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What Does Arsenal Have To Change In 2017?

What Does Arsenal Have To Change In 2017?

By Bobby Davidson

Last year was good, although inevitably not at as good as some Arsenal fans wanted. Not just because we were top of the league for a while, only to be overtaken by Leicester, but also because the opportunity of a third cup win – for the first time in the last 100 or so years, was missed with a defeat to Watford.

Of course for some people it looks like being a stormy season ahead on the grounds that there are not enough reinforcements being brought in.  But to others the limited number of changes is a great encouragement, for as this site has constantly shown through evidence (rather than pure opinion), bringing in high value players, changing the manager and changing the approach of the team is most of the time, the way to lower the league position, rather than raise it.

Looking at the transfer net spend over the past five years then, if the league table were to be reflective of the net spend it would look like this

  1. Manchester United £66.6m (2 league titles) (4CL)
  2. Manchester City £48.8m (2 league titles; 1 FA Cup) (5CL)
  3. Chelsea: £37.2m (1 league title; 1 FA Cup, 1 Champions League, 1 Europa League) (5CL)
  4. Liverpool £28.6m (1 CL)
  5.  Arsenal: £19.8m (2 FA Cups) (5CL)
  6. West Ham £18.0m
  7. Sunderland £11.1m

What is interesting here is that although the regular top four are in the top five slots, the difference between them in terms of net spend is massive.  Chelsea have a net spend twice as high as Arsenal.  Man U over three times as much. On the basis of an equivalence between spend and position, Man U should be out of sight by now.

At the foot of the table things are perhaps not quite what we might expect…

  1.  Everton.  £2m
  2. Watford. £50,000 profit
  3. Tottenham.  £10m profit.

And yet looking at the odds, Arsenal are once again in the top 3, only preceded by United and Manchester City whose new manager, Guardiola, turned bookies and analysts into proclaiming City as the top favourites for this year.

But the odds are nothing more than predictions based on the current situation as perceived by those setting the odds, and are bound to change as the season unravels. Just look at the odds for Leicester City last year. They had 5000/1 odds and still won, which kind of makes you forget about betting tips and gets you thinking of going back to your favourite mobile slots.  And yes, mobile casinos may not be as familiar as football bets, but they can be pretty straightforward once you have the most commonly asked Questions about mobile casinos answered.   

But betting aside, the Gunners find themselves once again in a safe position, and whether they’ll make the final push and re-live their glory depends on a multiplicity of issues.  It is never as simple as saying, “buy three players.”

The Mindset

If there’s one thing we can all agree is that some people think that the entire Arsenal club needs to push the Refresh button on their mindset and start the year fresh.   They claim that we’ve repeatedly seen either a lack in motivation among the players or too much of it, up until a point where our defences became an unsteady pile of bricks that shattered whenever it was most needed.

And yet, when we ask such people for evidence, none is forthcoming, save either a call of “use your eyes” or a changing of the parameters upon which the debate was held.  Arsenal hadn’t won a trophy for 12 years.  They won the cup twice, so it becomes “Arsenal has not won the league”.  Arsenal needed new defenders.  Suddenly Coquelin and Bellerin turn up for nothing, but then we find they are discounted as new players because they cost nothing.

We saw it with Barcelona this year.   Bellerin started playing and Arsenal were lambasted for using using kids to do a man’s job.    Next thing we know there is a story that Bellerin is going back to Barcelona after they have offered £30m for him.  Even then Arsenal get no credit for spotting young talent but are lambasted for not being able to hold on to players.

So as criticism after criticism is shown to be utterly false and largely invented by journalists with nothing to write about, the argument shifts to ground that simply can’t be examined through any evidence, the alleged downward spiral that the team’s motivation and attitude have been on for the past years is noted once more, and as always this is going to be the year in which Arsenal will drop down to mid table – as has been predicted in the summer every year for the past ten years.

Apparently you can see it in Walcott, who instead of living up to his projected potential is apparently stuck in a limbo, often failing to motivate himself into even collecting the ball, not alone striking it.  As if Walcott was the first ever player to go through a difficult time after a year out.  Somehow the argument is that every player who has a difficult period should be removed, because no one ever comes back from a bad spell.  Except the evidence suggests otherwise.

Then Giroud is described as having stats which are “disappointing”, utterly ignoring the fact that Arsenal scored only three goals less than the champions and are using a perfectly legitimate and well established tactic of having several players in the side who can side.  But no, this is “chronic underscoring” due to a “lack of skill, lack of motivation poor attitude” and goodness knows what – none of which the people who make these accusations can ever know about – unless they are claiming profound psychological insights which if published would revolutionise mental health science the world over.    

There are even some who envy Tottenham’s “self-motivation” and their ability to “go full-throttle on the field” all the time.  So that when all they needed was to keep heads against Chelsea, (who most certainly could have been expected to kick them to bits) they get into a fight, and then when they need to just play out a goalless draw in the final game against an already relegated team, manage to fail wholesale.  Not just unluckily, but wholesale.  And yes, there are people who seriously want to see Tottenham’s “drive” replicated in Arsenal.  

The Transfer and/or Scouting Policy

Arsenal’s transfer policy has been the subject of much debate for long, most of which has been a trivial analysis of a handful of players, ending with pouring criticism and hate over Wenger who many believed was, well, let’s just say a bit “frugal” when it came to transfers. But the man has a sound logic when it comes to bringing in new players, as his approach is to never bring in something that can’t be better than what he already has. There are some who suggest that thinking about Giroud as the better replacement for van Persie is a bit hard to do.  But it took RvP eight years to ratchet up 194 first team games, while it took Giroud four years to get up to 135 games.  RvP might have been a natural goalscorer but he had two faults.  One was that he was very regularly injured and so often was not on the pitch, and two when he finally made a breakthrough he immediately upped and left for Man U.

Of course the big problem is always that so-called analysts like to pick and mix.  

Wenger is often heard saying that if he had known anyone better he would have went for it, which then allows people to raise the question about how the club could overlook N’Golo Kante from last year. As if somehow the club could click its fingers and pick whoever it wanted.  

The reality is that Arsenal has had its own austerity programme which may have been painful but as Untold has shown has made the club one of the very, very few to have paid for its own stadium without either going bust or being relegated and playing for years to come in the lower leagues.  We only just avoided it after the building of Highbury, but were nowhere near that position with the Emirates.  Quite the reverse in fact.

Now Arsenal has raised its salaries for players more than any other club this year, as we have shown, but still can’t compete with Barcelona and Real Madrid with the low rate of Spanish tax and their “interesting” tax avoidance schemes, or the endless money of Chelsea, Man City and the high marketing income for Man U.  Just because we want a player, that doesn’t mean the player wants us.  Whatever could make someone think this is the case.

Drop what they already have

According to some commentators, Arsenal have always been about improving potential, but sometimes that faith in players proved to be more destructive than beneficial, as was the case with a number of players who only dragged along without breaking out of their initial success and becoming better with years.

To back this claim they then say that we might sign a dozen youngsters and only get on who really makes it.  If that is the case it is still one better than Chelsea who have struggled with all their wealth to get anyone to move from being a youth player to a full time first teamer.  While in the last few years we have had Ramsey, Coquelin, Bellerin, Campbell, and more on the way up.  

But here’s the thing.  Many people believe all this negativity, which means sometimes, just sometimes the odds can move in your favour.


17 comments to What Does Arsenal Have To Change In 2017?

  • Tom

    What does Arsenal have to change for this season?

    Are you asking the readers?
    I couldn’t find one thing in your post to answer your own question.

    Anyhow, these are some of the things I think Arsenal can , and should change this season.

    1.For starters, players who were given extra time off and are not match fit should be nowhere near the subs bench for the game against Liverpool and perhaps Leicester as well.

    Unlike in the last season’s opener, when Sanchez was brought on to try to influence the game from the bench , which he failed to do miserably and had his fitness and long term form compromised in the process, in this opener it has to be driven home that it’s up to the match fit players to get the job done and there shouldn’t be any looking over the shoulders for help from Arsenal regulars until they are truly ready.

    2.Motivation is a big part of success and there’s been games where certain players didn’t show up mentally.
    Going through a tough spell form-wise is part of the game, but you don’t have to be in the form of your life to make the maximum effort and hustle.
    Any player perceived not to give his all should be subbed out no matter how early in the game( Walcott for example).

    3.On the injury front , any player with a suspected knee ligament injury should be taken off , period. You don’t run off knee injuries, you make them worse.
    Arsenal have had more serious knee injuries than any other top European club in the recent seasons (Ozil, Walcott, Welbeck twice,Coquelin, Cazorla, Ox, Mertesacker) and some of them surely were made worse by playing on.

    These are just three off the top of my head , I’m sure there’s more.

  • para

    3 good points you made.

    And a question for our readers?
    “Who is John Galt?”

    Interesting movie: Atlas Shrugged Pts 1-3 for those interested.

  • Col

    If buying new players is such a bad thing, why is Wenger trying to buy new players?

    I would have saved myself 5 minutes reading this article if you just said ‘everything’s perfect, nothing needs to change’. But then I suppose the rationale of this website is to endlessly parrot how ‘everything’s perfect, nothing needs to change’, so I shouldn’t be surprised.

  • Marcus

    Tom…I would agree with your first point, in the first two games against Liverpool and Leicester I would like to see only truly match fit players as both Liverpool and Leicester are well known for being teams, like totenham, who’s best attribute is their stamina and “full throttle” pace. Besides because of the last 3 years “underspending” and great youth signings made by wenger we now have an alternative squad behind our first team stars that are a good match for any premier league side on their day and are also well acquainted with each other. I really do not think a starting line up of:

    Bellerin holding/chambers/Gabriel Monreal
    Xhaka/coquelin elneny/cazorla
    Ox/Campbell Walcott/Campbell iwobi

    Against Lpool is really the end of the world, ok so we are not sure about the CB pairing and ideally we would rather have at least one of Sanchez or giroud on the pitch but the midfield looks strong, and we have our regular keeper and fullbacks, that is over half the team.

    In terms of your second and third points I do not perceive any failings there, or at least I cannot claim to be sure that the board has made any error. I must point out it is hard to tell if a player is unmotivated or merely conserving energy in order to be more effective on a counter attack, this is especially true with forwards such as Walcott. I am not so skeptical to think wenger would continue to play a demotivated player especially when he has a wealth of hungry young players wishing to break through.

    In terms of knee injuries, I am not a doctor and maybe you are, but one quality I have always attributed to wenger was a preference for focusing on long term achievement over short term. He does not strike me as the sort of manager to want to risk a player spending 5 months on the sidelines in a hope that leaving on a player with an issue might win a game.

    Of the list you give I remember at least welbeck and cazorlas injuries being contact and as such the management would have had no chance to prevent them. Equally if a player feels a small pain such as per said he did in the lens match the other day the onus is on them to tell the manager. We cannot blame wenger for not being a psychic doctor.

  • omgarsenal

    Hey Col…..why don’t you, in your supreme self-assuredness, write an article for UA detailing what you think needs changing. Oh wait….that means you’d have to actually do some research AND provide factual information supporting your contentions AND expose yourself to people like you who wasted 5 minutes of their time reading what you wrote and criticizing you without any rational basis to do so!

    While you’re at it, give Wenger a call and ask him why he is buying new players despite your conviction that UA firmly believes that doing so is pointless! IF you’d taken the time to actually read what UA says about new transfers, you’d realize that nobody is against doing that BUT that expecting immediate and guaranteed success in the first year is unreasonable….but that, I can clearly see, is far beyond your adolescent capacities.

  • Robert

    Click-bait headline.

    Content-free post.

    Link to a betting site.

  • Ajay

    It’s not Arsenal that need to change. It’s the fans and their attitude that need the change mostly.

  • Jags

    I’ve said it before and I will say it again.
    Number one factor that destroy struggling players is the fan base. Unfortunately, some of our fans are notorious for that. Players after all are human and like all humans when we struggle we need support from our love ones. In this case, club fans.
    Back to Arsene and Arsenal. I believe Wenger is building a team not just for now but the future. If you look at his latest investments albeit Cech ( GK are different breed), they were all signed 25 n under. We are seeing that team mature coupled with the about of technical talent coming from the youth ranks. Regardless of their results, the youth rank is full of technicallly gifted and tactical aware players. Wilcock, Salalem, Iwobi, Bielik to name a few. Their movement is just a joy to watch. I personally think Once Arsene finish building his team, the Premier league n Europe will be in for a surprise. A team full of multi positional, technically gifted and tactically aware players with fluency to change tactics without affecting the flow of the game. In my opinion, teams will struggle to play Arsenal. I based on that on the players we have. Look at the midfield for instance, with its combination of players that are able to both retain the ball and drop deep against counter attacking teams and also retain position and push up against the high line. How could you play against that. If you sit deep, the players will carve you open, if you push up, they will slaughter you.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Some great points. Fitness ….interesting…..still think it was ultimately that injury spell last autumn ….and perhaps it’s delayed reaction that cost us….relatively…dear.
    Some excellent research on this site has indicated arsenals injury record has been average in recent seasons, I will not dispute such claims, but it does seem to me we do suffer more than many with long term injuries to key players. I am not laying the blame at Wenger if this is true, but perhaps the lack of protection our players get…..if a player is hurled into camera pits or advertising boards….something will give.
    Was very interested to read the recent words of our CEO which have caused much angst in some quarters. But I found some of what he said quite encouraging, ie moving forward would not just be about expensive transfers, outgunning City or Madrid…. but also trying to improve things with the academy, scouting, medical fitness revamps……for instance….who is to say we cannot learn something from Leicesters scouting….and lack of injuries last season….assuming the latter is all above board? It would be arrogant to assume there is nothing to learn from a team who had only a couple fairly short term injuries to key players last season, even taking into account theirs played less games…..and the amount of penalties they were given suggest their players were more protected by refs than our own.
    I think evolution going on behind the scenes …and the club are reportedly spending twentyf million on various projects…..may ultimately be beneficial

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Very nice article , Bobby . Am quite hopeful of a good season ahead , despite the crooked PIGMOB and ballless and brainless media .

    So, my answer to your question ” What Does Arsenal Have To Change In 2017?” , is …..
    Ignore ‘them idiots’ and for the faithful to get behind the manager and team . Enjoy the ride !

    WOO HOO , HOO !
    Up the Gunners !

  • Blacksheep

    Thanks Bobby, sober write up and I think far from simply saying ‘everything is fine, carry on chaps’ that the AAA interlopers continue to see this site as. For the record it is ok to support the club, the team and the manager and at the same time offering an opinion on what might be better. But that opinion should be one that is supported by some evidence and not simply a rehashed version of the tired assumptions that have been thrown at Wenger et al from the best part of a decade.

    Here are some ‘facts’:
    1, Arsenal don’t exist in a vacuum; other clubs are out there competing with us for trophies, players and fan base
    2, None of us really know how transfers are done so it is all speculation as to who we are after and at what price
    3, The press make stuff up, manipulate ‘news’ and exploit our very natural appetite for information about our club.

    Football is a sport, a pastime, and a business. You support a club for all sorts of reasons but no one forces you to do so, or to spend a single penny on it. You pays your money and you buy a ticket (or a subscription to a TV company) and you have NO right to tell Arsenal (or any other club for that matter) how to operate. There is an OFF switch and an exit turnstile.

    I am sick and tired of people saying they want ‘our Arsenal back’- we have just had a disastrous (in my informed opinion) referendum where the mantra was ‘we want our country back’, and that didn’t turn out terribly well. AFC were formed 130 years ago this year and I believe that the club has taken the steps to ensure that it is still here in another 100 or so years, unlike some of those who throw money around as if it is water. You are entitled to an opinion that says you don’t like the sustainable model and believe the club is stockpiling cash for the benefit of Silent Stan rather than spending it where it is necessary. It’s an opinion I don’t share but I recognize it. If that’s how you feel then don’t give them your money.
    I will grumble to my fellow supporters on here, on the North Bank each week, and to my good friend Tony Attwood but like Brickfields and many many of the other commentators on this site I will continue to shout and sing my support for MY team, regardless of who the manager is, what the board do, or who wears the red and white.
    Victoria concordia crescit

  • Mandy Dodd

    I think the club have certainly stockpiled cash, and that Stan has probably benefitted from this with his various other loans, but whether this stockpiling is by design of a greedy owner, part of careful planning, or perhaps residual risk aversion by some who have overseen a situation whereby the club very nearly defaulted on the wages for the Invincibles … open to debate. I have doubted Stans motives a bit myself, but as time moves on, it looks to me as if he does generally let his manager and board get on with things, without too much interference……isn’t that what an owner should be doing……delegating to the specialists and experts?
    As for those who want their Arsenal back, they need to think carefully…..which Arsenal?
    But agree, the club currently looks as if it is being well set up for the future. things can change very quickly in the world we live in, stability is a much maligned, and increasingly rare state of being these days.

  • JohnW

    I don’t know why some people think they know much more about the Arsenal team than Wenger,or even care about the Arsenal much more than him. SAF once said, ” I don’t know why Arsene keeps on buying the same type of players’. Now, that is an experienced man who you spend some time thinking about his comments. I think we will stand our own in the PL this season again. I only wish we get another striker, to give Giroud more competition, otherwise even in defence where we are short at the moment, we can still beat teams. But we will see in two weeks time. When we start beating teams, the debate will change, its always like that with Arsenal.

  • porter

    We don’t need to buy another striker to give Giroud competition . He is fine and good at what he does. We do however need to buy a forward to enable us to switch play in the games where plan 1 is not working or where we need a tactical rethink against teams that play primarily to negate us rather than influence things themselves.
    I have no doubt that we will play and beat teams but we will still slip up and fail against others that we should not.Lately it has been like that at The Arsenal.

  • RK

    Good post Tony (as always)! There is one element that I would like to bring up for debate. While a considerable amount of attention has been on strikers and how we are short-changed with Giroud (we are not), an interesting statistic that emerges when you look at Arsenal’s goals for and against record over the years is that we had been allowing a “higher than normal” number of goals between 2010 and 2014.The last two years, this has come down and approached levels during the invincibles era. To me it shows how (despite the criticism leveled against Per) effective the Per-Kos partnership was shaping up to be. Given Per’s injury (and Kos’ absence initially) the heart of the defense is now greatly stressed. I am not sure if there is a ready replacement out there for Per and would imagine that it would be difficult for anyone new to gel with the rest of the team. Would love it if Holding emerges as this year’s Bellerin/Coq. So I am going with a scenario where we will likely play a little more conservative in 2017 until he defense is settled. This might then mean that we don’t score as many goals. Which unfortunately will mean more bile directed against the strikers (leading to more problems due to loss of confidence). Or…maybe we might end up playing a bit like Leicester last season initially.

  • Andy Mack

    We need to win a few more games.
    Whether that’s due to the officials being a bit more even handed, or us scoring a few more goals and/or conceding a few less goals, that’s all that’s needed.

  • Menace

    Jags – you summed up the reality of where Wenger is headed.

    Brickfields – you are upbeat with the truth.

    There is something that transfers really make a difference with. The transfer of intelligence of the Untolder to those who think that Wenger doesn’t know. The transfer of common sense that to finance a stadium (that is the most beautiful in the EPL) takes a brilliant mind while continuously keeping a team of well coached players in the top 4.

    This team created with an economical focus while being abused by jealous biased media & officials. This is not a team just bought to win trophies but built to entertain with beautiful football while trying to win every game. The evidence is there in our results and in our consistent position despite the pathetic aaa & WOB ‘fans’ mixed in with a hostile media & officiating.

    ………..& still we think we know better?