This morning is mostly sponsored by Peroni… who have put on a special Guest post from Tal Ofer, who an be found on Twitter under the guise of @talofer.
History repeats itself. I’m sure that you heard this phrase before in one way or another, and summer after summer it feels to me like it couldn’t be more valid for Arsenal. Since the summer of 2010 , we read season after season about the big transfer budget that the manager has, it is not a media speculation but a fact when the CEO of Arsenal football club confirms it himself year after year. Yet, no marquee signings are made, as the manager is confident that his squad will achieve the prized 4th place without the need for investment.
Wenger’s preferred excuse is that he only buys ‘if he can find player that adds quality to the squad’, so every transfer window Arsenal is linked with top-class players yet none of them ever approached by the club. One would have thought that 1-2 trophyless seasons will make the manager to change his strategy or make compromises with his strict principles, but that’s not the case with Arsene.
You don’t need to be an ex-player or pundit to identify what are the main problems in the squad which are not addressed, first it’s the wage structure that rewards players for failure (long-term contracts for players who never proved they are good enough although fed many good opportunities). The 2nd problem lies with the spine of the starting 11 which has been ignored for far too long, in particular the goalkeeper position and the defensive midfield position.
Jens Lehmann was the last top-class goalkeeper Arsenal had, in his first season he was part of the invincibles team, played a major part in magnificent CL campaign in 2005/06 and brought us with both his hands our last trophy, the FA Cup. It is no coincidence that since Lehmann left , Arsenal won no trophy.
Goalkeeper in my opinion is the most important position on the pitch. Having a confident and trusted goalkeeper in goal have influence on the rest of the formation. GK like Lehmann gives stability for the defense who knows you can trust him with crosses. When the defense plays with confidence, it influences the midfield and the attack. Sadly since the failed experiments with Almunia and Szczęsny begun, gooners have suffered sleepless nights.
It may be ironic to say but it’s the goalkeeper who got the least chances during these years who actually shined. Lukasz Fabianski proved himself as Arsenal’s best goalkeeper whenever he got a run of games in the team. Like every goalkeeper who used for one game, makes a mistake and then dropped to the bench, he lost his confidence. But whenever he got an extended run, he proved to have safe pair of hands. Sadly it was injuries which stopped him from becoming Arsenal’s number 1 and mistakes made by Wenger.
In regards to the defensive midfield, it’s a problem that hasn’t been addressed properly since Patrick Vieira left the club. We had few players in the position like Flamini who had one great season and left, and Song who was sold (a shocking decision in my opinion). The thing is, if you think you found a suitable player , keep him and don’t sell him. Why did we let Flamini to run his contract out? Why we didn’t insist on keeping Song and telling Barcelona he is not for sale?
With all my respect to the management and experience of Mikel Arteta , he is not a defensive midfielder. He is slow, past his prime days and prone to make stupid fouls close to the box which lead to goals at the end of the day. I don’t blame Arteta, I blame the man who plays him out of his position.
Now this summer we have a golden opportunity to sort out this position for the long term with the signing of Fellaini. We have been linked to the Belgian international due to his £22m release clause, yet nobody in Arsenal even thinks of activating it. Doesn’t it remind you the situation with Juan Mata? Strange déjà vu. Someone in AFC sit and thinks that if nobody bids then the price will drop, but in Fellaini’s case, if you don’t activate the clause now, it will cost you more. Surely his former manager, David Moyes, is considering a move for him and don’t be surprised if Fellaini signs for Man Utd before the league starts.
So can’t Wenger find this so called ‘quality’? why do we always try and find bargains instead of investing the money we have? It is Wenger’s principle not to spend these amounts of money, hence not to be part of the ‘crazy’ market of today’s football world. While in theory I would say that no player worth amounts like £30m-£40m, not even Messi, this is what the market dictates and it’s a matter of supply and demand. Wenger surely knows it.
This brings me to the bid Arsenal made this week for the disgruntled Luis Suarez who wants to have CL football next season. I think it was a month ago when we all heard that Higuain’s uncle/father/dog said that within days the player moves to Arsenal, yet nothing happened and all possible excuses were put by media. Arsenal wanted the player so much yet wasn’t capable of sealing the deal, how surprising
If a player has value ‘x’ and you know it, you will have to pay close to it or over it (depending on the competition for the services of the player). Long gone are the days that you could bought players for peanuts. If you want quality, you need to pay, and if you decide to pay peanuts you will end up with monkeys.
So do we really want to buy Suarez? Doesn’t seem so despite the £40,000,001 offer made this week. Suarez wasn’t our first choice and we are showing Liverpool how desperate we are, because a month ago we didn’t want to spend the amount that Napoli spent on Higuain (clue: it’s less than the value of Suarez). So why should Liverpool sell us the Uruguayan? Because no other club is interested, or because the player desperate to leave, or because we are desperate?
Suarez is probably one of the best 10 strikers in the world, but he already had both in England and in Holland too many incidents on and off the pitch which make you doubt , does it worth to have this headache in the dressing room? Isn’t the media and refs already prejudiced against him due to incidents with Ivanovic & Evra, and diving incidentss? Does Suarez really wants to come?
Now I don’t want to play ‘football manager’ here but I had a thought in the last few months which I didn’t see almost mentions by the so called football experts nor the media. If there was a striker we should have signed 2 months ago, it wasn’t Higuain, Jovetic or Suarez. It was Mario Gomez, the German who played a second string at Bayern due to the arrival of Mandzukic. Now you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to realise that for 20m Euro we could have got a goal machine with both international and European experience, exactly what we need so much. A player committed to prove himself to his national manager to guarantee a place in starting 11 in a year when the WC takes place.
It leaves a bitter taste that we are already deep in pre-season and yet Arsenal hasn’t made a significant signings despite all the hot air coming at the end of the season. But are you really surprised based on history?
Arsenal needs to address these chronic problems (and I’m not talking about the chronic injuries, for that I’ll probably have to write another post). While they are not life threatening, they are holding the club back from competing for trophies, as we want. As with the economy, it is proved that austerity doesn’t work. If we want to be back in our glorious days, we need to invest and spend to make this team competitive. Waiting for the last day of the transfer window to get some bargains like Andre Santos, isn’t going to be the solution I’m afraid.
These transfers have to happen in June before the pre-season starts, to let the player get used to new teammates, club and city. Bringing players in the last minute shows panic and usually mean that a compromise been made. With our available transfer budget, it is baffling why season after season we can’t get the transfers we desperately need. Maybe it is time to understand that money is not the issue but those who make the decisions?