Has Arsene Wenger wasted £66 million?

I am usually Mr Positive. My Happy-Go-Lucky. Over the last 9 years, I have stood by Arsene Wenger and the Arsenal transfer policy knowing that things will get better. That as new commercial deals were signed, we would have untold rich’s, that the new stadium, once the re-payment’s were under control, would ensure that we could compete with the Real Madrid’s, Barcelona’s and Bayern Munich’s. But I sit here, a little down, a little depressed, wondering if Arsene Wenger has misspent £66 million.

Before you all jump up and see ‘typical She Wore, always moaning’ check the writer of this piece, it is not GC (who does love a moan). Look at other blogs, you will see I am usually positive!

But back to the £66 million that we have spent. It is a big chunk of change, and has got many people very excited:

Alexis Sanchez – £35 million
Calum Chambers – £16 million (Rising too)
Mathieu Debuchy – £12 million
David Ospina – £3 million

On paper it looks like a very productive summer. But in reality, what have we actually done?

Swapping Goalkeepers

Lukasz Fabianski OUT – Free
David Ospina IN – £3 million

David Ospina had a brilliant World Cup, but Lukasz Fabianski had a brilliant cup run. The change in goal keepers has made us no stronger. It is simply a case of one out, one in. Some might argue that Ospina is marginally better than Fabianski, but this opinion would be based on a handful of World Cup games.

In the last 3 years, Fabianski has played 5 league games. Whilst it is important to have a decent keeper in case the worst happens to Szczezny, the fact is, the £3 million spent will not improve our first 11 next season. It is a nothing transfer

Replacing Bacary Sagna

Bacary Sagna OUT – Free
Calum Chambers IN – £16 million (Rising too)
Mathieu Debuchy IN – £12 million

So we lost Bacary Sagna. Whilst I was not too upset to see him go, as his wage demands were unreasonably high for a player in his 30’s, it has required us to buy 2 players to replace him, costing £28 million.

Bacary Sagna – 1st choice right back / 4th choice centre back
Carl Jenkinson – 2nd choice right back

Mathieu Debuchy – 1st choice right back
Calum Chambers – 2nd choice right back / 4th choice centre back

Again, on paper it looks like we have made big steps forward. We have signed Mathieu Debuchy, who kept Sagna out of the French side at the World Cup, and is 2 years younger. We have also signed young Calum Chambers. Is he a better right back than Carl Jenkinson? Yes. But £16 million on a second choice right back is a lot of money. Debuchy has averaged 31 league games a season over the last 6 years. So we have basically spent £16 million for a player to play 7 league games a season at right back.

Yes, he also covers centre back, but how many games did Bacary Sagna actually play at centre back last season? The answer is 3 in all competitions. So what have we done? We have spent £12 million on a 1st choice right back, and another £16 million on a bloke who will probably play 10 games next season.

Yes, Chambers has potentially, and could well push Debuchy hard for a 1st team place, but that £16 million, could it not have been better off spent elsewhere.

£28 million in total to swap Sagna / Jenkinson for Debuchy / Chambers seems a lot.

Alexis Sanchez

The only truly brilliant player we have signed. The only man who has not come in as a replacement for other players. The only man who improves our 1st XI dramatically from last year. A World Class signing. I have no complaints.
For all intents and purposes, we have spent £31 million on a reserve goalie and a replacement for Sagna. The signings of Ospina, Debuchy and Chambers do not improve our first XI from last season. They do not move us forward. And we are only marginally better in terms of squad depth at the back.

My worry is we have papered over the cracks a bit. People are looking at the £66 million spent and getting excited. What they fail to recognise is that only one of the 4 players makes us stronger than last season. The rest are merely replacements for players who have left.

The biggest issue is last season we were short two players. A striker and a defensive midfielder. At this moment in time, a couple of days short of August, we still have not signed a striker and a defensive midfielder.

There is talk of Alexis Sanchez playing upfront and Jack Wilshere playing defensive midfield. These are not acceptable solutions.

Yes, spending £66 million is exciting. We have 4 new faces. But let’s look beyond this and realise it has perhaps been £66 million misspent. We are still a striker and defensive midfielder short. The squad has not massively moved forward. I feel like we have been blinded by the lights, spun a good yarn. If we fail to get in the striker and defensive midfielder, it would mean we are only better in one position than we were last season.

We are making steps in the right direction, yet are still short. It is too early to be excited.


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Sky and BT ruining football…AGAIN

So yesterday, SkySports and BT Sport announced the first round of TV games covering up until the beginning of October and quelle surprise, they have made it as tough as possible for Arsenal fans.

As in April last season, we have had pretty much every match moved, with only 1 out fo the 7 match’s remaining at 3pm on a Saturday – Aston Villa on the 20th of September. The full set of fixtures are:

Sat 16th Aug 17.30 Crystal Palace H
Sat 23rd Aug 17.30 Everton A
Sun 31st Aug 16.00 Leicester A
Sat 13th Sep 12.45 Man City H
Sat 20th Sep 15.00 Aston Villa A
Sat 27th Sep 17.30 Spurs H
Sun 5th Oct 14.05 Chelsea A

Firstly the Spurs game. I remember the days when it used to be an 11.30am kick off. It perhaps shows the way the game has changed, the hooliganism being less frequent, that it is now at 5.30pm. Or is it just that the power of the TV companies is now great than the power of the police?

As always, the biggest problem is going to be travelling to and from the games.

Everton v Arsenal

Everton v Arsenal

There were already major engineering works on the weekend of 23/45 August (Bank Holiday weekend), meaning that to get to Everton it was going to be a 4 hour, 3 train via Birmingham trek, but it was manageable. The changing of the fixture however has made it a nightmare for Arsenal fans.

A 3pm kick off would have meant fans could comfortably get the 19:04 and get back to London in time for the last underground trains. Due to the change, fans are either going to have to leave half way through the 2nd half, make other arrangements to get their, or do an over nighter. The only bright side is with it being a bank holiday weekend, an over nighter is not too bad.

The Leicester game is an even bigger piss take. On Saturday 30th August, you can get a train back to London up until 21:58. Brilliant. Sky, however, have moved the game to a 4pm kick off on the Sunday. The result:

Leicester v Arsenal Out

Leicester v Arsenal Out

Leicester v Arsenal Return

Leicester v Arsenal Return

On first look, it does not seem to bad, until you see those dreaded words ‘bus service’. The journey home will now take you via Kettering, where you will have to take a 70 minute bus journey back into St Pancras. This highlights the disregard that TV companies have for travelling fans. On the Saturday, no problems, on the Sunday, problems, so what do they do? Move the game to the Sunday.

So once again, thanks Sky, thanks BT. One 3pm KO in the first 7 games, and two nightmare journey. You clearly do not give a fuck about us. The more you do this, the less guilty I feel about streaming everything for free. You do not care about us, I will refuse to put money into your pockets.

By hook or by crook, I will get to Everton and Leicester, but I get the feeling this is the first of many travel challenges I will face as I embark on the 38 game season.


Jack Wilshere on his last chance?

Once again, Jack Wilshere has been pictured, cigarette in hand, surrounded by girls, partying with friends in a far off destination. Pouring drinks down friends throats. Once again, it has led to criticism in many parts that he is wasting his talent. I have discussed Wilshere’s future numerous times here. That previously, he needed to focus. That he could learn from Aaron Ramsey. unfortunately, I am now wondering whether he is right for Arsenal. Whether he is now on his last chance.Wilshere

Arsenal as a club is changing. Cash rich, we are now able to attract some of the best in the world. Mesut Ozil & Alexis Sanchez have signed. Sami Khedira could be on his way. We have so much strength in the middle of the park that we were able to turn down Cesc Fabregas. It also means that we are now in a situation where Jack Wilshere is currently not good enough for our first 11, and questions marks are starting to be raised if we even need him in the squad. “If someone wants him for £20m, they can have him” a friend of mine recently said. And I reluctantly agreed.

unfortunately, Jack Wilshere seems to be going down the same route as many other talented Englishmen before him. A brilliant teenage talent, he has struggled to go from being the teenager to a man. He has slipped.

Germany won the World Cup. There has been plenty of chatter since that whilst their players concentrated on football, the English failures were too occupied with tattoos, hair cuts and what birds they were banging. In 2009, England played Germany in the final of the European Under-21 Championship final in Malmo. Germany ran out comfortable 4-0 winners.

Since that game, 6 of the victorious German’s went on to start in the World Cup Final. That day, England lined up: Loach, Cranie, Richards, Onuoha, Gibbs, Cattermole, Muamba, Noble, Milner, Walcott, Johnson. Gardener, Mancienne & Rodwell were the used substitutes. Only Theo Walcott (and to a lesser extent James Milner) has gone on to become a consistent performer and regular starter for a top Premier League side. There is a clear problem in English football in turning talented teenagers into World Class performers.

Explanations for this are numerous. Are youngsters paid too much too young? Are they thrust into celebrity lifestyle rather than concentrating on football? Do they become too concerned with tattoos, hairstyles, booze, birds and partying? I believe a mixture of all of these go into a mixing pot and create a footballer who is often content with becoming a millionaire, whilst not having to try too hard. English footballers are more interested in earning as much as possible, with as little work as possible and getting the girl. Meanwhile their foreign counterparts are driven by success. They want the Champions League, the World Cups, knowing that along the way, they will pick up the millions and the girl.

It is not a new thing. You read the books of Paul Merson, and many others. They trained, and went straight to the pub out partying, they were content. Meanwhile, the likes of Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry came across from the continent. They were first into training, and whilst the English lads left quickly to hit the pub or golf course, they would stay behind. It is often said that Lionel Messi trains more, and harder, than anyone else at Barcelona. To become the best, you have to train the best. Natural talent only takes you so far.

This is an epidemic in English football. David Bentley never fulfilled his talent, he is not yet 30 and retired. Even Wayne Rooney, the bright hope of English football, has never really fulfilled his talent. Jack Wilshere, whilst not being as bad as David Bentley, is close to becoming the next Joe Cole, the next Wayne Rooney. Incredibly talented, but never really fulfilled it.

Yes, he has had injuries which have hampered his performance’s since his break through season in 2010, but that was 4 years ago. His best performance in an Arsenal shirt was against Barcelona when he was 19. That was in 2011.

This season could be a defining one for Wilshere. He will be 23 on January 1st. We should no loner be talking about his potential, but about his actual talent. The older he becomes,the more younger players will be breaking through who are performing at a higher level. At an international level, Ross Barkley is 2 years younger. At arsenal, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is 18 months younger. Both of these are on the verge of overtaking Wilshere for club and country.

With our new found wealth, we can buy ready made stars. We no longer have to look at a players potential and hope that they fulfil it. If they fail to do so, we can ship them out, buy in better. We no longer have to ‘make do’.

Yes, every player deserves a chance, and Aaron Ramsey showed the benefits of giving a player that chance. For me, Jack Wilshere is on his last chance. He needs to step up, otherwise he could find his Arsenal career being finished.