Tag Archives: Arsène Wenger

Wenger Out – Back the Team

Arsene Wenger’s time was up a few years back.

My opinion has never waivered. I felt that during the 2006-2012 period, when money was extremely limited due to stadium debt and front loaded sponsorship deals, that Wenger did a good job steering the HMS Arsenal through choppy waters.

We might never know how restrictive our finances were during the period, but it is clear to anyone who read the accounts that we had to sell to buy. That we could not pay the wages others did.

I back Wenger during the bad years. Of the opinion that he had helped build the club in those years to become more competitive. A sacrifice of short term glory for long term success. My opinion was that after seeing Arsenal through the choppy period, Wenger should get the first at spending that money.

It was the summer of 2013 my faith in Wenger started to waiver.

Money had become available, through renewed sponsorship deals and new TV deals. We chased Gonzalo Higuain, and then had the infamous £40m+£1 deal for Luis Saurez.

On the Suarez deal, I actually do not attack the club for the failed bid. As I outlined at the time, Liverpool basically told Suarez to “take them to court for breach of contract”. The £1 above a minimum release clause is common, and it was only because the press needed the advertising revenue from clicks that it became such a big story.

Arsenal did not wrong. Liverpool refused to honour Suarez’s contract. Suarez himself would have had to have taken them to court, and instead settled for a big new contract with a new release clause meaning he could go abroad in a year.

But that summer was a fiasco.

Mesut Ozil did join on deadline day, but the only other two signings were Yaya Sanogo and Matheiu Flamini. It should have been our first big summer. Instead it was one of many frustrating ones to come. It was at this point, I wondered if Wenger was still the right man. We had the money, we were just not spending it.

A year later and Arsenal had won the FA Cup and spent nearly £100m – including Alexis Sanchez. Wenger signed a new contract, and everything seemed to be moving forward. It was at this point, in hindsight, that Wenger should have gone.

We should have built on that FA Cup win, on spending £100m on new players. Instead, the next year, 2015, we returned to type.

FA Cup winners once more, we spent just £10m on Petr Cech. It was a disgraceful transfer window.

Having got in the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil in the previous 2, we should have built once more. Added what we needed. The striker, the centre back, the midfielder. But we did not, and it was clear Wenger was past his best.

For me, after the 2014 victory, that is the natural time for Wenger to have left.

When he signed the contract last summer, it was to extreme disappointment. It was a cowardly move by the board to offer him that contract, and Arsenal have suffered since.

It feels, however, that the club have seen the light.

Led by Ivan Gazidis, Arsenal have had a massive backroom shake up. A new Director of Football (in all but name), a new Head of Recruitment, a new contract negotiator. The decks have been cleared of Wenger’s yes men, and hopefully it leads to the biggest change of them all this summer; Arsene Wenger leaving.

There has been massive talk of Joachim Lowe being lined up to replace Wenger.

With the German Sven Mislintat as the new Head of Recruitment, Per Mertesacker about to get a plumb Academy Job, and Shad Forsyth as Head of Performance, the back room staff is having a very German look of it.

Forsyth is an American, but he spent 10 years working with the Germany national team and was part of the coaching set-up during their 2014 World Cup success.

You then look at the likes of Mesut Ozil, Shkodran MustafiPierre-Emerick Aubameyang,Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Pierre-Granit Xhaka & Sead Kolašinac, Arsenal are collecting German players (or former Bundesliga players) like they are Pokemon. Lowe is increasingly looking like a natural fit.

But just because Wenger’s time is coming to an end, it does not mean that we should stop back the team to the end of the season.

At the end of the month, we have a League Cup final.

Someone recently said to me “Arsenal should lose to Man City 4-0”. This is the defeatist attitude we do not need in the lead up to a final.

City “should” have beaten us in last years FA Cup semi-final. Chelsea “should” have beaten us in the FA Cup final. And the west-London side “should” have beaten us in the League Cup semi-final. But Arsenal won, against the odds.

When you actually look at Arsenal v Man City head to head, Man City have won just 2 of the last 10. So to start writing the club off is just agenda driven drivel. It is rubbish.

We also have the Europa League to look forward too.

A big black mark against Wenger is his failures in Europe. 22 years in charge, 2 European finals, ZERO wins. There are some out there who do not want Arsenal to win in Europe so that this black mark stays against his name.

It is Arsenal FC, not Arsene FC.

I want Arsenal to win every tournament they enter. And the Europa League is one I would love us to get our hands on. A trip to Lyon on May, lifting Europe’s second trophy, a potential Europa League / League Cup double.

There are plenty of reasons to still back the team, even if you want Wenger to go.

Winning trophies is what it is all about, not progression and fake records.

Arsenal could end up with two at the end of the season. Despite it clearly being Time to Change, I will continue to support and back the team. That is what real fans do. And hopefully I am rewarded with that trip to Lyon in May.

Wenger Out – Back the Team



Signing defender won’t solve Arsenal defensive woes

“We need a new central defender” I often read or hear.

Whilst new personnel will not go a miss at Arsenal, Laurent Koscielny is deteriorating by the week and those below him are not up to much, simply signing a new centre back does not solve Arsenal’s defensive problems.

After Liverpool spent £75m on Virgil van Dijk, Jamie Carragher had his say:

“This thing about Van Dijk is going to come in and fix this problem, it is absolute nonsense. That one player comes in and fixes the whole problem, he’s not that good.”

Earlier in the season, when Liverpool were heavily linked with van Dijk in August, Carragher had a heated debate with Jamie Redknapp over the signing of the Dutch centre back.

“On set pieces it’s not about the defenders. The way Liverpool are set up – set piece wise – they will always concede goals. No matter which defenders they buy or how much they cost – it won’t make a difference.”

A teams defensive problems are much more than just the personnel.

Signing a new defender would not solve the problem of the midfield not giving the defence enough protection.

The first goal yesterday came from Mesut Ozil giving the ball away and Granit Xhaka not following a runner – compare Xhaka’s attitude to that of Aaron Ramsey earlier in the first half.

A new centre back will not solve Arsenal’s goalkeeping issue – just like van Dijk does not solve Liverpool’s. Petr Cech is past it. Not just based on last nights error for the goal, but his form over the last 12 months.

And a new centre back will not solve the way we defend. The way we set up.

When it comes to defending, the team as a whole (not just the back 4) needs to be on the same hymn sheet. They are not. And this comes down to them being poorly coached, poorly instructed and poorly motivated.

A good defence is usually about the sum of its pieces. Under George Graham, Arsenal did not necessarily have the best individuals – look at how few caps Dixon, Winterburn and Bould won – but they had the best drilled unit. They knew their roles. They were organised. It was this that made them the best defence in the country – not the individuals.

Now I am not saying we do not need to be players. We do.

But Arsenal’s defensive problems go deeper than the individuals on the pitch. The problems start with Arsene Wenger.

As Jamie Carragher says about Liverpool, one player does not make a difference if the set up is wrong.


Change in transfer policy signals end for Wenger

Our transfer dealings thus far in January have been interesting. Not just for the player we have signed (and those that we have sold) but for the way we have operated.

In the past, Arsene Wenger has been kingmaker when it comes to transfers. Heavily involved in deciding who he wants, how much he wants to pay, and what agents he wants to deal with.

This has led us to miss out on transfer targets in the past as he dithers over deals and shown a tendency to walk away rather than negotiate.

The signing of Henrik Mkhitaryan and the potential deal for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang show a change in the way Arsenal do their transfers.

Now I am not naive to think that Wenger has had nothing to do with these signings. As manager he needs to sign off on the deals, he needs to want the players, he needs to be working alongside those doing the deals to ensure the right players are coming in to fit into HIS squad.

But whilst Wenger has said yes to Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang, he has left the deals to be thrashed out by others.

Out in Dortmund to negotiate the deal for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was new Head of Recruitment Sven Mislintat, Huss Fahmy – Contracts, Legal & Commercial Expert – and Ivan Gazidis; whatever he does.

It is a move away from previous negotiations which would often see Gazidis and the now unemployed Dick Law be joined by Arsene Wenger.

The fact that Wenger is staying at home – and preparing the team for the League Cup game against Chelsea – shows that some of his job roles have been taken away, and the grip on the club loosened.

Henrik Mkhitaryan was also an interesting deal.

His agent is Mino Raiola. The Italian “Super Agent” who also represents the likes of Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He has a reputation for demanding huge fees and moving his clients between clubs at regular intervals – and making money every step of the way.

He is the type of man Arsenal have refused to do business with in the past.

Back in the day, David Dein used to refuse to pay any agents fees (unless the agent was his son). Arsene Wenger is over the same thought process, that agents are a leach on the game who get paid huge amounts by clubs to bring players in. In the past, Wenger would not have dealt with Raiola.

As much as “Super Agents” are a cockroach within the game, they are now a key part of the transfer process. Major clubs now need to accept that they need to deal with these people.

It is interesting the shift in mentality at the club that Arsenal were now willing to deal with Raiola. You have to think this was a decision made above Wenger, by Gazidis, Kroenke, on the advice of other new incoming members of staff.

Raul Sanllehi does not join the club until February, but coming from Barcelona, he has had plenty of dealings with these agents that previously the club would refuse to work with. He had potentially given the nod for the club to deal with Raiola before he has even started.

The future will also be interesting once Sanllehi joins. It potentially means no more Gazidis at the negotiating table, as Sanllehi will be Head of Football Relations and surely deal with the footballing side of the club, leaving Gazidis to deal with the commercial activities.

The dream team of Sanllehi, Mislintat & Fahmy will lead future transfer negotiations – leaving Arsene Wenger to a side.

It shows a shift in policy, and the club preparing for Wexit.