For Arsenal, only the largesse of the owner and the genius of the manager will take us through

By Tony Attwood

Prior to the Europa final an article in the Guardian contained the comment, “…it is difficult to overstate just how critical this match is to Arsenal. Returning to the Champions League after a two-year hiatus has been their No 1 aim all season. No one is under any illusion about the perils of missing out, with the multimillion-pound knock-on to their transfer budget and their capacity to attract and keep players, at a time when the Premier League seems to be getting more competitive.”

It is a comment that is simultaneously true, while utterly missing the point.  “Seems to be getting more competitive” is surely the ultimate euphemism for “there are people out there who will spend whatever it takes, and do whatever it takes no matter what the rulebooks say.”

For Arsenal the money is there, in the owner’s  company bank accounts, but it won’t be spent by him on the club.  Arsenal will continue to be self-financing, just as it was under Mr Wenger.  True Mr Wenger made it work, and I would never take anything away from his incredible achievements of the two doubles, the unbeaten season, and the record of the second highest consecutive run of qualifications for the Champions League in the competition’s history, but that doesn’t mean that any other manager can make it happen again, nor that it is not getting harder each year to keep up with the big spenders. 

Only Real Madrid with available resources 1000 times greater than Arsenal managed to stay in the Champs League for longer and our tragedy was that the reward Mr Wenger got for that incredible achievement was to be told “fourth is not a trophy”.   Now it turns out that it was, only the nay-sayers were too blind to see it.

What Mr Wenger achieved in a period of austerity for the club was amazing, and really it was and is too much to expect that fantastic run to have continued forever, nor for Mr Emery to have been able to recover a Champs League position at the first time of asking.   That we got so close – a win over Brighton would have done it – shows how good a manager he is.  That we failed shows just how tough it is.

For getting into the Champs League has got harder to achieve as more and more money has been spent by four of the top six clubs.   Only Tottenham has stood aside, finding themselves with perhaps the one manager in the league who could attempt to emultate what Mr Wenger had achieved – success without excessive spending.  And that doesn’t mean I’ve suddenly become a Tottenham fan; of course not.  But what they have got at the moment is what Arsenal had for all those years under Mr Wenger – an excellent manager who can create teams that play above themselves, year after year.  Whether Tottenham can keep it up as they pay for the stadium remains to be seen.

So can Mr Emery do the same and get a series of top four finishes and win a few cups?   Quite possibly with another summer of purchases of the quality that he showed this time around, along with the same willingness to bring in youngsters that Mr Wenger showed.   The arrival of Willock at the end of the game last night was a promising hint, as has been the use of Maitland-Niles.

But there is a real problem, because if next season we do achieve the “not a trophy” position and thus do re-enter the Champs League, two things will happen.   The expectation for trophies will return, the moaning will return, and players will think, quite reasonably, “I could have a better life playing for a club where the fans and the media are not on my back all the time.”

For the simple fact is that the bar has been raised year after year with the willingness of Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea to spend what it takes and do what it takes to get to the top.   The fact that Chelsea are now facing a transfer ban and Manchester City are under fulsome investigation while saying that the complaints against them are racist, and that they will tie Uefa up in legal knots for years to come if Uefa proceeds, shows where we are.  Put it another way, two of the big spenders are in trouble for their spending, while Manchester United will go on changing managers for as long as it takes to get a winner.  Meanwhile Liverpool are living the dream with an owner who has openly stated (as we found in a rather fun Untold exclusive) that contracts and rules mean nothing in football.

As for Tottenham, much as it hurts me to say it, they have a manager who is capable of “doing a Wenger” at a time when it is even harder than it was to do it in Mr Wenger’s day.

Ultimately we are not in the Champs League because we took one point instead of three from the games against Palace and Brighton – both of which were eminently winnable.  And that happened primarily because the players seemedto be thinking about the Europa Final.   Which gives us the irony.  If we had not got into the final of the Europa we probably would have been in the Champions League next season.

It is said in some quarters that Emery’s style is not clear, the defence remains a muddle, the midfield isn’t creative, and there is not enough goal threat from out wide and, oh yes, the team is too passive overall.   That clearly was not the case most of the time at home, but it was away from home, and therein lies the same problem as the one that we had at the start of the season.

If we could just resolve the away form problem and get it back to what it was in the “fourth is not a trophy” era then we’d be back in the Champs League, which would give the manager more money, and he could try and do a Wenger and keep us there year after year.   

And let us not forget that three players – two of them solid defenders – were lost to injuries that counted them out for much of the season.  With those two defenders regularly in the squad I cannot believe that we would not have gained those extra two points.

But, this is what it comes down to.  Arsenal do not have the money to buy the sort of squad that Man U, Man C, Liverpool and Chelsea can and will do at the drop of a hat. But we have positive: we have found a formula for Aubameyang and Lacazette to play together, we do have two excellent defenders who will return at some stage, we do have Willock evolving into the side, and we have Maitland-Niles and Guendouzi who are young and will simply get better and better.

On the negative side the mob who thought it was a clever idea to play up to the media with their “Wenger Out” messages will probably not have learned that simply changing the manager resolves nothing – the problem is the investment in the club by the owner, and we have an owner who won’t invest.   Mr Emery might turn out to be as much of a genius as Mr Wenger and ultimately give us Champions League football year after year without the same level of investment and rule breaking that some other clubs seem to engage in.  We can only hope he is, because the chances of us competing with Liverpool, Chelsea, Man C, Man U, Barcelona, Real Madrid, PSG and the like when it comes to buying players on the open market seems smaller than ever.

In the end our greatest enemies will continue to be the media, the anti-Arsenal Arsenal and the fact that because of the way the PGMO behaves we can never be sure that type III match fixing isn’t happening in the Premier League.

It was ever thus, and as has been shown before, only an utter management and strategic genuius with an eye for buying bargains that no one else notices, can take on that lot, and win.  We used to have just such a man.  Our one hope is that we can have just such a genius as a manager again.  Time will tell. 


25 Replies to “For Arsenal, only the largesse of the owner and the genius of the manager will take us through”

  1. Your eulogy of Arsene Wenger is mis placed. ” He made it work in an era of austerity.” In fact Danny Fizman pumped a lot of money into the club. My recollection is £50m which at the time was huge and enabled excellent players to be acquired. Also Wenger inherited probably the best drilled defence the club has ever seen (plus Wright, Bergkamp etc). If Wenger had been given loads of money and a blank sheet of paper he would not have lasted long. Witness many of his signings. We will continue to suffer from the declining regime of his last 6 or 7 years, including NO accent on defence, NO winning mentality and £350,000 per week for an immoveable, unperforming Ozil. Wenger thought he was wonderful. Remind me …. was Ozil playing last night ? Hazard was.

  2. Yes all good things come to an end we where thumped by a Chelsea team who had the director of football in the opposite team wonder what will i tell my grand sons and daughters if they dare ask me some questions.
    As always we have nine lives we will be in the Champions League because there Is no way Manchester City Is going to win against Mike Riley sorry UEFA. But Is that the team which Is going to be on all fronts? Is our coach gping to be so predictable as he has been? Over to you.

  3. Well you cover a lot of bases here when the rest of us are in mourning.

    At the end of the day, it’s all about investment in the squad and making good purchases. Man City and Chelsea wasted enormous amounts on duds, but also bought some great players, and eventually got it right. Potocheeni has arguably done similar miracles, but over a much shorter timespan, as you say. Wenger did excellent on a more level playing field and over-achieved when the financial odds were against him, but lack of investment relative to the competition eventually caught up with him, and the period of decline we are now seeing set in.

    I see minimal chance of Emery arresting that decline if investment is not on a par with at least 4 of the top 6 clubs. In fact, with the possibility that Leicester, Newcastle and Wolves will invest substantially more than Arsenal over the next few years, we may be heading to real mid-table mediocrity.

  4. Some good points raised however I would like to add that Arsene has left Emery with a team of over priced under-achievers and was rewarded with a couple of contract extentions at a time when the team was obviously in decline.

  5. I remember a cup final some years ago. Almost the same teams and players… Arsenal having to play the reigning champions at Wembley. No Koscielny, no defenders and we had to start with a player who hadn’t played a whole match in the season and a young kid who just came around. Per and Holding.
    We had no chance everybody told us.
    So what did this manager do of ours? He went out and attacked them from the first minute. No team selection with fear in the head. No they went out to get them. We should have been 3-0 up after 45 minutes and then had to face a difficult second half but we managed to win 2-1 thanks to Ramsey his winner.

    Compare this with the starting line up with only 3 attacking minded players yesterday… in a team that couldn’t defend all season… I sure don’t get what Emery was trying to do with his starting line up. Okay we didn’t have Mkhitaryan who could have changed the formation a bit.
    But in Dutch there is a idiom that goes : If you are affraid you will get beaten. This is what Cruijff had in mind in his whole career: attacking is the best defending.
    Now we didn’t get enough players up front when we needed to and when we had our chances. A too defensive mindset at the start has cost us. The very attacking mindset in the FA cup final that I could see in Wembley won us the match.
    Different mindset, different result.

  6. Is it being implied that Arsenal can still be in the Champions League next season but only if Man City are banned from participating in the competition by Uefa for their flagrant breach of the FFP rules?

    And talking about Arsenal getting a Largesse from club owner, Stan Kroenke to boost the club’s finances that will enable the club hierarchy bosses to do a credible incoming transfer deals this summer than they would have poorly done in signing new players in the transfer market this summer window if they are limited to the meager £45m that is said to available in the club summer transfer kitty. But a vigorous attempt at the club to organise the first team squad better has to be made for next season’s campaign in all competitions than it was organised last season that saw us capitulated in the top-four place fights and just only yesterday night to an embarrassing 4-1 defeat to Chelsea in the Europa League Cup final which can’t be said to be any other thing but a gross huge embarrassment and utter disappointments to us Gooners. But did us ask Emery and the Gunners for this humiliation? Certainly NO! And will this Largesse comes to Arsenal from Stan Kroenke? Very doubtful it’ll come because it is not in his character to give out Largesse to his sporting club outfits. And Arsenal may not be exempted from that. But we’ll see.

    By the way, despite the big injuries to Bellerin and Holding during last season’s campaign which had the duo defenders sidelined for the rest of the 2nd half of the season, but Emery can’t use this as an excuse to not be a genius at Arsenal that us thought he could be when he came. Or could he? I asked this because if he continues to stick to his unholistic approach in making the Arsenal starting XI lineup in games, he won’t become a genius but a blunder making head-coach at Arsenal.

    Excuse me, but what on earth was Emery thinking for Arsenal yesterday in Baku in the ELC final against Chelsea when he started the slow in pace and out of cumulative regular game time in the PL – Monreal to start him in the match? And what another big blunder making commiting that saw him start the will join the Chelsea coaching team after leaving Arsenal – Petr Cech? The Petr Cech who hasn’t the very necessary PL regular game starting time behind him last season that will enhance his capacity in goal tender for Arsenal and seasoned him to make him fully suitable to keep the goal for Arsenal in a big Cup final like the one of yesterday in which he started it and Arsenal have to win it by all means. But two of their 11 means were not on the pitch yesterday night to help us win the Cup as Emery kept them out of his starting XI for the match. And when even Cech conceded twice to Chelsea in the game to Arsenal nothing which is a bad omen in a Cup final, Emery who returned late from the changing room to the dugout when the 2nd half start was still feeling comfortable as he didn’t think it wise to bring on Leno for Cech who was in betrayal mood giving Arsenal away to Chelsea.

    Emery shouldn’t have started Cech for Arsenal to play against his former club Chelsea in the ELC Cup final yesterday. Because the air of suspicion of untrustworthyness to tender in the goal for Arsenal against his former club – Chelsea is hanging over him. Besides, he’s past it in form to keep the goal for Arsenal in a Cup final of the magnitude of an ELC final that was played yesterday which was a must win final for Arsenal.

    Mustafi has the requisite pace needed in coming forward to attack the ball and in recovering to track back to defend better than Monreal is now having these days. Emery should have started Mustafi in the match ahead of Monreal that he started.

    I am inclined to think and believe that because of these two blunders of starting the wrong 2 players in the match yesterday which Emery committed had led us to suffer the heavy defeat that Chelsea gave us. Arsenal might have won the match had Emery started the duo of Leno and Mustafi in the match instead of the weak duo of Cech and Monreal whom he started.

  7. Unai’s defensive tactics have always been extremely off-putting for me, made even worse by the fact of how many goals we let in.

    (I guess my comments now go straight into moderation over a comment I made on yet another of your gambling articles)

  8. The game was even in the first half, although they had the better chances.

    Clearly, Sarri changed something at half time, I have no idea what, and it was completely different so that when the first goal went it was all over.

    I am amazed that they seemed to have no fighting spirit.

  9. Good article, but Tony I have a few observations
    1. I didn’t realize 4th place was now officially a trophy except on Le Grove. As far as I’m aware, it wasn’t a trophy while Wenger was around, and it sure hasn’t become one since he left
    2. I’m aware Wenger outspent Liverpool in the last 4-5years of his reign, so I don’t understand this tale of financial oppression by teams including Liverpool.
    3. I also remember relatively expensive buys like Mustafi, xhaka and Ozil have been around for a while and have not made much difference most of the time.

  10. Oh my……the usual lamenting,sackcloth and ashes whining, breast-beating drivel spouted by entitled fanboys after a terrible end of the season and Europa final display. We all agree it hasn’t been pretty since April and why that has happened is clearly a defensive issue, since our scorers were more than sufficient all season.
    Emery has some rebuilding to do and some serious trimming to undertake, but it is his first season and the Arsenal are notoriously difficult to transition from one style to another. We don’t spend the megamoney that Liverpool, City and Chelsea can and do but our approach, while promising, takes TIME to come to fruition. Get used to changes and experiments, trial and error management and extensive remodeling of the club. Wenger wasn’t an immediate success in his first year BUT he eventually got it right. Emery will do the same so stop being trophy trolls and start being firm supporters of this great club.

  11. “Almost the same teams and players”.
    Walter, with all due respect, only three Arsenal players played both last night and in the 2017 FA Cup Final: Xhaka, Monreal, and Ozil. Giroud doesn’t count!

  12. You have to feel for those who spent the better part of the cost of a 65 inch TV to go and watch this match, and who better than the always readable Tom Stillman & his five part “Road to Baku”.
    Recommended to all with a strong stomach.

  13. It’s going to get worse before it gets better after Tottenham have won the Champions League on Saturday night.

  14. Good and sober analysis. I have always felt the human race is worse than sheep when it comes to being easily manipulated and pliable, and events on and off the pitch have just cemented this view (partly thanks to Untold of course).

    For those who may remember I’ve made comparisons in the past, between how fake news, or disinformation, was used to mess about with the west’s politics by countries such as Russia. And this is primarily why the US & UK politics is a mess right now; because Russia takes advantage of the gullibility we have as people not to fact check. Its shocking how the average human being does not question anything at all, and just swallow everything they’re presented with. Anyway mixing politics and football is a recipe for disaster so I’ll stop here, but the basis of the argument is the same; people take what they read or hear in the media as gospel.

    The anti-Arsenal stance by the media on the UK has now spread to the rest of the world. For the AAA, they’ve turned on a few players now as the fall guys, now that Wenger is gone.
    But one thing stood out for me last night; Lacazette had what I would call a legitimate penalty appeal (at least Robbie Savage in commentary agreed) quickly brushed over by the officials and VAR. I dont think I’d be exaggerating if I say it took less than 10 seconds to ‘resolve’ the incident, even when VAR was in play. For me, a few replays, followed by the ref going over to view the screens, would’ve been justified. Even the halftime analysis from BT sport had more replays..

    We have seen some ridiculous VAR interventions (Utd vs PSG & City v spurs spring to mind) and for them to quickly dismiss our penalty appeal told me one thing; the negative reporting on Arsenal has made us a bit of a ‘non-entity’ if you like.. you know, you can shaft/upset Arsenal and life will go on with no consequences. I could go on and talk about the obvious foul on Maitland-Niles in the build up to their second goal which was not given but that would run the risk of diluting the point I’m trying to make above.

    Yesterday made me feel like yeah Wenger may have left but it’s going to take some serious behind the scenes maneuvering by the powers that be, just to bring us back to a level playing field. It’s sad to say this but I believe getting someone like Lampard, a Gerrard, or such (despite their lack of experience), is our best bet to getting Arsenal ‘competitive’ again (obviously by allowing us to get a fair shake) than any signings we could make.

  15. Well I’m glad you recognized that bringing the AMN incident into your argument only dilutes the preceding point. I only saw the last half hour of the match, so didn’t see the lacazette incident. But I saw replays of the goals and seeing the AMN incident I was like WTF boy? You think this is a joke? That was very lackadaisical. You give away the ball, then pretend to have been fouled, lie down on the ground while the opposition bears down on your goal? And he expects to be paid his wages?

  16. @ Casmir
    Yeah, you may twist what I’m saying to suit your argument, that’s fine by me, didn’t come here to try and convert anyone. The point is there were several incidents that VAR ignored last night which it was brought to address (one example being the shirt pull on Laca in the box, if you think Maitland doesn’t deserve his wages..). Specifically, the instances where we have seen it used a lot this season, it wasn’t even applied last night.

  17. The foul on Lacazette which was immediately dismissed by the match officials as unworthy of a penalty looked to me to be very similar to the sort of penalties Salah has been given on many occasions during the season just gone.

  18. The shirt pull incident was right in the middle of the 6yard box when a cross by Auba was just waiting to be put in the net. The RED card incident was a stamp on Laca by Emerson followed by a kick.

    VAR what a f’in useless excuse for honesty.

  19. I actually feel like the club’s shortcomings this season are heavily related to the move made by Wenger last season. We tied up an awful lot of money into attacking players during the 2017/18 season, and aside from PEA, that money was tied up into attacking 30-year olds whose best years appear to have been behind them. It really should have been invested in younger players through our midfield and defense. We’ve done an awfully poor job at managing contracts that were winding down for a few years now, and it’s really coming back to bite us.

    I do like what the club did last summer (for the most part). We replaced Cech with a keeper whose best years are ahead of him, and added a few decent looking midfielders that are still several years away from their primes. Sadly, we still need at least a pair of younger center backs, and at least one younger fullback this summer. Another midfielder probably wouldn’t be a bad idea either, especially with Ramsey leaving. This club needs a pretty big overhaul, and it’s not going to be quick.

  20. It would be much better to avoid commenting on Cech’s goalkeeping performance last night at Baku than suggest or hint some form of sell out to Chelsea in conceding the 4 goals. Unai reiterated Cech’s professionalism and good conduct on and off the field.

    Petr has a right to a great reputation which he garnered over the years even before AFC, but one of us commented otherwise. This is no way to treat his faithfulness to us unless there is irrefutable evidence to uphold the expressed doubts. We ought to avoid be smearing anybody’s good name no matter the provocation.

  21. Good article Tony.

    Only history will relate whether the departure of Arsene and the arrival of UE was a positive move for the club or not of course…but I hope UE gets his chance…somehow, I don’t think he will.

  22. At the beginning of the season the media were saying that Emerey would do well to “stop the rot” and that a top six finish might be difficult. After the first two games, the media and the AAA were bleating on about whether we would even finish in the top half or maybe we might flirt with relegation.

    Yet as you say, the Guardian came up with ““…it is difficult to overstate just how critical this match is to Arsenal. Returning to the Champions League after a two-year hiatus has been their No 1 aim all season.” Bullshit, nobody gave us a hope in hell of getting to a final and if anybody had dared suggest we’d finish two points off third it would have been laughed at.

    Because most of the last few games were not what we wanted it was majorly disappointing but both the media and AAA live to criticise and change their view as every week goes by. Both lack intelligence or the ability to look beyond the end of their nose or their own egoes.

  23. AFC are not in the UEFA Champions League because they just didn’t show up in a few matches down the final run in to the season. I don’t why and neither do anyone else commenting here. I am hoping things get sorted before the start of the new season. The club’s income and wage bill would suggest a better place in the proceedings.

  24. DESJN, that makes the approach of Wenger even more gutsy. No defenders (Oxlade-Chamberlain) at left wing back …. In fact only two regular defenders with Monreal and Bellerin.
    But we grabbed them by the neck that day and threw them on the floor as that was what the manager wanted to do that day.

Comments are closed.