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January 2019
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The three things we can learn from Arsenal’s current position.

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)…

Club Expenditure Men in Income Men out Balance
1 164 163
2 248 236
3 129 134
4 138 140
5 111 120
6 135 128
7 120 137

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…

  1. Manchester City (2)
  2. Manchester United (6)
  3. Chelsea (4)
  4. Arsenal (5)
  5. Liverpool (1)
  6. Everton (11)
  7. 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.


22 comments to The three things we can learn from Arsenal’s current position.

  • nick

    Tony a quick response on the points you made.
    1.I agree that removing the manager isnt a sure fire way to get Arsenal up the table but keeping the very old manager we had proved over the last few years not to work either.Did anyone with a sane mind really expect that we could bring in Uni Emery and he would turn it around in 1 transfer window and 22 GAMES?
    2.I am in total agreement that the owner is the main problem but at least with the new manager he is open and honest about there being no money available so we know it definitely down to Kronke.Wenger and Gazidis told us there was money there to spend if needed and that we needed to move to the Emirates to compete with the very best..
    3.Given the funding we have we could be doing bettter but as shown with Liverpool and Spurs it takes time to get right ,firstly to get rid of the players not wanted and bring a new way of playing with new players.

    This site prided itself on backing the manager no matter who it is but it seems a lot on here cant wait to reference Arsene Wenger when things arent going too well.That makes you as fickle as the AAA and it shows some care more about Wenger than Arsenal.

  • “Tottenham spent nothing last summer and are above us”: this sentence proves the Great Man right – once more, how many times did he tell us that cohesion was a paramount factor for getting results? “£63.8m last summer” – yes, but i can’t get out of my mind the fact that our best XI (barring injuries, of course) remains:
    bellerin- mustafi – koscielny (holding) – monreal (mniles)
    ramsey – xhaka
    mkhitaryan (welbeck) – özil – aubameyang
    of course “mighty mouse” lucas could get slotted in (granit??)
    but we must keep in mind that this wenger team should have won the europa league last year, had the referees for the atletico games not decided otherwise
    so, it just would have taken a little humility from the new headcoach, to admit that he had a unique legacy to acknowledge, and respect, and build upon; instead he chose to brush everything off, with contempt :
    “God knows I’ve tried” (as junior kimbough used to say) to understand him, but when I watch such games as the shameful one we had to put up with yesterday, I can’t help but thinking that what unai acknowledges, and respects, and – of course – fails to build upon, are the great theories about “defense”, and “coaching”, and “tactical decisions”, and “useless özil” of Arsenal Moron TV, the guardian-telegraph columnists, not to mention the “pundits”, and beyond the poor results, the poor performances – I could put up with that, that’s what being a fan is about – this betrayal of everything AW stood for is the bitterest pill to swallow
    PS: of course, tony, i agree with every word you typed about the owner …

  • Daud

    @Tony, I have a few points to make in response. But first let me acknowledge the points made by Nick. Points which I absolutely agree with. Now.. claim to have been an advocate of the view that money is a significant factor in league performance. I totally agree that money is a key factor, however your claim that you’ve championed this view is very false. You wrote so many articles claiming the opposite, every time you did I believe it was jamburg that challenged you with stats. What was frustrating for jamburg was always your refusal to even acknowledge his posts and the stats put forward, yet you kept pouring those articles. My belief had always been that you didn’t believe in that view, but since you felt compelled to defend Wenger’s policies and those of your preferred owner(let’s not go into how much you had backed Kroenke, especially when compared with the Russian).
    2. I wasn’t a believer in Emery at the start, I felt with the resources available to him at PSG, his performance was average at best and I felt we would need better to climb up the table where we belonged. I also didn’t appreciate his seeming acceptance of the poor spending culture at the club. However during the long unbeaten run I began to turn. I especially like his honesty, accepting responsibility for the shambolic defense and now telling us fans that he doesn’t have money to work with. For me those are improvements, thus we know who to direct our grievances on lack of spending and we know who to blame for a poor defensive performance(not the ref, not lady luck). I am willing(just like Piers Morgan, that consistent WOB) to give the manager 2-3 more transfer windows while berating the owner and the board to show him support. Remember Wenger had more than 10transfer Windows,and in every one he claimed he had all the money he needed to produce a winning team, but that he preferred to and could do it with less money(even though that was still 4th biggest in the league since 2012).

  • george

    You have not taken into consideration the poor tactics and team selection by the manager. Given the players available to him, Emery should be defeating West Ham any day or in the least put up a gallant performance. Wenger needed to stablise the defense and Emery inherited a team that did not need an overhaul. This team is going backwards. There is no creativity while the most creative talent is frozen out. Is forcing Ramsey out a strategy? Is freezing and humiliating Ozil a strategy? Is bringing in Lechesteiner on a free a strategy? The answer to all these is -Yes. It is a financial strategy and not a football strategy. Even the departure of Wenger makes good economic sense. Emery earns much less than what Wenger used to earn. Clearly the wage bill is going down at the expense of footballing results and performance. Hope is not a strategy; but one has to hope that the Arsenal fans are not about to face a long winter of discontent.

  • Of course you have your view, but I think you have missed how my view changed when Chelsea were no longer a one off but a model for other clubs – most particularly Manchester City. I don’t think many people saw Chelsea as anything other than a one-off – that was the bit that I got completely wrong, and having realised my error my view changed.
    But this does not change the basic point – that the notion that “Wenger out” was a strategy that could lead to an improvement in Arsenal’s performance – which is the essence of the article.

  • Jerry

    Excellent article Tony. I agree the issue is the owner because he is just out of his depth right now. In leagues where there is a salary cap (NBA, NFL), his teams are doing well (Denver Nuggets #1 in NBA West and the Rams in the NFL. In a league without any spending limits (PL), it’s practically impossible to be successful with a salary cap approach unless your manager is magician. The problem is he had that with Arsene Wenger who showed it is possible to have success without overspending which probably just reinforced his salary cap enforcing mentality.

    Another factor for the success is just experience. From Wenger’s experience, he knew you need at least 1 playmaker in the lineup against teams that are not in the Top 5-6 to unlock the defense (Fabregas, Cazorla, Wilshere, Ozil, etc…). I think Emery will eventually learn that. This first year is about the team learning UE’s tactics, but also UE learning about the tactics of other teams in the league.

  • Daud

    @Tony, those articles jamburg criticised were written as recently as the 2017/18 season, except you’re saying your views changed with Wenger’s exit or near that period. But then the point of my rebuttal is that it’s dishonest of you to come now claiming to be a bastion of that thought since time immemorial. Also you owe jamburg some acknowledgement.
    Secondly,as your chat showed, Wenger still got to spend good money(4th highest net, 5th gross) we the WOBs believed we could have done better with that outlay, Emery might not be the man to help us compete on such budget, but that conclusion would be hasty after 22games. For now we would accept the modest results with a great deal of honesty.

  • You still are avoiding the key point: that the single issue campaign of Wenger Out was very likely to be doomed to failure as a quick fix for Arsenal’s problems and was more than likely (in my view) to make matters worse if it did not expand to involve a requirement for greater funding from the owner.
    Raising the suggestion that I have changed my mind, while ignoring this is truly odd: I’m not agreeing that I have changed my mind as you said, but for the sake of taking this forward, let me agree that you are right just for a moment.
    So are you saying there is something wrong with changing one’s mind?
    Personally I would have thought that changing one’s mind in a world that changes as fast as this world is inevitable. A person who does not change his/her mind would appear to have a fixed vision of reality, which is out of sync with the ever changing real world.

  • Daud

    I doubt anyone expected Wenger’s exit to result in immediate solution to the problem. I haven’t encountered anybody who thought so. However, for many of us, Wenger’s exit was a step in the right direction. Very few of us still trusted Wenger to spend available resources shrewdly. So more investment is needed,true. A more demanding owner is needed, true. But also a fresh manager with different ideas and ability to maximize investment is also needed. All of these points have consistently been made by those who wanted Wenger out.

  • Daud

    @tony, nobody is against you changing your mind. If I changed my mind about an issue(eg on Emery) I would accept I used to be on the other side. What I will not do is come write an article here claiming “I’ve always been of that opinion”. While you all were on the other side. I also will not attribute my previous opinion to the media cooking up fake stuff(like you have done on the injuries issue).

  • I think the problem is Daud that you change the perameters of the discussion – which of course you can do but it is hard then to relate back to the article or something I’ve said before. I have recently in articles been particularly mentioning the people who waved “Wenger out” placards and banners, and I’ve been trying to criticise simplistic solutions to Arsenal’s recent decline in league position, just as I criticise people who reduced our 20 odd years in the Champs League to “4th is not a trophy”.
    I do think you have misunderstood the position I feel I have held fairly consistently, which is that having a club which is funded by itself, rather than by the owner is the better option. However the world changed when clubs started having previously unimagined amounts of money to put into the club, and quite possibly using previously unimagined dubious activities to ensure that they won trophies. Faced now with the level of financial muscle that Man C can bring, Arsenal can only think of winning the league with equal inputs of money unless they have a fluke season like Leicester. I would have liked that notion to be part of the debate about whether Wenger should go – but it appeared to be difficult to get the debate moved away from Wenger out.
    I have obviously not expressed my view in a way that makes matters clear, and I also know this is the case over referees where I am constantly accused by some of suggesting that the referees are regularly against Arsenal – whereas I don’t think I have ever said that.
    Why, when it comes to football I seem not to be able to express my views in a way that readers can understand what is in my head, I don’t know – fortunately that skill has not disappeared in other areas, (otherwise I’d be out of work) but it seems to be the case here.
    I think maybe the best thing for me to do is publish your other comment that has come in, and then leave the matter and then, just in case anyone is interested I’ll write a little piece on what I actually do believe about finance in football, and indeed referees in the PL, so they are available – not that I imagine anyone is really particularly interested in what I think or whether I have changed my mind or not.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Don’t you worry , we the faithful read you loud and clear. We have been patient and have mostly understood the constraints that has held back our progress.
    AW was never a constraint. Many did not see that. Blame is easy, if you read or follow the media’s direction.
    Yet I have still to see some well researched or well argued points put out by anyone here on how they could suggest the way forward.
    ‘ Spend more fucking money !’, being the only mantra brandied about!
    And as often noted by the regulars, those same idiots in new guises still come here to rehash tbeir crap arguments.
    And just to be disagreeable !

    I will allow UE the time and undivided support to set it right. No pressure from me.
    Up the Gunners.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Sorry, should have read ,.. Don’t you worry, Tony, we thefaithful…

    Typing on the smart phone can be quite a bitch. Like some of them !

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Below is a nice piece that doth preach positivity and unity to advance change .

  • Brickfields Gunners


    Vibration in quantum physics means that *everything is energy.* We are beings that vibrate at certain frequencies. Each vibration is equivalent to a feeling and in the “vibrational” world, there are only two types of vibrations, the positive and the negative. Any feeling causes you to emit a vibration that can be positive or negative.

    *1st.- THE THOUGHTS*
    Every thought emits a frequency towards the Universe and that frequency returns towards the origin, then in the case, if you have negative thoughts, of discouragement, sadness, anger, fear, all of that turns towards you. That is why it is so important that you take care of the quality of your thoughts and learn to cultivate more positive thoughts.

    *2nd – THE COMPANY We have..*
    The people around you directly influence your vibrational frequency. If you surround yourself with happy, positive, determined people, you will also enter into that vibration, now if you surround yourself with complaining, cursing and pessimistic people, be careful! Well, they may be decreasing your frequency and as a consequence preventing you from making the Law of Attraction work in your favor.

    *3rd – THE MUSIC*
    The music is very powerful. If you only listen to music that speaks of death, betrayal, sadness, abandonment, all that will interfere in what you vibrate. Pay attention to the lyrics of the music you listen to, it may be decreasing your vibrational frequency. And remember: You draw into your life exactly what you vibrate.

    *4th – THE THINGS YOU SEE*
    When you watch programs that deal with misfortune, death, betrayal, etc. your brain accepts that as a reality and releases a whole chemistry in your body, causing your vibrational frequency to be affected. See things that do you good and help you vibrate at a higher frequency.

    *5th – THE ENVIRONMENT (Space..House and Workplace.)*
    Whether at home or at work, if you spend much of your time in a disorganized and dirty environment, this will also affect your vibrational frequency. Improve what is around you, organize and clean your environment. Show the Universe that you are apt to receive much more. Take care of what you already have.

    *6th – THE WORD*
    If you tend to complain or speak badly about things and people, this affects your vibrational frequency. To maintain your high frequency it is essential that you eliminate the habit of complaining and speaking badly about others. Then avoid making dramas and victimize yourself. Take responsibility for the choices of your life.

    Gratitude positively affects your vibrational frequency. That is a habit that you should incorporate right now into your life. Start to thank for everything, for the good things and those that you consider not good, thanks for all the experiences that you have lived. Gratitude opens the doors for good things to flow positively in your life.

  • Brickfields Gunners



    1. Take risks in your life. If you win, you can lead; if you lose, you can guide.

    2. People are not what they say but what they do; so judge them not from their words but from their actions.

    3. When someone hurts you, don’t feel bad because it’s a law of nature that the tree that bears the sweetest fruits gets maximum number of stones.

    4. Take whatever you can from your life because when life starts taking from you, it takes even your last breath.

    5. In this world, people will always throw stones on the path of your success. It depends on what you make from them – a wall or a bridge.

    6.Challenges make life interesting; overcoming them make life meaningful.

    7. There is no joy in victory without running the risk of defeat.

    8. A path without obstacles leads nowhere.

    9. Past is a nice place to visit but certainly not a good place to stay.

    10. You can’t have a better tomorrow if you are thinking about yesterday all the time.

    11. If what you did yesterday still looks big to you, then you haven’t done much today.

    12. If you don’t build your dreams, someone else will hire you to build theirs.

    13. If you don’t climb the mountain; you can’t view the plain.

    14. Don’t leave it idle – use your brain.

    15. You are not paid for having a good brain, you are only rewarded for using it intelligently.

    16. It is not what you don’t have that limits you; it is what you have but don’t know how to use.

    17. What you fail to learn might teach you a lesson.

    18. The difference between a corrupt person and an honest person is: The corrupt person has a price while the honest person has a value.

    19. If you succeed in cheating someone, don’t think that the person is a fool…… Realize that the person trusted you much more than you deserved.

    20. Honesty is an expensive gift; don’t expect it from cheap people.

    These are pearls of wisdom.
    Heed them.

  • nick

    Brickfields i woner how long it would take you to agree with your master then come out with a few not so funny jokes to derail and bring the blog to an end..Right on cue

  • nick

    Mind you it beats your 2 year olds analysis of the weekneds games that usually end with a WHOO WEVE wON!!

  • GoingGoingGooner

    @nick…give it a rest. Let’s save our vitriol for the other teams.

  • Gord

    Nick is here is to cause problems. He may or may not support Arsenal. But it is known that nick supports nick.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    A thought provoking message.

    A lady was travelling in a train with a 6 year old kid. They both were reading books.

    This seemed unbelievable to most of the fellow passengers. Then one of them got up and asked…”Ma’am, in today’s world the kids who were born yesterday are playing with smartphones, but this kid is reading.
    How come he is not playing with a phone or a tablet? How come he listens to you and how did you make him do that?”

    To this the woman calmly replied, “Sir, kids do not listen to us , they only copy us.”

    A simple observation ,but with a deep and profound meaning.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Why is that some people loathe humour and /or positivity on this site ? I often wonder what kind of example they set for their kids and kin , with all their negativity and constant bitching . I then quickly snap out of it , when I realise that I truly don’ t care a shit !

    As a doctor , I have found that humour , positivity , reinforcement and encouragement helps my patients understand and cope better with their ailments and general condition and discomfiture . But then again, it may not be too helpful to those who have stitches in , when they laugh their heads off !

    I have often wondered if I should start a , ” Help them with humour ” , Q & A regular column on UA , where I would answer questions and inquiries from those who don’t to be seem coping too well with Arsenal football in particular , and life in general .

    Am sure there are many who believed delusionally that AW ‘s departure would immediately bring great joy to their lives and success to Arsenal football club , but have found it not to be so. I think that I will have much fun and joy in helping them see the error of their ways.

    So do write in , and let us start this journey to your well being .

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