By Tony Attwood
That headline does not represent my views actually but they are views that are expressed on the internet, usually accompanied by a list of players who clearly can’t play and should be dropped, or removed, transferred or just put out to grass. All the current back four usually get a mention somewhere (although Djourou is getting less of a rough deal of late).
Denilson has had it since the Independent called him “lightweight” – a word now copied everywhere without thinking. Song is getting it too, particularly from writers who don’t appreciate that he is playing a different role in recent games. Diaby (only not getting it now because he is off sick), Bendtner, Theo, and as for that bloody Arshavin… they all get it.
Give it another week and Van Persie will start being grumbled about.
But, I wondered, what would happen if we did go out and buy three big time players in January for maybe £45m.
First we would have to get rid of some players to balance the 25 list. We could survive until the summer, but after that, with some of the youngsters move up to 21 years of age, we would be stuck and they’d have to go. I imagine those calling for improvements in the squad wouldn’t mind seeing the end of Vela, Theo, Bendtner and the like.
Second, we would have to persuade the selling clubs to sell. After all they have these top players who are undoubtedly delivering for them. Why should they sell to Arsenal? That’s an answer that is rarely answered, so we’d best slide over it.
Although we do know they won’t move because they want to play for Wenger because as we know he is useless and hasn’t won the league for six years (as opposed to Liverpool 21 years, Tottenham 50 years, Manchester City sometime around the Crimea, and so forth). So they won’t be knocking at the door.
No, the only reason that they will sell is because they need the money. But that’s all right, Arsenal have loads of money. (We might ask why Barca, Inter, AC Milan and the rest need the money, and why they are all teetering on the brink, but that would be inconvenient to the argument).
Third, we would need to balance everyone’s playing demands – keeping other players (not those we have just ditched to make space in the 25) in reserve in case the new big three get injured at any time or lose form. That is essential but often difficult. Players like to play. If you are a reserve in the first team squad you will willingly stay put if you get some occasional games and you are young and you think your time will come. Bit if you are already a big name, you will expect to be making appearances. As it is we are already making 9 changes in some games to keep everyone happy.
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So let’s assume we get these players, and we fit them in the team, kick out some of the 25, and drop some first teamers into a reserve position. What next? Let’s say we win the league or the Euro Cup. Wonderful!
Now fast forward to the summer of 2011. We have bought our players in January, we need to unload a few, and we are champions. What now?
Well, in essence Man C, Man U and Chelsea are going to be a trifle cheesed off. They didn’t win the league. So what do they do? They go out and buy. Not just three players but five or six. Each. Neither club has much of a youth policy, so buying is the only option, and they want success. Now!
Of course I don’t know if they will all spend the money. Man C will, because they are so far beyond the financial regulations they don’t care any more, but Chelsea seem to be trying to introduce an austerity package of their own and Man U’s owners and manager are playing a merry dance. It seems unlikely but it is possible the Glazers might want to introduce more debt into the system, in order to keep Sir F Word happy, but you never know.
Oh and there is Bolton. Now so much in debt it makes the eyes water, they need to “push on” to secure a top five finish. Seriously. If you don’t believe me go and take a look at the article on Swiss Ramble about how much debt they have ratcheted up in the last few years. And with that debt level they need success. Now. (Honest I am not making this up).
Which means that by August 2012, our major rivals plus a few minnows have bought new players. Arsenal already have their team, minus a few budding players who were getting on for being 21 and had to drop out of the 25. And we have a higher wages bill. What now?
The challenge from the other clubs is greater, and it looks like we might not win the league again. So we’d better go out and buy some more players, except they want to be paid even more, and after the spending of the previous year we are getting a bit tight for cash. Never mind – football is run on debt. Let’s get into debt.
And so it goes on and on, the chase for more players, higher transfers, higher wages, always having to upgrade.
But surely, if it were all that easy and if this system worked, if the league could be bought year after year with new players and new players, Chelsea, Man U and Man C would have it sorted by now, and even Arry with the brown envelope and the Gross Domestic Product of the Virgin Islands should have put together a team that is at the top of the league each week. Why hasn’t he?
Look at Chelsea (horrible I know, but hold your breath for a minute and take a look). Clearly they don’t have a replacement for John Terry – and can’t be guaranteed a win even with him in the team. Man City for all their billions can’t get a team that scores lots of goals and wins every game, and Man U are not striding away points ahead at the top of the league despite paying Rooney more than the earnings of the whole of Brazil in the 1996.
Surely, if money worked, at least two of those clubs would make it work, this year, next year, every year, all the time. Surely if money worked better than our world-wide scouting and youth policies, surely we’d be miles behind by now.
And that’s really my point: the methodology that the spend-spend-spend advocates want is one that doesn’t guarantee success, but is one from which there is no escape once you start down that road. Yes Chelsea have had a few years of success, but nothing more than we did when Wenger took the world by storm. The difference is they are struggling to find a way to sustain their achievements – Wenger knows how to do it.
The point is, all these systems have their ups and downs. With our system we survive the downs because new players are always coming through. With their system, the money has gone and you can’t get it back – you always have to find more money to fund the losses.
Even better we are now moving into a new phrase of our operation, and it is plain for those who want to see, to see. Consider the League Cup. Six years ago we were playing unknown 17 year olds in that competition, now we are playing mature players. Not because we have a change of policy but simply because the players who first came through the youth system have got older. We can make nine changes to our first team and still be picking 21 year olds.
Having youngsters who push up and through into the team has a whole series of benefits.
- They tend to be slightly more patient (unless called Bentley)
- They cost us less to find, and so we can take up more of them
- They cost less in salaries while we work out if they are any good
- There is an endless stream of them available
- They surprise everyone (are you ready for Wellington Silva next month?)
Put very simply, world-wide scouting and the youth project is sustainable year after year. The systems at Chelsea and Man City look sustainable because of the impact of one very rich benefactor – but that is dangerous because if he takes his toys away, the whole club comes down; and the financial rules are just around the corner.
What’s more no system guarantees continual success, and when success does not come, there is a problem in the financial models because these models don’t include any sort of growth system. You buy in ready-made players, and if that doesn’t work you buy in ready-made players and if that doesn’t work you buy in ready-made players. Shevchenko? Adebayor?
Proceed with this endless buying and you get,
a) less in your wallet
b) endless churn and no stability
c) uncertainty within the club
Sometimes you get league wins and the like, but overall the endless-buying model is not any more successful than the youth development model, and yet brings with it all the dangers of imminent collapse.
Buying occasional players is a good idea when you see someone who wants to play for you, and who is available at the right price and will fit in with the team. But wholesale purchases suddenly in order to win the league now, no, not a chance.
We have four squads, as has been noted here before: the “25”, the loan squad, the reserves, the youth.
The loan squad tends to be a bit forgotten in all this – but just take a look…
- Benik Afobe – Huddersfield Town
- Nacer Barazite – Vitesse Arnhem
- Kyle Bartley – Sheffield United
- Francis Coquelin – Lorient
- Thomas Cruise – Carlisle United
- Cedric Evina – Oldham Athletic
- Samuel Galindo – Salamanca
- Gavin Hoyte – Lincoln City
- Henri Lansbury – Norwich City
- Vito Mannone – Hull
- Aaron Ramsey – Nottingham Forest
- Mark Randall – Rotherham Utd
- Armand Traore – Juventus
- Sanchez Watt – Leeds United
OK, they won’t all make it, and some we might agree are just playing out time, but within there I can thing of four or five players who will become very serious Arsenal players in the future: Afobe, Coquelin, Cruise, Galindo, Lansbury, Ramsey. (That’s six, but Ramsey is a bit of an odd position.)
Do you think those six would hang around if they saw the club buying in three extra players this January to sustain a push to winning the league? Maybe one or two, but not all of them.
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