Time for Wenger to buy some trousers with deeper pockets
Of all the jobs in the world, the one I’d give anything to trade with right now would be Arsene Wenger’s therapist. Assuming of course, he has one. But considering the loyalty being shown to him by players he has bought to Arsenal as virtual no names and nurtured into stars, then an hour a week waxing lyrical on a nice comfortable couch must seem like a pretty appealing prospect.
“Well, I believe that I have put in place a sustainable economic model whilst delivering success to the club, but many of the fans still question my abilities. I disagree with what they say, they are impatient and petulant. I delivered to them an undefeated season, is every fan suffering from dementia? As for my squad, well, I have developed these boys into men, given them a comprehensive football education and they want to leave me for more money as soon as it is offered. And as for the red cards, of course I saw them. I saw them all, I have eyes, no?”
You’d be hard up finding someone who wouldn’t sympathise with the revered manager, save for Spurs followers and restless ‘Gooners’ who are blood thirsty for some silverware after seven baron seasons. Wenger has every right to feel a bit sorry for himself. There is no doubting the intelligent Economics graduate has been the gunpowder that has helped fire Arsenal to a host of major trophies since he first took the reigns as a virtual unknown back in 1996.
Since that time, Arsenals involvement in the Champions League has been as assured as an Eastern Block accent on a London pole dancer. In fact, the Gunners having qualified for Europe’s top competition during every season with Wenger at the helm, with the exception of the first when they only missed out on goal difference.
But track record aside, some crucial developments last week have unearthed another man with apparently very little sympathy for the plight of his manager in the form of club captain Robin Van Persie. The Dutchman has refused to sign a new contract and openly slated his club for not providing him with a seat at the smorgasbord of ambition at which he longs to dine. This has all but signaled an end to his days in an Arsenal shirt as only 12 months remain on his contract forcing the club to either sell or lose any chance of a transfer fee.
There is no understating the enormous contribution RVP made to Arsenal last season scoring 30 of their 74 total league goals and assisting on a further 9. Theo Walcott, who also had considerable influence over recent seasons, is in a similar situation contract wise and may also follow his captain out the door. The loss of these key players, as well as the poaching of Nasi and Fabregas last summer, signals panic stations at Emirates Stadium as it is indicative of a club unable to adapt to the realities of modern day football.
The interplay between the major clubs in world football is changing. Whilst the main players still exist (Juve, Inter, AC, Real, Barca, Bayern, Man U, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal) and are highly active in the transfer market, a host of other clubs whose cogs are usually greased by black gold have entered the fray with bravado and the dollars to back it up.
The Rolex, Lamborghini & supermodel wife now all play second fiddle to the must have accessory of today’s billionaire – the football club, and many of these owners are just itching to pour their money into creating a team like they’ve just discovered Fantasy Manager.
The cream of Europe’s best footballing talent is now being enticed, not only by the usual suspects, but by Anzhi Makhachkala of Russia, as well as clubs in the Middle East, China and even to Ligue 1 to enjoy life in the narrow streets of the French capital. Even some Brazilian clubs have been shown to be capable of hanging onto young talent and coaxing aging stars home to pasture. But the Big Daddy of them all is Manchester City, who, in the same vein as the Chelsea sides of the mid 2000’s have shown that trophies can indeed be bought.
This new footballing reality leaves the likes of Wenger and his youth driven ideals between a rock and fourth place. Arsenal’s transfer policy and relatively frugal wage stucture is such that they will never be able to coax football’s top talent or even retain their best players, with few exceptions such as local boy Jack Wilshere who is as passionate an Arsenal supporter as there exists.
Much like Peter Crouch’s missus, Arsenal’s model was ogled at by the big spending clubs throughout Europe for a long time. Buy young, develop and sell on at a profit was their mantra, all the while maintaining a positive balance sheet and the ability to acquire trophies. But what was once the envy of the big spenders now appears to be the epitome of a small club mentality as the likes of City, Chelsea and United have shown the ‘value’ in purchasing the finished product.
Let us not forget, ‘Le Profs’ and his somewhat shallow pockets did manage to put together The Invincibles, the undefeated Arsenal side of 2003-04. He achieved this using his unique eye for spotting talent by acquiring lesser known, but very skillful players, at bargain bin prices (Henry £11m, Pires £6m, Viera £3.5m, Lehman £1.5m, etc). Although the chances of a team achieving similar successes in this fashion now appears impossible due to the extortionate salaries on offer from rival clubs and the extensive global scouting systems in place.
Arsenal are a club that is economically sound, yet as long as the notoriously stubborn Wenger is at the helm, they will not be upping the ante by paying large sums for established stars who could take them to the peaks of European football. Like a Catholic priest spouting the dangers of homosexuality, Wenger is at risk of becoming a manager who is grossly out of touch with the realities of the modern world.
If the mass exodus of their most prized assets continues, the future plans of Arsenal are left as broken as the tibia of Aaron Ramsey following a heavy challenge from Ryan Shawcross. And much like it was when the fans witnessed the horrific tackle on the young Welshman, the Arsenal faithful are sure to be left with a burning anger and the taste of sick in their mouths following the demise of their once glorious club.