, MAU will improve their playing staff with winners not inexperience players, so if we can’t pass the small test how can we expect to pass difficult ones….

  • iffy

    For me Ivan Gazidis is arsenal’s number 1 problem. He has condoned things long enough to create the kind of atmosphere @ arsenal today.

    He is a ruthless American sports business man whose main concern is profit. That is why arsenals ticket prices are the highest in England and why new arsenal kit is issued annually.

    Imagine if there was a true well educated British gunner @ d helm, would he condone d signing of squilaci when arsenal needs a giant cb that will strike fear in the heart of any striker, would his sole concern be the finances of the club while it becomes the laughing stock of the premier league, would he have the balls to call arsenal’s own supporter stupid people for voicing their concerns?.

    He is the one that makes us feel helpless, he is the one who sits down to tell us not to expect big name signing even though ticket prices have been increased. This greedy American has added nothing to the arsenal since he took charge in 2009 even though he is certainly one of the most influential members of the board that is spearheaded by yet another American.

    I‎​ suggest we get rid of this man if we want to see changes. In doing so our dear manager who has done so much for us will realise that he too can be touched and the new owner will come to undertand a bit more about the culture of the arsenal

  • Bonathan

    Odemwingbe??? scott parker??? are you for real. If we want to improve we need top class. Those players would struggle to make any impression on our team.

    Firstly, i think there needs to be a shake up in the backroom staff. Possibly a role for steve bould to play here. More attention needs to be on defending. In particular set pieces.

    Goalkeepers: Almunia needs to go. Seriously, just get shot of him. If the right good old veteran keeper who’s still got a couple of good years left in him comes up, then we should sign him. Then i’d send fabianski out on loan and let chesney battle it out with the golden oldie.

    Full backs: I think i’m happy with sagna and clichy for now. They are both at a good age and probably coming into, or already into their prime. They are probably two of our most experienced players now as well. I had my doubts over clichy but i feel he has improved this year defensively. Backup; at right back we’l have eboue and kyle bartly, two good, and very different options. LB we have Gibbs, who still has a lot to work on defensively, but with the right guidance, could challenge clichy for a starting post. Vermaelen could also be a good option to cover here if we can afford to move him from the middle, which, if we strenthen at CB, shouldn’t be a problem for the odd game.

    CB: keep TV, Kos, JD. Get rid of squillaci. Bring in the best CB we can possibly find for our money. Ideally he should be better than any we already have. With kyle bartley as well, we’d then have good strength in depth there. Send miguel out on loan.

    Midfield: i see our 3 central players as having 3 different roles. The defensive song role, the bit of both wilshire role, and the attacking fabregas role. What’s more, i’m happy with the 3 players mentioned, quality wise. They are all still improving as well.
    other options to song: diaby is no defensive midfielder. He should be able to play there, but he seriously can’t and we need to stop trying him there. Frimpong and kyle bartley are good back up options here. Denilson maybe as well.
    Wilshire back up: denilson, diaby and ramsey offer good options here.
    fabregas back up: ramsey and nasri

    the wider men. Everyone keeps saying about putting nasri in the fabregas role if he leaves. I agree, he’ll be excellent there. BUT, he’s the only one of our current options playing in those wider positions that has really excelled there. So i’d be careful about moving him anywhere. Why change a good thing? especially when not much else has been good. walcott and arshavin still have something to prove and need to start proving it for me. there’s not enough coming from them. We need another option here as well though. There should ideally be 4 strong options for these positions. Rosicky ain’t good enough any more. Get rid of him. Bentdner out wide simply should never happen again, and the fact that we’ve played him there highlights the fact that we need another option here. a decision needs to be made on vela. is he gonna reach the required standards?

    strikers: van persie excellent. CHamack for me is good cover. I think he’ll come better again. We need another good option here though and i’m not convinced bentner is ever going to give us that. I’d be very tempted to cash in on him as well.

    so, personally i would bring in a CB, wide player ,striker deffo. and possibly a keeper.

    out: almunia, rosicky, bentner.

    Of course, this is all assuming none of the other players leave. and let’s face it. there’s a good chance we’l lose fabregas. if we do, then we’re gonna have trouble replacing him to be honest. anyway, we’l see how that develops.

    to name names. i don’t see much foreign football at the mo so my players in mind are limited, but i’ll say:
    CB: Cahill, striker: milito wide player: not sure keeper:Given

  • Bonathan

    notice the 3 players i mentioned to bring in are all experienced as well. particularly given and milito. All 3 are likely to move club this summer as well. so let’s get them. all 3 could be signed for about 20 million.
    then spend another 10-15 on the wide man. even if we say all that comes to a bit more, say 40mill, given that we’ll get about 15 from the sale of bentdner, vela, almunia and eastomond, that’s only 25mill going out. which we need to be prepared for if we want to challenge seriously for anything.

  • Madmax

    Remember the man who changed the face of the Premier League? Remember the man who won the Double in 1998 and built the Invincible side of 2004? Do you remember that man? If you can find that Arsene, the Arsene we all fell in love with, I’m sure we can all learn to love you again, I promise.

    You built powerful, combative, direct, flamboyantly attacking teams, the likes of which had never been seen before or since. But, somewhere along the line you changed and it breaks my heart to even say this but, if you can not or will not change back to that man, well it might just be better for all concerned if we started seeing other managers and you found yourself a lovely new club to play with.

    After you saw how effectively the Spanish national side and Barcelona F.C. were dominating the vast footballing landscape it’s understandable that you tried to copy their style and formation but you have to admit that you’ve failed to see the full picture and neglected to copy ALL of Barcelona’s methods. That is why we are having this conversation AGAIN, ARSENE!

    While Barcelona were waiting for their current golden generation to blossom they made big money signings such as Rivaldo, Eto’o, Ronaldinho, Overmars, Henry and more recently Ibrahimovic and David Villa. These players helped show the fledgling Barcelona team what was required to win trophies, and they also added quality in areas that even their marvellous youth system couldn’t always provide for. I understand that you might not have always had the best financial resources available to you, due to the costs incurred by the construction of the London Colney training complex and the Ashburton Grove stadium, but surely now you could spend just a bit more freely? You really are starting to look like a right old miser, even though I admit your fashion sense has come a long way since 1996. Well, except for that massive blue jacket you just insist on wearing when it’s cold. Are you really that tight that you couldn’t even get yourself a decent jacket? You used to buy World Cup winners like Henry and Pires and proven winners like Sol Campbell, but now you buy players like Silvestre and Squillaci. Yes, I know that French football is no longer the force that it once was but you must realise that you can sign players from other countries besides your native France.

    If you look at the way that Barcelona and the Spainish national team play you should notice that while they play attacking possession football they are also extremely hardworking without the ball, positionally aware and defensively solid while we, on the other hand, are anything but those things. When you guided us through that unforgettable unbeaten season we conceded only 26 goals, ten goals fewer than we have already conceded this season. Where has the team spirit gone? The tight defence? The mental strength? Maybe you broke up that side a bit too hastily, Arsene, and now you are breaking all of our hearts.

    You used to know the value of big, strong athletic players but by trying to copy Barcelona and going for smaller, more mobile players you failed to consider just how different the Premier league is to La Liga. In La Liga the game is slower and far less physical than in the premiership and I would be interested to see how Barcelona would get on over the course of a full premiership season with our weather, playing on our pitches against the leg breakers of Stoke and Birmingham. You need to go back to signing experienced winners and physically imposing players like Patrick Viera, otherwise it might just be time to say Au Revoir and move on with our lives.

    Don’t look so sad. Yes, I know it’s hard. It’s hard for me too but at least we had that great unbeaten season, a couple of fantastic Doubles and we almost had Paris.

    Every time I walk into Ashburton Grove I’ll think of you. A part of me will always love you and look fondly upon our time together but things just can’t carry on as they are. It’s just not healthy.

  • yemi

    @ Bonathan:

    Odemwingie will make an impact on ANY team in the world. He is a great player !!! Maybe you are just noticing him because he just came to the EPL. Go and check out his records. Having said that, i don’t think he is what we need (except we let go of arshavin)

    “Odemwingie first plied his trade with Belgian club La Louviere and made his mark by helping the club to win the Belgian Cup in his first season. Scoring twenty nine goals in 44 appearances”

    He also scored 25 in 77 games for lokomotiv moscow which is impressive considering the playing environment there.

    At WBA he is on 15 goals. How many of our players score 15 in a season ? Please !!! be realisitic. He is also experienced..

    However i do agree with you that we need 1 GK, 1 CB(big), 1 wide player and one bully striker.

    4 (experienced) Players i think is all we need.

    We also need to get rid of B52, Rosisky, Diaby or denilson, squillaci, Alumina thereby making room for Frimpong, bartley and other young players.
    That way we would have older/matured players(proven winners) mixed with EPL experienced players (current crop) and youth(promoted players)

    1 more thing, i think we should also think of playing walcott more centrally like defoe/hernandez/osaze (pacey forwards)

  • jamessssb

    Bring in hazard,samba,lukaku/benzema. Completly agree with the comment about Barcelona … but i think wenger can turn it around! Look at the squad ! VP and benzema/lukaku upfront with hazard and walcott working the wings with wilshere and ramsey in the middle pinging balls left right and centre ! Then to the defence, sagna and gibbs (sell clichy) at right and lef tback and then samba and TV at centre backs! People dont seem to know that kosc was actually a right back and won 44 out of 44 one on ones at his previous club but we buy him and put in the wrong position! I think with 40 million spent in the summer we could be challengeing for proper trophies! bring in hazard, samba, lukaku and viera in a managing role ! LONG LIVE ARSENAL <3