Is Arsenal’s openness better than West Ham’s dictatorial whitewashing?

How do farcical transfer rumours start? – the video


By Tony Attwood

Arsenal by and large have done little (at least little that I have seen) concerning the protests of fans in the last three years or so.   Before 2015/16 there were some fans who expressed dismay about the progress of the club, as the payment for the stadium came to an end.

These were undoubtedly encouraged by AFTV – with much of the protest focussed on the “4th is not a trophy” and “Spend some fucking money” groups. But I think the second-place finish in 2015/16, and the three FA Cup wins of 2014, 2015 and 2017 kept most fans away from protesting if not ecstatic.

When the placards came out against Wenger, nothing much was done about it by the Board, at least not much that I saw, although of course, I wasn’t part of that movement.  The board just let it drift along, Mr Wenger agreed to leave quietly, there was a good send-off, Mr Emery came in and again departed with dignity.

The protesting fans got their way, managers came and went, players were bought at huge expense, and we sank down the League, as generally happens when clubs change their manager and spend lots of money on transfers.  We did an analysis of the top six spending clubs last summer and each at that time was certainly underachieving.

Now of course fans of other clubs might have seen that as a warning – changing managers and spending money doesn’t normally result in taking the club up the league.  At least not for quite a time.  But not it seems West Ham.  They’ve followed the same route – new managers, spend lots on transfers – and as the model predicts, decline will follow.

It used to be different in the old days of course.  Decline did follow, but managers were given longer.

For example, Alex Ferguson joined Man U in 1986 and immediately took them to 11th in the League in his first season, with early exits from both cups.  It was their worst performance in 12 years.

They bounced back to second in his second season, and then slipped to 11th and then 13th, his tenure only extended by winning the FA Cup in his fourth season.  His first league title came in his seventh season.

Managers don’t get nearly so long these days – and that undoubtedly is why things do go so very wrong for a lot of clubs as they flip from manager to manager to… well, manager.  It rarely does them much good, which is why I can’t quite understand the attraction of the process to some Arsenal supporters (and there are indeed some now calling for another change at the end of this season).

This sort of changing could be called, at the moment, the West Ham model.   They have hired Slaven Bilić (June 2015), David Moyes (Nov 2017), Manuel Pellegrini (May 2018), David Moyes II (December 2019) and for all this and a stadium paid in part by myself, and other mugs like me who dutifully pay their taxes.  WHU have ended up 13th, 12th, 7th, 11th, 13th and 10th in recent years.

This is clearly not good enough, especially when you have been given the stadium at a price that it means major taxpayer support every year for 99 years.  And so a volunteer official flag-waver felt the need to protest by wearing a T-shirt that said “GSB Out” which is East End speak means David Gold, David Sullivan, and Karren Brady please go away. And now the gent in question who is a season ticket holder, has been banned for the rest of the season as if that will improve the team’s performance.  Demonstrations are becoming commonplace.

By ignoring the card-carrying “Wenger Out” people for quite a while, Arsenal got it right in my view, but ultimately got it wrong by letting Mr Wenger leave and by spending a load of money last year.  All the evidence shows that lots of money and changing managers is not the way to sort out a crisis.

But it kept the Arsenal whingers and moaners quiet for a while.   The move by GSB at WHU will probably make fans even more determined to protest.  But then, if Arsenal don’t win something either this season or next season, I imagine the protests will be up and running again in Arsenal Stadium.

There is a way to revitalise a team and that is to do what Mr Wenger did when he arrived.  He took a team that had come 12th and 5th in the previous seasons, recognised its strengths, and then brought in a number of low profile unknowns.  In Mr Wenger’s case the prime two at the start were Nicolas Anelka and Patrick Vieira.  He also brought in his own man to be his ears in the dressing room: Rémi Garde and got rid of the deadwood.  It is often forgotten but out went Merson, Hartson, Dickov, Morrow, McGoldrick, Hillier, Linighan and Jensen.

In his second season 1997/8 Mr Wenger didn’t move out anyone of significance – he had done that wholesale in his first campaign.  No, he brought in new players – but that is the point.  These guys appeared in year 2.  They were not all superstars, but they were Wenger’s men, there to steady the ship and represent his philosophy.   Overmars, Petit, Grimandi (who stayed with the club as a scout until Wenger left), Upson, Boa Morte, Manninger, Wreh… Some didn’t last long – but even Wreh did his bit in the cup final for the double.

That is how you do it.  Get the hang of the place, give the players the chance, then buy in your team knowing the club would stick with their manager.  Not the way WHU have done it.  And not I fear the way Arsenal are doing it now – although we shall in the case of Arteta.

5 Replies to “Is Arsenal’s openness better than West Ham’s dictatorial whitewashing?”

  1. Spending lot’s of money at A.F.C and W.H.U.F.C???? the chairman are not sending anything and putting it in there pockets dazzathat’s the problem you mug.

  2. Clubs have to stick with managers who have clear vision and a philosophy they are capable to impose on a team and players.

    Examples of Liverpool today and Man United with Ferguson 34 years ago are usually compared these days but there is a thing we all seem to miss out: context. Five years back in eighties or nineties didn’t have the same meaning as it has in a new era. Everything has to be done at a neckbreaking speed or nobody will wait for you. I mean, let’s see a few examples from the recent past.

    In 2009-10, Chelsea won the double while scoring goals for fun. Over 100 goals scored, some impressive sixes and sevens were hit by Drogba et al… They even started in the same fashion in 2010-11, scoring freely in their first five games and their goal-difference read 21-1. Averaging over four games per game, winning all five… After ten games, they had been top of the league with 8-1-1 and preposterously good GD 27-3. Then they started to lose games and by the end of the season, Carlo Ancelotti – a double winning manager from the previous season – was sacked for having guts to finish “only” second.

    In 2011-12, Man City won their first league title after 44 years. Roberto Mancini – who had won FA Cup year before – gave their fans a lot of reasons to celebrate – an injury-time winner that helped City pip their more successful neighbours for the title on a goal-difference (just eight goals separated two sides), mostly thanks to 6-1 drubbing of United at Old Trafford. Next season, Manchester City finished “only” second and lost FA Cup Final to Wigan so Roberto Mancini was sacked. In 2011-12, Roberto Di Matteo took over as a caretaker from Villas Boas and won the double with Chelsea – Champions League and FA Cup – only to be sacked before the spring in 2012-13.

    In 2013-14, Manuel Pellegrini won the league with Man City while scoring over 100 goals pipping Liverpool to the title. He finished second in 2014-15 and fourth in 2015-16 before he was ultimately sacked. (He won two League Cups as well.)

    In 2014-15, Jose Mourinho won the double – the league and league cup – but his horrible start of the season including some of the most shameful incidents regarding the club doctor sacked him before the end of the year 2015.

    In 2015-16, Leicester won the league against all odds. PGMO’s favourite club of the season won the league and Claudio Ranieri lost just three games during the campaign (two against Arsenal and one at Anfield). However, poor start of the next campaign condemned Ranieri to sacking.

    2016-17 – Antonio Conte won the league with incredible 30 victories including 13 on a spin. He lost the FA Cup Final but made up for that by winning the next one against Man United. He was still sacked for finishing fifth in the league.

    2018-19 – Mauricio Pochettino made Spurs look like a team that is not entirely comprised of misery and defeats. He finished above Arsenal three times in a row after 20+ seasons of watching our back. He picked second place in the league (2016-17) and in Europe (2018-19) while spending peanuts on transfers. After finally breaking the bank, he got sacked after just 12 league games, picking fewer points than Unai Emery in the same period.

    Patience is a rarity these days and, sadly, Liverpool are on their way to history books thanks to sticking up for their man after three barren seasons. Today, Ferguson would have been sacked either by the end of the first season or mid-way the third one.

  3. Dazza, I can’t speak for WHU, but I can say that you have not quite got to grips with Arsenal’s situation, and thus calling me a mug tends to make you look rather more foolish than me.
    Arsenal’s owners have not put money into the club personally since 1927 when the Hill Wood family, who had let Burton sink into non-existence, forced Henry Norris out of the club. Norris paid off all the club’s debts which were extensive, in 1910, he underwrote all the debts for leasing Highbury and building the stadium, and kept the club afloat after the war. After that no one has put money into the club – money needed for major projects such as building the Emirates Stadium has come from bank loans guaranteed by the club’s existing property and other resources.
    Please, before you throw around insults, do take just a few seconds to check your facts. If you need a source, you might care to read Henry Norris at the Arsenal. The series is on the Arsenal History Society site, runs to about half a million words, covers all the details and was written by… well, actually, me.

  4. @Josif,

    you are spot on. As Tony has demonstrated multiple times, the money spent is not the only thing. Changing manager is not the only thing either. Spending over a long period of time and having as much stability both on the spending as on the manager side are what is needed. Which makes the era of Ferguson and Mr Wenger the more fascinating. And our neighbours have proven that having a manager long term works…only to sack him at the first rough patch…so stupid, but then, it’s the Sp*rs so what do I care.

    In Europe, there were 2 teams that had this kind of attitude. In France it was AJ Auxerre, who kept their manager for I think more then 2 decades and were systematically over-performing, and in Germany SC Freiburg who keep their managers for a long time, even if they are relegated. These 2 teams have small budgets, no billionaire owers yet were (Auxerre)and still ae (Freiburg) successes in their own right. Sure they have not won many trophies but kept a sustainable strategy. Auxerre kind of dissapeared when their historical manager, Guy Roux, retired. As for Freiburg, for decades they have fed Bayern and other clubs with talent and are a presence in the Bundesliga.

  5. It has been a long time since the Arsenal have thrown caution to the wind , taken the game to the opposition and played at fast attacking pace,rolled them over and scored a bunch of goals for fun.
    Sigh !

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