Following is Arsenal’s problem:
There it is, we said it. This is Arsenal’s problem. They can not attract talent. Worse still they can not retain existing talent.
All they could get their hands on are the Welbecks, Özils, Artetas, Sanchezes and Girouds of this world.
Not bad, but not top class by any means and certainly not good enough to win silverware of any kind.
This summer when everybody knew that Suarez was going to leave Liverpool, Arsenal tried to put in a bid for him (please don’t laugh we are not joking, Arsène really did it) but Steven Gerrard told him that he was too good for Arsenal (as if Suarez didn’t know it himself) and Arsène Wenger did his fake “how-dare-you-think-someone-can-be-too-good-for-Arsenal” number.
People used to say (after erratic spending sprees in the transfer market by Spurs’ management) that Tottenham is poor man’s Chelsea. We here at this blog have started to think that Arsenal is in fact rich man’s Southampton.
Just as Southampton has become a feeder club for Liverpool, United and Everton, Arsenal has become a feeder club for Manchester City and Barcelona.
Ironically, all Arsenal players are aware of this too-good-for-Arsenal phenomenon.
Let’s have a look at who’s left Arsenal in these past four or five years.
Did you spot the one very important player missing from the above image? Robin Van Persie. Include him in this picture and you have an Arsenal side which beat Barcelona 2-1 in Champions League by playing attractive attacking football.
Except Fabregas in the above image, every single one of these players was bought by Manchester City who went on to win the Premier League in 2011 and 2013.
Fabregas and Van Persie
Fabregas was bought by Barcelona and Van Persie went to Manchester United. In fact Van Persie and Fabregas were the most outstanding of this group of players so they went to the two teams with pedigree, prestige and money. All the others went for the rich upstart Manchester City team that had prestige and money and that was trying to build pedigree.
All these players, through and through Arsenal (except perhaps Adebayor), were talented enough to deserve a League winner’s medal but they had no chance of winning it while at Arsenal. So they did what was best for them. They went to a good club that had, at least in theory, a chance of winning the league and then won it.
Clichy and Nasri won it twice with Manchester City in three years. Fabregas won it with Barcelona. Van Persie won it during his first season at Manchester United. Better still, he won it for Manchester United by being the most prolific striker in the league that season. Touré won it with Manchester City.
Sagna played seven and Van Persie and Fabregas played eight seasons each with Arsenal but never won the league and would never have won it if they had stayed at Arsenal.
But enough about selling. Arsenal’s strategy has always been that of the stock market: Buy low sell high. How do they do it? They do it buy adding value to a player. Patrice Evra famously said during an interview on the French channel TF1: “Arsenal is nothing more than a training school. They’ll never win the league”.
We here at this blog are willing to be a little bit in agreement with Evra. Arsène Wenger has a special talent for recognizing prodigious young players that would eventually become stars (The key word here is “eventually”).
But as soon as they become stars they leave Arsenal (and rightly so) because there is no point in staying at a club where they haven’t got a chance at winning a trophy.
Nasri, Van Persie, Flamini, Sagna, Fabregas are all examples of this buy low sell high strategy but it wasn’t like this before the entry of big bucks in the premier league.
How did it come to that?
Back in the day, it used to be a two-horse race with Arsenal and Manchester United swapping the league title between them every other year or so. Manchester United with more buying power, since they were (and are) a bigger brand, bought established players while Arsenal relied on shrewd buys identified by Arsène Wenger and his scouting team.
You see dear reader, the emerging middle classes in South East, East and South Asia have got money but no football team to spend it on so what do they do? They go to the sports goods shop and buy a Manchester United shirt which in turn allows ManU to pay $40 Million for the likes of Ander Herrera (Remember there is no Salary Cap in European Football Leagues. So the richer you are the better you get because you can buy and hoard all the available talent).
But other clubs haven’t got that kind of money; they can only rely on their scouts’ eye for talent (Hint: Most English scouts haven’t got an eye for anything let alone for talent. You only have to look at the quality of players produced by the English domestic system.) which usually means another league trophy in Old Trafford’s trophy room.
A three horse race
But then along came Abramovitch and Etihad Group and their petrodollars (albeit not from the same oil fields. Abramovitch got them from chilly Siberia while Etihad got them from scorching gulf deserts). In any case, since there is no salary cap in EPL, Chelsea and City started matching United dollar for dollar.
Abramovitch acquired Chelsea in 2003 and Etihad Group took over Manchester City in 2009. Incidentally 2003-2004 was the last time when Arsenal won the league. Since then it’s been Manchester United 4 times, Chelsea thrice and Manchester City twice.
What’s in it for Arsenal Supporters?
If you’re an Arsenal fan you should prepare yourself to see Arsenal winning against the likes of Wigan, Portsmouth, Hull, Southampton and Bolton but forget about a win against Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea or more recently even against Liverpool, Tottenham and Everton.
You see, the European football leagues are designed to eliminate statistical aberrations. There are no knock-out games. The length of the season ensures that there are no fluke winners and that the cream does eventually rise to the top.
This is why winning the FA cup, the League Cup or any other cup can not be compared to winning the league. And this is why this is not your NFL style, “Any Given Sunday” kind of league. A team has to be very very good, week-in week-out, over a period of ten months in order to win the league.
And that’s why there is nothing in it for an Arsenal supporter who would like to see Arsenal winning the league.
The reason for this is very simple. Arsenal do not have the players to challenge the big three, can not attract them, can not buy them and can not retain them.
Also Arsenal is a team always in transition due to their “buy low sell high” business model. The only players who stay at Arsenal are either too low quality to be sold out on a profit (like Bendtner let’s say) or are near-retirement acquisitions which are surplus to other teams’ requirements (for example Arteta, Flamini, Podolski, Mertesacker etc.)
Our prediction is that Ramsey and Wilshire, Arsenal’s two most outstanding players will leave for greener pastures within next two years, or within next two dismal campaigns, which as some might point out, may turn out to be the same thing.