...or can you?
Of all the clubs in all the world he had to walk into ours: Stan Kronke that is. Another rich man looking to generate income from a big club in a big city, only this time without splashing the cash it would seem. I say 'seem' because no one can be sure about anything at boardroom and managerial level at our club, the whole shebang is cloaked in secrecy. Or perhaps that cloak is of obfuscation; smoke and mirrors if you will. Information is heavily controlled Politburo style thus leading to speculation and in some cases, gesticulation from the seats of the Emirates. This lack of transparency comes across as arrogance which makes supporters feel very much marginalised. There is almost a civil war of words between supporters with differing views on how this thing of ours should operate, such is the level of frustration and unrest.
We've seen tons of inaction and lashings of transfer rumour piffle with very little comment about those bold words of Gazidis' about expenditure. Could this declaration have been an aural mirage perhaps? Or was the manager just not listening? Who knows, but sometimes the obvious answer to a complex question is the easiest and in the case of the thorny question regarding the Arsenal the answer just has to be “the manager”. The question being “what’s wrong at the Arsenal?” I am not going to spew forth a diatribe against Mr Wenger: I never have, but I am taking stock while I am sunning myself in beautiful Rhodes, prior to strolling to the bar to watch Arsenal take on that lot from down the road, and have looked at facts and drawn my conclusions based on that. My conclusions regarding Arsene are, to quote the Corleones “not personal just business”.
I think I’m right in saying that AW selects the players that he feels are of the required quality and has done so for the majority of his tenure. Of the players he inherited he clearly retained the services of those he thought matched his criteria. When I look at the players that he has bought to the club in the last seven/eight years I have to say that the quality has dropped year on year.
AW has sold good players and had to sell good players who wanted out. One can debate the validity of forcing players to stay but I do look at some of those players that were sold who didn’t want to go or could have been retained for longer: Pires, Gilberto, Lauren, Campbell, Lehman, Edu and Diarra and the timing of those sales. In selling good players and not trying hard enough to secure the services of the existing quality at the club I believe that AW genuinely felt that he had a group of young players who were going to produce and play the style that AW felt was the future: he was wrong in believing in Denilson, Bendtner, Vela, Merida, Diaby, Fabianski and the like, dead wrong. His belief blew up in our faces.
Yes the period since the FA Cup final of 2005 until now has had the press gloating at our lack of success and we have been unable to shut them up with a trophy, but the truth is we haven’t been good enough often enough when it mattered, and yes there have been occasions when we have been unfortunate come crunch time but there have also been occasions, big occasions to win Silverware, when AW has made big errors: The FA cup semi finals against Manchester United and Chelsea when team selection was mystifying to say the least. AW’s belief in Almunia being a top drawer Goal keeper that could replace Lehman was misplaced as was the faith he put into a goalkeeping squad of Almunia, Fabianski and Mannone as being of requisite quality to compete over the course of a season.
The deficit column of AW’s reign is now bigger than the achievement column. AW has lost more cup finals than he has won; he has finished out side of the league positions that represent a tussle for the Championship more times than he has been battling it out for the title. Yes, again, credit where credits due, the 16 year run of ECL qualification is excellent yet I have not felt that we were qualifying with a chance of winning since 2006. The new stadium is impressive and AW played his part in its creation but it is something of a soulless arena of underachievement and inflated pricing, as a result loyalty has been sorely tested.
Focusing on the good times gone by is all well and good and it is only fit and proper to praise AW for his achievements between 1997-2006 but by the same token it is fair to criticise the period 2007-2013; this is judging him by those standards which he himself set. I look at some of the players who have appeared at the Emirates in this period and I am at a loss as to why they were purchased, players like Bischoff, Park, Chamakh, Squillacci, Silvestre and Gervinho just weren’t good enough as we looked to replace the players of real ability that left our club each summer.
In the golden era of Wenger's tenure many irregular squad members showed their worth when called upon; Edu, Kanu, Wiltord, Manninger, Flamini all made major contributions and there were other who were less effective, for a variety of reasons, but who made positive contributions; Taylor, VanBronkhorst, Cygan, Senderos, Sylvinho, Inamoto, Garde, Grimandi, Reyes,Sûker and Eduardo whose Arsenal career was cut short by thuggery. Just an example of how deep our squads used to be. All of them stepped into the breach alongside the illustrious first team and helped the Arsenal win games and trophies as they had quality alongside them.
Time was Arsenal players left to join clubs like Barcelona, Man Utd, Juventus, and Milan now they are going to Sunderland, West Ham and Europe’s outer reaches: that's the standard of player Wenger has accumulated.
It appears that there is little coming in the door and little coming through the ranks so what conclusions can be drawn other than a lack of basic footballing common sense is now ingrained at our club.
I've said it before that there is a good group of players at the club; good not great, who with some additions could really achieve something. These players are almost crying out for some quality to help them out as much as we the supporters. The manager doesn't ( or won't ) agree on this as is evident by his failure to bring that quality to the Emirates. As a result our squad has started the season wafer thin and at a disadvantage in what promises to be the most open of seasons, we've gone from the INVINCIBLES to the THINVINCIBLES© not by mistake but by the design of our seemingly untouchable manager.
I believe that there are ways and means to get the players you need if you make the right offers but wanting them in the first place may be the primary stumbling block for us. If the manager, who has total control over such matters, doesn't have an eye for a player or a belief that additional players will be a positive addition to the squad there is no point of raising ones hopes.
And that's what Gazidis' proclamation gave us; hope; the stuff that dreams are made of, which may well turn out to be false hope, shattered dreams.
*there is an excellent piece by whitehouseaddress.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/times-of-desperation-crisis-at-arsenal.html?m=1 that eloquently summarises our current situation.