Arsenal : Back Amongst The Best or Heading For Decline ?

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Arsenal held their annual general meeting this week amid criticism from some quarters that the club is standing still if not declining. The meeting came a day after a 2 nil home defeat by FC Schalke in the Champions League and 5 days after a 1 nil defeat to Norwich City at Carrow Road. Both defeats were a bit of a surprise given the Gunners start to the season which has seen a new steel about Arsenal and had some performances which had impressed me.

Arsenal had started the season quite solidly and appeared to be playing with some confidence until the home defeat by Chelsea, but a trip to lowly Norwich seemed an ideal opportunity for Arsene Wenger’s men to bounce back. It never happened and a solitary Grant Holt strike condemmed the Gunners to their second defeat of the campaign.  FC Schalke at home would surely give them a test but a test they could overcome ? It did not go to plan either with the Germans proving good value for their victory, so where does that leave Arsenal ?

According to chief executive Ivan Gazidis , Arsenal will be able to compete with the world’s biggest clubs ‘within two years’, he told shareholders at the club’s annual general meeting on Thursday. Is that a realistic viewpoint ? Is that how Arsenal supporters see things at the moment ? From the outside it seems as though there is a pressure now being placed on Arsene Wenger, but is that fair ? His side will always come under intense scrutiny because he has built the club into a Champions League club. He has so much input into the running of the club you could be forgiven for thinking he owns it !

That defeat at Norwich left the Gunners 10 points off the pace in the Premier League and already adrift of the top 4. Yes it is very early days and Arsenal fans will point to how far behind Tottenham Hotspur they were last season before finishing in third place in the Premier League. But surely both Wenger and his supporters will not want to be chasing everyone above them after being such a top side only a few years ago.

Having lost star striker Robin van Persie to Manchester United in the summer, many experts feel as though Arsenal have not replaced him, even if that in itself is a difficult task. Wenger brought in Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud but neither are out and out goalscorers like RVP. It makes me wonder as an outsider, why Wenger did not move for someone like Clint Dempsey or the man who scored for Schalke on Wednesday, Klas Jan Huntelaar in the summer ? Both players would have fitted into this Arsenal side and added what appears to be lacking at the moment and that is goals.

Some supporters are frustrated as they have not seen their side win any silverware since the 2005 FA Cup Final against Manchester United. Fans do not want to hear how well the finances are doing, even if that is important, they want to see players being brought in and they want to see winning football.

Ivan Gazidis was very ‘bullish’ in how he sees things at the Emirates and he believes the club’s prudence will pay off when UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations become more rigorously enforced.

Gazidis said :

“In the next two years, we will have the financial resources to sit and compete among the leading clubs in the world, which is an extraordinary achievement,” he said.

In the next two years, we will have the financial resources to sit and compete among the leading clubs in the world, which is an extraordinary achievement.

Financial success is relevant because it supports our football vision… the money we make is made available to our manager and he decides how to invest those funds.

Arsene has done a magnificent job against the spending of our major competitors.

 Our ambition is shared by everybody at this table, the whole board and by everyone in this room.

It is all about football, to compete at the top of the game here and in Europe to win trophies and do it in a way which makes fans proud and reflects our values, and also protects Arsenal for the long term.”

 

During the meeting several shareholders expressed their frustrations that the financial policies were jeopardising the team’s development but Gazidis disputed this suggestion.

From the outside, Arsenal are a very well run club there can be no doubt about that. In Arsene Wenger, they have a top manager who has transformed Arsenal from being a top 8 club into a top 4 club and has delivered lots of trophies in his time in London. The brand of football they play is exceptional and he has been involved in relocating Arsenal from a 38,000 stadium to a 60,000 seater stadium with a very smooth transition.

The other thing I admire about Arsenal is ironically the stick they get beaten with ! And that is the ‘Moneyball’ model that Arsene has created. Let’s face facts, if it was not for Billionaires becoming involved in the Premier League then everyone would be lauding the job that Arsene has done at Arsenal. He has bought players for a decent price and sold them on at  a much higher value then on most occasions re-invested the money back into the squad. It is the perfect way to run a football club and one which my own club (Everton) do quite well. For me, it is exactly the way football should be run, it should not be a case of blowing millions of pounds on players to collect, that is not winning that for me is a form of ‘cheating’, for want of a better word.

I think Arsene feels exactly the same way and that is why he refuses to splash massive amounts of money to try and bridge that gap. The problem is the other clubs are doing that and every time Arsenal fall short the media whip up the criticism to a frenzy and that is when the supporters frustration can spill over. To me I feel that Arsene, should have bought  a top class striker and maybe another defender but looking at it there does not appear too much wrong with the gunners. Yes they still suffer from trying to walk the ball into the net at times but their style is a similar one to Barcelona ( not as successful but very similar) only they actually cross the ball !

In Mikel Arteta and Santi Carzola they have two very gifted players in midfield and two players who like to keep the ball. When Jack Wilshire returns he will benefit massively from playing with both of those players, but it really is up top for me where Arsenal are short. Podolski always looks better coming in from the left but its a real lack of a centre forward that may undo Arsene again this year. My suggestion would be to use Theo Walcott as a central striker, as his pace would frighten defenders to death and it would probably persuade him to sign a new contract.

With a top striker Arsenal in my opinion would be very close to that top 3 of Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City. Yes teams like Everton, Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United may push Arsenal for a top 4 place but I would still at this point expect the Gunners to claim that top 4 spot. The question is can they challenge for the title ? At this moment in time I would say no but a couple of signings in the January transfer window may change that as long as they are not too far behind.

So my message to Ivan Gazidis would be, unless there are a few changes in terms of buying top quality then it will take a lot longer than two years for Arsenal to be back amongst the best. One thing I would say though is that I do admire Arsenal and how they have done things from a business model and you have to have admiration for Arsene Wenger for the job he has done whilst he has been the Arsenal manager. They are definitely not in decline in my opinion but in this day and age, second is nowhere.

I would love to hear any Arsenal fans point of view on whether they feel like they are going in the right direction or standing still ?

 

THT

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One Response to “Arsenal : Back Amongst The Best or Heading For Decline ?”

  1. [...] Does Arsene Wenger actually have money to spend at Arsenal? Ivan Gazidis, Arsenal’s Chief Executive, was very ‘bullish’ in how he sees things at the Emirates and he believes the club’s prudence will pay off when UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations become more rigorously enforced. Read more HERE. [...]

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