I have reported regularly on how the Daily Telegraph, a right wing English newspaper, has been following up on Untold Arsenal stories. Now they have gone even further and added a point that goes a bit beyond where we went. And it seems highly relevant.
So, they’ve picked up on Walter’s articles about the decline of Premier League clubs in the Champions League, with the comment, “England’s four representatives have won five of their 16 group stage matches. For the world’s richest league this is a disturbing ratio.”
Then they lose their way a little by focussing on poor purchases:
” In Spain, Real Madrid and Barcelona target proven individual world-class talent to add to a strong base. In England, Spurs attempt to replace Gareth Bale with seven mid-ranking names and Liverpool fill the void left by Luis Suarez by gambling on quantity rather than quality. At £20m, Lazar Markovic is less laser than flickering candle.”
That’s not quite right because both clubs really wanted to make a couple of big name signings – Liverpool’s manager spoke openly about it and said he would not be buying quantity but one or two top players.
And it is also not quite right, because it ignores Barcelona’s long running expedient of child trafficking and Real Mad’s financial activities with the city council which are being examined in depth by Uefa. But then, I’m back with them…
“In panic mode, United signed Radamel Falcao and Angel Di Maria, adding only Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo (after Luke Shaw) to a defensive unit coming out of the Rio Ferdinand-Nemanja Vidic era.
“The big clubs spend big and indiscriminately simply because they can. They gamble in the £10m-£30m range, mostly on forwards and midfielders, few of whom seem to see themselves as parts of an 11-man organism, attacking and defending as one.”
And now the killer point…
“No Premier League behemoth can say they have bought major defensive ballast, or supplemented individual world-class talent to the back line. City signed Eliaquim Mangala but after a bright start he developed culture shock. The less glamorous clubs can now see that Liverpool, Spurs, Arsenal and United are no longer hard to score against.”
Now many people add to this the comment, why did we not keep Vermaelen? The answer is that there was something wrong with Thomas. He has got fit again, and he did play for Barcelona B against Indonesia Under 19s, and scored a goal, but when I last looked he hadn’t actually played for their first team.
So why did Barcelona take him? Why were Man U desperate to have him? Because there is a huge shortage of top defenders.
We know that Mr Wenger has spoken of the fact that everyone was looking for defenders in the summer, and couldn’t find them. There are some there of course, but as I’ve said so many times before they have to want to leave, the club has to want to sell, the agent has to agree, and the price has to be reasonable. If any of those are missing it all falls apart.
Of course there are some examples of clubs buying great high profile defenders but the clubs that have them don’t want to let them go, because they too know there is a shortage of these great high class defenders.
In the past we’ve been able to overcome this by bringing in lesser known players from overseas, letting them develop in the team, and then see them as great defenders. Koscielny was an obvious example – he came to us after something like 35 league games with Lorient – and he came to us and got a lot of criticism but grew into a great player.
Now there are no Koscielny’s lurking around and the cry is “spend the fucking money”. He actually cost £8.45m.
And that’s the point. There is a shortage of players at the very top level, and now there is difficulty getting players who look as if they could come through from a more moderate level. So everyone is buying anyone who might be able to play defensively, and finding that the results are not so good.
The stories in today’s press seem to be all about fans deriding their clubs’ managers and booing their team. There is an interview with Adebayor reflecting on what it is like to have Tottenham fans booing their team at home all the time. There is apparently huge criticism of Rodgers at Liverpool, and much of this season has been taken up with pictures of what Newcastle supporters think about their manager.
It is the new sport, but there’s another question: does it do any good? Does changing managers actually help? There is certainly very little sign of it. Does booing your own team at home help? No, I’ve never seen that be helpful. Does creating something like the AAA and forming an alliance with the press actually help? I think not – it doesn’t make the players feel good and for every Alexis who believes in the manager there is another who says, “I’m not going there just to be abused.”
Indeed the problem is worse than that, for I get the feeling (and of course I can’t prove it, it is just comments made here and there) that not only is there a shortage of players but a lot of top players won’t come to England now not just because of the over critical attitude of supporters, but also the highly intrusive media. (You’ll know perhaps that the way the media behaves in England is not the same as it behaves in the rest of Europe – and certainly some players just say, no, I don’t fancy that).
So my point is that what is missing here there and everywhere, is a fulsome analysis of why the managers act as they do.
The AAA answer, over and over, is because our manager is useless. Anyone else would be better. But no, the whole issue is much more complex than that.
I’ve outlined a couple of reasons why some clubs are struggling this season with defences. But there are of course many other side issues. Let me give you one example: Sagna. We wanted to hold onto him, and he wanted to go. Man C took him, pay him, and… last time I looked he had played in 3 league games and two league cup games this season. In short Man C took him to scupper our situation. That’s how it goes now.
If you really believe that if Arsenal had had another manager this summer we would not only have bought the players we did but also a couple more top quality defenders, then fine, hold onto that belief. But I’ll still say, it takes the manager, the player and the agent to agree that the player can leave, and in a time of shortage, only desperate clubs allow players to go. What’s more, once a player can go, if he is a defender he has a huge choice of where to go, and in my view, increasingly the choice to avoid the English media, and avoid English support.
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