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Where can Arsenal go from here?

By Tony Attwood

We’ve been looking at different aspects of the new reign of Mr Emery at Arsenal and trying to see where it leads.   Articles thus far include

How to kill a player: the issues of Ozil

So should we be supporting Emery, given the way things are going?

Is Mr Emery getting Arsenal right, or is he leading us down the wrong path?

Is Mr Emery the right man for the job? The worrying signs…

This article attempts to wrap the details up and summarise our position at the moment.

What is clear at this point is that the current Arsenal owner is not going to invest a shedload of money into the club, and thus the Arsenal manager needs to have all the guile and skill that Mr Wenger had, in order to keep us at the level that we had become accustomed to up to 2016 – which seems to be the barest minimum some fans are demanding.   You may indeed recall that in the three years up to that point we finished up in 2nd, 3rd and 4th place in the Premier League, and picked up two more FA Cup wins.

In short Mr Emery has to do exactly the same sort of job as Mr Wenger had to do during the years of paying for the stadium: find bargain players, nurture the youth system, make a profit where possible by selling players or cutting costs by releasing players on high wages.

It means finding new players like Bellerin, Ramsey, Clichy, Koscielny, Vieira… the players who were either totally unknown or at least more or less unknown when Arsenal brought them in.   And at the same time “doing a Wenger” by breathing new life into Arsenal through the equivalent of getting the most out of those who were there – from Ray Parlour to Tony Adams.   Plus moving on crowd favourites whom the manager doesn’t rate – people like Paul Merson.

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It also means having the judgement and faith to bring in younger players quickly enough to give them a proper sense of belonging to the club and a belief that they will make it.   And of course it means having systems in place that allow the transfers we do want, to happen.

This is how we have to estimate the ability of Mr Emery – is he able to bring in unknowns who are brilliant, at bargain rates, while moving on the unwanted?   And this question, remember, is one that relates to staying in the “fourth is not a trophy” position while winning the FA Cup or Europa League.  (Of course Mr Wenger also quickly made it about winning the league early in his career, but let us not get carried away, let us not demand that now, because the strength of the opposition has changed.  Just a return to Champions League football and some cups would take us back to where we were BK – Before Kroenke.)

In fact when looked at this way, this is what Mr Emery is delivering, or at least seeking to deliver.   I don’t compare Ozil to Merson of course, but rather note that Mr Wenger knew who he wanted and how he wanted the team to play and was ruthless at moving people on and bringing his men in.

And I’d add that Mr Emery has delivered some good purchases: I’d rate Guendouzi as the outstanding example, although I see the player is getting bashed by a number of “fans” for his performances recently.   But to me it looks like a brilliant buy, a buy that looks utterly like a Mr Wenger purchase in fact.  Unknown, playing for L’Orient (one of Mr Wenger’s favourite hunting grounds), and able to fit in, instantly, very low cost…

And the others… we shall of course see over time, but Torreira looks to have been an excellent buy also.  And both are in the Wenger tradition – good deals coming in out of the blue.

But there is still one more problem: this is not a playing field in which everything is equal.  While Chelsea appear to be suffering in the aftermath of their owner being refused a work visa for the UK (resulting, you may recall in the almost immediate cancellation of their new stadium project), Manchester City still appear to be not only willing to spend anything necessary, but willing also to take on Uefa (in that they have refused to hand over documents that pertain to financial issues raised by the leaked documents recently).  The chances of the Premier League ever being able to control their spending seems unlikely – which means they can probably keep on buying success, no matter what the cost.

Of the rest of the top six I would say there are question marks hanging over Tottenham Hotspur, despite their current high position in the league.  The transition to the new stadium has been a fiasco, made bearable only by the fact that the media has just let it happen, running the story of the chaos over the building and the escalating costs just a few times rather than making it the daily headline, as I suspect it would have been had the affair involved Arsenal.

But unless there is a sudden change of heart, or Tottenham with their new stadium are sold to another middle eastern power as another vanity project, I suspect Tottenham are going to be in a period of austerity for a long time to come. And it is not as if they have a large number of under 23s just waiting to burst through into the first team as the under 23 table shows…

Pos Club P W D L F A Pts
1. Everton U23 16 9 4 3 22 8 31
2. Brighton U23 17 8 6 3 30 19 30
3. Derby U23 17 9 2 6 24 19 29
4. Leicester U23 17 8 3 6 23 20 27
5. Chelsea U23 17 7 3 7 26 25 24
6. Arsenal U23 16 6 5 5 34 33 23
7. Liverpool U23 16 5 7 4 24 20 22
8. Man City U23 17 6 3 8 29 39 21
9. Blackburn U23 16 5 3 8 25 30 18
10. Tottenham U23 17 4 6 7 18 31 18
11. West Ham U23 15 5 1 9 32 35 16
12. Swansea U23 17 3 5 9 22 30 14

The bottom two go down, and West Ham have two games in hand being just two points behind Tottenham.  This of course doesn’t mean a long term failure of their under 23 team – Arsenal have also gone down in the past – but rather that just at this moment I think they’ve moved all the top talent from the under 23s that they can find, into the first team squad.

As for the rest, well, with a club like Manchester City able to resist the demands of Uefa, they are certainly not going to bow before any enquiry into their finances by the FA or Premier League so there seems to be no end in sight to the way in which they can use money.  And it will possibly encourage other potentates to jump in and run a club.   Which suggests that by and large any club with access to soverign wealth funds or other huge sources of income based overseas, is likely to be able to find ways of getting the money and using it, without being questioned.

In short, Arsenal need a manager who is not just a tactical genius, but also a man who can spot both the brilliant youngster and the under achieving 20 year old, buy him in, and turn him into a player worth 100 times what we paid for him.  A manager with great tactical awareness who is not afraid of dropping mega stars and crowd favourites to achieve his aim.   In short, Mr Wenger Version II.

The only problem is that the media and a part of the fan base combined to get rid of Mr Wenger Version I and they’ll probably do it again.  Indeed some of the blogs have already been calling for Guendouzi to be released.

Top four and cups is, I suspect, the best we can hope for in this financial climate; if Mr Emery can achieve that.

14 comments to Where can Arsenal go from here?

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    Our latest U23 match was against Spurs and we beat them 4-0 at their ground. Two from Joe Willock (taking his season total to 11 in 16 appearances in all competitions – not bad for a midfielder), one from Nketiah and a penalty by Charlie Gilmour.

    It must surely only be a matter of time before Willock gets further chances in the first team. If we cam play Guendouzi (another 19 year old) every week and he never looks likely to score, surely we can try Willock who quite clearly does provide a goal threat as well as being as assiduous in his defensive duties.

    Elsewhere our Women are in FA Cup Action this afternoon against Chelsea at Kingsmeadow. Kickoff is 14:00 UK time, if you can get to the ground tickets are just £3 and you can pay at the gate. The match is also being streamed on the SSE Women’s Cup Facebook page if you have access to that.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Emery needs to do rather a lot, as you say. And without the help many receive. Rumours suggest a rich , slightly murderous tyrant buyout of Utd in the near future, wouldn’t be surprised if Tottenham are sold either.
    Whatever the merits or otherwise of Emery, our ownership model will not allow him to compete consistently with doped clubs. There is nothing wrong with self sufficiency, I quite like the idea, but the elite levels of the game are moving on to anything but. Difficult to make the top four with so many teams with external input. Swiss Ramble recently suggested even thrifty Tottenham have had owner input,it seems everyone has, except us and Middlesboro.
    Our ownership will hinder us, not especially our manager. Perhaps Emerys realisation of this is behind his obsessive purge of at least some high earners, along with personal player preferences, although I for one wonder who is next after Ramsey and Özil.
    We will soon be outspent by much of the league, wolves, Everton, West Ham, Fulham, in addition to traditional rivals,and could end up positioned accordingly.
    Our position has not been helped by losing so many players for nothing, that has to stop.
    Not only does Stan not invest, he also seems to have a propensity to put someone in charge, and then apparently forget about the club ( except for the Rams). Works if someone good, and who cares about the club is put in charge, but if we ever get a self interested time server, or worse, heaven help us, because Stan probably will not
    Emery will take the flak for any falling below standards in the next year or two, I sometimes wonder if that’s his true purpose, but don’t let it disguise the real issues.

  • Arthur

    Tony
    In your article you have not mentioned the quality of football being played. Surely there are at least some Arsenal fans who care about that. If top 4 and cups is the target, do you mean even if we play dour football?
    Arthur

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    Half time in our Women’s match and Chelsea have a two nil lead so it’s all to do in the second half

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    No comeback against Chelsea. Final score three nil.

    A confidence booster against Yeovil on Wednesday evening and the Continental Tyres Cup final against City next Saturday. If we had to lose one of the three this would have been my choice. Naturally I would rather not have lost this match as well but we need to win our league games to qualify for Europe next year and it would be nice to retain our Vontinental Cup.

  • blacksheep

    To Arthur, and everyone. No it isn’t enough just to scrape top 4 and do well in the cups. I pay a lot of money to watch Arsenal at home and I want to be entertained. In fact I’d probably take good football over ‘success’ every time; sadly at the moment we’ve got neither.

    There is the bones of good side at Arsenal and I like Emery, I just don’t think he is handling the situation very well. I’ve no idea what is going inside the club but the Ozil situation seems mad to anyone, Ramsey leaving I get (even if I’m not happy about it).

    Any Arsenal manager gets my support during the season and I’m not going to ever boo him or make a badly spelled banner suggesting he’s sacked – I’m not AAA. Our anger should be directed at the board in the first instance and I’m not sure how best we do that. I’ll be there on Thursday and the following weekend for Soton, let’s hope the team play for the manager – they were doing so earlier in the season but at the moment I just worry he’s lost them.

  • Having supported Arsenal since 1940 I thought I have seen it all. But all the latest news on our financial situation
    and our prospects saddens me.When Emery arrived the Arsenal spin machine had us believe he had done extensive research and he knew the players, and his coachingmethods would lead us back to the ECL. Gradually things have got worse his teams selection are puzzling. AMN is not a right back yet he plays him before Jenkinson,Torrera is an excellent defensive midfielder yet lately he has been played in more of a forward role,we have a problem at CB yet Mavrapanos is not in the EL squad and has been little playing time.and when we were terrible against Huddersfield Emery said how proud he was of his players, and then after the disaster at Bate he said how it was the team that beat Huddersfield his press conferences are just garbage and make no sense, how can we get out of this mess?We dont have any real money for the summer window, the owner cant put money in because of ffp, even if he wanted to.SO we must get rid of 9 of the squad and just hope.

  • Bobome

    Emery’s interview transcript, after the loss to Bate – suggests, to me, I may be wrong, that Ozil is no longer in favour with him. At £350,000 per week, that is a very expensive asset to allow to go to waste for any reason. An owner like in Chelsea will be asking questions of our Head Coach without delay. Kroenke? ‘The Rams are playing, don’t bother me.’ When Shevchenko wasn’t getting playing time at Chelsea it was the Coach who moved on, not the player.

    A disinterested owner and an under performing Coach and team is looking like mid-table position at the end of season for AFC. This may not happen but we should be prepared for such a possibility and continue to ask the even harder questions of UE and Kroenke. In the meantime, let us give them all the benefit of the doubt – after all he could claim, and rightly so, that he has not been allowed to build a team of his own.

  • Gord

    We may have an academy brimming with talent at the moment. But, if there is no place for Ramsey or Ozil; what are the chances of Nelson, Smith Rowe, Nketiah, …?

    It seems likely that they’ll just be sold on, and the Academy demolished. Just more costs to slash, like a typical MBA trying to maximize profits.

  • nick

    Tony just to pick holes in your opening statement..
    What is clear at this point is that the current Arsenal owner is not going to invest a (ANY)shedload of money into the club, and thus the Arsenal manager needs to have all the guile and skill that Mr Wenger had, in order to keep us at the level that we had become accustomed to up to 2016 (6TH IN THE LEAGUE THE LAST YEAR).
    That was only the start of your post.One thing is plain is that you seem to get great pleasure in reminding us about how Arsene Wenger should still be manager and putting down our new one who has only been in post for 7 months.May i remind you of the last two seasons .2 years ago we finished 5th 18 pts off the top and last year 37pts off top.We were already a team in decline and it is difficult for a new manager to come in and turn things around so quickly.Pep and Klopp found the same problem but have come good due to being given time to implent their way of playing and funds.I thought this site prided itself on backing the manager no matter who..doesnt seem like it to me.

  • Yassine

    Nick,

    You are right a manager beeda time befire judging, but what bothers me, and maybe untolders here us that he does seem like he is not going to give us beautiful attacking football.
    Its not the Emery Ozil fight, but its like this:
    Wilshere: he told him he will not play him and should leave.
    Ramsey: was left out of the squad until lately. Was shown the door out.
    Ozil: left out of the squad.

    Formation: we are playing some games witb 5 at the back. Then two definsive central mids, then three players, either two strikes and a creative mid, or the other way arouns, where the creative mids are at the opposite wings with no one to connect them.

    Now all the above shows that Emery has a defending mentality.
    so actually, Ozil is just someone for those fans to rally behind because wants beautiful attacking football to remain.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    I personally don’t think that its not all gloom and doom , having supported the club from 1971-72 , although the present style of playing is not at all attractive and certainly not we have become accustomed to. Some fine tuning is urgently required . Although we line up more defensively , the back door is not being manned well. And keeping a clean sheet seems to be a problem.

    As long as our owner does not leverage or mortgage the club to take funds out , I ‘ll be reasonable happy in having him allow the board to run the show. Having said that , I do hope that our income from other sources appreciates considerably to allow us to compete with the other ‘top’ clubs. I like to think that our players are more than capable and are least at par with those in the other clubs , bar a few exceptions .

    As for the manager , I will back him and give him time to sort out the problems that beset our team at the moment. Let him work it out , and I will reserve my judgement till it is all sorted one way or another . I’m even willing to pay for another manager banner to show my support !

    Up the Gunners !

  • Alex

    I get the words “I back the coach”, but then why not saying too “I back a player who has been here for 5 years and always shown love and commitment to the club”?

  • Yassine

    Spot on Alex,

    Specially that the coach and board are working against the Arsenal values, and against attacking beuatiful football we all want to see.