Dear blog, sh*t is getting real. The new football season is pant wettingly close and I am excited!
So we can talk about a number of things today.
Karim Benzema is NOT at the Munich Cup with the rest of the Real team. From what I understand, this was quite last minute. Feels pretty unlikely he’s injured. Even if he was injured, the Munich Cup is about PR for the club. He’d have has to have done something pretty damn serious not to be there for press. Madrid are built on commercials, you have to have your superstars present at all times.
Ok, ok, so Ronaldo isn’t there either. Don’t spoil the dream. We only have 3 more weeks of this before the realities of a summer where we only purchased a keeper bite in.
As I said yesterday, I find it ‘Arsene Improbable’ that we’d shell out £45m for a guy who is 28 in December. Factor in how long it took Ozil to settle. Well, you could be looking at him being 29 before we get the best of him. Marco Reus feels more feasible. He’s just turned 26, he’s playing for a non-CL club and he probably has a buyout clause.
AND I LUV HIM
Also, interesting the debates some of the Arsene apostles get themselves into online. I’m sure we went from ‘you don’t need money to compete at the top’ to ‘money is what has changed our fortunes’.
I mean, there’s an interesting blend of the two. At the core of it, better players is always a good thing. In 1998, better players was important, but we not only had better players, we had fitter players. We’d destroy 75% of the league because Wenger was trail blazing in the area of ‘stop players drinking before games’.
But putting the last 10 years worth of failure down to purely money completely ignores some of the brilliant, or near brilliant teams we’ve had. Wenger over performed in pulling those names together, but for me, under performed in bringing them to the levels they could have been at.
… and look, our players can’t have been that bad, Barcelona and Man City shopped us regularly. I also find it a but revisionist when people say, ‘oh, remember when our strikers were Chamakh and Bendtner’… err, no actually. Those two were never our prime strikers. Things were never that bad.
Back to it. That 2008 side was one of the most balanced Arsenal sides we’ve seen over the last 10 years. If they were managed by a better fitness coach and we had a plan B, we’d have stormed that league. We also didn’t bite in the transfer market in January when it was apparent we needed a defender and a DM and there was cash in the bank.
I think the 2011 team was also in the mix. Another January where we failed to bolster with cash in the bank, but more clear failures with fitness management and tactical ineptness. Was that the year we didn’t bite on Cahill?
See, money is important and I know the story is we had none, but it’s disingenuous to say there was no cash. We didn’t generate cash without selling players, sure, I get that. Our trouble was we didn’t reinvest the cash. The record profits, record wage bills and cash flow accumulation over the years indicates that we clearly have had funds to spend, they just weren’t spent. Mostly because the manager had been reluctant. Because look, that cash pile still hasn’t been spent, so has Ivan has said on numerous.
I mean, we not only had some average players, we paid them a kings ransom! Are you telling me we couldn’t find a better keeper than Almunia? Were there no better £11m players than Gervinho? Did it really take 5 years to realise that tall centre backs help from set pieces? Did the manager really blame hair pills for our injury pile up?
All in the past now…
I mean, thinking back, I’m pretty sure Wenger got around his requirement to invest by upweighting average players contracts. One of my arguments was always around the distribution of wages. If you don’t generate cash and your wage bill is £150m (a drossy squad as well), then perhaps you should spend less on wages and free up some cash for transfers.
The resurgence we’ve had in 2015 is about better scouting. We’re bringing in better players. But overall, we’re not deviating that far from our usual strategy. Major difference is that we can afford a Sanchez and an Ozil, instead of growing them. Wenger has got his game back. Players like Monreal, Cazorla, Bellerin, Cech, Gabriel and Coquelin weren’t mega buys. They were smart buys or beautiful accidents.
The team didn’t beat Chelsea at the weekend because our players were suddenly better than theirs. That came through in the post match press conference. Mourinho isn’t bitching because he fears the players. He’s bitching because he’ll know that 2015 has been successful for Arsenal because we’re more organised. He didn’t expect us to play pragmatically. Now, he’ll be fearing us. Because he’ll know that if Wenger keeps the players fit this season and continues to focus on the little details, we’ll win the league. He knows if we land a striker of Benzema’s quality, we’ll be challenging for the Champions League.
… and this is the thing. Being better organised doesn’t cost the much. Making Steve Bould accountable for the defence didn’t require an outlay of anything other than time. Bringing in Shad Forsythe to sort out the injury mess that was so, so apparent in our failings didn’t cost a lot. It just required a big decision. To move the old over and push on with the new was an emotional decision, because rationally there was no question this needed to happen. Taking data more seriously didn’t cost anything because the tools have been sitting at the club for six odd years. It just required the balls to activate them and for the manager to admit that the game was passing him by.
So when you hear Wenger praising backroom staff, that’s a major coup for the club. That’s a manager who is evolving and enjoying it. Watching Wenger ignore Mourinho. That’s fighting talk.
Football is about money to a certain extent. But money is also an excuse not to innovate. We can’t compete with Real or City for cash. We can compete with them for hunger. We can outthink them, because money doesn’t buy brains, it doesn’t by passion and it 100% does not buy innovation. We have a fairly fresh backroom team, a settled team that is pretty well balanced and familiar and we have a reinvigorated manager.
All of the above is why I’m so excited about this season.
A few people have said this blog become irrelevant if we do well. If that happens, and we start winning major trophies, I could not be happier!
Right, tomorrow, we start to preview the season. Alex is going to meet Thierry later, so he’ll have some words!