By Proud Kev
Walters great articles on some of our unsung and ‘cheap’ young talent, should make people think. Why do we have this obsession on transfer values and spending money? Do you really have to spend big money every transfer window to have success?
Now the FFM’s would state categorically that the answer to this question is yes. They would use Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez as evidence to support that argument, which would be hard to dismiss.
However, you could equally use the £100m Gareth Bale money Spurs invested and Manchester United’s £80m plus outlay on Di Maria and Falcao to counter that argument. This is without even entertaining the emergence of players like Francis Coquelin and Hector Bellerin.
Certainly the narrative from the media and the dissenting voices is that you have to spend big. They praise clubs spending big money on transfer fees but are ominously quiet when those players signed bomb. A player like Francis Coquelin will be called ‘good fortune’ and despite his on field performances the sneering voices will continue to claim we need a Defensive Midfielder.
The narrative continues that Wenger is tight and doesn’t like spending money.
This narrative claims that Arsene Wenger is tight. He is Stubborn. He won’t spend money because he doesn’t like spending money. A Manager who is so stubborn, he would rather lose games than spend money.
Every transfer window is cited as evidence against the accused. The narrative says Arsene Wenger cannot build defences and that Arsenal has never been able to defend. Every goal conceded is highlighted and dissected by the pundits, conveniently ignoring any facts that contradict this view. In fact, the narrative goes further; it suggests that Wenger was only successful on the back of the George Graham back four, an often repeated attempt to discredit Wengers success.
Despite the recycling of this narrative is it actually true?
Well the FFM have convinced themselves it is; happy to recycle and repeat to the already brainwashed fellow FFM’s. A false narrative recycled by mischief makers, agenda followers and those who believe Football Management is like popping down to the local Supermarket with your bag for life tucked under your arm. An ideology of spend, spend, spend.
It is easy to expose the lie; let’s start at the beginning to the rebuilding of the Arsenal back four:
Rebuilding the back four 2000 and beyond
Wenger knew the old legs were tired. The entire back four needed to be replaced and a new goalkeeper found. Wenger needed better ball players at the back in order to play the fluid possession based football he prefers. Arsene made his plans along with his scouts and searched for the players he wanted, slowly integrating them into the team with experienced players. A massive rebuilding job required of a man the narrative suggests knows nothing about defending.
These were the players he bought in and the transfer fees he paid:
Lauren (£7.2m) Right Back
In 2000 Wenger signed the 23 year old Spaniard Lauren from Mallorca for £7.2m. A midfield player converted to play Right Back. Lauren was equally comfortable with the ball as he was making tackles and became an instant fan favourite. He played 32 games in our Invincible season.
Sol Campbell (Free) Centre Back
In 2001 Sol Campbell arrived on a free, courtesy of Bosman. His signing sent the ugly half of North London into a frenzy, after their club captain decided to swap two things: Losing for winning and a giant Cock for a Cannon. He played 35 games in our Invincible season.
Kolo Toure (£150,000) Centre Back
In 2002 a twenty year old Ivorian named Kolo Toure arrived for a trial. He played 37 games in our Invincible season. The story told by Ray Parlour about Kolo’s trial game, is worth repeating for those who may not know this hilarious story:
…the Kolo Toure trial
Parlour claims that Arsene Wenger likes to play trialists in small games, so he set up Martin Keown and Kolo Toure to play against Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp. Not long into the trial and the ball’s played into Thierry Henry. From nowhere Kolo has come running in and taken Henry out from behind with a terrible tackle, a two footed tackle that would have been a red card in a game. Our best players rolling around on the ground and Arsene Wenger’s shouting: “Kolo, Kolo what are you doing, don’t tackle, don’t tackle”. Well Kolo Toure is all ‘sorry, sorry, sorry’.
Henry and Bergkamp had swapped now and the ball goes into Dennis. Kolo Toure does the same thing, two foots Dennis Bergkamp. We’re all saying, ‘oh my god this is terrible, our two best players, how are we going to win the league if our two best players have been taken out by a trialist?! He must be working for somebody else…..’.
Anyway, Wenger starts shouting, ‘’okay, okay no more tackling, no more tackling’’. Kolo Toure’s going ‘yes, yes, yes, sorry boss, sorry, sorry…’ Anyway the ball comes in and Kolo Toure makes a great tackle and the ball flicks up in the air.
Now in these games Arsene Wenger would stand in between the midfield and the forwards to look at the movement. And so there he is: the ball’s gone up in the air and Kolo’s keeping his eyes on the ball and as the balls in the air where does it land? Right by Wengers foot and he’s only gone and two footed Arsene Wenger!! Proper tackle, he’s taken him out and all you can hear is ‘ooh, agh, ooh, agh….’ The lads are like, oh my god this is unbelievable, the trialist has taken out Henry, Bergkamp and Arsene Wenger on his trial. Now Wengers had to limp off to the medical room. So Kolo Toures nearly crying, he’s going “oh no, I can’t believe it”. But he’s taken out our two best players and the Manager.
Next day I go to the medical room and Arsene Wenger is sitting there with a big ice pack on his ankle. I felt sorry for Kolo so I said to Arsene, “I don’t think he meant to kick you like that boss”. Arsene goes “what, look at my ankle” and he’s got a big lump. I said, “Boss I don’t think he meant it”. Wenger said, “I know he didn’t mean it. I like his desire, I’ve decided to sign him………..”
But Kolo wasn’t the only nutter we signed, next up is the crazy German goalkeeper.
Jens Lehmann (£1.5m) Goalkeeper
Jens was signed in 2003 from Dortmund. The crazy German replaced David Seaman and became a legend ; probably the most entertaining goalkeeper we have ever had. His handling was assured and the biggest compliment you can play is that we didn’t miss David Seaman. He played all 38 league games in our Invincible season.
Ashley Cole (Free) Left Back
No comment. 32 games in our invincible season.
The entire back four including a goalkeeper had been rebuilt for a combined cost of just under £9m. This group of players would go on to be the foundation for our unbeaten season, the Invincibles and break Champions League records for clean sheets on their way to the Champions League Final.
The narrative we so often hear repeated crumbles upon simple examination.
This is clear proof Arsene Wenger knows a thing or two about defending. He replaced the George Graham back four and built a defence that went a season unbeaten as well as breaking clean sheet records on the way to the Champions League final. He achieved this for a total investment under £9 million.
Arsene Wenger is a visionary. He ignores transfer values and buys a player based on what his eyes tell him, not what the transfer fee suggests. He is the antidote to cheque book management. He is the anti-christ to the FFM.
Thierry Henry was a wing back struggling in Italian football before Arsene Wenger transformed him into one of the finest goalscorers in World football. Francis Coquelin has confounded the Wenger critics with his development. Hector Bellerin is another example.
How many more players does Arsene Wenger have to ‘find or ‘develop’ before the truth finally hits home! Is this really luck?
If you look at defending today and the transfer fees being paid, the Invincibles looks to be one of the finest achievements in Premier League history. Pound for pound it is unrivalled. You don’t have to take my word for it, just look at the recent transfer fees being paid for so called ‘proven’ defenders.
MAN CITY have recently spent £60m on two defenders; £32m on Mangala and £28m on Otamendi. This is excluding the £22m they spent on Joleon Lescott in 2009. MAN UTD spent £31m on Luke Shaw, £16m on Marcos Rojo and another £13m on the Italian Darmian.
ARSENAL has been much more conservative in their spending. In the last three years we have signed left back Monreal for just £7m, World Cup Winner Mertesacker £8m, Koscielny £10m, Debuchy £12m with Hector Bellerin signed from the Barcelona academy. Gabriel Paulista is the invisible transfer, a player signed for £11m – invisible because as he wasn’t signed in the recent transfer window, the FFM refuse to count him as a signing. Nonetheless, all these players have proved to be great acquisitions and offer more quality than the £60m the two Manchester clubs spent on just 2 or 3 players.
The evidence is there if you care to look for it.
Arsene Wenger is one of the greatest talent spotters and team builders of his generation. He builds success, he does not buy it.
This is a narrative you will never hear from the FFM. They do not have the knowledge or the willingness to accept the inconvenient truth. The truth hurts.
…….almost as much as being kicked by Kolo Toure.