Arsenal Playing Staff Decisions MUST START NOW if it is Project ‘Sustainability’ and not ‘Project ‘Splash the Cash’

Is this the Arsenal Road map

Somebody who once worked for Match of the Day infamously said that winning the league was impossible with kids. Of course, Alan Hansen was talking about Ferguson’s blend of talented kids and season pros after an early season hammering at the hands of Aston Willa. What is rarely commented on was the poor state of Hansen’s memory in 1995, when Arsenal has beaten his own great Liverpool side at Wembley in 1987 and then pipped them to the League so famously at Anfield in May 1989, only 6 years earlier, with a similar combination of experience and home grown youth.  I think the term for forgetting May the 26th 1989 and the Arsenal ‘kids’, Adams, Merson, Thomas, Rocastle, Hayes et al is ‘Selective Amnesia’.

Stars of the Original Project Youth

I am, I hope amusingly, endeavouring to make the point that in 1989 and in the mid-1990s team did win the league with ‘kids’ but only when combined with some maturity and strength. Beckham, Scholes, Giggs, Butt and Neville had Bruce, Pallister, Cantona, Irwin and Keane, just as Merson, Adams, Rocastle and Thomas were blended with O’Leary, Bould, Dixon, Smith, Richardson and Winterburn. The difference between Graham’s Arsenal however and Alex Ferguson’s Man United was that Arsenal’s canny Scot had brought in all new experienced heads to blend with the precocious young talent at his disposal.

George Graham was quite ruthless and over a two-year period from his arrival in 1986, he moved on a large number of senior Arsenal players, most of whom were seasoned internationals. Paul Mariner, Tony Woodcock, a firm fans favourite, Stewart Robson, our midfield lynchpin, Chris Whyte and Tommy Caton were all out of the Highbury door within months of his arrival as I recall. Kenny Sansom, Viv Anderson and Charlie Nicolas, all North Bank heroes and the former, club captain, only survived another season and although part of the club’s first trophy success in 8 years were soon to be deemed surplus to requirements by Graham.

None of the 3 Big Stars survived GG’cull

So why am I rambling on about this in 2017 and why now particularly?

Well it just seems that the club is about to face some crossroads and you have to ponder the future and the decisions and actions that Arsenal and their decision makers will take in the next 2 years. We have many senior players, popular ones, nearing the end of their deals, some not showing any inclination to extend and we also have many more who will be in that position in the summer of 2018. We also have a manager with only one further full season left on his contract and whom one assumes is unlikely to be offered another. Add to that, many other senior longstanding squad professionals, as in the summer of 1986, however good, in 2018 will be the wrong side of 30.

There are some huge decisions required by certain individuals and by the board but we have recently had a strong hint from our CEO that Arsenal will be looking to the Leicester City model rather than the Manchester City model, going forwards. Therefore, if the owner is not likely to pump in funds and yet unwilling to sell to another who is then the 1986 to 1988 course of action maybe relevant. Most fans will be disappointed if this is the case but others are quietly proud of the club’s ‘sustainability’ approach, whilst being only to aware that our own ticket prices are a contributor to the model.

Although it will pain us all to admit it, our North London (well, Middlesex) neighbour are proving that combining seasoned professionals with talented youth may still have a place in 2017, 30 odd years on from when George Graham proved so. Old heads in LLoris, Vertonghen, Dembele and even to a degree Eriksen have supported the young players at White Hart Lane and the blend, while not yet producing silverware has seen them challenge.

Experience and Youth

Therefore, the question is whether Arsenal and whoever is in charge needs to do what George Graham did between 1986 and 1988 and cut loose the senior favourites, stick with or recruit an experienced core and blend it with fearless and exciting talent. However popular or talented they are, Ozil and Sanchez are not likely to be part of Arsenal’s future unless they extend their contracts by Christmas. Similarly come next summer, again however much we love him, Laurent Koscielny is not a player who Arsenal can build around and we already know Mertesacker will be gone. Olivier Giroud is a fan favourite but so were Mariner and Woodcock. Mesut Ozil is the frustrating ‘Darling of the North Bank, as was Charlie Nicholas and he too was moved on despite the protest of the fans. It would be a miracle if Santi Cazorla returns and has his contract extended.

Not our Future it seems

If sustainability is the key then Arsenal will need to invest in the core of the current squad that are in their mid to late twenties who are at either their peak or approaching it and blend that core with new signings and the youth they truly believe in.  Players such as Xhaka, Ramsey, Wilshere, is he proves himself again, Kolasinac, Bellerin, Mustafi (if he will commit) Lacazette and Welbeck are the right age to provide the core and this can be added to but the big question is, whether the current younger element have the quality to compliment and supplement the experienced core. I believe Holding, Iwobi, Maitland-Niles and Nelson may well have what it takes but unfortunately, there is only one very unforgiving way to find out for sure.

In addition one must assume that Cech and Ospina do not represent the future but does Emi Martinez? Somehow I doubt it, so any new short stopper such as Jack Butland would also need to be attracted to the project, regardless of the manager.

Talent to be blended with the new Core

The investment in the core begins now by deciding which of them deserve and merit having a future team built around them and convincing them of that project now and post Wenger. The first phase of this project has to be to ensure all of those have their contracts enhanced and extended this summer or sooner. Sadly, the Club have made a rod for their own back, by stupidly making public their offer to Chamberlain. The starting point now for any negotiations with Aaron Ramsey and others, is now in excess of £180,000 a week. If the Welshman is the man to build a team around, as his country do, then offer him those wages now and make him Captain next season.

Needs to be secured NOW if he is the man

The money saved on the budgeted contract offers to Ozil and Sanchez makes fabulous offers to players in the same position next summer possible but those decisions must be make and acted upon now. Those who will not be staying should be replaced with experience, youth or both and we should learn in the League Cup and the Europa League in the coming months, starting tomorrow, which, if any of the youth of 2017 can replicate George Graham’s bumper crop of 1986/87.

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6 Responses to Arsenal Playing Staff Decisions MUST START NOW if it is Project ‘Sustainability’ and not ‘Project ‘Splash the Cash’

  1. Atid September 19, 2017 at 9:30 am #

    Couldn’t agree more with this article.

    A squad overhaul is well due and like we did back in the day, Chambers Holding, Bielik, Pleguezuelo and Sheaf need to be afforded their chance to shine in the back 3. Kos and then Mustafi are the perfect people to give the responsibility too of bringing these boys through. Niles, willock, Adelaide and mcguane certainly have what it takes to be in our engine room, but our current midfield is quite young. I would also like to see da silva, Moore and osei-tutu given a look in at some point to see if they can provide the cover required to bellerin and kolasinac, who should be now well considered as our first choice wing backs and both are still young. There is less competition in our attacking line as far as youth is concerned, Nelson, nketiah, mavididi and nwakali are the obvious standouts, akpom seems to have faded. Welbeck is as you say of the right age. However this long list of players approaching the end of their contracts or even their careers certainly needs to be addressed quickly. Cech, ospina, jenkinson Debuchy Mertesacker, koscielny, Monreal, wilshire, ramsey, cazorla, ozil, alexis, giroud, walcott, campbell, lucas, akpom. That is almost a match day squad, however, there is as many again to build another new squad around add a few quality names to the rest, try and retain one or two of the lot just mentioned and we could be set for a rapid rebuild. I mean look at this “young” squad that isn’t approaching the end of their careers. Martinez, Macey, chambers holding mustafi, Bielik, sheaf, pleguezuelo, bellerin, Moore, osei-tutu, Niles, coquelin, Adelaide, willock elneny, xhaka, Kolasinac, da silva, Bramall, Nelson, nwakali, nketiah, mavididi, asano, welbeck, lacazette.

    That is 27 players straightaway that should have a massive say in our future. I’m not sure who the elder statesmen would be, probably welbeck or lacazette, but if we managed to hold on to kos for another year, ramsey and may be wilshire. Then cleared the rest out and invested wisely, we could have a superb young squad that would hopefully be lead by a superb young manager. Give it to Henry, with Bergkamp as his assistant and a sprinkling of Arsenal men as coaches. Pires wants in, overmars wants in, Keown wants in, Lehmann is already there, even Adams and Vieira though I am a bit reserved on those two.

  2. Scrivs September 19, 2017 at 5:16 pm #

    I’m going to pretend I know what Wenger is thinking. When he said earlier it’s best to let player’s contracts run down (or something of the sort) I don’t think he really meant that it means you get the best performance out of them.

    I honestly think he’s okay with letting Alexis and Ozil go. Some people might go crazy at the thought of this but I love the idea because sometimes you have superstars that spend more time hoping that the players around them make them better, instead of helping the players around them get better.

    People have been low on Iwobi for a bit but my thought was that he would shine without Alexis and Ozil. When you play in a front 4 that includes them and you are young, mentally you tend to cater to what they want which puts your game in shackles.

    Iwobi has great touch, can beat a man and can dictate a game if he wants but how is that possible when Alexis always wants a short pass so he can dictate things?

    Squad chemistry is a weird thing in the sense that you need a superstar or two but that superstar has to buy into the collective of the team.

    Both Alexis’s style of play and his mentality don’t play into that. I think Ozil’s does but I think we can get a more well-rounded player that doesn’t hamstring us formation wise in his place.

    When you find a player that can play Wenger’s style AND buy into the fact that the sum is better than the individual parts you have a smooth flowing team.


    But it’s a balance and that’s been Wenger’s issue over the past seasons. I think as a Manager there are 3 options for a squad with regards to winning:

    1) Hope the individual brilliance does the job
    2) Hope the system does the job
    3) Hope the individual brilliance can match the system to do the job

    1 rarely works. It’s why PSG can win Ligue 1 but not the CL. Also why Monaco topped them last season.

    2 works brilliantly if 3 doesn’t exist (see Leicester).

    3 is what dominates (Real Madrid, Juve).

    When you play youth you can cater to #2 because young players can still be molded. That’s why the best Wengerball after Highbury was around 07-08. Without a couple of unlucky turns Wenger gets his PL trophy.

    Then he moved to getting more superstars because some games require individual brilliance as Van Persie showed in his glory season but the individual brilliance rarely matches the system over the long term.

    Alexis, Ozil, and Ramsey require certain systems to thrive and rarely do those systems overlap. This is a problem because when you bring youth into this chaos it doesn’t help the team or them.

    If we lose both Ozil and Alexis people might treat it like the end of the world but what happens? You then have the opportunity to replace them with players that buy into the system. Once that happens then you hope that the individual brilliance comes out on its own.

    Look at Dortmund or Monaco. On paper, they look great now but what usually happens is they grab players that have the potential for individual brilliance, get them to buy into a system that then makes that individual brilliance shine brighter.

    It doesn’t always work and when it doesn’t they are quick to move on.

    Is it a coincidence that Iwobi shines a bit brighter without Alexis and Ozil? (I think next year without them he will be one of our top 3 players)

    When Alexis plays we often hope the individual brilliance shines through without thinking about the system. Against Chelsea, many didn’t like our odds and forgot that great players look even better when they buy into the system. We had moments of brilliance without the finishing.

    Lemar (sigh), Kola and Laca were the new superstars that could produce individual brilliance while believing in a system. They are the type of players that allow you to sneak in a youth player or two and overall level of quality doesn’t drop.

    Put any youth CM prospect next to Elneny and you’ll see the same thing. He’s the type of player that buys into the system and help his partner excel (see AMN last week).

    Holding is a good player that is usually let down by the players around him not buying into the system (CMs not showing support so he ends up dribbling into trouble).

    We will be a better team next year without Alexis, even with playing more youth players. The Ewing Theory ( will take effect and Iwobi, Nelson, AMN and possibly others will shine brightly.

    • Batmandela September 20, 2017 at 8:52 am #

      That’s a great comment. Superb analysis. Would you be up for fleshing it out, and we can post it on the site?

      Let me know at contact at gunnerstown dot com.

  3. Victor Thompson September 20, 2017 at 12:38 pm #

    Four brilliant articles by Dave Seager, Gary lawrence, Batmandela and this comment by Scrivs. What a change from the usual “sackcloth and ashes” on the “Arsene out” theme.

    What I get is the need for blending youth with our current core players which I totally agree with and then a very clever analysis by Scrivs which does provide an ingenuous with which to separate and grade possible stars, existing stars by assessing how well their talents would blend with a tried and tested system and actually improve the youth by example which automatically augments and improves the system. Done properly, it would provide us with a realistic answer to the Billionaire approach which I believe is ruining football now.

    Such an approach, I think, is what Wenger has been trying to do and is also the reason for letting Sanchez and Ozil run their contracts down. If the Chelsea match was anything to go by, we would be able to cope very well without them. Unfortunately, Wenger despite his achievements, is not a George Graham or Bertie Mee. He will not be leaving a core of players as good as he inherited from George Graham and therefore his successor will need a much longer time than he had to compete for the big prizes. Unfortunately, with the pressures of the game nowadays and the imbalance of Rich and Poor clubs, our relative inferiority to the big three is made more acute because they are monopolising the trophies while we are on the outside looking in.

    I know that many fans will say that I am mad to suggest that Graham was better than Wenger, which is not what I am suggesting. Graham had much more pruning to do than he had. He got rid of senior players and brought younger ones through and he was not afraid to take the chance. It paid off when he won the double. We will never know what he might have achieved because of his unfortunate decision to deal in brown envelopes. People know that he was a sacrificial lamb when it was common knowledge that some very big names were at it too. When are we likely to see another Parlour, Geordie Armstrong, Rocastle, Adams or Merson?

    That is what we need. We can`t compete for superstars but we can get big players who as scrivs said can play with the system ( if we had one ). The two year extension to Wenger`s contract was a mistake. The first year is almost up at the end of this season and we are far from likely to qualify for the Euro Championship, so in all probability, whoever takes over will have a huge task of pulling us up by the shoe strings to rejoin the top table.

    By the way, Iwobi filled in well for Ozil but he was not nearly as effective in the second half and that is because he does not have the stamina for more than 60 minutes. I would invite anyone reading this to watch him in the coming matches. He has class but he needs time to build his stamina before he will be the finished article. I don`t think Cazorla will be back as I don`t think that at his age he can recover to his previous level. He has been out for two seasons, at a time in his life that he could not possibly do so.

    I really hope Jack does because he would be one of those players who could improve the performance of young players around him. Wenger needs to work on the system which he appeared to have devised against Chelsea which Neville so concisely analysed after the match. He also needs to blood some younger players and he only has this year and next to do it. Atid, who made the brilliant comment above is very much better than me at identifying those young players and I am grateful to him for naming so many I, inmy ignorance do not know.

    • Dave Seager September 24, 2017 at 8:52 pm #

      Thanks Victor


  1. Bertie Mee did it, George Graham did it but nothing suggests Wenger can do it now’ | Gunners Town - September 19, 2017

    […] read @goonerdave66 superb thought provoking piece on Arsenal repeating what George Graham did when he came back as manager culling the squad and […]

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