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What does Arsenal have to do to improve the club’s present position?

By Tony Attwood

There is a bloggetta headline this morning that says, “Arsenal are now unlikely to finish in the top four and must prioritise Europa League – study”.  I’ve read the “study” thing through but really can’t quite see how it is much of a study – it is in fact a computer model based on  goals scored, adjusted goals, shot-based expected goals and non-shot expected goals — and the overriding assumption that what we have seen so far in the league will continue.

So what is not taken into account is a chance of a team that had been winning suddenly picking up a series of draws or a modest team suddenly putting in a brilliant run.  It looks to be like a model that says “if things continue as they are now, this will happen”.  And from my reading of history, things don’t continue as they are now – at least they haven’t since medieval times.

But the statistics (which are valid in themselves, just a little dubious as a predictor) did accord with a discussion Blacksheep and I were having before the game at the weekend as to what various clubs needed to change in order to make a difference to their current circumstances.  Which then raised the question: “What is Arsenal’s present position?”

Obviously 5th in the league, in the quarters of the League Cup and top of the Europa, is one set of answers.   Middle of the road on injuries is another.  Seemingly in a rich vein in terms of finding youngsters who might well be able to step up to the “25”.   Having Jack Wilshere lurking in the wings, a player who this time might, just might, stay clear of injuries long enough to show his undoubted talent in the PL.  Having a fan base that seems moderately contented with the manager at the moment, but which start flying their aeroplanes again if persuaded to by a newspaper.  And of course having a media ready to make up any story that suits their own agenda and PGMO/PL requirements not to discuss certain issues such as referee competence.

But knowing our position and knowing what needs to be done turn out to be very different things.  Indeed it all gets a bit complicated.

Which perhaps is why so many people who write and talk about football reduce it to simplicity: drop Xhaka, kick out the manager, get the owner to sell up.

But the truth is that winning any football competition is not simple.  Take the Premier League: we’ve had 25 years of it and only seven teams have won it: Manchester United (13 times) Chelsea (5) Arsenal (3), Man City (2) Blackburn Rovers and Leicester City.

While the FA Cup only requires the winning of six games in a row even this seems so complicated that the FA themselves can’t quite work out who has won it – their official FA Cup web site has the current holders as Manchester United.  Mind you since we still don’t know what happened to the Grenfall Tower money promised from the Community Shield match this year, perhaps that is not surprising.

With the FA Cup there are of course many more winners, for it is a much older competition.  At the top of the tree are Arsenal (13), Manchester United (12), Tottenham (8), Aston Villa (7), Chelsea (7), Liverpool (7).

But what do we need to change in order to get more success – to win the PL again, to win more European trophies, while maybe continuing to jog along winning the FA Cup on a fairly regular basis?

There are of course many possible answers: change the manager, change the owner, buy better players; all seem popular.  But that still raises other questions, such as

If it really were possible to make one or two changes and be certain that this would win more trophies, then surely everyone would be doing it?

and

If we could identify how to change the club for the better what is the most effective way of achieving that change?

What I am trying to do here in my usual hamfisted manner is bring together three issues at once: the issue of identifying what counts as success, the issue of identifying what would bring about that success, the issue of identifying how to put the change in place that would bring about that success.

And it seems to me that at the moment one does this, then things start to unravel.

For example, what would count as success to Tottenham Hotspur?  The last time that club won anything was 2008, nine seasons ago (when they won the League Cup).  The last time they won anything other than that was in 1991.  Perhaps this is why stopping us singing “It happened again” each season was like a trophy to them.  Likewise I got a sense of considerable celebration last season when they came second, and yet the season before at Arsenal when we came second, I had no sense of celebration.  Although we did sing “It’s happened again” quite a lot.

So I guess in answer to my first point, what counts as success is relative.  But on the second point, what would count as success?   Winning the Premier League again?  Winning the FA Cup again?  Winning the Europa?  Winning the League Cup?   Winning the League Cup and FA Cup Double again?   Winning a unique Cup Triple?

It is an important issue because it defines the third question: how do we get there?

Now some might say, “Change the manager,” and yet changing the manager is by and large an unsuccessful ploy most of the time, not just because (as with Manchester United twice) even with a phenomenally rich club as that one is, and a willingness to spend the money, it is quite possible to bring in a manager who simply can’t make it happen.

Manchester City and Chelsea have found the same: they have access to unimaginable wealth, and with certain managers that brings success: but not every time.  Indeed Chelsea proved that even with all the money imaginable and with a proven manager it is possible to slip so far down the table that the club doesn’t even qualify for the Europa.

And all this before we have the issue of what the owner will permit.  The owners of Man City, Man United and Chelsea will self-evidently permit huge speculative expenditure on players, and FFP rules seem to allow it.  But looking at what Arsenal’s owner has done in other sports companies he owns, he doesn’t allow such investment.

So now we are down the issue of “change the owner”.  Yet even this doesn’t bring a guarantee of great success by any means, but even if it did, we don’t seem to have a mechanism for doing it.  Certainly making a fuss at an AGM is unlikely to effect any change unless one has control of the shares.

And this really seems to be what it comes down to: having a viable plan to seize control.  The rebels who tried to seize power at Arsenal in 1892 totally failed, formed their own club across the road, and then saw that fail too.  The Hill-Wood dynasty that seized power in 1927 had to wait for the incumbent chairman to make one slip and then took advantage of it.  Kroenke waited until the remaining big shareholders were willing to sell, and then he seized the moment.

Sadly, it seems that when the power and the money are in the hands of one person, that’s it and one is willing to plot and execute an audacious coup.  This is very different from long term protest which iscan destabilise a club.  History suggests Kroenke won’t invest money in the way that could allow Arsenal to rival the expenditure of Chelsea, Man City and Man U, and anyway, if he did, at least one or two of them would only spend more.

Which leaves just one thing.  An incredibly canny and knowledgeable manager who can bring through amazing youth team players, and find gems in the transfer market at bargain prices.  One might think of, well, I don’t know, bringing in Nelson and Kolasinac maybe.

What manager could do that?

What you missed yesterday

32 comments to What does Arsenal have to do to improve the club’s present position?

  • John L

    Sam Allardyce, David Moyes and even Harry Redknapp may all be available. I understand from listening to a number of expert commentators that any of them could do better than the present Arsenal manager, because they understand what’s needed to win in “English” football.

  • nicky

    What is puzzling at the moment is Arsene Wenger’s statement at the Club’s AGM, that the Board will review his position at the end of the current season.
    A somewhat tentative remark only midway through his contract extension.
    Does he know something we don’t?

  • Chris

    John L,

    yep, they are all available. Can someone remind us of their record for the past 25 years…. ;=))

  • nicky

    Tony, to return to your original question, I think a firm decision should be made to transfer Sanchez and Ozil to the highest bidders in the January Window, regardless of losing their true market value.
    Replacements should be sought even if we have to pay over the odds on this occasion. Arsenal’s own, usually parsimonious valuations, must be set aside. If this doesn’t work, we should re-group and concentrate on the Europa Cup as a means of re-entry into the CL next term. 😉

  • Nitram

    nicky

    “If this doesn’t work, we should re-group and concentrate on the Europa Cup as a means of re-entry into the CL next term. “😉

    Given the ‘wink’ at the end I must admit I’m not sure if this was tongued in cheek or not nicky, but for sack of argument I’ll assume that EL glory is what you believe to be our best chance of CL qualification, if not I apologise.

    Although that would be a nice back-up I cant say I agree.

    From what I have seen so far I think we have a great chance of a top 4 finish.

    Yes, Man City look the best, but certainly not invincible. I think they will win the league, and possibly with some comfort. This weekend could tell us were we stand with them.

    Man United:

    A typical Mourinho side. Boring. Efficient. Hard to beat. I’m falling asleep writing about them they are that dull.

    In my opinion we are better than them. I still wouldn’t be surprised if they missed out on a top 4 finish.

    Spurs:

    They are ‘solid’ and in Kane have one of the hottest strikers in the World, but as we saw this weekend they do miss him, especially when playing top sides. I don’t agree they are a one man team, but he is very important to them, as is Sanchez to us. Given the West Ham performance it seems the ‘Wembley’ issue is far from resolved.

    Chelsea:

    I think we are better than them. It’s as simple as that.

    Liverpool:

    Far too erratic and actually the hardest to analyse. Brilliant one minute. Rubbish the next. Overall I think we are better than them but as we saw to our cost they can look unstoppable. Overall I expect to finish above them.

    In conclusion I have no doubt we will finish above Liverpool and Chelsea. I am hopeful we can finish above Man Utd.

    As I said a couple of weeks ago, personally I see us in a battle for 2nd with Spurs, with Chelsea, United and Liverpool fighting for 4th.

    Of course only time will tell and I could be wrong, but even if I am wrong about battling for 2nd, I still cant see enough quality in our opponents to keep us out of the top 4.

    So much so a top 4 finish seems much more likely, and less risky than hoping to win the Europa League.

    It seems I’m not the only one. The bookies, who traditionally don’t get much wrong, have us 11/2 to win the EL but 5/4 to finish in the top 4.

    Yes we are favourites for the EL and only 5th favourites for the PL, but what it shows is the utterly unpredictable and risky nature of cup competitions.

    I know what my £10 would be on if my life depended on it, and it wouldn’t be a competition in which we still don’t even know who is going to be in it !

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    Arsenal will not only finish in the top four this season but they will as well win the Premier League Title too.

    Before we start to fully be discussing our big away PL match to Man City coming up this weekend, we should in the interim stear our focus fully on the Europa League match against the visiting Red Star Belgrade that is coming up on Thursday night’s at the Ems. So that we don’t lose our focus on the match while over focusing on Man C ity to consequently be caught napping not fully prepared for the match as was the case we had when Norwich City almost catch us unawares in the Carabao Cup match at the Ems as the Gunners looked not to be fully mentally, physically and tactically prepared to decisively handled Norwich in the game but looked to had period to the match underrated Norwich and were overconfident to beat them but struggled at the end to beat them after extra time.

    Therefore, the Gunners should prepare themselves fully all round for this match and avoid taking beating Red Star for granted. For, to think such could lead to the Gunners being forced by Red Star to drop points in the match instead of the Gunners to beat Red Star and qualify on the night for the knockout stsge of the competition.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    I would love us to keep Alexis , Ozil and the present squad till the end of the season , while keeping an eye out for some bargains .
    Am. sure there will be some to be had then.
    In the meanwhile support the club and manager with all your heart.
    Wishes and miracles sometimes come true!

  • nicky

    @Nitram,
    As usual, I agree with much you say.
    My point was assuming we part with Alexis and Ozil in January and cannot find acceptable replacements. We then might need to pragmatically review our objectives and “use” the EL as a stepping stone to riches! 😉

  • Austinpaul

    What arsenal must do Tony for me is to work on d defense to become a solid rock;d Swansea goal was scandalous,d defense was carved open wit DAT through pass,which shouldn’t be.Wenger must do an urgent surgery on it to make dem play in a more compact manner,odawise d team is gud enough to beat any team including man city,d present leaders.Wenger must allow ozil,lacazette and Alexis to play more together ,d trio I cee as a formidable stricke force wit more playing tym together,dey can destroy any team wit their talent like MSN of barca.

  • Disto

    @Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    Given the wholesale team changes between the cups and the Premier League, I don’t think the tag of being caught napping can apply.

    The cup side is basically a different team and will have been gearing up to Red Star for the last week since Norwich without much more than interested onlooking at Swansea this week or Man City next.

  • lewis

    Tony
    You are right that changing the manager very rarely works with 87 professional clubs who havent got a chance any way.But for the top 4 or 5 clubs there is a good chance it could pay off.It shows that even having a slight chance when replacing a failed manager is better than no chance with one who has failed time and time again to win the league.
    Also you state that the shareholders at the AGM were just there making a fuss.They ,like the majority of fans, can show their dissatisfaction about the way the club is run.Ivan Gazidis will tell you in fancy terms that everything is rosy at Arsenal but he will do so because hes being paid like a king by the club.Whilst he ,Wenger and Kronke get richer and richer there becomes less and less money available for transfers.

  • porter

    Making a fuss at the AGM was one thing, but if the questions were posed in a correct manner then they deserved to be answered properly.

  • Alexanderhenry

    The upshot of this article is that you think there is nothing that can be done to improve arsenal.

    You are happy with wenger for the foreseeable future, happy with kroenke in charge and would rather blame fans who dare to complain despite paying prices in football, as well as the alleged anti arsenal conspiracy in the press and amongst referees.

  • Gord

    If a person looks at top-level club football, you will find that regardless of how good the players on any team are, your ability to predict performance is quite limited. The number of goals scored by a team, the number of goals allowed by that team (and the difference between those two numbers) has a large random component.

    Part of an example.

    For the most part, goalkeepers are just as good at their job as strikers are. They are almost always in the spot which gives them the best chance of saving a shot on net, or deflecting it away from the net. Which means that by and large, in order to score a striker needs to be aiming just inside the woodwork (upright or crossbar). How often is the air in a stadium dead calm? If conditions are dead calm, an aerodynamics person would have the best chance of predicting the path of any given shot. That prediction would likely be better than the prediction being made by the striker in shooting. So we take 100 identical balls and have the striker aim for the same spot with each shot, and we note where each shot goes and how long it takes to go from the place where it is being kicked to when it crosses the goal line. How tight is the group?

    Okay, let’s go to a more common situation. The air in the stadium is not dead calm, there are vortices in the air and players cannot see them. And yet, a vortex can affect the trajectory of the ball.

    From the above argument, we should be able to re-analyze football games to try and find out how large the random component is, as a function of the weather. And we would expect to find that on days when it is dead calm, we have a lower random component than we do on windy days. And rainy, snowy, leaves in the air (autumn), dust in the air, and so on.

    From the above point of view, if two teams are separated by a difference of less than 10% in points, and we find through our analysis of the random component of any given game, that at best the random component is 25%; we cannot say there is a statistical difference in the standings of those two teams. The difference observed is just an accident.

    And yet, you want to call one manager a failure based on a series of accidents?

    It is extremely unlikely that competition in the EPL is fair. The PGMO and FA disciplinary committee have both demonstrated that they will treat different teams in different ways. No game has a level playing ground. In such an environment that games are played in, it is trivial for the results to be pushed such that a successful manager never finishes in positions that the fans will accept.

  • Nitram

    Lewis

    You really are funny.

  • Markyb

    He is a prize plum

  • Nitram

    Alexanderhenry

    “You are happy with wenger for the foreseeable future,”

    Well I am.

    “happy with kroenke in charge”

    Yep.

    “despite paying prices in football”

    Could you explain that. I thought everyone was ‘paying prices’ to watch football.

    “alleged anti arsenal conspiracy in the press and amongst referees.”

    It’s not alleged. The evidence is out there.

    I take it you haven’t seen the 100’s of referee reviews then?

    The penalty stats, the card stats?

    The links to all the negative articles from Wright, Merson, Adams, etc. etc. that have been put up on Untold over the years then?

    You come with the same accusations time and time again and get shown to be utterly wrong time and time again.

    The other day you were making similar accusations and I answered every point you made. I didn’t insult you. I didn’t rant and rave, and you didn’t even have the courtesy to reply.

    You exaggerate and get things ridiculously out of proportion. As I say, I answered every one of your points but you didn’t have a single answer.

    Here’s another chance:

    Nitram

    27/10/2017 at 2:26 pm

    Alexanderhenry

    “During that period arsenal have gone from being the best or second best side in the country to being the fourth best- this season we may slip further.”

    Why exaggerate? We have not become ‘4th best’

    Since 07/08 season we have finished:

    2nd once.
    3rd 4 times
    4th 4 times
    5th once.

    So with one 2nd and four 3rds, and one 5th and four 4ths, you could just as easily of said our average over his tenure has been 3rd. You chose 4th.

    Why is that?

    You say “we may slip further”. True, but we may climb higher, so why say that?

    Tend to be a bit of a glass half empty kind of guy don’t we?

    Also, you don’t think you could possibly put this ‘slip’ from an average finish of 1.5 to an average finish of 3.5 down to the 100’s of millions of pounds being pumped into Chelsea and City then do you?

    No of course not, you’d much rather put the blame squarely at Kroenkes door, in which case, why don’t you just say what you mean, which is that he, or whoever our owner might be, should simply pump 100’s of millions of there own money into the club, or get out of dodge.

    That’s fine if that’s what you want, but please stop assuming that that is what everyone wants. I certainly don’t.

    Can I ask, has the notion of working hard for your success rather than just printing of another 100 million quid to do it ever entered your head?

    It sure doesn’t sound like it.

    You also say:

    “The quality of player has deteriorated as well our recent teams don’t compare with wenger’s early sides.”

    That’s your opinion, not a fact as you seem to think. And even if it is true, again don’t you think that has something to do with the buying power of those clubs that are banked rolled by Billionaires?

    “Stan Kroenke is the worst thing that has ever happened to arsenal.”

    That is a massive over exaggeration, and again just your opinion.

    My opinion is that our club is run very well and we are being run in the way that we were told we would be run back in 2007.

    We have in the last 4 years won 3 FA Cups, finished 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5thand you think that’s a failure do you?

    Well I’m sorry but I think that is pathetic to be honest.

    Me, I’ve been loving it, and I just count my blessings I’m not a Liverpool or Spurs fan, although you probably think there run brilliantly.

  • lewis

    Nitram
    Where is your ambition ..Your happy with the status quo finishing around 4th with the odd cup and not competing for top honors..No wonder you love Wenger,Gazidis Kronke and chips keswick..Your are partly the reason why our club is turning into a joke.Youre a Tourist Supporter.

  • MickHazel

    Lewis
    Can you explain how it is partly poor old Nitrams fault for our club becoming a joke. And while you’re about it explain how is our club a joke.

  • Mandy Dodd

    We are going to have to get very good at bringing through youngsters as a means of competing,,inflationary pressures will make it very hard to sign, and pay wages of the best players.
    Cannot see Kroenke leaving or changing, he is doing what he signed up for, he will keep this club on a self sufficiency model, just hope he doesn’t take anything significant out of the club, but as yet, have seen no evidence of that.
    Nicky, agree with you, I was also a bit puzzled about that remark from Wenger reviewing things at the end of the season.
    We will only really know how ambitious the owner and board are when Wenger goes

  • lewis

    Anyone who is happy with Stan Kronke as our owner and is happy with us finishing around 4th every year is happy with mediocrity.Where is the clubs ambition as the 6th biggest football club in world football??I know its not all about spending money but a club as big as ours should be doing better.Fleetwood town spent more money than Arsenal last summer.Now that is ok if we were skint but we are not.You wonder why we get a hard time off the press,pundits ,some of our ex players that are legends ,and fans..Its not rocket science to work out why.Hell even Spurs fans utd fans ,city fans and chelsea fans sing that they want Wenger to stay..Why because they know that whilst he is in charge along with Kronke and gazidis we are no threat to them winning the League.They told us that we had to leave Highbury to compete with the best in europe .That sadly looks a million miles away.Our owner has shown that hes not in the slightest bit ambitious and is only interested in making money and making our Ceo and Manager filthy rich.

  • Rosicky@Arsenal

    Lewis

    How many times spurs and liverpool have won the league let alone finish above us?

    Atleast get your facts straight. Arsenal have been a better run club in all respects than Liverpool and Spurs for the last 20 years.

    And we have finished above United as well in the last 3 years.

    Nitram

    Great reply to Alexander Hemry above.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    She said : ” Have you met the young couple next door ? Every night when he comes home from work , he gives her flowers and a hot kiss ! Why don’t YOU do that ?”

    He said : “But …, I hardly know that women !”

  • Brickfields Gunners

    I am quite happy with Stan Kronke as our owner .
    I DO understand that it is HIS money and he can chose to do whatever pleases him.
    Is there a club in the EPL where the fans are overjoyed with their owner ?

    I am not happy of ONLY finishing in the top four.
    But I DO understand why we often do so.
    Are there any clubs where the fans would be overjoyed to be in the top four?

    I am glad that AW is our manager .
    I DO understand that he IS restricted by certain financial constrains.
    Are there any clubs/fans that would be overjoyed to have him as their manager ?

  • ron de jonge

    Louis van Gaal in Dutch ‘quality’ paper NRC last weekend: question: Whats your biggest achievement? LvG: Winning the FA Cup with Man U.
    I know it s only LvG, he only won Dutch, German and Spanish competition and Champions League, but nevertheless he regards the FA Cup as his biggest achievement!

  • Jared

    Gord: Very interesting comment, Nitram as well, enjoyed reading both of them, good use of reasoning.

  • Polo

    Brickfields, seem like Lewis wants to compete with you on the satire front, you will need to come up with something funnier than his comments. It could be difficult though.

  • Andy Mack

    Basically anyone that thinks they know the outcome of the CL, PL Europa, FA Cup, TinPot Cup or how the top 4/6 will end up in the PL, is an idiot.
    There’s far too many games, far too many refs decisions and far too many injuries to come in the remainder of the season.
    It doesn’t matter if you’re a former manager (successful or not), a former or present player, a ‘hack/journalist’, a blogger or just a football fan. None of them can see into the future. Some of them qualify their comments with ‘IF’, as in ‘If xFC continue to xxx’ but they have no idea if xFC will continue to xxx or in most cases, if xxx is the root cause of that trend.
    So lots of Bloggers, Hacks and Pundits just blowing hot air (Metaphorically speaking).

    We all have things we’d like to change about the team/club, but without the inside knowledge about any situation, we’ve no idea if it would have the intended outcome.

  • lewis

    Polo
    Brickfields jokes are about as funny as a dose of clap.The only thing they are good for is derailing a debate that tony is losing!!

  • lewis

    Andy Mack there is one certain fact and that it is whilst Wenger,Kronke and Gazidis are still at the football club we will NEVER win the League again .And as for the champions league Torquay have about as much chance of winning it as we have!!

  • Andy Mack

    lewis, thanks for proving my theory.

  • lewis

    Your Welcome andy but if you think that we can win the league with these people in charge of our club you are either blind ,gullible or just plain stupid!!

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