Manchester United provided the post sex cigarette after our Shawshank Redemption style mauling against Liverpool, and oh my, how satisfying was it? Are you sure it was just tobacco? United over turned an unfair one goal deficit only to be hit with a Darren Bent sucker punch at the death. That’s like David Brent stealing in to nick your girlfriend at closing time. Hilariously bad defending from United matched by incredible scenes in the stands. Mick Hucknall was not pleased at all.
That makes our match against them on Wednesday even more important. We literally can’t lose against United. They’re flat out of luck, flat out of faith in their manager and on the verge of total implosion. We can either kill their season or we can reignite it for 2 games. We know how they’ll play… press us hard and whip the ball into the box (84 crosses against Fulham!). We have to be alert to that and I hope we’re practicing to combat this tactic.
I had the fear about yesterday, but oh my days, did I not expect to see that happen. I don’t really want to dig too heavily into the goals, mainly because sifting through 5 terrible defensive errors really doesn’t feel like a good use of time, so I’ll go through the key points as I see them.
Good morning from me, I hope all is well in the sunshine of this February day. Arsenal vs Liverpool. It’s going to be massive. So dust off that hangover and start getting excited.
First up though, Ray Parlour was in the press talking about Arsenal’s finances. He dropped this little pearler into his Daily Mail column.
‘I understand why supporters are frustrated at the lack of trophies, but there has been an awful lot going on inside the club during that time. I know for a fact Arsene didn’t have a lot of money to spend. It all went into the stadium, trying to pay it off as quickly as they can.’
Now there Ray, this looks like a bit of creative revisionism going on here. Sure, when we moved, Arsenal were broke. We had to defer the Robin Van Persie transfer because we were strapped for cash. However, reading Ray rewriting history feels a bit PR to me.
Firstly, Arsenal are tied into a long term mortgage. So we can’t pay off the stadium early. That’s a total nonsense statement from the off. Secondly, we didn’t have to play the skint card through that period. Stan could have invested some of his billions in the club to give us a cash boost, but he didn’t. Why? Because it didn’t suit him to. The sustainable model simply meant that his investment was worth more when the new commercials dropped.
We’ve also always had a pretty large wage bill. Wages correlate to league position in the main. So while Wenger has done a good job over the years, he hasn’t exactly performed miracles. He’s spent less on transfers, but he’s spent a shedload of cash on wages. So much so, he cleared £500k a week off our books last summer by shifting deadwood that didn’t play.
Someone made an interesting point about transfers. Whilst the manager hasn’t had cash like City, he has had funds, he just hasn’t spent it particularly well. The summer we missed out on Chelsea, Arsene opted instead to spend £24m on a teenager from league one and Gervinho. One went on to be twice player of the year for Chelsea, the other two… well, one is in Italy after being a total flop, the other is still trying to make his mark.
Point is, Arsenal can’t plead poverty. We’ve just been impoverished compared to Chelsea and City. During that same time, Ferguson, using sustainable funds, more than matched them. So whilst money is important, it’s not the only factor that drives success.
Onto today. Liverpool. It’s going to be a tough game. I’m not hugely confident if I’m honest. Their two strikers are going to be a nightmare and I fear that away from home, they might turn it on.
Still, we’ve both had a week off. Both teams will be energised and well drilled. So the encounter doesn’t have any excuses wrapped around it. The better team will win. On paper, that’s us. How that plays out in reality is another story. Brendan Rodgers has injected a new belief into that Liverpool side. Today is a cup final for his boys. If they lose, they’re out of the title race. If they win, they close the gap and they’ll get a boost of momentum.
For Arsenal, a loss and the next 3 weeks start to look depressing. Win and it could be the start of something glorious. It’s a massive game for both side and the game has epic written all over it!
Arsene Wenger was challenged on players he might opt in for this summer. One player who does appear to be off the radar is Luis Suarez, our manager doubts we’ll revisit a move for the striker who has banged in 23 goals. Not surprising, we could have landed him for £55m, now we’d be lucky to land him for £75m. A touch out of our price range I’d say.
Personally, with no inside info, I’d say Manzuckic is the most likely target. Arsenal don’t like going for players when there is rampant competition. I’d suspect Costa and Martinez will have plenty of suitors, Manzuckic isn’t quite as trendy. I’d also bet a few of our boys know him. Would make a nice move. He’s banging them in this season and I was mistaken when I said he was less mobile than Giroud.
Good morning and welcome to today’s, a more positive, upbeat post.
Before I crack into it, I just wanted to comment on how fascinating I found the reaction to yesterday’s post. Tonally, you can think what you like about the way I write, I’m not the same in real life, so that doesn’t bother me. However, the content yesterday, to anyone rational was bang on. The window was run badly, Arsene ran it, and he’s put our run-in at risk.
So today’s post will be a bit of a moan, mainly because 1) I only just caught up with the Kim Kallstrom horror show 2) the unbelievable reaction to it because Arsene did the bungling.
“It crossed my mind not to complete the deal,”
“I would not have signed him if we’d had two or three more days to do something. It was 5pm, so sign him or nobody. We had to sign him in these conditions. We might need the players in March or April. We think it will be four to six weeks out.”
3 things to understand about the Kallstrom deal
1) At the very worst, Arsene Wenger had 5 days to find a Ramsey replacement. At best, he knew Arteta has been struggling to keep pace and that Flamini has a poor track record with injury.
2) He knew Kallstrom had a fracture on his back which would rule him out for almost the entirety of Aaron’s injury. He also knew he hadn’t played for 7 weeks and as he’s said before… it takes 2 months to bed in.
3) He purchased him anyway because it was too late to buy anyone else.
Now, to most, the Kallstrom signing looks unambitious on it’s own. I said on a podcast the other day I don’t know enough about him to make a harsh critique, and I don’t, but I’ve seen him enough times to know he’s not exactly Patrick Vieira.
… back to it. How many big clubs loaned players this window? We had £100m at our disposal and Wenger was sniffing around loan players. People asked who I’d have taken instead. Well, here are some things to note.
I’m not a football scout (auto-correct went for Scouser there). I’m not a manager who boasts a scouting network. Simple fact is, with our resource, global reach and position in the league, we should be finding players. It’s negligence to blame the market when we can all clearly see the market is broke and desperate for anyone who can pay cash. Kim Kallstrom cannot have been the only player available in the world that would have improved our body count and ability as a team this market.
Next up, I watched Chelsea sign Matic, a player they once sold, for £20m. No messing around, they serviced a need with a player. Utterly ruthless. How did they find him? Preparation. Don’t wait for the transfer window to come to you. Start eyeing up moves in November so you can pounce if you need to. Matic had a man of the match performance in his first game and looked absolutely excellent. What about Cabaye? Someone said to me last night Newcastle wouldn’t have sold to us. Are you kidding? The same Newcastle that demanded we pay more than the outrageous £10m we bid for him in the summer? The same Newcastle that sold Carroll. The same Newcastle that are trying to replicate our sustainable business model? Newcastle are not competitors. They’d sell to whomever would pay. Anyway, that’s two straight off the bat. We’re not the Arsenal of old who can’t compete for signatures. We could have matched what Chelsea offered and we could have matched what PSG offered.
“You have to identify a player who has the quality to play for us. You don’t want to be locked into a deal for three or four years, where you pay them to do nothing. You can as well make a massive mistake that can cost you three or four years.”
Secondly, people talk about not making rash moves for bad players that you won’t be able to get rid of. Essentially, don’t buy deadwood. Well, here’s an idea, don’t sign deadwood. Wenger made the rational decision sign Chamakh over the course of 2 painful years. Look how that turned out. Most of our deadwood came from signing poor young players to extortionate deals… not from spending £20m on tested quality. Wenger makes comments like that because Arsenal fans then say… ‘oh sh*t, only bad players were available in January’… despite seeing Cabaye and Matic move.
‘Fans are being so irrational about this’
This is my favourite. One person latches onto a thought and everyone peddles it like a sophisticated sports expert who never sweats a bead.
Here is rational.
Looking at your squad over the course of the season, building out a list of players you might need. During January, keeping your finger on the pulse with which players are available, then, if the need be, go out and sign the best player you can buy.
Here is irrational.
Go into the January transfer window with the sole aim of picking up an unknown bargain at the end of it. Bidding for 4 strikers of questionable quality on loan. Bringing a Swedish journeyman over from Russia, having not played for 7 weeks, identifying a microfracture on his back, then opting to sign him anyway because it’s too late in the day.
People who don’t make decisions talk about the window and the reaction like it’s irrational because they’re looking at Kallstrom in isolation. If the transfer window was one day and the incident happened, you could understand. The fact it’s 31 days makes it unacceptable. Arsenal are looking to bring in a powerhouse midfielder this summer anyway because Arteta is on his way out and Flamini will start to look past it from next year I’d imagine.
Look, I don’t mean to liken football to business, but I have potential resource issues coming up if a few deals drop, so I’m frantically meeting people to meet the potential need now. I have 2 recruitment consultants (football agents) talking to the market scoping people out and I’m hitting my contact list. That’s not me being anything other than prepared… which is why when people say, ‘Arsene is a football man and you’re not, so shut up’… I laugh… because maybe Arsene should be taking cues from people who work in business? I mean, leave the football to him, for sure… but come on Tom Fox / Charles Allen, you worked for Nike and Pepsico. Share some of your process decks with him or something?
Run a knowledge share! Wouldn’t that be incredible.
‘Arsene, put that phone down and pay attention.’
The final point I wanted to chalk off is the ‘at least we aren’t paying his wages’… only Arsenal fans eh? Do I really need to explain that the finances of a club as wealthy as Arsenal are not going to be hit by Kallstrom’s wages regardless of who pays. This isn’t a monetary issue, it’s a player issue. It’s a football problem. After all, that’s what the club exists for, right? Glory through on the field excellence?
The Arsenal approach to planning is to have no plan. Wenger said in the summer that he didn’t know if the Ozil deal would go through. He was essentially a panic buy because there is no way Wenger had identified him at the start of the summer. It was the same with Flamini, he was our 4th choice option.
Now, we are top of the league, but that doesn’t mean you can’t look at how we’ve headed into this last chunk of the season and wonder… could we have done more? See, we could win it. No doubt. However, the odds are stacked against us when you have the might of City and Chelsea tailing us. Not because we don’t have great players, but because we don’t have depth or trusted experience to come in and take some of the heat of the main men. Last time we have a fixture crush was in December. We lost Gibbs, Ramsey, Theo, Vermalen, Bendtner and Rosicky. Our game also went off the boil. We have the best chance in years to make a go of the league this year. I read this is our 3rd best points total at the point ever. Yet the manager has opted to essentially do nothing to bolster. Depressing… but hey, Arsene knows. Hopefully.
The main point of this post is that taking the gamble when you have the best chance in years and £100m in the bank really isn’t smart.
… but we’ll see, eh?
Let your thoughts on the matter be known in the comments. Have a great day!