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Wenger: a cunning fox or the man who threw it all away

In the end that is what is seems to come down to.  Is Wenger, as I believe, not just a genius manager, but one who is able to adapt to changing circumstances BEFORE they happen, or is he exactly the opposite: a man so transfixed with his own vision that he can’t change.

The negative case is the easier one to pitch: Arsenal had year after year ending up either first or second in the EPL – plus a selection of cup wins.  Players could come and go, and yet the succcess rolled on.  Wenger could kick out Ian Wright without even letting him touch the ball in a cup final, and yet still find better and better players.   Anelka goes, in comes Henry – the never ending chain.   Then, suddenly he lost it, and now we probably won’t get into Europe next season.

The positive case is more subtle – and thus harder to pitch.   Wenger’s most staggering invention (world-wide scouting) was copied widely, while billionaire owners came along able to by-pass the hard work because there were willing to spend anything on anyone, just to try and put a winning team together.  After months of hard work Arsenal could discover player X, only to find someone else coming in at the last minute with an insane bid.

Against such tactics Arsenal could not compete.  Yes the brilliant players still came through, but they were harder to find, and had to be purloined at a younger and younger age.  Even then, the late night prowlers from the KGB in Fulham, and more recently Sheik Yermoney’s men in Manchester, could always outbid anything Arsenal did.

To counteract this Wenger came up with a new twist – building a youth team that incorporated the best players in the world at their age, signed in a way that other clubs couldn’t match.  By giving these players an early chance in the team (he argued) he would then become known as the manager who gives youth its chance – making the players more likely to come to Arsenal than go anywhere else.

The benefit of course is that we can attract these wonderful young players (Theo, Ramsey, to name but two).  The downside is that they are still young, and so can make errors.

But there is an upside which most followers of the negative approach don’t recognise.  It is this: young players are generally much better at changing their style and approach than older players.   Take someone like Cesc – playing alongside a Gilberto or Denilson he plays in one way.   Playing alongside Flamini, he does it differently.

Because fans generally like players who push forward and shoot, the Cesc next to Flamini is considered “good” while the most defensive Cesc next to Denilson is considered “negative” or “a restriction on his talent”.  “He’s forced to play further back,” is the common complaint, forgetting that Denilson on the other hand is playing more forward than Flamini.

But to me the argument in the end is about sustainability.  The billionaire model (KGB Fulham, Sheik Yermoney Manchester, Aston “hold your head if you go down” Villa, West Iceland United), just like the “buy the club with its own money” approach that has been used at Manchester B and Liverpool I, cannot and will not be sustained.    One instance: we still don’t know how Liverpool are going to refinance – and they have to do it this month, or the banks take over.  West Ham are desparately looking for money and can’t find it anywhere.

Arsenal have none of these problems and yet many supporters refuse to believe that the likes of Manchester and Liverpool could fall apart.  Perhaps it is just us old farts who believe it, because we saw Manchester Bankrupt and the tiny totts in the second division, and can remember Liverpool and KGB Fulham as nothingness clubs.

The uniqueness of Arsenal is that it keeps reforming itself and coming back for more.  My father went to Highbury and watched one of the greatest teams in the world in the 1930s.  I have done the same since Wenger arrived.

Sustainability – which means at the moment the youth policy and waiting for success – means that Arsenal will be around, at the top, for the rest of my life.   I doubt that this will be true of Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, West Ham United, Chelsea or Aston Villa.

(c) Tony Attwood 2009

19 comments to Wenger: a cunning fox or the man who threw it all away

  • sid

    We’ve got problems all over the pitch. Arshavin would solve some problems, but Senderos would create others.

  • raj

    Theo Walcott is in negotiations with Arsenal Football Club over a new contract. Rather than leave the Emirates Stadium at the end of the season, the agent of the England international has hit back at claims the player is unhappy at the Gunners. Indeed, Colin Gordon confirmed the former Southampton youngster is in talks with Arsene Wenger¿s side about extending his time in North London. “We are negotiating with Arsenal and we are doing so very serenely,¿ said Gordon. “I think that we will not have any difficulty to renew the contract.” Goes to show you why you cant trust the tabliods who get quotes from Walcott representatives, which could in theroy be anyone who has helped him out on a daily bases so the local school teacher maybe.

  • gunner32

    People go on about Arshavin being a late bloomer, and “if he is so good why hasn’t he been picked up by someone else earlier?”. But who can honestly say that Zidane was a household name until he was around 25 years old or so. OK i’m sure some people would have heard of him but was he really on any English football fans radar until he was playing for Juventus. (Even tho Arsenal very nearly signed him just before his transfer to Juve in a double swoop for him and Lizarazu from Bordeaux. This was back when teamtalk was a teletext page and had an extortionately priced phone line that i used to call every day after school for transfer news… to my parents fury!!!) Dont get me wrong, i’m not comparing Zidane to Arshavin in terms of quality. In my opinion, Zidane along with Bergkamp are the two greatest footballers i have had the pleasure of watching. However whats to say Arshavin could not have a strong impact on our team and go on to become a great signing for us. He has undoubted class and ability. His touch and vision look fantastic. He has pace and skill to beat players. Lets face it, if he wasn’t good Wenger would not want to sign him. I for one would be very happy seeing him run out at the Emirates.

  • Colonel Mustard

    Quote – Because fans generally like players who push forward and shoot, the Cesc next to Flamini is considered “good” while the most defensive Cesc next to Denilson is considered “negative” or “a restriction on his talent”. “He’s forced to play further back,” is the common complaint, forgetting that Denilson on the other hand is playing more forward than Flamini” – …..Denilson is being cultivated as some cult hero based on OPTA indexes and such shite. He is a worthy deputy to Cesc …no more. A blind man could see that Cesc’s natural game suffered in the fitting a square peg into a round hole when they both play together. On the general theme of the article, you suggest the difference between the huge spenders and the youth policy but really where Wegner had failed was to go to the extreme with the youth policy. 3-4 experienced pros would have made last years team a lethal prospect but alas it two steps back as we continue to lose shining lights as they progress. its inevitable we will lose Cesc as he continues to be surrounded by the mediocre Diaby, Denilson, eboue and Song. its insane really. You talk like if we open the cheque book even a little we are doomed. This can’t possibly be the case or we really are.

  • gunner32

    please please please can some1 explain to me why as fans/ supporters there is so much negativity about the team and even more so Arsene right now. Now I don’t get to many games but does this mean i’m not watching the same games or i don’t have the same manager than what i call the ‘negs’ on here! Its not the end of the world, were not about to be relegated and we are in 5th spot, 3 points from a champions league place with 1/2 the season still to play. We’ve been here before when we pipped the yids to 4th spot, remember! I’ve read loads of these posts recently and am amazed at how negative so many are – raging about the attitude of players like Gallas and the commitment of Bentdner- it doesn’t take a genious to work out that if the fans aren’t behind the team, a young team at that, that negativity will spread, yes even to the players, after they can read too, they can hear the boos and more importantly football is a confidence game and right now if i were that way inclined if i was a player i might be reaching for my noose – come on the mightly gunners, wenger do your magic after all we’ve still got 21 whole days of the transfer window!!!

  • gunner32

    As the Spuds continue to splash their cash and find yet another £15m to sign a striker today, we at Arsenal are left to make do with both manager and club chairman talking about the affects of the current economic climate and how it influences our transfer policy.

    I’m certain that I am not the only Arsenal fan who is furious as to why we remain prudent; considering the great wealth’s that we pull in from the Emirates. It simply makes a mockery as to why we supposedly needed to move there in the first place and it is clear it has become nothing less than a financial burden- I often wonder if in the last three years we would have remained trophy less had we actually stayed at Highbury.

    So cash strapped is seemingly the company line and Wenger is being forced to scrape the barrel in order to bring reinforcements to a club that has seemingly shut up shop already this season and whose greatest challenge this year is to merely retain our status as a Top-4 club. Our title challenge finished long ago and we don’t have enough strength in our squad to mount a serious assault on the Champions League, therefore we should use this window to start laying the foundations for next season and bring in players and blood them in, whilst shifting out some deadwood, or should I say those who have outstayed their welcome.

    I have to say that I have always been a huge fan of Kolo Toure over the years. One of the invincibles, Kolo in my eyes has been one of our most consistent performers and in my mind should have been given the captains armband when Henry moved to Barca. I honestly believe that mentally Toure hasn’t recovered from the snub, especially as it was given to his not so friendly sidekick and we have seen the player’s performance level and consistency drop. Toure and Gallas has never looked like the match made in heaven, however I can’t help but feel that Wenger sacrificed the wrong player.

    Speculation has been rife in the past few weeks that all is not well with the Ivorian. Reports of a training ground bust up with Gallas, followed by an apparent transfer request, and the constant £8m links to Manchester City suggest that Toure feels it is time to move on. I will be sad to see him go, but I really think a clean break is needed by both parties. Arsene has apparently turned down Kolo’s request for a move, but I wonder if it is honestly would be a wise move to keep a player whose head is clearly elsewhere. Whether Wenger is merely biding his time and hoping to clinch a £5m+Bendtner swap deal with West Ham for Matt Upson before agreeing to let him go remains to be seen, but for me it is the right move for all parties and in Upson we will have more than an adequate replacement for the Ivorian.

  • raj

    my take on arshavin is, 20 million is out of the question,and with his buyout clause,12 million is more realistic,or a loan deal until the end of the season,though his 90k a week will have to come down. bedntner will be sold this month on a part exchange deal with some sort of defensive holding midfield player,as wenger has publically stated that his patience has run out with him. toure may leave on the same principle as above,though i feel it would be an unwise move as he obviously hasn’t recovered from his malaria bout,and personally i would rather see gallas go in the summer,as it is clear too many players don’t see eye to eye with him.i haven’t got a problem with inflated egos in a winning team(sherringham/cole) but not when we lack consistency.Surely the priority is to bolster the defence first and foremost and buy or part exchange players from within our league,so at least insure 4th spot.I will say in wenger’s defence,if he has had little or no money in these last 18 months,he has done a tremendous job to keep us in or around the top 4.on the other hand,if money was available,and he is hell bent on this youth policy,he is answerable to more and more fans as the weeks go on.

  • gary

    I’m not sure where I stand on the possibility of signing arshavin – on one hand I do think he has shown enough to suggest that he can play but on the other hand has he shown enough to suggest that he can do it consistantly and can he stand up to the physical nature of this league ? I do feel that it is somewhat unfair of us to assume that he isnt good enough or is just a one season wonder cos we aint heard of him before this year – I mean lets be honest which of us are avid followers of the russian league plus of course we live in a media zone that thinks the sun rises and sets with the premier league so that can be misleading. What I will say is this….we need a few quality signings in jan (not 1 or 2 arsene ) and these signings would need to be able to bring proven quality, no small amount of physical toughness and of course some much needed experience. Now I also believe that, as a club, we need to make 1 really big signing to show all those that are writing our epitaph that we are not a club on the decline but a club that is on the way back. The club need to send out a message to the fans, sponsors and rival clubs that we are not going to sit idly by and give up all that we as a club have worked so hard for over the last few years and that we are ambitious, not just in talk but also in actions, to make this club the number 1 club in the world I believe that it is also important to show that ambition to all our players so that players like cesc can see genuine reasons to stay and players like diaby, bedtner, eboue(no point in mentioning song ) etc will see that we are no longer willing to indulge them when they are playing shit – from here on in it is up to the players to up their quality and performances to our level and not up to the club to drop their standards to those players levels so shape up or get out.

  • mason

    what makes arsenal arsenal? is it the players? is it the style of their play? or are you all just supporting a name? kolo has appeared in more than half the arsenal fixtures in the last 8 years. does that make him part of arsenal? does kolo make arsenal arsenal? or would bringing in a bunch of new players define the new arsenal? you guys need to grow up. you’re all nowhere near the level of management that wenger is at, nor the board of directors. to most of you, arsenal’s just a football club. but to others, it’s their business, their life. to the players, it’s for the passion. look at walcott. look at fabianski. so we’ll bring in upson, arshavin, veloso and alonso? then what happens? arsenal will be overcrowded with players that are first-team quality. the balance is almost there. we just need one, maximum two more signings. that’ll make the competition for first-team football fair. this isn’t master league. this isn’t football manager. it’s real life soccer.

  • mason

    for those that dont want him (ashravin) i ask one question, eboue diaby or denilson on the wing or a proven scoring international in arshavin

  • Mike Gunner 79

    I couldn’t agree with the writer of this article more – I would be of the positive side. Money , which ultimately means the fans pocket (TV, Shirts, Tickets and pies), earned through the sales to fans for supporting their club, is used to buy their club (ticket prices etc rose in utd, liverpool chelsea etc). Yes ours rose too but that was to finance the new stadium which is a capital investment and therefore something that will be used to fund the club. Imagine if henry was just on the cusp of a signing for arsenal today – we couldn’t get him because some oligarch would bid 30m. It is time for UEFA & FIFA to stop clubs wasting money – especially in the light of the economic downturn and that many fans will be laid off. But alas they wont. Here in Ireland, 5 to 6 clubs are in trouble over money. Now dont laugh but some of the sums are sub €500,000.00. That would represent the wages over 6 weeks of some of the top players in the EPL. Sad or what. Success is long term. Success is buolding a club and keeping it in the top. Success yes is lovely when there is silverware, but it is also measured in respect and Wenger has that in abundance.

  • arsenalcolumn.wordpress.com

    The move to Emirates has affected his transfer dealings as has the increased wealth of the such clubs in the league making it harder to get second and first spot. Injuries have become a bigger problem otherwise we would have won the leagu last year. We have some top players a signing may stick the whole team together.
    Wenger’s way of playing has nothing wrong with it. Movement and quick passing is hard to defend but the problem now more than ever is clubs are parking their defence in front of the box and we haven’t got the players to defeat them.
    A) we need more crosses and beating the full back as we Adebayor and RVP who are not used much in the air.
    B) we need people breaking into the box more often. What Fabregas did at the start of last season was that but not anymore.

    Regarding Arshavin; he is not a late bloomer. He has established himself in Zenit since he was 19 and Hiddik and Advocat identified when they came in that he would be the star it just ttok someone to get it out of him and go that extra level.

  • Ole Gunner

    It’s less complex than all that. The league has become much harder to win. The invincibles lost the league to Chelsea in 2005 despite being many points ahead at the start. There was a transition. It happens to every team.

    It’s really that simple. If it were still us and Manchester Bankrupt, we’d most probably have won the league again since 2004. Our period of transition coincided with a time when it became all that much harder to win the league.

  • deafmetal

    Sheik Yerbooty! Love it.

    Seems like a lot of so called fans are just ‘Flakes’. Mr ‘Dancin’ Fool’ Arshavin would probably do very well coming to the ‘City of Tiny Lites’. I don’t think he’s past his prime at all, in fact I think the PL might well turn him into a midfield ‘Jones Crusher’.

    Bendtner needs to go it must be said, his ‘I’m So Cute’ routine has nothing but ‘Broken Hearts are for Assholes’ written all over it.

    Anyway Tony, I’m off to Try And Grow A Chin, read you later…

  • Colonel Mustard

    deafmetal – an Enigma machine would’nt decode that

  • Will

    thank god he didn’t work for the nazis.

  • don't believe the hype

    Just wanted to say I completely agree with you Tony.

    Some of the posters on here are a bit schizophrenic though!

  • MoMONEY

    Great post. Wenger is indeed way ahed of the times and this often makes him look crazy in the eyes of outsiders… Thankfully the board recognizes his immense capability. The man knows how to run a club better then anyone out there IMO. Anyone

  • Colonel Mustard

    But MoMoney…are the fan and the boards interests aligned?? Do they just see it as a prudent sustainable business or like we see it as a club we want to achieve success?