1997 Heavy Squad Strengthening -> 1998 Double, 2001 Heavy Squad Strengthening -> 2002 Double, 2013; Heavy Squad Strengthening please Arsene

Well here we are twiddling our thumbs, desperately seeking something to do. There’s not even a sniff of action in the air but there’s an awful long way to go before the end of the transfer window, a mere 92 days in fact, NINETY TWO. Oh my.

The next date in the diary is June 19th, when the Premier League fixtures are announced and we can all become experts in plotting our downfall for the season ahead, but until then I’m going to dissect various aspects of last season. In the coming weeks I’ll look at the unloved Theo Walcott and the overhyped Mikel Arteta but to start us off I’m going to look at Arsène Wenger.

Lets get straight to the point…

Q. Should Arsenal sack Arsène Wenger? Go on, give an honest answer (leave it in the comments). 

When those above us have had to replace their manager ahead of the 2013/14 season a lot of fans have pointed towards stability being the key. Now I agree this summer is a massive opportunity for us to gain ground but that is based on us heavily improving this current crop. We need a striker, goalkeeper, depth at centre half, a defensive midfielder, possibly even a left winger. So basically We need a recruitment exercise like 1997 or 2001, this isn’t just about the first team it’s about the squad. Is it any surprise that following two eventful summers we won silverware?

Whilst we finished the season strong we can’t forget about how poor we were at various stages of last season. The performances against Bradford City and Blackburn Rovers in the cup competitions were absolutely disgraceful, an embarrassment in fact. Cup competitions are our most likely route to glory at present and we just love to miss opportunities that are served up on a plate for us. Horror shows in the league away to United, conceding three at home to Fulham, away to Norwich City, Swansea City at Home, Aston Villa away to name but a few, for that – Arsène Wenger is accountable. 

Now I truly believe Manchester United will be weakened by the appointment of David Moyes. That’s not just a reflection on Moyes but also on the magnitude of trying to move on from the astonishing Sir Alex Ferguson. I have a sneaky suspicion that he’ll be their manager again before the end of next season but assuming United are weaker, will we be able to close a 16 point gap? That’s going to be tough, especially as teams will continue to roll over at Old Trafford for the foreseeable future. 

Then we move onto Manchester City. A new manager and no doubt new signings to follow. They won’t lose any key players, so they should again strengthen and we may find that are too strong for us once again. Only five points to claw back this time around though, compared to the 19 from the previous season. Maybe the pressure of being champions was too much for them?

Then there’s Chelsea and the very likely return of you know who. There is no chance in the world that Chelsea will be ratting around in a race for champions league football with two games to go when they have Jose Mourinho in charge, it just isn’t going to happen. They do concern me because in the sense that United are instantly weaker because of the departure of Ferguson, Chelsea will improve over night if Mourinho is appointed. The only possible saviour is the relationship between Roman Abramovich and him, because I can’t imagine the Portuguese manager will have accepted his dismissal with much grace and I’m sure there’ll be a lot of tension in that relationship. 

So they top four is going to be tough, we all know that. What we can’t have is another dog fight with Sp*rs, it just isn’t going to cut it anymore. They’ve rarely been a factor in our league campaigns for the last twenty years, now it’s us against them. We should be worrying about the teams with proven pedigree but we just get suckered in time and time again, especially over the last two seasons. We need to cut ourselves loose because the Arsenal/Tottenham rivalry has helped make 4th place seem a lot more important that it is. Is that down to Wenger?

To close the gap above us we need to improve our record against the top three because last season it was woeful:

P6 W0 D2 L4 F5 A10

Two points from a possible 18. Is that really good enough? Of course it isn’t. In fact in the last two seasons we’ve only won one home game against the those teams above us – That game being Man City at The Emirates in 11/12. That gap needs to be closed. I believe it’s one of the reasons this side lacks belief at times, the feel inferior because of poor results against better sides. Take the Bayern Munich tie, outclassed and dominated in the first leg but when the pressure was off in the second leg, we played a blinder. Is it a surprise that our unbeaten run came after we’d played the likes of City and Chelsea and thankfully we played a United side that were crowned champions a few days earlier? Not really. For that gap to close we need top, top players and it’s Wenger’s responsibility to find them. They do exist, but sometimes you have to pay over the odds to reap the benefit and after all we’ve seen the heart ripped form this side in each of the last two close seasons.

So yes stability might be vital but what if we don’t succeed and United, City and Chelsea excel? That will leave us in a position where we are even further behind than we are now. A new manager will have a job and a half on his hands to restore a winning mentality whilst the others kick on and improve under their new regimes. 

Maybe I’m thinking this way because I’m about to part with £985 and I just don’t get the feeling that we will be a major force in the transfer market. After all, the club will have known for a while who they need want, it’s not just going have suddenly dawned on them post-Newcastle United. Maybe all of these players ply their trade in Spain and we are waiting for the curtain to come down on their season this week. 

Wenger can count himself lucky to have a job, he dodged some monumental bullets this season but his eventual change in approach has won him an extra life for this season. He regained his ruthless streak when it came to selections and it paid dividends as it’s been nearly three months since we sampled defeat. The board have made a big decision to stick by him but if we don’t invest we can kiss goodbye to a title challenge and for this season that’s what I expect, a challenge and maybe even a cup. Please Arsène. 

Enjoy your week and I’ll see you next Friday. 

Thanks for reading. 

Michael Jeffares

2 Responses to 1997 Heavy Squad Strengthening -> 1998 Double, 2001 Heavy Squad Strengthening -> 2002 Double, 2013; Heavy Squad Strengthening please Arsene

  1. May 31, 2013 at 6:31 pm #

    Should Arsenal sack Wenger?
    That’s a question that keeps coming. I don’t think it’s the right question. I think the question should be "can any manager do better than Wenger under Kroenke?". Kroenke is not a success-oriented owner. He’s after money. His track record in other clubs speak for themselves. Trophies come distant second in his priorities. Don’t let anyone say otherwise. So -it boils down to who is the best manager in the traditional business sense. It’s all a question of achieving a target within budget. Transfer fees and wages.
    So, could anyone be better under Kroenke? The Kroenke factor immediately rules out many of the recent winning "managers" who "manage" by spending huge transfee fees and couldn’t give a rat’s arse about the budget – Guardiola, Mourinho, any of the Chelsea / Man City managers. As a matter of fact, the choice of managers capable of winning anything on a limited transfer budget is… well, very limited. There’s Klopp from BVB. And that’s pretty much it. Otherwise, it’s a gamble – people like Laudrup, Martinez may do a better job but it’s far from guaranteed. Also, he is very good at unearthing gems for little money. Moreover, because he is the best at making good players great, players like to join Arsenal (even if it’s to then move on to more money). People are not going to join on Martinez or Laudrup’s reputation…yet. Based on those factors, keeping Arsene is the best bet.

    On the other hand, Arsenal’s wages are fourth highest in the league and close to double to that of Spurs. There is a huge amount spent on fringe players who do not have Wenger’s trust to play in any games. Chamakh, Bendtner, Squillaci, Santos, Arshavin, Djourou, Park, Denilson, Mannone… At 50k a pop a week, that’s more than 20 million gone. That’s 20% of the wages wasted right there. The wages are misspent, and the "socialistic" wage structure, designed to promote cohesion in a team of players growing together, was in hindsight a failure, not entirely by Wenger’s fault. The Oil factor changed the game. Our best players got poached by clubs without financial restrictions. But Wenger’s mistake was to hang on to these "not-even-bench-warmers" for far too long. There may be some pride and misplaced loyalty there. A new manager may be able to be more ruthless and push these players out, thereby saving cash and reinvesting it for new buys. But, this problem will solve itself soon: contracts for these guys are running out in the next couple of years so unless Wenger decides to give them unearned extensions, and assuming that any of the new buys dont turn bad (many of the names cited above were great at some point… maybe except Park and Squillaci). He needs to show ruthlessness and get rid of them, even at loss. Paying someone 50k / week for training and never playing at games is bad for morale. It breeds complacency. Wenger has shown this season that when needed he could be ruthless, and it worked wonders.
    All in all, I think that Wenger has what it takes. He should be given the chance to finish his contract. He has a great opportunity to make things right. After that, we’ll see.

  2. June 1, 2013 at 9:23 am #

    Wenger should be Allowed one more probationary season. I’m going to judge him on what happens in the summer. I’m sick and tired of not winning anything but more so of not even competing for the title. Finishing off the season 19/20 points worse off than the champions is heartbreaking. I’d like to see real intent with the signings he makes. I’m not expecting a title win to secure his job, but do want to see real ambition with his signings.

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