As I mentioned a couple of days ago, there are a couple of articles on similar subjects in the latest issue of The Gooner, the subject being: Where has it gone wrong for Arsenal? Chris Cann listed six problems, that I talked about in my last post. Simon Hill has concentrated on one: Arsene Wenger’s ability to buy a decent player.
This is a slightly abridged version of Simon’s piece that appears in The Gooner, and I’d urge you to read the full thing in the printed edition or using the app. Simon has given me full permission to use his words. Over to him.
“Arsene Wenger has always had an eye for a calamitous signing (Richard Wright, Jeffers, Stepanovs), but in his early years at Arsenal he also unearthed real world-beating gems like Anelka, Vieira and Henry.
However, from about 2004 that seems to have changed for two reasons. Firstly, for a few years Alex Ferguson got fed up and focused his efforts abroad and on what Arsene was up to and, more significantly, Abramovich knocked him out of the water especially in France. So in 2004 Essien and Drogba went to Chelsea and Cristiano Ronaldo went to Man Utd. And so began the gradual relative decline of the Arsenal squad. Let’s review Arsenal’s ins and outs since 2005, a period where a squad size of about 70 has been maintained. Since the departure of Vieira in 2005 Arsene has persistently sold his best assets and reinvested less wisely than in his early years.
2005-06: Vieira left, Adebayor, Walcott, Diaby and Song arrived. Adebayor was unstable, Walcott and Song burned slow and left or appear to be leaving just as they are becoming useful, while Diaby has been with us for six years, is permanently injured but on a stonking £3m+ a year deal.
2006-07: Cole, Pires and Campbell left; Gallas, Sagna, Rosicky and Denilson arrived. Sagna was a good signing, Gallas was a good player but too similar to Toure. Rosicky was another hospital case and Denilson had four years in and around the first team before Arsene finally admitted he wasn’t good enough. But he still can’t be sold as his wages are so huge relative to his ability.
2007-08: Henry and Reyes departed; Eduardo, Hleb and Fabianski arrived, with ‘The Beast’ only signed on loan rather than permanently for the £12m Arsene wanted to pay! Eduardo was briefly a talent, as was Hleb who hotfooted it out of English football at the first opportunity. This was the campaign where Lassana Diarra came and went in four short months, as he was dismayed at being behind Denilson in the pecking order. Diarra ultimately went to Real Madrid for £20m; Denilson can’t be given away.
2008-09: Flamini walked and Gilberto was sold for a token amount. Nasri, Ramsey, Silvestre (!) and Arshavin arrived. Nasri played well in short bursts, Arshavin shone brightly but then plummeted. Ramsey looks to have regressed, certainly in terms of the goals he promised.
2009-10: The property crash starved Arsenal of funds, the Board refused to raise any, and only Vermaelen signed up. Toure and Adebayor were sold to raise cash and Senderos was let go. It was supposed to be Bendtner and Eduardo up front, Diaby and Denilson to save the midfield.
2010-11: The collapse. In: Chamakh, Koscielny, Wellington and Squillaci. Out: Eduardo, Gallas and Silvestre. Squillaci was out of his depth, Chamakh bombed after a bright start, Koscielny was too raw to rely on. As for Wellington, there’s £4m plus huge agent’s fees we’ve never seen kick a ball. Fabregas, Nasri and Clichy all ended the season asking to be allowed to serve their best years elsewhere.
2011-12: With those three leaving, the replacements cost £78m: Gervinho, Jenkinson, the Ox, Mertesacker, Arteta, Park, Myaichi, Santos, Joel Campbell.
In 2012-13 Arsene has perhaps done better, but let’s look at what’s left of that list of buys:
Rosicky and Diaby – in hospital
Walcott – on the verge of leaving
Ramsey – less of a player than when he came
Fabianski – in a straitjacket
TV5 – a good player having a bad time
Kos – improving, but prone to bloopers
Wellington and Campbell – never on these shores
The Ox – frustrated and in a box
Myaichi and Park – on loan/given away for a £5m hit
Gervinho – missing an open goal a game
Jenkinson – in need of playing time
Arshavin, Chamakh and Squillaci – unloanable and unsellable
Arteta and Mertesacker – playing and delivering for the team
That we now see a bench of players we can’t give away is frankly ludicrous. It’s what you’d expect of QPR, not Arsenal, and not of a manager who has had 16 years to shape his squad. At the heart of the problem is Arsene’s stubbornness and refusal to pay more than his perceived value for a player, and at he other end his refusal to sell a player for less than he thinks he’s worth. This sees Arsenal with 70 players on the books but a struggle to fill a bench competitively and a wage bill of £140m per annum and rising. It sees players like Denilson, Chamakh, Bendtner, Wellington and Squillaci still hanging round despite having ‘any offers considered’ labels around their necks for two seasons or more.
Meanwhile, other teams’ buying policies have adapted. City and Chelsea focus almost entirely on the top £20m+ bracket, while Fergie and Spurs go for proven Premier League talent, leaving only Newcastle and Everton as followers of Arsene’s second tier European league buying strategy.
The problem isn’t just that Arsene’s sub-standard buying policy has seen team weakness, but that it has led to huge numbers of highly paid players being stuck on the club’s books eating up £30m-£40m of budget.
My solution? Two things:
1 – Force Arsene to stratify his squad into three sections: ‘core’, ‘monitor’ and ‘move on’. Redraw the list every six months and place limits around the number of players he can have in ‘monitor’ so as to prevent a situation like now, where in the striker bracket you arguably have nine players – Bendtner, Chamakh, Wellington, Campbell, Arshavin, Afobe, Watt, Ansah and Chalobah! Players in monitor are either on loan or on a six-month plan and those in ‘move-on’ are passed to Gazidis and his team to get off the books at the least cost as soon as possible.
2 – Tell Arsene he must mirror the policies of SAF, City, Chelsea and Spurs, and buy either proven Premier League experience or top, top talent. There are some signs he is going that way, but he still must be forced to swallow his pride and buy players that other managers found ahead of him or all managers covet.”
(Simon Hill would like to point out that he has never worked half a day in football.)
I think that’s great stuff from Simon – the only question is who is going to force Arsene to implement the changes. And yes, changes do need to be made, however great you think Arsene Wenger is.
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