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Why the failure against Liverpool was inevitable, and what Arsenal need now.

by Tony Attwood

During the past two seasons there was a fair amount of talk, not to mention poster waving, along with a spot of aircraft flying and marching, concerning the future of Mr Wenger.   Not particularly to deny what he had done for the club in the past, but rather to question what he could do in the future.

The argument however, in my opinion, lacked a certain depth – there is after all only so much that one can put on a banner or in a chant.   “Wenger Out” was thus the total message along with the occasional “We want our Arsenal back” without much discussion as to who would come in and what he might do.  Nor indeed what having our Arsenal back would actually mean.  The Arsenal of Billy Wright, or Bertie Mee after 1971?  Or George Graham’s side in the season in which he departed – a season in which Arsenal were far far far far far far far far worse than now?

And it was always, in my view, if probably no one else’s, ironic that at the time of these discussions (although “discussion” might be too grand a word) “our Arsenal” had gradually vanished, taken far away by (among others) the family of the gentleman who passed away this week – Mr Hill-Wood.

For there was a time when the owners of Arsenal wanted to create a club that would not be owned by themselves but instead owed by the club’s fans, thus allowing the club’s fans to have a real say in what happened in the club.

That vision of a club owned by the fans was at the heart of Arsenal for 17 years in the early part of the 20th century, and I will perhaps return to how the first Mr Hill-Wood on the board used his position to help vote out those who wanted a club owned by the supporters – although you can read the whole story in all its gory detail on the Arsenal History website.  But I must warn you it is a very detailed and long account.

But to return to now.  “Wenger Out!” as I was saying, lacked a certain depth by way of analysis, but its aim was achieved.  And if you remember at the time, Untold argued strongly that simply getting rid of the manager was not necessarily going to bring the club instant success.

Our point was indeed just as simple as the “Wenger Out!” placards: that there is more to the success or failure of a club than the manager.  True, the manager is a major part of the deal, and who knows where we might be now if at some time the board has decided to give us an Allerdyce or Dyche as manager.

But the manager is not everything.  For there is also the money, and this really was the major point I and a few others tried to make.   In recent years the game has changed: with the building of the New Arsenal Stadium the supply of transfer funds for the manager was cut off, and by the time the debts were paid, the ownership of other clubs had moved on to incorporate people so wealthy and/or so devious that it would take not just a person of obscene wealth as owner of Arsenal to allow the club to compete, but a person of obscene wealth who is willing to spend some of that wealth on competing with other people of obscene wealth while being devioius with the truth, or not interested in any of the rules concerning how money can be used in football.

And given the way the poor and getting poorer and the rich getting richer as the planet not to mention humanity falls apart, finding one such person was always possible.   But never certain.   And as it turned out, Arsenal didn’t get one such.  We got an owner who sees his various sporting franchises as investments not grand projects to put himself at centre forward on the world stage.

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Of course clubs of a smaller nature can rise up without such massive investment – Leicester for example did it, and Tottenham are having a go now.  Leciester we might remember had never won the league before their recent triumph, and Tottenham have won it but twice, the last time being some 57 or so years ago (I may have miscounted that, but it is a fairly big number, certainly over half a century).

So yes, clubs can pop up from mid-table and get to the top or near the top, but to get there and maintain a challenge now requires not just obscene wealth or deviousness or both, but also a willingness to keep on spending to maintain the position.

Arsenal do not have an owner willing to spend continuously on the level that Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and of late Liverpool have done, and thus – as Untold argued in vain – the club is going to struggle to win the League again.  It could happen under a manager of sublime brilliance and/or with a huge amount of luck (preferably “and” rather than “or” because relying on luck, or come to that the oddities of referees, is never the best of plans), but it is an unrealiable position to take.

No, getting rid of the manager was never a plan – it was a placard.   The plan would have been to bring in a person who was not only as rich as a country – or at least as rich as Abramovich – who had a business visa to operate here and who was willing to spend his money on a whim, without any concern about his morality.

Without that Arsenal need another Mr Wenger.  Whether Mr Emery is that I have no idea.   His teams are exciting, his style is interesting, and his approach is unusual, and all that makes it fun.  And you never know he might be as good as Mr Wenger at pulling rabbits out of hats.   But putting one’s faith in a slogan being tugged behind an aeroplane and believing everything was going to be ok … well, I couldn’t see that working as a tactic then, and I can’t see it now.

21 comments to Why the failure against Liverpool was inevitable, and what Arsenal need now.

  • Daud

    I’m sorry Tony if you say we need the Wenger of the early arsenal years I’d agree with you. The one in the last few years is associated with 3 consecutive 5-1 losses to Bayern, 8-2 loss to man utd,numerous shameful losses to the big and small. This is Emery’s first 5-1 loss, our surprise is that it didn’t come earlier.
    We’re not as rich as man utd, but we’re certainly not poorer than Liverpool, so we’ll not use poverty as an excuse. Leicester won the league, Tottenham is doing quite well without spending much. Athletico Madrid has done quite well under the stewardship of Simeone, they’re not very rich. Juventus is doing quite well well they’re not as rich and built a newer stadium than us too. We’ll take a board and a manager that are interested in the Glory and are willing to go for it. I’m thinking Emery has that drive, yesterday he owned up that the defense is not up to scratch and that it’s his responsibility to fix that, for me that’s already expressive of the right mentality. We don’t want a manager or board that before the season starts tell us lofty targets, midway start giving useless excuses of poverty.

  • “but we’re certainly not poorer than Liverpool, so we’ll not use poverty as an excuse” – poverty has nothing to do with it. It is the willingness of the owner to invest at comperable levels. And as the article says, yes, it can happen and I cited Leicester and Tottenham as you have done, although I’d argue about Juventus. But that wasn’t really the thrust of the article.

  • Rosicky@Arsenal

    As I said a few weeks ago that we will lose points during winter months as it happenes to us almost every season. It maybe due to injuries fatigue mid-season syndrome whatever one thinks.
    Every team has it’s weak periods and for Arsenal it has been the cold winters generally.

    For me Liechestner was the weak link yesterday and not playing full strength with Laca & Auba playing together with a fit ozil should have kept the scoreline a bid modest IMHO.

    We shouldn’t have lost heavily also if Oliver was not too generous giving the last dubious penalty.

    Going forward I will still pray that Ramsey remains at the club and Ozil matter to be settled immediately as we need his creativity surely. If we fail to do so I doubt we can clinch top4 with new faces as it always takes time to settle in a new team.

  • Rosicky@Arsenal

    Great article Tony and agree to your points.
    For Daud I would say he is another Wob so let him have his own opinion regarding Wenger.

    As somebody tweeted that Wenger would have done better with these players than Emery is doing now. Says it all for me for the, great man.

  • Daud

    On willingness of the owner to invest, there’s no evidence for that. He has shown he’s willing to invest big money on lacazette, oil, aubameyang, xhaka, mustafi. I believe an elite manager who decides to take the job must look at what he’s getting into and have a plan to fix it. If that requires money then he’ll relate that to the board and be assured of their support based on resources available. Some managers take a while before making substantial investment in the squad, preferring to try and work with what is on ground before making up their minds on what external help is required. Wenger made it clear in many press conferences that he was adequately backed financially and that it was his decision not to patronize the inflated market(which he helped to create)

  • Daud

    And to buttress my points further, man city your announced EPL champions have just been beaten back to back by the lowly crystal palace and Leicester, Dortmund is running away with the bundesliga ahead of your annointed Bayern Munich. What we need is a manager who can recruit a group of players with the mentality to surmount the odds, not one who makes excuses of poverty( just like mourinho), when the manager has already given the players reason to be mediocre why shouldn’t they then be?

  • Daud

    That’s why I respect managers like guardiola and klopp, when guardiola felt he couldn’t push the Barca team any further, he stepped down of his own. He wasn’t sacked. Klopp did the same at Dortmund.

  • The evidence is in the total net spend of the club compared with the total net spend of the clubs above Arsenal, taking into account the point that I made that there will always be the occasional club that bucks the general trend. Indeed that has always been the case – see for example Man City’s championship after which they were relegated the following season.

  • Daud you really must try and get the English right. There is a difference between predictions and announcements.

  • ron

    have to accept arsenal were poor although penalty decisions dubious particularly the second. Was any else unfortunate enough to watch match on nbc -dixon was at arsenal from the kick off and continued throughout the match , it was completely unnecessary . can we not club together for the money for a contract killer

  • terry

    We have improved but a great articleas Keown said it yesterday Liverpool shop at Harrods and bought a World class keeper and defender. We bought a keeper who could not make the Germany world cup squad.
    Our most important presonnal at club will-be our scouting team to find cheap talent as owner will not spend money.

  • Dgeoel

    In my opinion Emery went to war without taking into consideration the strength and weaknesses of the opponent as well as his own.

    Playing a high defensive line with a 30+ year old defence devoid of pace was always going to be suicidal. A more defensive set-up with counter attacks would most likely have yielded a result.
    Having gone 1 up, the onus was on Liverpool to go foward and try to get the equaliser. This would have left gaps for Arsenal to explore and get more goals.

    In my opinion he is letting his personal issues with the Ozil and Lacas in the squad affect his selection and it’s affecting performance as it were.

  • Gord

    Dgeoel

    In the Times of Malta classifieds, there is a Serie B (Italy) team up for sale. Go buy it. I believe it is 3.8 million Euro.

  • markyb

    Klopp was a shit show in his last season, far worse than Mr Wenger Mr Agenda

  • Daud

    I beg to disagree, the net spend is not evidence of anything(even though arsenal’s net spend in the last four/five years is similar to Liverpool’s). If you have a manager who prefers not to spend believing he can do the job with little money, would an owner then force him to spend? Also man utd has spent heavily too, has it taken them closer to winning the league?

  • Really your arguments are getting silly. I do not claim that a high net spend automatically wins the league, but rather that in order to win the league one normally needs a high net spend – although as I have said it is possible to win the league or get close without the big net spend. However I have given details of the net spend in the case I am arguing but you haven’t given details of ARsenal’s net spend – which is exactly the sort of error you accuse me of, in the Suarez case. This is, I feel, just arguing for the sake of it.

  • Daud

    https://www.google.com.ng/amp/s/amp.independent.ie/sport/soccer/premier-league/revealed-premier-league-net-spending-table-sparks-a-debate-over-managerial-achievements-36861511.html

    That table was prepared in April, so it doesn’t take into account net spend in the last summer. But since Liverpool didn’t spend net of £150m over arsenal in the summer, it means between June 2014 and now Arsenal has spent more on transfers than Liverpool. The figures are from sky sports.

  • This is just nonsense. You can go back to any date you like and suggest that one club has spent more or less than another, but in reality it is the spending of the last 3 years at most that affects a club’s performance. Most players get four year contracts, and for most (but of course not all) the contract then is either renewed or the player sold before the contract ends – hence 3 years is a viable number. You are playing with figures – it is like suggesting that I have not given a source for information, when in fact I have quoted the exact seminar in which a statement was made. It is just playing.

  • nick

    Tony you regularly go back to certain points in time to suit your arguments .The point also about the last 3 years affects the clubs performance is pure speculation.Your quite happy to bring points up like 3 F.A cups in 4 years when in reality its 3 F.A cups and no league titles in over a decade ,but hey it sounds better.Your certainly the master when it comes to spin and want others to use facts and evidence when you can just speculate and get away with it..
    Cue menace ,gord and walter for back up.

  • Daniel Egwu

    You have just brought back an argument that only confuses the current reality. Yes, Wenger was very good in the early years but unlike Graham did to him, he left a very talented but weak, powdery and ponderous team that wilts with intensity. The problem of the later Wenger years was his change from what worked for him to what worked for Barca! Barca uses smaller but extra talented players (the almost best in their positions worldwide),but smaller players Wenger turned to were bargain buys, though talented but notbthe Barca level. So Wenger aimed to copy Barca but without the Barca quality. In came smallies and softies like Nasri, Fabregas, Denilson, Ozil, who became targets to be hustled off the ball and who could not stand intensive football. Lets not only put it down to money alone. Each time we play the big boys, their usual tactics is to roughen us up while playing with intensity. That accounted for Arsenal conceding 2 to 3 goals before the 20th minute (cross check last season). We can see that it was the choice of players more than anything.
    Finally, both Bale and Walcott were available from Southampton. We chose Walcott, of course, you now know the difference.