By Tony Attwood
The thesis set out here during the “Wenger Out!” period was that changing the manager at Arsenal last season would probably not solve much. Only “probably” rather than “definitely” because there was always a chance – but the odds were against us.
Football is a game in which all sorts of things can happen unexpectedly (like Leicester winning the league for example). But the feeling was that on the balance of probabilities not much would change because, given where the club was, changing the manager was not the change that was needed.
The point I tried to make over and over during the “Wenger Out” period was that football in the Premier League had changed, and Arsenal had to change to match the new world – but changing the manager was not the change we needed.
Football, I tried to argue had changed. The money available to Manchester United had always been way above that of other clubs because of their world-wide marketing that goes back to the end of the 1950s. Now Chelsea and Manchester City had even more money. To compete Arsenal had for years used tactics and a throughput of young players, but with Liverpool joining the high spenders as well, such tactics were unlikely to be enough.
Of course the club could hope to do a Leicester, but hope is not a tactic, and what needed changing was the owner and his financial restrictions, not the manager. We had had years of privation because of the purchase of Arsenal Stadium and staying in the top four while doing that was a miracle. But with the way Chelsea etc were spending money it was hard to keep up.
It used to be possible by clever use of the transfer market and an excellent youth policy, but no more. Now, with Manchester City on the financial scene, and Liverpool getting serious money, this was no longer an option.
And the new owner did open the financial gate to the tune of a net spend of £63.8m last summer and yes this was more than the two Manchester clubs and Tottenham last summer, but when added to previous window expenditures it was not enough to allow for the disruption of the change of a manager. In short, my view was that “Wenger Out” on its own was not a policy, it was a recipe for moderate success.
Of course as I note, the rules are not absolute, and to emphasise the point, Tottenham spent nothing last summer and are above us. And again, Manchester United have just changed managers and greatly improved the team performance. Such things can happen; but they are not guaranteed. If you want progress guaranteed, it is an excellent manager and expenditure that is required.
So what have we learned thus far?
1: Some more people might at last have realised that “Wenger Out” was not a strategy.
Just removing the manager was not a sure fire way to get Arsenal up the table. Indeed although I have not got detailed stats to show it, replacing the manager mostly fails to make the desired impact. In seven of the Premier League seasons at least half of the PL clubs changed their manager; they couldn’t all reach the heights. In every single PL season – that is going back to 1992/3 at least 20% of PL clubs changed their manager each season. The median number is eight – just under half. They didn’t all get success because that is simply not possible.
2: The owner is the problem.
Clubs get success by chance, by tactics, by transfers and by bringing through young players of great talent. The short term fix to a club’s problem can involve any of the first three and most of the time the big short term fix is transfers. For which the club needs money to compete with Man U, Man C, Chelsea and Liverpool – and on the world stage, Real Madrid, Barcelona etc.
Of course it can be done without transfers, but it is harder and can take longer, and generally needs that special manager in 1000.
3: Given the lack of funding we are performing as might be expected
If you analyse the money spent on transfers from 2012/13 until now you get this (figures from Transfer Market)…
|1,08 bn €
|1,06 bn €
In short by being 5th at the moment in expenditure and in the league we are performing as expected on the basis of money spent. Tottenham are performing above their expenditure, Everton, Man U and Chelsea below.
If we take the money in the final column – the balance left after buying and selling as opposed to just money spent, the order of clubs is as below with current league position in brackets…
- Manchester City (2)
- Manchester United (6)
- Chelsea (4)
- Arsenal (5)
- Liverpool (1)
- Everton (11)
- Tottenham (3)
The matches between net spend and league position are not perfect but highly indicative. Money spent goes quite a long way to determining position. And with the news that we have no new money available this January, despite the profitability of the club, we really do have a problem.
Our problem will probably be alleviated by the young players coming through, and the tactical skill of Mr Emery, but on this level of restrictive spening we are not going to win the league, unless by chance.
The world has been changed by the arrival of new free spending clubs. Arsenal could be part of that group – but not under this owner.
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