In addition to the regulars, there are a couple of very good articles on similar subjects in the latest issue of The Gooner, which would have been on sale for the West Ham game today. One is by Simon Hill, a fellow AST Board member (and I’ll come back to that one in a couple of days) and the other is a very succinct piece by Chris Cann called Stopping The Rot.
I don’t know Chris, but he seems to have hit the nail quite hard on the head with his summary of Arsenal’s problems.
I will summarise briefly and leave you to read the full thing if you are a Gooner reader.
Chris is frustrated, as we all are, over Arsenal’s decline. We have so far stayed ahead of the likes of Spurs and Everton, but sometimes only just, and with the use of far greater resources. Why is this? Chris lists six reasons:
1 – Arsenal’s owner is purely a businessman making an investment, and is happy with the status quo.
2 – The rest of the Board have sunk into complacency, having taken their money while still enjoying the privileges of ownership.
3 – Arsene Wenger has lost his advantage. He could previously buy world class or potential world class players from abroad that the rest of England wasn’t even looking at. Now Chelsea and Man City are always there to outbid him. He generally refuses to buy proven Premier League talent on principle of price.
4 – Our player turnover has become far too high, because although the set up still attracts (mainly) youngsters, all the best players want to leave for trophies and/or more money.
5 – Linked to four, a lack of strength in depth. We always seem to have players either permanently injured or just proven not good enough.
6 – High wages have not been matched by performance. We’re no longer very close to teams with similar wage bills – Man U – and struggle to stay ahead of some teams with wage bills around half the size.
Chris offers solutions to the last three of these, on the assumption that the owner isn’t going anywhere so we’re a bit stuck on the first three. Solutions aren’t as easy as stating problems, though.
On player turnover, the suggestion is to tie a core of players down to long contracts, but of course this is easier said than done. A long contract doesn’t necessarily mean no sale, it just means Arsene says there won’t be one, then there’s a protracted period of bull from all sides before the player leaves.
Regarding the lack of strength in depth, the key – as I think we all know – is to have two players challenging for most or all positions on the field. Preferably one up and coming youngster and one more experienced player – and let’s face it there are plenty around who would improve the squad right now.
Wages seems to be the tricky one, though. We are stuck with players on high wages who can’t be sold because no one else will pay them anything like Arsene has decided they’re worth. Chris Cann thinks the problem will resolve itself fairly shortly because the problem contracts are mostly soon coming to an end. However, unless Arsene changes his philosophy and stops awarding novice youngsters with lucrative contracts far beyond their open market worth, the problem will remain. The likes of Ivan Gazidis have publicly acknowledged that the wage structure is a problem, but as long as Arsene has total control over what he does with the budget, it’s difficult to see too much change. We can only hope that the recent contracts announced have been more realistic than those in the recent past.