Tuesday, 17 January 2012

About Football Commerce?

If financial achievement is all that matters perhaps we should commission a piggy bank statue at the Emirates to reflect our recent success

Tough times ahead for the Arsenal. The facts are that we are in The FA Cup and the Champions League; given that they are cup competitions we have a chance of winning one of them. A lot of factors need to be taken into consideration but if not, why bother?

As regards the Premier League; we are not going to win it and therefore you would think that the target is to finish as high as possible, be it in a ECL spot or a Europa League place.

Now I would like to think that a place in The Champions League next season and a trophy are achievable but in the cold hard light of day I feel it’s more likely that we will be playing in the Europa League next season and that the trophy cabinet will not be added to; this is not pessimism, its realism.

You see, our squad of players is not equipped to compete on multiple fronts. This is not to say that our squad is the worst ever assembled, it’s simply that our league position pretty much reflects the quality of our squad and what is achievable given this set of players. Injuries? Yes of course they play a part but that’s why you have a squad.

Much as I don’t like to dwell on the past I think it is reasonable to make a comparison given that it is a comparison involving the same manager. A lot of talk is about an unwillingness to pay for players as being a reason the club is in the position it’s in but when analysing the last Arsenal Championship squad, who also went far in the FA cup and ECL, one can see that it didn’t exactly cost the earth.

Look at our squad from that era.

These players were bought

Lehmann £1.5m
Lauren £7.2m
Toure £0.25m
Ljungberg £3m
Vieira £3.5m
Gilberto £4.5m
Pires £6m
Bergkamp £7.5m
Henry £10m
Edu £6m
Cygan £2m
Wiltord £13.3m
Clichy £0.25m
Reyes £10m
Kanu £4.2m
Keown £2m
Van Bronckhorst £8.5m
Jeffers £9m
Senderos £2.5m

And these were free

Campbelll Free
Fabregas Free

And these from the youth system

Cole
Parlour
Aliadiere
Bentley
Stack
Tavlaridis
Hoyte
Thomas
Owusu-Abeyie
Simek
Skulason
Spicer
Smith
Papadopulos Loan

This squad cost £101.2. This does not take into account players sold in previous season and the revenue from those sales, wages or the sell on revenue.

This is a blueprint that pleased both fans and the money men at the club, however if you look at the bulk of this squad you are talking about a higher level of player achievement. You would say that more or less all the players that had a fee performed and of course Cole, Parlour, Campbell and Fabregas who where free, contributed.

Performance and achievement from this group outstrips the players we have invested in over the last few years. The youth players by and large did not prosper but then again there was no financial gamble involved. A lot of our players that came in for fees have disappointed and our youth system has not delivered for the first team on the same level either.

The point is that we had assembled a squad that practically could provide two XIs that could compete; this meant that injuries could be absorbed. This made the blueprint workable.

Year on year we have not repeated this yet we are entrenched in trying to do so. What should have been rationally assessed is that either player selection is not good enough or changes to this system need to be implemented. Neither has been done. We are trying to make a failed methodology work.

But times have changed. What is it about the teams that have won the title since we were last champions? Is it that Chelsea and Manchester United spent more on players or is it that Ferguson, Mourinho etc selected better players and were better tactically? Hard to say but cost of squad seems to be the common denominator in a world where you get what you pay for.

Our current squad cost £171.2m. The current Manchester City Squad that sits atop the league is reported to have cost somewhere in the region of £252m obviously we can’t compete with that, nor should we seek to but the discrepancy is huge and therefore we can’t look to compete in squad strength unless we are prepared to extend the amount we are willing to pay; that is to say being in for a player at a price that is requisite with that players quality. No one wants to sell cheap but if your offer is derisory you won’t even get to the table.

I am not advocating throwing money at a problem, I’m looking at how we can compete.

I want all the players that Wenger has faith in to ‘come good’ I always have, but examples like Denilson, Eboue, Merida, Bendtner, Traore, Fabianski, Watt, Hoyte and Traore never did. Players bought in that showed quality on the International stage like Rosicky, Arshavin and Vela have faded badly. I totally acknowledge that both Diaby and Eduardo have had their Arsenal careers destroyed by appalling challenges that have been condoned as being ‘part of the game’ and in this respect we have a genuine grievance. I also see that we have been blighted with injuries, but (pardon the pun) those are the breaks.

It has been a waiting game for the fans for too long and waiting is hard. Potential is one thing, but unfulfilled potential cannot be ignored. You need players who are the finished product alongside that potential in order to enable potential to thrive. Finished product comes at a price.

The reality is that in today’s football world you have to spend; like it or not. The only alternative is having a mercurial manager with a great eye for a player; something I fear we used to have but perhaps we no longer have.

Changes are needed at the club in my opinion. When you mention change in relation to a football club, some automatically assume that it only means getting rid of people. I’m talking about making changes that are positive and meaningful; changes in ethos, changes in perspectives; yes some personnel changes, but most importantly changes that ensure that, as a club, we look forward with a united objective that, whilst always being mindful of financial one way streets, is not just based on pounds shillings and pence.

Unvieling Summer 2012?

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