By Tony Attwood
The media are certain: Arsenal need players, players, players and more players. Loads of players need to be shipped out too, although it is interesting that since we revealed that Xhaka is the player in the squad with the best playing statistics, demands for him to leave at once have been somewhat muted. That may be a coincidence of course.
But what can be done?
I don’t think I’ve been critical of Mr Arteta that much during the time has been manager, and the banner headline of this site about “supporting the manager” remains true – although I must admit once or twice I have been a little frustrated over this approach to discipline.
The media want wholesale changes to the squad over the next transfer window … but will the owner once more stump up record amounts of money to build a team againi, when having done that in recent years only to see Arsenal’s position fall down the league?
Transfer League has done an analysis of net spend in the last five seasons and got these figures – showing the clubs with the highest average net spend per season for the last five seasons. They don’t actually show the figures in the order of expenditure per season on average, but I have taken their figures and moved them around to show the top eight spenders per season.
Figures are in millions of pounds.
|Clubs||Purchases||Sold||Total cost||Per Season|
|6||Brighton & Hove Albion||£212.0||£14.6||£197.4||£39.5|
So Arsenal have been spending like a club that ought to be top four, but it has clearly not had that impact. Indeed a simple table comparing where the club is now with where it should be if spending were related to performance shows this.
|Club||Spending position||League position|
|Brighton & Hove Albion||6||16|
|West Ham United||8||7|
We can see that at the very top, the two top spending clubs are the two occupying first and second in the league. But thereafter spending money is hardly related to league position at all.
Of course you can argue that Brighton and Hove had to spend massively because basically they had a Championship squad just surviving in the league, but even so all that spending has hardly given them total security.
Wolverhampton have often been cited here as a a case of gamblers putting everything on one more spin of the wheel, spending money they didn’t have (by borrowing against forthcoming TV money) just before the pandemic arrived. Maybe we should just call that bad luck.
My point with transfers is that yes, if you start buying and go on buying you can build a team which when it gets to the top can stay there, and indeed as Arsenal supporters we should all be aware of that because that is what Herbert Chapman did.
He spent far more than other managers when he came to Arsenal in 1925, but it took him five years before Arsenal won a trophy (the FA Cup in 1930) and one further year before we won the League (1931) – by which time Arsenal in the press were known as the Bank of England club.
However the club were not spending money invested by the directors – the Hill Wood clan that ran the club let Chapman spend the income they got from the huge crowds, but didn’t put in money of their own.
Having experimented with spending lots of money, and finding the league position tumbling as a result, I can’t see Kroenke repeating his error, and indeed why should he? Unless one is willing to invest as much as Manchester City do through spending the oil revenues of Abu Dhabi, or as much as Manchester United do through their income from a world-wide marketing scheme set up after the Munich air crash, there is no way of keeping up.
So we have to do something else; and that is where the Wenger model re-appears.
I was very critical of the way in which the manager handled the Aubameyang situation, and indeed of his disciplinary approach in general. It is where my view on “supporting the manager” breaks down. And I think we can add Guendouzi, Ozil and Sokratis to the list of those who have been poorly treated in my view.
And it is not just the case of the impact it has on the players themselves to find themselves publicly humiliated, it is the issue of how it is read by other players at the club and other clubs. Arsenal is now seen as a club that will not hesitate to put a player out to grass; paying him but not listing him in the 25, rather than selling him or even giving him away.
These players will feel humiliated by Arsenal, and that word will have spread among footballers in general. If the club had sold each player quietly and quickly the issue of humiliation would not have arisen.
Against Liverpool, Aubameyang did nothing of note. And why was that? Against West Ham there was little. Against Olympiakos…
So I don’t agree with the current fashion of criticising Mr Arteta for changing the defence – for until recently we had one of the best three records for defending in the league. That has slipped of course, but probably because other things have slipped as well. However talking of Arsenal’s “ongoing defensive woes” as FoLo continue to do on a daily basis is just plain daft.
No, much of the problem that arose in the Liverpool game came from the fact that Smith Rowe and Saka, our two recent shining stars, were not there, and Auba hardly did anything. The evolution of Martin Odegaard into the team has been built around having those young men and Auba present, and without them the recent approaches had to be torn up. As a result Odegaard was left isolated, and without Aubameyang putting in a shift, everything else fell to bits as well.
If Aubameyang had not still be suffering the after effects of public humiliation then we might have been able to shuffle the pack successfully, but Arteta does want his strict disciplinary approach, and so everyone was forced to suffer.
The Arsenal video collection: free
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