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October 2020
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“Arsenal’s squad is an incoherent mess” So what do we do?

By Tony Attwood

You perhaps won’t be too surprised to read that the statement that “Arsenal’s squad is an incoherent mess” is not a phrase conjured up by Untold Arsenal, but was written by Sam Dean, a man with a whole two years experience as a football writer now working for the Telegraph..

Now it says something about the Telegraph’s regard for insightful analysis in that it gives the job of analysing Arsenal’s chances in the coming season to someone with just  two years experience of football journalism, but in a way it is fairly rational.   Football writers are never held to account, and are simply required to come up with an opinion no matter how weird that opinion is.  Young Sam is able to do that big time.  So he’s in.

But of course Young Sam’s work may well have been played around with by a friendly sub-editor and the headline might have been created by the copy editor, so perhaps he is not fully to blame, the young pup.  But the story is his, so let’s see he says.

“As Arsenal seek to navigate another period of relentless off-field turmoil, it falls to the manager to try and find some stability.”

Ah, off-field turmoil.  What is that exactly?  We are not told.  Does he mean AFTV videos, Black Scarf marches and “Wenger out” cardboard placards (later turned round to read “Emery out”), or AST allegations of financial malfeasance.  We are not told.

But what is noticeable is that there is nothing to balance this in terms of trophy wins neither in terms of what Arsenal won, or in terms of what other clubs won.  Because normally the ultimate issue in football is winning something.

And to be clear, Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal all won trophies, even if the League Cup is pushing it a bit.  Tottenham, Manchester United and Chelsea didn’t win any.  Not a sausage.  Nuffink.

Anyway back to the young whippersnapper, he’s set the scene, and now kindly tells us what to think about Arsenal’s future.  Here is what he says, knowing (hopefully) that Arsenal not only won the FA Cup and Charity Shield but also post lockdown (up to and including the Community Shield) had a run of winning nine, losing four, drawing one.

Not perfect but not bad, especially when we consider that among the teams beaten were Liverpool!, Manchester City, Chelsea, and Wolverhampton Wanderers (included because the papers are tipping them for top six next season),

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But for young Sam, “Arsenal, in the words of Mikel Arteta last month, are still trying to “figure out the best way to run our club” following the sudden departure of Raul Sanllehi, their former head of football, earlier this summer. Arteta was talking specifically about the impact of Sanllehi’s exit but, as Arsenal seek to navigate another period of relentless off-field turmoil, the reality is that his words could have applied at any point in the past two and a half years.”

So let’s disentangle this.  Take “the sudden departure.”  A “sudden departure” could be an event in which without warning a director says, “No, I disagree, I resign.”  That’s the meaning the papers like to stress.

But it can also be a situation in which the papers are taken by surprise.  What the papers love are rumours, because that means they can run the same story over and over and over again, each time stressing turmoil.  However where the club manages to have discussions which are not leaked, the paper will never ever admit that.  Instead the departure is “sudden” or “unexpected” and it “throws the club into chaos.”

In fact it is perfectly possible to see Sanllehi’s move as part of a reorganisation strategy of quite significant size and complexity, involving the change of manager, the change of the coaching team, and the change of the player recruitment and scouting team.  A planned strategy in fact.

I don’t claim that Arsenal got the departure of Mr Wenger right, nor all that followed.  But I do disagree that they have got things wrong since appointing Mikel Arteta and deciding to have a complete overhaul.  In my view what they should have done was let Mr Wenger have one more year, save all that redundancy money paid to Mr Wenger and his team, and use that extra year to plan the overhaul and bring in a new managerial team at the same time.  That was the mistake – but we’ve been through that before.  The club would have saved millions, everything would have been smoother, but no, Arsenal listened to AFTV, Black Scarf, AST with its disruption of the fans pre-season meeting and allegations of financial malfeasance etc, and the media in general.

And to suggest that Arsenal are seeking “to navigate another period of relentless off-field turmoil,” is just mindless gibberish, given the results post lockdown, including the victories over clubs supposedly doing far better than Arsenal, but actually winner fewer trophies.

I don’t think any other club suffers anything like this in terms of media onslaught so out of tune with its successes.

Here’s another gem: “Arsenal’s ongoing absence from the Champions League [is] contributing to so many of the financial issues that have resulted in 55 members of staff being made redundant this summer.”

To get the numbers straight, Tottenham made £61m by getting to the first knock out round of the Champions League last season.  Arsenal made around £27m from the Europa League last time around.  The annual salaries of those 55 members of staff could not have totalled more than £5m – and probably far less.   Meanwhile Arsenal have a net spend of £41m this summer in the transfer market.

No the redundancies were not a money saving exercise but a change in the way players are recruited.  Wenger used the system to find unknowns and quite possibly sell them on at massive profits (a process that started with Anelka and went on through Overmars, Fabregas, van Persie, Adebayor, Henry, Walcott, Vieira…)  Now too many other clubs have followed that model so a new model is being evolved.

Indeed it is the fact that no figures are quoted and only generalisations are made, that reveals just how wacky and wild the Telegraph article is.

So the whippersnapper goes on, “When it comes to instability and erratic squad planning, Arsenal have left the rest of the ‘big six’ in their dust. At Tottenham Hotspur, Daniel Levy has been leading the club’s transfer business for almost two decades….”

OK so Tottenham trophies in the last 20 years: Football League Cup winner 2007/2008.

List of Arsenal trophies in the last 20 years: Premier League (twice), FA Cup (seven times).

This really is one of the wackiest tales from a newspaper I have seen in a long time.  Totally bonkers, but still, it gave several of us a few laughs.

5 comments to “Arsenal’s squad is an incoherent mess” So what do we do?

  • Maxwell

    Wow! Thanks Tony.

    I am REALLY EXCITED now.

    I mean, if, with all this “turmoil” and “instability” and “erratic planning”, we still managed to win the FA Cup, the Community Shield, and beat Liverpuddle (twice), Chelsea and Manchester City in little more than a month… what on earth is going to happen if we start running the club as well as everyone else?

    Boggles. The mind. That’s what!

  • Nitram

    Tony

    Football writers are never held to account, and are simply required to come up with an opinion no matter how weird that opinion is. Young Sam is able to do that big time. So he’s in.

    Or to put it another way:

    Football writers are never held to account, and are simply required to come up with…..a way to knock, ridicule, discredit and insult Arsenal,…….no matter how weird that opinion is. Young Sam……knowing this kind of approach is essential if he wishes to further his career as a drainpipe fantasist, ……he is able to do that big time. So he’s in.

    And with regard to this eternal love-in the media have with Daniel Levy, from my experience this isn’t quite how the fans see it. The Spurs fans I talk to, all very reasonable guys, think he’s failed, and failed big time.

    As they keep telling me, ‘the bottom line is we’ve won f*** all, and still look like winning f*** all.

    At the end of the day, despite Arsenal being in total disarray for 20 years and Spurs sailing serenely on with Levy at the helm, there we stood at the end of 2019/20season with that massive disparity in trophies.

    Maybe a Spurs fan can tell us what they really think? Tell us if, despite that enormous disparity in trophies over the last 20 years, they agree with this Dean character.

  • Tai

    Unless the unexpected happen that Mikel Arteta completely loses his cool, I have this confidence that Arteta has the right temperament to force the English press to start eating their negative words about Arsenal.

  • Chris

    Funny thing, does anyone believe Manure have a ‘coherent’ squad ? Or even Chelsea.
    Toilet paper that what it would be in the old days…

  • goonergerry

    Given that the opinions published in the Telegraph are usually the opposite of what turns out to be right or true- the article by Sam appears to be par for the course- the evidence of the last few months is that Arsenal having restructured and are now more streamlined and are in the process of building a very balanced squad which increasingly fits our increasingly effective tactics. Throwing in a few alleged facts about the cost implication of not getting into the CL- does not amount to a credible financial analysis.

    Arsenal are a worldwide franchise with the potential to generate income which will dwarf the Champions League financial losses. What I believe is unarguable is that Arsenal Wenger was a great international ambassador for the club and transformed the club to become an international brand- around the world- something that many in England are unaware of- Arsenal have reputation for playing quality football second to none- and with an increase in confidence and defensive organisation -some relatively minor personnel changes- and when more successful continuing to play attractive football – and subscription based internet access, this club will really take off.

    There are far more significant factors that are going to impact on the finances of football in England than CL income- like whether paying customers are going to be able to attend matches when Covid is clearly increasing- possibly for the whole season. Those clubs with a big world wide fanbase are the ones who will survive into the long term.
    Next calendar year currency values are sure to be hit by Brexit and the inevitable big increases in unemployment will limit further income from consumers in this country. Attention has already been drawn to the looming salary cap- with huge implications for football here. This will transform the financial context of football.

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