Facts can be manipulated to provide damning evidence. Facts can also be used to tell a story without emotion. Facts in football always have a context and mitigating circumstances and from this point of view Arsenal Football Club should be seen, on the one hand, as just another Football club, yet on the other to be a club standing for something more.
The Arsenal does have the status of one of English Football’s big clubs; that’s fact. On this basis there should be an element of expectation and intention to compete for honours.
Let’s talk about Pre and Post Emirates.
The proclamations from the board, when leaving Highbury, were that Arsenal would compete at the highest level because the move would enable the club financially. In the years leading up to this we were doing just that. Champions League final, FA Cup win, Premier League Championship; the definition of competing at the highest level in many ways.
This in fact was ratified by the fact that in those years we had world class players. That’s not hyperbole that’s actually true.
The 2011/12 season has seen the three trophies that matter being won by clubs with virtually unlimited resources; resources that have placed those clubs in the elite. Pre Emirates neither club was one of the big boys; The London Club had started down that road sure, and nine years down the line with Billions of Euros spent the Russian oligarch achieved his goal. City have started on their journey and have two trophies in two years.
Post Emirates the conditions that exist make challenging for top honours a more complex task. The best set of players available against the best set of players available is a skewed playing field when one club can offer as much as they want for players both in terms of fee and wages. If a club can’t compete financially on the playing side they need players with the correct mind set and a manager with tactical acumen in order to go into combat. A good youth policy and effective scouting network is also essential when you are unable to ‘shop at Harrods’.
This raises the question regarding the mission statement of 2006; Competing at the highest level. The reality is that Arsenal have not done so. To point at facts, it’s clear that we haven’t.
Nor, sadly, frustratingly, has there been recognition of the strategies that need to be put in place for Arsenal to be able to compete with the financially emboldened rivals.
Regardless of the reasoning, if we don’t spend the same as the other clubs with whom we are trying to compete we need a plan B. If we don’t have a plan B then we need to spend; speculate to accumulate.
If the club is set on financial prudence all well and good but something has to give in order to compete at the highest level. Yes, it a. While not suggesting that winning things on the back of serious financial input is any less satisfying for the fans of the club that does so, I would suggest that winning through old fashioned values carries a deeper satisfaction.
But there’s the rub. Old fashioned values have got us nowhere. Those values have got us nowhere because the playing personnel at the club have not been up to the challenge. The manager has not been able to tactically thwart teams that are better man for man. The youth and scouting system has delivered scant return. The acceptance of mediocrity at board level has been shocking as it is based on the “as long as we are earning its okay” philosophy.
I guess what I can conclude is that we need a strategy that is based on spending; and we have a really big player from Eastern Europe waiting in the wings or a strategy that is based on the Plan B model outlined above for which you need to get a lot of factors correct.
If the club and fans are prepared to accept the Arsenal as a club akin to Everton; once one of the genuinely big players of English football who slid gradually down the pecking order and are used to their status, then that’s fine. But that acceptance is to show scant regard of any fighting qualities that this great club are renowned for.
That’s how it feels; a general air of acceptance that Arsenal are yesterday’s men. The once Invincibles, the former top club in London, the once Bank of England Club.
We’ve always had class but we used to be contenders instead of ‘also rans’ which we are now.
It's not to late though. Its never too late...Is it?