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
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.
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…
|8.||Man City U23||17||6||3||8||29||39||21|
|11.||West Ham U23||15||5||1||9||32||35||16|
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.
- Arsenal v Tottenham update, team news and appalling, flagrant media bias
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- Arsenal and Tottenham: which has had the easier ride so far this season?
- Arsenal v Tottenham: not exactly a battle of equals.
- Death by 300,000 passes: how the Arsenal transformation started 2 seasons ago.