The natives are getting restless in Islington, and with good reason.
Arsenal are currently mired in mid-table, with this season’s results increasingly following the trend of George Graham’s final one in charge of the club, although for seemingly different reasons.
On the back of one poor draw at Aston Villa and a reasonably good one at Everton, Arsenal were not only beaten at home by Swansea on Saturday but comprehensively out-played all over the pitch. Were it not for the excellence of Wojciech Szczęsny, the visitors from south Wales could have won by four or five.
Without wishing to sound hyperbolic, it was the worst home performance by an Arsenal side I can remember under Arsene Wenger.
In many ways, Saturday felt like a watershed moment. The game was preceded by a well supported march by the black scarf movement, and less publicly by a heart attack for our much maligned Old-Etonian Chairman, Peter Hill-Wood. Ironically one of the demands of the black-scarfers is his removal from the board, thus severing an almost unbroken 73 bond between his family and the club. I can’t help thinking this somehow contradicts the cry of “We want our Arsenal back!”, but that is a discussion for another day.
This public display of dissatisfaction was to be echoed later in the stands, particularly at the final whistle, on the back of a limp, disjointed and de-motivated display on the pitch. The continuing sensation that this is a team that doesn’t even know what it is trying to achieve, let alone how, was contrasted in start relief by an excellent performance by the visitors. Swansea had a clear game plan and philosophy, playing one-touch progressive possession football, and showed the Arsenal fans exactly what they were missing, with a team assembled for peanuts.
This is the first season under Wenger where it has become indisputable that the team is performing at a level some way below the sum of its parts. His ability to spot a player remains largely undiminished, but his utilisation of the resources available to him is severely lacking at present. As I touched on in my previous blog post, there doesn’t appear a clear plan, or at least one that the supporters or even the players can understand. As armchair football managers, we all have our own theories about tactics and recruitment, but even the most realistic amongst us recognises that whatever the manager is trying to achieve at present isn’t working. The performances are getting worse in a hurry rather than better, and his lack of rotation has exacerbated the ‘jaded-ness’ we are hearing about in every post-match interview.
I will voice my own opinions on recruitment and tactics in due course, but right now I, like most supporters feel the club needs a change. We are not learning the lessons of the past, in part because there are so few present with authority who remember it.
In the light of current form and the recent and forthcoming sponsorship deals, the club needs to make a statement, without waiting for things to get as bad as they did in the death-throws of the Graham era. He was only sacked for stealing from his employers, and it would take something of that magnitude to terminate the incumbent manager’s contract before it expires, which given his personal qualities and rate of remuneration is not going to happen. His commitment to the club, his sense of responsibility and his stubbornness ensure that Wenger isn’t likely to walk away any time soon either, to the dismay of an increasing number of supporters. And given the team’s lack of understanding, work-rate and determination, that dismay is understandable.
So what does the club do now?
In my view, the club needs to make a statement by backing their man significantly in the transfer market.
While some think it’s time for Wenger to go, I would say he deserves the right to finally have a spending spree in January. While his recent track record in the transfer market has been a little sketchy (stand up Gervinho, Chamakh, Park, Santos & Squillachi), it’s worth remembering that when shopping at lower prices its much harder to ensure quality. His contemporaries have wasted just as much on unsuccessful mediocrity (£7.5m for Bebe anyone?), but the having one or two £25m+ sure fire hits a season covers your bargain hunting errors.
The fact is that Wenger has continually covered for a total lack of investment from the board since before the move to the new Stadium. He has been paid handsomely for taking the flak, and the old directors all became fabulously wealthy off the back of his remarkable early success, while supporters covered the cost of the Stadium move.
I hadn’t realised the extent to which this is the case, until I did some research (Figures taken from transferleague.co.uk which seems very reliable as far as corroborating research would indicate).
In the 16 years he has been in charge of the club, Wenger has a net transfer spend of £8m. That is £500,000 a year, or 100th of a Fernando Torres. Looking at the spend of our rivals in the Premier League alone over the same period, the discrepancy is astounding.
Manchester City £465m
Manchester United£ 225m
Even looking around the division, Aston Villa have spent £155m, Fulham have spent£ 85m, Stoke £70m, Newcastle £63m & WBA £30m. Even perennially skint Everton have spent more than £10m more than Arsenal over the same time period.
Even taking into account that wages is seen as a more proportional link to success than transfer fees, and that our wage bill should have us in 4th spot every year, it is fundamentally unrealistic for any business to operate with the expectation of outperforming its competitors with such extraordinary comparative under-investment.
In a week where our absentee silent owner bought an £83 million ranch in Montana, the club made noises about a £40 million transfer kitty for the manager in an attempt to placate the fans. That would be the same unspent £40m transfer fund that has apparently been available for each of the last 6 years, which remarkably hasn’t increased despite the manager turning a transfer profit over the same period.
If the club want to see a significant upturn in fortunes they may need to invest more than that.
They board should also make the stipulation that any investment should be quality rather than quantity. We already have a reasonably full squad of players of good quality, as well as the over-paid ‘deadwood’ that the manager has lost faith in (Who should be sold for anything people are willing to pay for them). So we are talking at least one marquee signing.
Bringing the right player in could do wonders for the club, in the manner of the instant impact of Dennis Bergkamp back in 1995. Given transfer inflation, that £7.5m fee would probably equate to a £25m signing today, if not more. As well as illustrating a change in the club’s approach and transfer philosophy to the supporters and indeed the players, it would also be a way for the board to deflect the increasingly vociferous criticism they are currently receiving.
As I stated before, the club needs an injection of life, dynamism and positive energy, and if they are not willing to make changes to the management or board structure to achieve it, then it has to happen in the playing staff.
It has reached the point where inaction is no longer a viable option.------------
If you’ve been having problems accessing this site on your work computer using the URLS globalgooners.com and gossip.globalgooners.com should sort that problem for you.
Get your free LadyArse app here for Android, BlackBerry and Windows phone [iPhone coming soon]
Get your free Arsenal wallpaper, Facebook covers and Twitter headers here