This is something I wrote a couple of months ago while the season was still going on, but unless I’m going mad and can’t find it, I never posted it here. I just found it again, and with a few tweaks it’s still pertinent, given that no money has yet been spent this summer.
There’s been a dilemma for Arsenal fans for several years: would we rather have a trophy or a Champions League spot? Many would now choose a humble League Cup if it meant hoisting something shiny and silver, but as soon as all chances for that are gone for another season, we’ll take fourth place, thanks very much.
But the problems don’t end there. Dilemma number two: even if we end up in the top four, should we stick with a manager who consistently delivers a top four place but nothing else for eight long years, or do we jump into the unknown? (I know; we Arsenal fans are very, very spoilt. About 89 other clubs would happily swap positions. That’s a discussion for another time.) Do we keep Arsène, hoping that he might splash out some of the vast cash pile Arsenal have accumulated and restore our former glories, while still having the safety net that he seems to always get us into the top four anyway? Or do we give a new manager the cash pile to spend on the basis that someone should? These end of season parades with the bank statement are getting dull.
So keep Arsène and be relatively successful but probably without an actual trophy, or ditch him, spend a load of money and possibly be very successful – or quite possibly less successful. If you don’t spend big money in football these days you won’t win things. The problem is that spending big money doesn’t guarantee success, it just improves the chances.
The plain fact is that the current Arsenal team is not good enough to win the League. What it needs is a stronger spine: more solid keeper and at least one central defender, and top class centre forward. The team needs money spending on it, but it doesn’t need someone to come in and throw everything away and start again, it just needs the current manager to be a bit bolder in the transfer market. The money is there. We all know the money is there, it’s plainly visible in the accounts. This is the frustration for Arsenal fans: we’re never so far away from success that we give up hope and say let’s start again from scratch, we’re always a couple of very good players away from a great side.
We used to have great players. You forget how good they were unless you watch something to remind yourself now and again, so here’s a link to ten minutes of Arsenal from 2003-2005. It’s breathtaking football, and you can forget any notion of the current Arsenal squad being the best ever.
Being a football manager is easy. Being a good football manager is much harder. You can’t easily define the ideal manager because really at best there’s only an ideal manager with a particular set of players. As Arsenal fans we’d be foolish to throw everything away by getting rid of Arsène Wenger too soon, when with a little boldness and relatively minor changes we could be genuine challengers again. By that I mean just spending the money in the bank. Not worrying if the asking price is £2m higher than your own valuation, and dithering until another club steps in and makes the decision for you.
Alex Ferguson spent £24m on a 29 year old striker last summer. That was not a long-term investment, but it was enough to provide a season of goals and the momentum to win back the title. The financial benefit of being champions of the most widely watched league in the world is easily worth £24m. This summer Fergie will probably do something similar, and next season his team will still be challenging. They won’t win the title every year, but they will be challenging.
If Arsenal and Arsène had followed the same policy of speculating (just a little) to accumulate, we could still be fighting for first rather than fourth. We’re not even talking about spending money that isn’t there, JUST MONEY THE CLUB ALREADY HAS IN THE BANK! That’s the frustration of being an Arsenal fan.
One thing’s for sure: Arsène Wenger is not getting sacked anytime soon. The only person who could make that decision is Stan Kroenke, and he has no interest in getting rid of a man who keeps the pounds rolling in. Even if Arsenal hadn’t finished in the top four, the only person who would make Arsène Wenger leave Arsenal is Arsène Wenger. So this summer I’m resigned to ‘only’ having another season of Champions League football to look forward to. But if the money is spent this summer, maybe it’s a different story next year. Go on Arsène, amaze us. You’ve done it before.