‘Whoever said money can’t buy happiness isn’t spending it right’
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A lot has been said about Arsene’s player purchases over the years. He can get it really right but also awfully wrong sometimes.
Under Wenger, Arsenal have always refrained from buying top notch – experienced and in their prime – A-class players. We landed Sol Campbell on a free from the Spuds, and both Arshavin and Reyes were highly rated players, but not regarded as top-class, or ‘super-quality’.
Arsene became the champion of discovering and polishing gems. He brought and subsequently developed so many fine players over the years: from Henry to van Judas, from Ljunberg to Pires, and from Vieira to Fabregas.
However, he also brought to the club a significant number of fiascos; and especially since our move to the new stadium, there have been quite a few who have not made the grade: those who are often ungenerously labelled ‘deadwood’ by the fans.
There is a view, not just by those who want Wenger out, that the Frenchman does not know what he is doing anymore and that he got more wrong than right recently. It could be that Arsenal’s scouting system needs an overhaul, but I am pretty sure every player who joins us will have had the full approval of Wenger, and he therefore should be held responsible to a large extent for the number of players who did not make the grade at Arsenal.
Some feel that Arsene has too many responsibilities and therefore needs more support, especially with regards to buying and selling players.
I reckon there is a bit of truth in all the above mentioned views: Wenger is not perfect at all, and mistakes have been made.
Those who are more generously inclined towards our manager argue that he has had a small budget with which he had to fill a number of vacancies in the squad over the last few years. As a result, he had to take more risks with finding new, good and yet affordable, players. Finding quality players who could hit the ground running was made a lot harder for Wenger as a result of the competition increasing significantly over the last few years, and him simultaneously being faced with the departure of a number of his best players, which he seemingly could do nothing about.
I tend to be in the latter camp, and also reckon that Wenger just has not got the time anymore to spend ages on developing players into gems. The competition is now far too fierce, and combined with a lack of winning silverware in recent years, it means there is very little room and time for failure.
Luckily, we have seen a big improvement in recent purchases: Giroud, Podolski and Cazorla have added a lot of quality to our team and have been effective for us from the start of the season. Early signs re Nacho are also very promising. It also looks like Arsene is in the market to add another one or two quality players during the summer.
In the meantime, Wenger has been managing out a number of players who have not made the grade, or appear to no longer fit in his plans. Chamakh, Denilson, Santos, Bendtner, Park, Frimpong and Djourou are all out on loan, with the main aim of running their contracts down and reducing the wage bill. Although, there might still be space for Frimpong and Djourou in Arsene’s squad for next season; it is too early to be definite about this.
Other players seem to feature only seldom or never at all: Rosicky, Arshavin and Squillaci. The last two are clearly left to run their contracts down, but I don’t understand why Rosicky, who only signed a new contract last season, does not feature a lot more this season.
The good thing about this new apparent ruthlessness of Arsene is that it is creating space to get the best out of the two pillars that should bring our beloved club back to the very top again: bringing through youth/raw gems on the one hand, and buying experienced, quality players on the other. It is also telling the players clearly that they have to perform to the highest standards or they will face the axe.
I often feel a bit of sadness when I see Chamakh on the West Ham bench, and think back about Denilson, and very possibly, Djourou not making the grade at Arsenal. But that is what top sport is all about, and hanging on to players who do not make the grade will inevitably hold back talents within the squad who might have what it takes to make it at Arsenal.
Arsenal have now entered a new era in which most of our key players are signed up to long contracts and good, quality players (although still not super, superstars) can be bought on an annual basis, whilst only the very best of our youth/raw gems will make it to the top from now onwards. With improving revenue streams and FFP at least having some effect, this should be a very good formula for making us very competitive again.
But it is just as important to keep the level of expectations high and to let players go as soon as it becomes clear they are not going to make it at Arsenal. Arsene’s apparent new ruthlessness is therefore a welcome sight.
Written by: Total Arsenal.