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How Arsenal can achieve further success, as history starts to repeat itself

By Tony Attwood

Now that it has been confirmed in such an overt manner that the owner of Arsenal is not putting any more money into the club and is merely interested in taking money out, the blogs have finally got the message.  Publishing ever more expansive lists of players Arsenal are going to buy isn’t convincing the punters that the purchases will happen.  Loans and sales are the order of the day.

And so we have the latest story in the media: Ozil is up for sale either simply to raise money or because the manager doesn’t like his style of play, or both.

But that is perhaps not the most frightening aspect of the current situation, for the implication is that this is not just a temporary issue, but is a reflection of how it is going to be from now on.  Arsenal is primarily to be a source of income for the owner.   And if the club’s profit is to be achieved through cost cutting, so be it.

In one very real sense this is not so different from the situation that Mr Wenger had to deal with during the period of paying for the building of Arsenal stadium: the club clearly at that stage had to live within its means.  But it is a problem for those fans who took at face value the comments that were made by the hierarchy that with the stadium paid for, Arsenal were now in the big money league when it came to transfers and could compete with the big boys.

Which is not to say that people like Mr Gazidis deliberately lied; quite possibly they were initially saying what the previous board was saying, and then not being given a different message by the new owner.  It is only now that we are seeing the reality of what a Kroenke led club looks like.  Profit for the owner first, success for the club second.

And all this at a time when there seems to be no stopping the spending power of Manchester City, no matter what stories circulate about their activities off the pitch.

But Mr Wenger dealt with this sort of privation, and famously kept Arsenal in the Champions League for 19 consecutive seasons, which was a major source of the income needed.  And so it looks like we might need this again.

So how can it be done?

Certainly finding bargain players was one of Mr Wenger’s trademarks.  Players picked out of obscurity who were given enough games to become great players who either then repeatedly delivered for Arsenal on the pitch, or who eventually were sold on at a significant profit.  Or indeed in some cases, both.

Partly also there was also the ability Mr Wenger had of being able to build a team step by step with the purchase (for example) not just of Henry but also Pires.  Each not just individually great players but also players who could work together in ways that we had rarely seen before at Arsenal.  Players who wanted to adapt their game for each other rather than feeling that they were being forced into new tactics which were not natural to them.

Mr Emery clearly seems to have some of this ability too: Torreira at £26m looks to have been a fantastic buy, and Guendouzi appears to have been an utter steal – an unknown plucked from a minor club for next to nothing – a transfer that has Wenger written all over it, and yet was arranged by the new manager.  So on those grounds we can certainly have hope for the future.  I’d also give a very positive rating to Sokratis and Leno, so it seems that when the money is there Mr Emery knows where the deals are.

For Mr Wenger there was also the approach of insisting that a new Academy centre was built so that youngsters would be attracted to Arsenal.   This vision still stands, and indeed has been enhanced by the fact that Arsenal have never been implicated in the sort of dealings with youngsters that have marred the reputation of Liverpool and Manchester City of late, and resulted in them being banned from transfers involving young players.

But the biggest difference, it seems to me, is that when Mr Wenger came to Arsenal, expectations were very modest.  In the five seasons leading up to his appointment at Arsenal, the club had come 4th, 10th, 4th, 12th, 5th in the League.

True, in the second and third of those years we had won the League Cup and FA Cup double, and then the Cup Winners Cup, and this had very much kept the positive feeling alive, especially since the feeling that the FA Cup was not really a trophy to be cherished, had not yet come about.

But that descent to 12th (which was not just the position at the end of the season but also the position that the club were in at the time the George Graham scandal broke and he was dismissed) suggested that major changes were needed.  As did the fact that in the entire season Arsenal only won six home games.  (Can you imagine that today: six home wins all season!!!)

And there was also the fact (oft forgotten by those who did not sit through the whole season watching it) that in 1992/3 Arsenal played 42 league games and scored just 40 goals, their lowest total since 1923/4 when the club was managed by the notoriously awful Leslie Knighton, and just missed relegation.  Indeed these two seasons (1924 and 1993) were the worst in goal scoring Arsenal ever had in playing 42 league games.  (Maybe the memory is still with me, for then as now I had a season ticket and sat through the lot.  No wonder we always went to the pub before each game.)

So Mr Wenger coped through the years of no money and used his tactical ability, his ability to spot players who were under-performing elsewhere, his visions of how players could play in combination, and his insight into which youngsters could turn into star performers, to give us a club that had success, without using vast amounts of money.

Now Mr Emery needs all these same skills – and that is one hell of an ask.  But that is not all, because besides needing all the skills that Mr Wenger famously brought to Arsenal, he has to do it against a background of the spending power of Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool: spending power which is way ahead of Arsenal’s under the approach of the new owner.

To achieve this, while the owner takes his dividends, is going to be incredibly difficult, and if Mr Emery manages it, he is certainly going to be worthy of the title of being one of Arsenal’s greatest managers.  If not, it is going to tough for all of us, I fear.

21 comments to How Arsenal can achieve further success, as history starts to repeat itself

  • Mikey

    @ Tony

    I too sat through the 92/93 season (and the George Graham years………and Bertie Mee). It seems to me that half the problem with the doomongers nowadays is that they weren’t around in those days. Many of them only became Arsenal “supporters” on the back of Mr Wenger’s achievements and continued to demand glory just to satisfy their own egos. The club would be so much better if they just went and supported another club team who (by virtue of their wealth) are better placed to supply the fix they clearly can’t do without.

    I wonder what they’d have done had they had to stand on an unroofed terrace watching the team concede 70+ league goals as we did several times in the 60’s or suffering 19 league defeats and finishing 17th as we did in 76.

    Perspective just seems to be lost on some people. Fans come and go but supporters support. A lot of people need to decide which they are and either join us in supporting the club or just do one and leave us alone.

    In the days of my youth we did not have expectations, we supported the club because they were our local team. Now it seems that people believe they are owed success…………irrespective of whether they even bother going to matches.

  • Fair play gooner

    Why is Özil being left out of the squad? I expect untold to ask this question. Before we blame the management of not spending, maybe we should first know why our £42.5m man & the highest earner in our tram doesn’t make matchday bench (or beach as we call it here) when Nketiah and Saka do. I believe whatever he’s trying to prove is not working out well as we’ve performed poorly in the last 8-9 matches. One thing is a common theme of all of them: we created next to nothing in terms of goal scoring chances. Özil who is our best creator can’t make the match day squad. Its really hilarious and I believe this will break our season.
    Emery is so different from Wenger in that Arsène will never play 7 defense minded outfield players against West Ham…not even if they have Lionel Messi and C. Ronaldo in the team, AW will never have subbed off Lacazette for Aubameyang (or the other way round) in a match we were losing 5-1(except for injury). Wenger does not rush into panic changes at half time when he had the whole week to pick the right team for a given match. He certainly did not stay on the touchline barking out orders for the team, but mostly allowed them to be expressive, hence we have been treated to very lovely and creatively crafted goals during the wenger era. I’m sorry, I see a lot of differences between Mr.Emery & AW I’m not sure our traditional beautiful football will even exist in one year’s time.

  • Les Martin

    What you say is true.
    I too started ‘supporting’ The Arsenal in 1962 . We didn’t win a thing but for a 10 year old it didn’t matter . Of course I want to see us win every match 8-0 and lift every trophy there is .But whatever happens I SUPPORT the Gunners.

  • Jerry

    Excellent article Tony. The Ozil situation is frustrating and don’t know why the media never ask why is Ozil’s contract too much for the club? When looking at the PL player contracts, Manchester United alone pay 2 players (Sanchez and Pogba) more than Ozil. De Bruyne gets paid more also.

    In fact, Ozil is the only Arsenal player in the top 10 among salaries. United has 4 players, City has 2 players, along with 1 player each from Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, and Tottenham. The further you go down the list the difference is vast.

    Arsenal has 4 players in the highest 26 salaries (Welbeck at 26). United has 4 in the Top 10 and 6 in the top 26. City has 7 in the top 26.

    https://www.spotrac.com/epl/rankings/

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    A quick start for our U23s this evening at home to Man City. Saka scored in the 3rd minute from open play and Burton made it two from the penalty spot after Amaechi was fouled.

  • Nigel

    How sad I feel having an owner who has no interest whatsoever in our great club. When we had the new stadium built we all thought it would make us a major player in the Premier and Champions League. We were understanding that we had to wait awhile whilst the bulk of the payments were made and our then board managed the move brilliantly. Then the self sufficient run club idea came to an end as mega rich billionaires took over. I was against our club being run that way and certainly didn’t expect our major shareholders to throw in the towel and cash in to one of them so easily. This man is so bad for us and now he owns all the shares he can do as he likes, which doesn’t appear to bode well.
    I class myself as a true supporter all my life and love the rich history of Arsenal. If only the owner was the same and our previous directors hadn’t sold their souls, along with their shares.

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    Three nil at half time, Nketiah’s shot saved but Joe Willock made no mistake with the follow up.

    Hopefully more to come in the second half

    At least our junior teams are playing football this weekend

  • U23 half-time: Arsenal 3 MCity 0
    jeorge bird has just made (on twitter) an interesting point about willock and guendouzi at the moment
    well done, boys

  • jjgsol

    I can predict that Ozil will play against Chel$ki and when they beat us, UE can then turn around to all of us calling for ozil to return that he told us so.

    I think that we are heading for mediocrity at a rate of knots.

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    City got one back straight after the break but Saka restored the three goal lead after 51 minutes. Nketiah them with an assist for Amaechi after 67 minutes.

    Mavropanos comes off after 71 minutes being replaced by Ballard.

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    That’s it at Borehamwood, our U23s finally get back to winning ways with a 5 – 1 demolition of Man City..

  • WalterBroeckx

    jjgsol, that is what I also fear….

    I cannot come up with any excuse to put 3 defenders on the bench at WHU including Lichtsteiner and then leave a fit Özil at home.

  • U23: 5-1 demolition of City, although eddie seems to be suffering from some kind of “scorer’s block” at the moment. He’ll get over it, he is a true wonderkid; talking of wonderkids, amaechi is back from injury and has scored – the boy sure is one of our “next big things”. and thanks again jeorge bird for your great job about the young gunners

  • jjgsol

    Could it be that today’s team contained all the young players in the first team squad who would normally not play for u23s?

    I have no problem with that as they could do with the games as they spend so.much time with their buckets and spades on the beach.

    Maybe ozil should have used as well

  • Menace

    The solution is simple – vote for a new government & maybe just maybe Football will be nationalised together with the banks, public transport & utilities. It will certainly clear all the greedy crud that has taken over the soul of our national sport.

  • IndianArse

    Hey Tony,

    You keep claiming that the owner keeps taking rather than putting money into the club. Do we actually have proof of this? While SwissRamble has recently shown how he’s the only owner to have not put a pound of his own into the club, except for buying the club, we don’t have evidence of him actually taking anything out. Unlike the Glazers at United.

    Kroenke, seems to be a collector of sports clubs / franchises, rather than an investor. Also, he spent, along with a private capital fund, private money to build a stadium for the Rams in the NFL and moved them to LA, which seemed to have brought them back into the reckoning. Historically, he has bought teams and stayed away from them altogether, only coming out of the shadows when required to. His son, however, seems to prefer a more hands-on approach, involving himself in the workings of multiple sports teams of the family.

    While the situation is hardly ideal, isn’t this what Arsenal has stood for? Self-sustaining model, promoting youth, including people of all creeds and so on. Haven’t we been proud of Arsenal has been run for years? How would you prefer it, that we become one of the many current teams with sugar daddies?

  • IndianArse, you are right that I don’t have evidence of dividends taken by the owner, and it is a presumption on my part, based on the way his other franchises have been run.
    But although you are right in that the Arsenal model is the self-sustaining model, there is a problem, it seems to me. We can indeed continue with the self-sustaining model, but with several other clubs investing so heavily, in a way we have not seen before, in the best players from around the world, I think that will mean that we will find it impossible to win the league, and increasingly hard to get into the top four (with Chelsea, Man C, Man U and Liverpool all investing it world stars).
    That is a decent model, but given the anger from some supporters about Wenger not buying the right players (as they saw it) I think this could be a long term problem for the club.
    But of course the owner might not stick to his previous strategy and might actually invest.

  • IndianArse

    I agree. We can’t keep up with the aforementioned clubs this way. We can’t be run the same way either.

    Imagine Arsenal being run as United are with their finance. Or as Chelsea with their loan system. We do have to be decisive with our player contracts as Liverpool are, but not as their spending of millions on their goalie and defender.

    I feel we have to be innovative as we were with Chapman and Wenger. We have to invest in better methods of training, scouting, having sister clubs, research, and so forth. I understand that these are feeble but funding transfers can’t be the solution as you yourself are written so many times.

  • Steve Vallins

    @ Les & Mikey
    I too have supported The Arsenal since the 50’s , the difference then till now is that no single team dominated the league until Liverpool had a good run .
    Anyone who supported a division 1 team in the 50’s 60’s and part way through 70’s had hope of being champions , where as now there are only 5 to 6 teams but really only 4 that can win it .
    So I think supporters expectations need to be put into perspective in this particular time in supporting The Arsenal .

  • Menace

    Liverpool had a good run because of the Littlewoods finance. The rest of the clubs didn’t have sugar daddies until Abramovic bought Chelsea.