Here’s To Future Days and The Art Of Teambuilding

Money always wins in the end. It’s a mantra which is familiar to millions, chanted with an alarming regularity and typically accompanied by the hoisting of a white flag over the Emirates, London Colney and a sizeable portion of the Arsenal nation.

Teambuilding, the art of building a competitive squad using knowledge, gave money a bloody nose this week in the Champions League. Leicester City and AS Monaco both progressed to the last eight unexpectedly, and in the case the French club, delightfully against Manchester City.

Aside from the obvious exit, Arsenal has much in common with the losing clubs, Sevilla and City. Close to the money of the latter, the mindset of the former: Arsenal is a small club mentality in big club clothing. We have developed an inferiority complex over the past decade, one which should not exist. The problem is, we don’t operate with anything like as much football savvy as the Andalusians. The summer has a sense of crossroads being reached. Famed director of football Monchi is reportedly heading to Roma, although his services are much in demand.

Not with Arsenal, you suspect, despite the fact that the tools are there for him to thrive, as he admitted in this interview.

When he arrived at Arsenal, Arsène possessed the golden touch when it came to creating winning squads. Inside knowledge of the French game gave him a head start but he inherited a strong core to build around. Come the 21st Century, his squad evolved once again. He lost his way with ‘Project Youth’, casting the Invincibles to the wind too quickly and willingly putting himself on the back foot with a reliance of youth.

The Gap

If Arsène had remained faithful to his trusted method, he may – there is no guarantee, of course – have found himself in a stronger position now.

Contrary to popular belief, ‘Project Youth’ was not the club’s only option on moving to the Emirates. But we chose it. The wage structure at the club during that time proved to be an abject failure in keeping players at the club and hampered signing quality replacements for the experienced players who left. For anyone who disagrees: Mikael Silvestre, and the returns of Sol Campbell and Jens Lehmann.

The wilful misconception promulgated is that Arsène had no cash. We know we had more than he spent; we know he structured pay so badly that it impacted on his transfer funds and we know he wasn’t in that alone; the board agreed with every aspect of this. They had to be in total agreement otherwise it wouldn’t have happened.

A ludicrous proposition was expounded yesterday that if players left Arsenal for trophies, they would have earned less money at their new clubs. It’s the height – or depth – of stupidity and underlines how weak the arguments defending the manager have become.

But the issue is squad building. At Arsenal, we were proud of the scouting network but it, as is a common theme at the club, has lost its’ edge over rivals. We’ve been caught up by the rest and while it is hard to substantiate the claim we’re falling significantly behind, it’s certainly impossible to prove we’re leading the pack. It’s this aspect which makes me believe Wenger is planning to stay.

Doctor! Doctor!

As I wrote the other day, the infrastructure of the club, the transition of Arsenal then to Arsenal now, that is Arsène’s legacy but increasingly, the ‘legacy’ is viewed in trite terms of squad ‘health’. This definition is the egotists version, the one where parting is held back because the subject cannot be bear the prospect of being badly thought of.

George Graham’s rehabilitation shows it is a long journey. For a few years after his departure, he was routinely criticised for the football; his ‘legacy’ seemingly tarnished. Now, his reign is genuinely recognised for the achievements and trophies. It took time to reach the point where the flaws of his latter years are recognised, as well the success.

The same process will happen with Arsène. Let’s not beat about the bush; the squad is in a mess. Wenger isn’t leaving us in any better state squad-wise than Ferguson left United.  Sadly, staying won’t fix it either with chances of him significantly improving it, quickly diminishing . If anything, this summer looks like we might take a massive backward step. I’d venture that Arsène finds the prospect of short-term opprobrium excruciating.  It is no comfort to him that we all know he will receive the proper recognition in due course.

The longer the situation drifts, the harder Wenger will find to rectify it over any extension to his contract. One thing is pretty much certain. If he renews the criticism won’t stop. It’s fast becoming a ‘no-win’ situation and that’s not healthy for him or the club.

’til Tomorrow.


46 thoughts on “Here’s To Future Days and The Art Of Teambuilding

  1. A no win situation?

    Well, he should have gone 3 or 4 years ago to avoid that.

    His reputation is falling no he is taking the club down with him.

    Everyone loses here, even, I suggest, Stan and the Board.

  2. I just can’t picture what’s going to happen this summer. There are so many variables that aren’t clear either way. But the one thing I’m sure of unless we win the FA cup Wengers position is untenable with the majority of supporters. The Wenger out banners won’t go.
    That’s not to say that winning will make him suddenly appealing to the masses. He is in a loose loose later situation. The best thing would be to achieve the routine annual top 4 finish win the fa cup and bow out with a modicum of his ailing legacy untarnished.

  3. I remember with fondness the exciting glory days of the Graham revolution and his wearing of the the magic hat. We played some brilliant stuff…..and then it all seemed to be forgotten – by us as well as people from outside the confines of the Highbury valley – in the welter of 1-0 to the arsenal, poor teams not living up to those glory days, a loss of direction and the final disgrace of the brown paper package.

    All very cyclical.

    As an aside, I get why we are jaundiced & don’t THINK we are ‘entitled’ – but I heard a Leicester fan on Radio 5 – tearful about what his team had achieved on Tuesday. Makes you think.

  4. Running comparisons should have constantly been made between Arsenal and Bayern Munich over the last decade.

    Bayern and Arsenal (peak Arsenal let’s not forget) set about building new stadia on a strikingly similar timeline and budget. Bayern’s build had no effect on their domestic campaigns and they thrived in Europe. Building the Allianz was not a cross to bear, nor was it a ‘cash strapped’ excuse for failing to attract players.

    Bayern paid off all construction debts (340 million Euros to Arsenal’s 390 million pounds) in full before the end of 2014 – a 25 year loan paid off 16 years ahead of schedule.

    Since moving to the Allianz, Bayern have secured 7 Bundesliga titles, 6 DFB-Pokal (German Cups), 1 Champions League title (twice runner up).

    Arsene, meanwhile, embarked on a philosophical ‘walkabout’….and the board, media and the majority of fans excused his and the clubs decline with barely a passing glance in Bayern’s direction.

    There was a metric, a direct comparison to be made all these years – most did not want to face reality.

    10-2 aggregate – sums it up sadly but perfectly.

  5. Thanks Yogi,

    I agree it’s a lose lose lose lose situation even if we win the cup. The inability to lock our two big names down to new contracts will cost the club millions when they leave. The refusal to replace RVP has and will cost the club well into the 100’s of millions. The fact that AW has lost the ability to bring quality experienced players to the club is for me the most worrying aspect of us actually winning the cup and Wenger staying.

    I can hear him now. “We beat two quality sides in Man city and Spurs/ Chelsea to win the most prestigious cup in football. It shows we can compete with the best clubs in the world……….” We all know how it goes

  6. DALM,

    Good morning mate, I don’t think that Graham’s revolution and the beautiful futbol that was played is forgotten by most, I think the ones that have forgotten or chose to ignore it are my generation (I’m only 30) because they only know Arsene as manager and are lazy when it comes to he history of the club and only remember the end when things all went to shit and the futbol was as you say, 1-0 defensive victories with not the most attractive futbol.

  7. C,

    Hello C,

    May I ask the source of your reports that say about Wenger telling players that he is off in June? 🙂

  8. I will be eternally grateful to George Graham for building an Arsenal side which filled my late teens with so much joy. It also gave me one of the best nights of my life in May 1989 when I was lucky enough to be at Anfield when we won the league.

    George will never be forgotten.

  9. Wailesy:

    I can hear him now. “We beat two quality sides in Man city and Spurs/ Chelsea to win the most prestigious cup in football. It shows we can compete with the best clubs in the world……….” We all know how it goes

    Wailesy, I agree with your prediction of how Arsene will sell such a victory. Of course I hope we do win the cup, but I really cannot see it at the moment. Both ties are tough to call (assuming a certain forward is available for that team at the wrong end of the Seven Sisters Rd), but if this was a mini league on current form you wouldnt put Arsenal or Citeh in the top two positions. Fortunately it is a cup and underdogs do win on occasion. That offers a glimmer of hope, as getting past Citeh offers unthinkably horrid scenarios of potentially losing to either of the other two. It’s enough to give me flashbacks to the 1991 semi-final again.

  10. Pete the Thirst,

    That’s right. We have not won a European competition that George did not manage or play in himself. We have not won the league without a GG academy player or himself since 1953.

  11. DFS-,

    Excellent piece of research there.

    Tends to undermine completely the arguments of the staunch Wengerites about how we have been
    hamstrung by our’ ambition’.

  12. Yogi

    Awesome post. One of your best in recent weeks.

    We have discussed and debated all of this endlessly over the years. Arsene wanted to build the club his way and for a while it looked brilliant. His decision to build the club thru the youth academy and ending dependence on the much hated transfer market was an exciting and noble idea. The rest of the world watched our Carling cup squads with admiration and we all thought it was only a matter of time until those young players matured together and dominated world football and we would have a revolving door of world class talented home grown players built in our academy. The decision to build teams around creativity and technical skill and attacking total football and marginalizing the importance of team defense seemed revolutionary and evolutionary and seduced all but a few of us into thinking it was only a matter of time until it started raining trophies a the Emirates. Arsene’s socialistic wage structure was really a head scratcher.

    It all fell apart with the melt down at the end of the 10/11 season and the end of the cesc era. The run of top 4 finishes and a couple of FA cups has papered over the cracks in this decade but it’s amazing how much patience the fans have shown in the last 7 years. The fact that Arsene has survived this long and will probably continue to manage is a testament to his incredible charisma and his hold on the board and the ownership.

  13. Walcott gts omitted from the England sqaud…. Not sure how I feel about that as he has been one of the better english wide fowards this season. Still it’s only a qualifier.

  14. Bill,

    That’s the thing isn’t bill we have been patient and afraid that has been worn to the bone bare. We don’t have the stomach for any Wenger spin anymore. Well at least I don’t.

    If what DFS said earlier is true that it really is a damming indictment. What he also failed to mention was the difference between us in season ticket prices too I think ours for some approaches £1.5K compared to less than £500 for Bayern.

  15. I think the decision to marginalize the importance of team defense was incomprehensible and the single worst idea of Arsene’s Emirates project. Look at what history teaches us. How could any manager as smart as Arsene believe that he could win consistently without adequate team defense? That decision undermined all of the other facets of his project. A big club can not thrive with beautiful football alone. Like it or not it has to win trophies and you don’t win big trophies if you consistently concede to many goals.

  16. Silver

    The consistent top 4 finishes has papered over the cracks but the stagnation in this decade is undeniable and its amazing that the pressure for change has been held somewhat in check for as long as it has.

  17. Jonnygunner,

    Only a slice of toast and marmalade this morning, very nice lunch at The Dial in Reepham with, and paid for by, an old friend.

    Might need a snooze now as we’re out again this evening.

  18. silvergunner,

    I have no problem with Theo being ommitted, England, meh. I would rather have him stay fit and keep scoring goals for Arsenal.

    Isn’t it funny to think that probably outside me and a handful of other people, Gooners would never expected Theo to have 17 goals in all competitions and on pace for say 13+ goals in the PL and thats with missing some time due to injury.

  19. C,

    c we know he is capable of delivering those numbers it’s his inconsistency that vexed people. But I think this season you would hard pushed to find a better english wide foward.

  20. silvergunner,

    O I completetly agree and I also think the whole CF debacle as well. If he can find consistency they he is vital because he can score goals no matter the magnitude of the match. Outside of Sterling, Defoe and really Redmond, I can’t think of another production wise. Sure Rashford has loads of potential and the likes of Linegard due to be young should get a chance but that’s the England set-up for you. I wish no Arsenal player was part of England, hopes up to get crushed, they deal enough with that at Arsenal.

  21. Orson

    There was a lot of excitement about what Arsene was trying to do in the early Emirates era. A lot of people thought his ideas were revolutionary and the other big spending clubs would implode under a mountain of debt and our converter belt of world class homegrown talent would leave us as the last club standing.

  22. Orson Kaert,

    I lived in Banham for about 6 months in a previous life-nice little village.
    Used to like a pint in the Murderers Arms in Norwich when I went into town.

  23. Jonnygunner,

    I haven’t been in the Murderers for a while, they used to show Arsenal games live. Interesting history, it’s real name is The Gardeners Arms, but due to the landlady’s daughter Millie being killed by her estranged husband who thought she was selling her favours it got it’s nickname. This was before my time, June 1895.

  24. The thing with Project Youth is, I actually agree with Bill ( don’t smile too big mate 😉 ) that the defense was missing and it we would have sorted out the defense then I think all of our attacking youth could have potentially led us to the title. Our problem during that time wasn’t out attack but our leaky defense. Imagine if we would have had a better defense the season in 07/08 when we lost the title by 4 points or even in 2011 when it all went to shit after it looked like we were set to win the title?

  25. C:

    I was always amazed at how many were seduced by the idea that playing beautiful attacking football would mean that defending would take care of itself or that we would score enough goals to make defending unimportant. The excuse for poor defending was always that we were focused on attack and conceding more goals then the other big teams was inevitable and acceptable.

    The defense was the single biggest miscalculation that Arsene made but there were several important mistakes. Arsene was seduced by his own hype about being able to improve players and build his own superstars. He probably thought he could turn players like Theo/Diaby/Ramsey/Ox etc etc etc etc into a world class difference making players and he thought he could develop a generation of academy level youth players into great players and a great team. Unfortunately his ability to develop a whole team full of impact players ended with the Henry/Veirra generation and the last true world class home grown players we have developed were RVP and Cesc.

  26. Another mistake was to believe that playing beautiful attacking football was the same as scoring goals. If you had creativity and passed the ball well enough then goals would take care of themselves. You have to actually score lots and lots of goals if you hope to win trophies for a team with an average defense. I think we were second in the league in goals scored in 07/08 but other then that season I don’t think we have been higher then 3rd in the table in goals scored over a full season during the entire Emirates era.

  27. Orson Kaert,

    Yeap-I’m familiar with the history of that pub-there used to be a brilliant little Mexican restaurant opposite(diagonally) called Chi Chi’s but I think its long gone now.This was 1997.
    After a long stint in Suffolk I’ve been back in Norfolk(west) for 8 years.Love it here 👍

  28. consolsbob,

    Thanks consolbob.

    I used to underline the two parallel builds often as it was such an obvious yardstick.

    I will add Bayern had some advantages – but one could still argue this is because they are better run, more ambitious club.

    Their financing as far as I know, was not problematic whereas ours stuttered at various points. Bayern structured a giant loan larger than the construction cost, presumably to cover any eventuality. We faltered with ‘bond’ issues etc.

    Bayern were regarded as a ‘national’ team and enjoyed support of the city (who supplied infrastructure upgrades) and giant sponsors such as Adidas etc.

    The Allianz stadium is in almost weekly use, therefore generating higher revenues with the other Munich team playing there also- 1860 Munich.

    Nonetheless, in terms of sponsorship or stadium ownership (1860 have no stake in the Allianz Arena) Bayern were positioning themselves for a glorious future – sorry to be a little corny – whereas Arsenal were presenting the construction period (and beyond) as a weight which held the club back.

    Ironically, the myth building around Wenger swirled at this point – the whole martyr to the cause shtick. This is when I started to look at Wenger in a different light – not least of which was painting Wenger as this selfless, sainted individual. It was absurd – one would have thought he was laying bricks at The Emirates on his off days.

    As YW stated above, funds in terms of transfers were available, if lower, through the build and (again peak Arsenal) we could have made many more creative loan deals than we did, yet we followed whatever path Wenger was treading (wage structures, youth team etc).

    “Arsenal is a small club mentality in big club clothing”…YW.

    The problem being that the majority of fans now have ambitions (rightfully) which outstrip Kroenke’s and the board’s – the deflating aspect being Wenger shares most ambitions but no longer possesses the skill set to produce.

    PS – silvergunner… to top all, great point regarding the cost of season tickets!

  29. DFS

    I just saw an article that according to the 14 players that Arsene used in the game against Munich would have a transfer market value of around $325M while the 14 players that Munich used would have a value of $345M. That is certainly not much of a difference. We have spent a lot of money in this decade and I would argue that other then Alexis we have not gotten a lot of value for our money. One of the things that made Arsene so special in the early part of his tenure was his ability to get value for the money he did spend. I would argue that his ability to find good value has deserted him in this decade.

    The estimate of the value of Ozil was $42M, Giroud $21M and Ramsey $29M. If we sold just those 3 players and added the $100M we spent in fiscal 2017 we could have close to a $200M war chest this in the next fiscal year. That would buy a very good striker and at least 2 more impact players. The problem is that I don’t want Arsene to be the one who decides which players to spend that money on.

  30. Bill,

    That is a really interesting statistic comparing the values of the two squads in the CL clash – thanks, as it underlines so well the idea of comparing the two clubs.

    It is fair to say Bayern enjoyed a national focus and support domestically which Arsenal could never quite rival. But it is also fair to say at that time with Arsenal in PL ascendance, most outsiders looking at the two clubs would have thought of them as close rivals in the wider European context.

    The fact Bayern Munich became a top three powerhouse in Europe does not seem to resonate with Arsenal (on various levels). Yet it was indicative, by comparison, of the fact that Bayern have managed the last 15 years in a much more capable manner than Arsenal.

  31. Come on you miserablists

    There is still football to be played this season. We are the 3rd best at knocking the ball into the back of the onion bag and after winning 0-3 away we will overtake Chelski and be second GF.

    Plus we are going to Wembley again to play a side as useless at defending as we are and finally…all those fine perfect euro managers in charge of Sevilla, PSG and oh yes City also flunked their CL exams. It does happen

  32. Arsetralian,

    It does happen indeed. The difference is that the managers at the other clubs wouldn’t get seven consecutive goes at cocking it up 😉

    Sadly I’m not very excited by the ‘3rd best at knocking the ball into the back of the onion bag’ and ‘second best GF’ trophies (although I have to admit that’s quite a creative pair of new achievements you’ve invented there, perhaps there’s a role in the AFC PR department on the cards?) 🙂

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