The Guardian is still of course out on its own, insisting that Arsenal’s “demise” is totally Wenger’s fault.But elsewhere in the mainstream media there is movement. As with the headline “Arsene Wenger critics are ‘stupid’… he’s not the real reason they’re struggling – ex-star”. OK that’s the Mirror, not normally a newspaper that we quote, and they do base their story on what Robbie Fowler has said which would not normally lead me into repeating what they write. And yet even they have seen the truth – or at least a bit of it.
“ARSENAL bigwigs’ reluctance to sanction mega-money wages has scuppered Arsene Wenger,” is the sub-heading and yep, that’s quite possibly not too far off reality. Here’s how it goes.
When Mr Wenger arrived, English football was in the backwoods, primarily using English players who performed on English nutrition, which hadn’t changed much since the days of Woolwich Arsenal and Sir Henry Norris. Or quite possibly the War of the Roses. Crowds were low as in trophy winning seasons – certainly way below the average Arsene Wenger pushed them up to (as we have shown before) revealing a natural, and rather modest level of support for the club. Arsenal by and large lived on that income.
Arsene Wenger raised the level of support to 38,000 for each game at Highbury and won the trophies we all know about while, as the Mirror article says, “breaking even in the transfer market. For most of the 20 years he kept Arsenal in the top four, he created a surplus in terms of net spend. That is impossible now. How much you spend determines where you finish.”
And indeed not only that, the money available depends on how much money your sponsor splashes in and how much you make from worldwide marketing. Man U has the highest world wide marketing income among English clubs as it has since the end of the 1950s, while Man C and Chelsea have vast incomes from their sponsoring owners.
Thus the argument continues, “If Arsenal are fourth or fifth on wage spending, then that’s where they’ll finish.” In short Arsenal in the early part of the Wenger era over-achieved, first because of the new fitness programmes, and second, unmentioned in the Mirror article, because Mr Wenger knew how to spot and bring in top players from Europe who were unknown in England, and for modest transfer fees. Pires, Henry, Vieira, Ljungberg etc all came in for modest sums when compared to their ability. None would have come before because of the reputation English football had in the rest of Europe. Tony Adams’ comment “He’s French what does he know about English football” summed the attitude up rather well.Plus Wenger was able to spot young talent and bring that through, and although that talent would often turn their backs on him, such as Hleb, van Persie and Fabregas, Arsenal had them for quite a few years.
Somehow it is now assumed that all this counted for nothing, and that Arsenal should have been challenging for top spot in the League all the time. It was over-achievement based on a knowledge of the foreign markets and a way of making foreign players feel at ease and at home when there were few foreigners around.
But the reality has changed. Now it is simple: generally speaking with the fourth biggest income, fourth is where you will come.
However, to quote Fowler, “Yet fans automatically assume a new manager must be a better one.”
And indeed as he also points out, “Sir Alex Ferguson left a very young team – with a few really experienced old pros – when he retired. It had just won the title. And yet that team was totally dismantled and they are still trying to put the pieces back together.”The problem is, having had their success in forcing out Mr Wenger the alliance of bloggers and film makers that now make up the aaa do believe that all they had to do was to force Wenger out for the club to move forwards.
I am not sure what they will make of the headline from TalkSport today, “Brendan Rodgers is a great candidate for the Arsenal job,” – but that is what you can get when your whole campaign is simply the negativity of “Wenger Out”.
It is this uni-directional approach of the Wenger Out mob and their allies in the media that has now put us in this position. It is an approach that will probably lead the same people to demand a complete overhaul of the under 18 team following their 9-0 defeat to Tottenham, as they forget that the game involved Arsenal playing a second string set of players while Tottenham played their top level under 18s. And the reason…. well Arsenal were going to finish second in the league no matter what, and the mainstays of the team are about to play in the final of the Youth Cup this Friday.
One dimensional analyses and a uni-directional approach, seeing only one point of view; that is where we are now, and it is likely to be leading us down a very difficult path.
From the History Society
Arsenal v Tottenham game abandoned due to unacceptable crowd behaviour