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.
- The stadium
- The transfers
- 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?