Someone presented a table to me this morning. Not an Ikea table. Oh no. A table that outlined Arsenal’s net spending since we last won a trophy. Something like £7.5m. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was supposed to think, but in seasons gone by, it was probably, ‘incredible’, interesting now that the narrative has changed.
I’ve been bemoaning the lack of spend for a few years, but that, for me, has merely been a cover up for many of the other deficiencies that have crept into the set up. The interesting comment that came of the back of that table was…
‘I don’t even think that’s his biggest problem’
I don’t either. Spending money is an issue. However, a deeper issue is spending it properly. Ozil was a beautiful signing, but as I said at the time, it was clearly a panic buy and certainly not a clear requirement at the start of the summer. Now, you don’t say no to top players. He’s a massive asset for us, even though he’s been brutalised by Arsene. My point here is that a striker was the real requirement and it didn’t happen.
Of bigger concern is the type of player we keep signing. Where are our beasts? Where are our whippets? We seem to be insistent on ignoring the key attributes that make a great Premiership player. Pace and power.
I mean, Wenger has never been one for tanking up players with muscle, which used to be ok because he bought big players. However, these days, we have little players who don’t really get any bigger unless it’s natural through age. Even looking at the Swansea players the other night, their small players have substantial muscle over our players.
I always remember the transformation of Ronaldo from Premier League heroine chic… to Portuguese man of war. Fergie turned him into a monster. He might look like a Ken doll, but he’s one of the most powerful players on the planet. Would Arsene have taken the same approach to his development? Doubtful.
It’s not a massive criticism, more of an observation. I know Wenger correlates bulk with a lack of mobility. I’m not so sure that holds true. Look at Drogba. Look at that monster Matic. What a player. He’s explosive over 30 yards, he’s strong as an ox and he can play ball. We need players like that in our side. Arteta is coming to the end. We need bigger, faster with more stamina.
In other news, some fans are holding a protest this weekend. I’m often e-mailed and asked why I don’t rally troops for such events. Firstly, because it’s absolutely not my place to. Le Grove is not a fan group. You want to arrange something, speak to the good people at BSM, AISA or The AST.
Aside from that, I’m not a believer in the protest. I’m not a believer in the banner. I’m not a believer in the online petition. Why? Because I know how companies work. I know what bothers them and what doesn’t. 100 angry men shouting at a gate is not going to bother the board at Arsenal. Why? Because 100 people isn’t mass scale. Our fanbase is millions. Our fan base put 9000 likes on an Arsenal Facebook update detailing us conceding a goal. 100 people don’t affect the bottom line. 100 people can be replaced on the season ticket waiting list in a matter of minutes.
Protest, in the digital age, for me is old school (when you’re not trying to overthrow a government). In business, you’re not going to get what you want by acting in a militant way. The same way the shouty football manager is a dying breed these days (in football and in business), so is the protest when it comes to football. At best 100 people get a back page of The Mirror (same as the guy who rolled out the banner did). But what does that achieve? The story is dead after 2 wins on the bounce. If you want progress, you have talk to people in a constructive way. You have to lay out your points in an organised way and communicate them with the club. America was forced into action over it’s NSA debacle because of digital. Not 1000 people standing outside the White House. Most businesses make changes when they’re shamed online. That’s the way of the world. Mass scale action over tiny pockets of action.
… and believe me, they read the online opinion. If you think they don’t know what we’re all thinking, you’re totally deluding yourself. The club inspect the blogs, read the fan forums… they probably have an agency that undertake social listening for them (I CAN DO THIS FOR YOU CALL ME ARSENAL), they’ll hear people in the ground, see the gaps in the seats, realise that shifting boxes is a nightmare, get a talking to when they’re at the petrol station and all the other indicators that things aren’t right.
Stan won’t though. However… if we drop out of the top 4. Then Stan will give a f*ck. Because his cash money will be jeopardized. I find it amazing that a man as rich as he is, takes any interest in sports clubs. He’s super long term with everything. He buys property and waits for the appreciation over 20 years. He’s like that with sports clubs as well. He’s bought Arsenal because it’s undervalued and he’s had to invest virtually nothing to watch it appreciate in value. He seems to care not for having the best club on the planet, he’s more interested in having the most expensive asset on the planet that require zero TLC.
You look at Arabs at City, and think what you like about what they’re spending they’re money on… but the vision. Wow. Absolutely incredible. They’re building a college, about 92 training pitches, a reserve stadium, it’s all powered by hippy love. It’s magic. They’re building an incredible legacy. They have Pat Vieira as a development director (I think that’s his title) and they have expertise oozing all over their set up. Word on the street is they’re grooming him to takeover from Pellegrini in 3 years time. What a gutter that’d be.
We should be doing things like that. We should have young coaches all over the club. We should be investing in our youth set up, because it’s not really turning out the superstars, is it? 17 years in and it can hardly boast a production line of great players. It barely qualified as an elite training facility. From the thickest catchment area in the UK as well. I mean, I really like Akpom, he looked a talent in preseason, great power, focus and skill… yet he’s overlooked for Sanogo? What’s going on there?
At a base level… how many of our backroom team have been pinched over the years and put into bigger clubs? None. Why? Because they’re not that good (the older guys). Mourinho had Brendan Roger and AVB under his wing and now they’re elite managers commanding massive salaries. Fergie had Meulesteen, McClaren Kidd and Queiroz (ok, not successful, but good enough to get manager jobs).
As a side note, I find it interesting that the Le Grove hate campaign has gone from, ‘he’s talking sh*t’… to now… ‘He’s enjoying this unfold’
For the record, I do not enjoy watching this unfold. I suffer (first world suffering) the same as any other fan, maybe even a bit more because I have to write up the collapse instead of shutting off. I don’t believe in faux optimism. It’s insincere. What you get here is what I believe. Whimsically talking up how amazing everything is when it’s patently not the case isn’t good reading in my opinion.
The stuff that is penned here is built off more than my imagination, I speak to people in the game, at the club, around the club to give the narrative of what’s going on. I write the reality when we’re doing well so I can’t be shot down as ‘knee jerk’ when it goes down the pan. Doesn’t mean I enjoy it. Nothing would make me happier than to see a Le Grove declaration retweeted a million times because Arsene took the Premier League title. I’d love it, because my life isn’t so vacuous that I’d place more importance on being right over the success of a club that is deeply ingrained in my psyche.
My agenda is a better Arsenal. Simple as that. Le Grove isn’t a rant platform. We put forward issues, offer up logical solutions that would benefit the club. Sure, those suggestions might be tainted with emotion, but what’s the point in writing about football if you’re not emotional? Do you like chatting to people who sit on the fence and talk objectively all the time? I don’t. Some of the stuff we suggest, like players, doesn’t work out. That’s life. Point is, writing a blog isn’t a competition in being right. For me, it’s about putting questions out there. It’s about extending the post match experience online. The community that sits below is about exploring those questions through the day. All the fun in football is about exploring the possibilities, chatting through the realities and adding a bit extra to whatever we do.
So in short, the Arsenal that I see now, collapsing, doesn’t make me happy, because I know there’s a better way of doing things. I know we’re not doing the best we can. We can be challengers. I just don’t think it’s under Arsene Wenger. That’s all we’ve been about for years. That, and beer.
Right, that’s me done. Have a ripping day.