By Billy “le chien” McGraw, visiting professor of psychology at the Centre hospitalier universitaire de Dijon, Dijon, France.
Well mes amis here I am at the University of Burgundy (I chose it because of the wine) and yet still keeping up with the ins and outs and roundabouts of the world of football.
And casting my eyes upon the waters of the insulternet I found this…
“We cannot have a situation where Summer of 2015 Arsene Wenger is allowed to amble through the off-season, unwilling to make tough decisions or take any risks.”
That quote from a blog (not mark you a bloggetta but a serious blog which I gather many readers of Untold also consider from temps de temps) seriously disturbed my afternoon nap today, (a nap I needed after a stroll round the cafes of Dijon in an attempt to get a good feel for the local vino) and not just because the grammar is wrong (although I corrected it in the quote above – and heaven knows I make more grammatical errors in one sentence than a mongoose eats crabs on a Friday afternoon in Hawaii) but because it struck me as odd.
There are several reasons why a manager might do nothing in the transfer window and I will come to them in a mo, but first take a look at the sentence above. Particularly “Arsene Wenger is allowed to amble through the off-season.”
And that made me wonder – what evidence was there for the ambling (flâner as we say in France, or perhaps marcher tranquillement). Did the writer catch sight of him out for a stroll peut-être or did Mr W have words with a journalist saying how lovely it was to take it easy in the summer months.
And then there is the word “allowed”. Someone “allowed” Mr Wenger the luxury of the amble – so who would that be? And more to the point how did the writer know? Was he there lurking in the car park as Mr W prepared to be driven home after the final game, only to see Mr Gazidis trot over and say, “it’s been a hard season monsieur le boss, you toddle on home, put your footsies up and watch back to back series of The Killing while I tidy the office up a bit.”
It seems unlikely.
So given that this scenario didn’t happen, what did?
The arrangements of the club vis a vis the future look of the team all takes time and a huge amount of knowledge which the manager doesn’t get by an “amble through the off-season, unwilling to make tough decisions or take any risks.” He took decisions about Wojciech Szczęsny, Lukas Podolski, Yaya Sanogo, Abou Diaby, Carl Jenkinson, Damián Martínez, Serge Gnabry, Joel Campbell, Ryo Miyaichi, Gedion Zelalem, and Chuba Akpom and I am not sure which ones of those were wrong.
But beyond all that internal activity there are several reasons why a manager might appear to do nothing in the transfer window.
It is true that there were no eye catching transfers that summer, but in the previous transfer year there were
|Jan 15||Gabriel Paulista||DF||Villarreal CF|
|Sept 14||Danny Welbeck||FW||Manchester United|
|July 14||Calum Chambers||DF||Southampton FC|
|July 14||David Ospina||GK||OGC Nice|
|July 14||Mathieu Debuchy||DF||Newcastle United|
|July 14||Alexis Sánchez||FW||FC Barcelona|
|July 14||Joel Campbell||FW||Olympiakos Piräus|
|July 14||Francis Coquelin||MF||SC Freiburg|
|July 14||Ignasi Miquel||DF||Leicester City|
|July 14||Jack Jebb||MF||Arsenal FC [Youth]|
|July 14||Glen Kamara||MF||Arsenal FC [Youth]|
|July 14||Emiliano Martínez||GK||Sheffield Wednesday|
|July 14||Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill||DF||Arsenal FC [Youth]|
Now you may exclaim that some of these “transfers” were in fact the sorting out of matters that related to players who were already at the club. But I would say that if M. Wenger didn’t do that we wouldn’t have Campbell, Bellerin, Iwobi and Coquelin in the first team now. It is the manager who has to take the final decision on all these players and see which ones should stay and which go, who should be loaned, and who should remain at Arsenal.
And just consider these youngsters. Where does the writer of the “ambling” comments think the manager gets his knowledge from in relation to whether Iwobi should stay, go or be loaned. On whether Coquelin was really the big deal in midfield, or who we should be signing in the future.
And that leads to another point – some of these deals take more than one transfer window to get through because the selling club won’t sell at all, or won’t sell to Arsenal. And there is the question of just how fast a team needs to be changed around. Bring in a whole new load of players each summer and you start getting a level of instability that is hard to correct.
Let’s also take the timing issue a stage further. Wenger saw that Coquelin could be the real deal in defensive midfield – a position that half the clubs in the Premier League were looking to fill. But he also knew that Coquelin was a different sort of player, and needed someone particular to play alongside him – another hard to find player.
Eventually he found him – off the radar of every other club and playing in Switzerland. Not just a great player but a player who was perfect to play alongside Coquelin. That transfer didn’t happen in the summer, but was undoubtedly being made ready.
Plus we know from Untold’s statistics that most transfers don’t come off in the first season – but quite a few more do progress over time. So there was a need to see how all the transfer activity bedded in.
Yet this writer has the knowledge that Mr Wenger was “unwilling to make tough decisions or take any risks.”
Perhaps he did make decisions but the deal was scuppered – but then even taking the decision not to buy another midfielder because Elneny would be able to move in January 2016 was a brilliant decision. Supposing he had bought another player of less ability. Would that have been a great decision?
No, I think not. And I think the evidence that the manager was “unwilling to make tough decisions or take any risks,” is simply not there.
Plus I’ve written all this without a mention of Jeff Reine Adelaide. Somewhere around that time a decision was made to go chasing him – and eventually it paid off. And I suspect we might well be thankful for that.
- Arsenal v Crystal Palace Sunday 17 April 2016 – The Match Officials. Arsenal achieve the 1 in 2 billion chance.
- Are Arsenal fans the only fans who are endlessly miserable? It seems not.
- PGMO admits Untold Arsenal was right
- Forget the training and the preparation. Get these two things right and you will win the league.
Untold Arsenal has published five books on Arsenal – all are available as paperback and three are now available on Kindle. The books are
- The Arsenal Yankee by Danny Karbassiyoon with a foreword by Arsene Wenger.
- Arsenal: the long sleep 1953 – 1970; a view from the terrace. By John Sowman with an introduction by Bob Wilson.
- Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football. By Tony Attwood, Andy Kelly and Mark Andrews.
- Making the Arsenal: a novel by Tony Attwood.
- The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal by Mark Andrews.
You can find details of all five on our new Arsenal Books page
- A selected anniversary from beyond football and a nice picture of the stadium and a train.
- Today’s Arsenal anniversaries and the Insult of the Day
- A list of the most recent posts from Untold and the Arsenal History Society
- Details of all the the books Untold Arsenal has published