Does Arsenal’s latest transfer window show a “lack of ambition”?

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Does Arsenal’s latest transfer window show a “lack of ambition”? Empty Does Arsenal’s latest transfer window show a “lack of ambition”?

Post by Mario on Sat Sep 01, 2012 10:11 pm

Posted by Gingers For Limpar

Does Arsenal’s latest transfer window show a “lack of ambition”?

Let’s face it, most of us are not very ambitious. We settle down in fairly cushy jobs that present themselves in our early 20s; and we quickly become hooked to the safety of a monthly pay cheque that affords food, shelter, electricity, the odd drink, a Zones 1-3 travelcard, an iPhone, an unused LA Fitness membership, a download of the new XX album and a couple of pairs of grey skinny jeans from Uniqlo that you hate yourself for buying but everyone else is and oh they’re only £20 so fuck it.

And if there’s a spare £1,000-£2,000 left over at the end of the tax year after your hard-earned’s been constantly plundered by Her Majesty’s Treasury, then you can also afford an Arsenal season ticket.

Woo!

But the point is this – while you, Reader, may be in the ambitious minority, destined to lead a FTSE 100 company or invent a revolutionary new kind of milkshake, the chances are that you’re in the 95% who, ultimately, just can’t be arsed.

And there’s nothing particularly wrong with that. Ambition is difficult. It requires getting up every morning and striving to do better than nearly everyone else in the world. Frankly, I’m already exhausted just thinking about it. Ambition means treating every day like a race, doggedly striving for the latest goal you’ve set yourself, only to set another near-impossible goal once you’ve reached it.

Not only is that extremely tiring, it is also testing of one’s spirit and leads to the inevitable question of – why am I doing this? Why am I spending my only shot at life obsessed with doing more and more and more and clearing higher and higher hurdles, just to suddenly DIE at the end of it? Why don’t I chill the hell out and sit on a hill in Devon and watch the sun set? Maybe I could finally get around to making that pie from the River Cottage cookbook, the one with capers in it.

A verbose left-wing minicab driver once insisted to me that all a person needs to be content is: a home, half-decent food, someone to love, and some books or other artistic / intellectual stimulation. The somewhat less left-wing Charles Saatchi wrote something similar recently in the Evening Standard, arguing that obsessively-driven people tend to be far less content – forever beating themselves up over hitting their next target – than those of us who just sit back and soak it up.

Ambition often requires giving up the nice, varied things that arguably lead to a healthier, more fulfilled life. So perhaps it’s not surprising that most of us are not mega-ambitious.

Yet there is something in our strange monkey-souls that attracts us, compellingly, to ambition. And this is perhaps why we seek to attach ourselves to others’ ambition. This is why we cry at the achievements of Olympic athletes; it’s why we cheer on our favourite finalists in Masterchef; it’s why we go on Twitter to say how amazing Neil Armstrong was for landing on the moon.

It’s also one reason why we support football teams.

In supporting a club, one attaches oneself to the actions of 11 men running around a pitch. Their success becomes our own success and their failure leads to entire weekends (and sometimes subsequent weeks) of gloom and misery. We passionately want them to win, to achieve, and cheer them fanatically towards their sporting ambitions.

Yet most people’s football teams don’t win anything. Statistically the vast majority of sides in any division will end in either mid-table boredom or relegation. The FA Cup, to give another example, is won by just one single team, with hundreds of others failing along the way. Winning is the exception and failure the norm.

Back in January of 2005, I spoke to a Brighton-supporting friend of mine after he’d made his way back from a Cup tie against north London’s second team. I recall him saying how proud he was of their players for so nearly grabbing an away draw against the Totts, who at the time were placed over 20 positions higher on the league ladder and spent tens, if not hundreds, of millions more on players than little Brighton and Hove Albion.

The point was that they’d tried. Pushing aside flimsy reservations of whether or not it was “realistic” to expect to beat a Premier League side, Brighton had gone there and genuinely attempted to win the game. They put everything they had into delivering what would have been an albeit fleeting moment of glory for their club.

And this is where Arsenal’s transfer window becomes relevant (in case you were wondering).

A common charge against the Arsenal board in recent years has become that they lack ambition. It is a charge that chief exec Ivan Gazidis hit back at during the summer’s Q&A with fans, arguing that the stadium move signalled huge ambition and a willingness to gamble – traits that he insisted the current board still possess.

I must admit that in past seasons I have had some sympathy for Gazidis’ argument that finishing 3rd or 4th is not the same thing as being happy to finish 3rd or 4th. I have wondered: isn’t it unreasonable for fans to assume that seasons that end with narrow Champions League qualification but without silverware are somehow part of The Great Plan, rather than just the regular accidental failure, that – as I wrote above – afflicts 95% of teams each year?

Who are we to demand glory every season? How can we expect the Arsenal to simply brush aside rivals who spend tens of millions more on their squads each season that we do?

Well the truth is that we don’t. But much like my Brighton-supporting pal, what we do expect is for the club to try. To make a go of it. To show ambition.

It might sound childishly spoilt, but for me Arsenal is inherently a club that tries to win the league title every year. Older fans than I, who lived through our long barren patches, may disagree – but the fact is that even during years of failure in the 60s, much of the 70s and 80s, the club was still trying to win the league. This is why they bought Joe Baker, and then Alan Ball. This is why they bought SuperMac, and then Charlie Nicholas. Often Arsenal’s pampered and egocentric players may not have given all they had to win the title, but the club itself – no matter how badly managed – appeared to set a title-victory as its goal.

And let us not forget that Arsenal have won league titles in every decade since the 1930s with just one exception (the ‘60s).

Admittedly, winning the league now is possibly harder that it ever has been, for kleptocrat-fuelled reasons that we’re all aware of. But Arsenal have the second highest annual income of any side in the Premier League, and so it is not unreasonable to expect them to attempt to win the competition.

Just say, at the end of the season, the team has been pipped to the post by Man City (“£100M JANUARY SIGNING FALCAO DELIVERS TITLE TO MANCINI” etc. etc.) I’m sure I and thousands of other Gooners would proudly stand and applaud the boys’ efforts.

The problem is this: after the last two weeks, there is simply no way that Ivan Gazidis, Stanley Kroenke or Arsene Wenger can claim that Arsenal are trying to win the league this season.

Having failed to replace the team’s top assist-provider from last season, a regular in the centre of the park, they cannot turn around and say: “Yes, I expect the team to be better now. Without this player, or any replacement, we are in a stronger position to close last season’s 19 point gap between us and the Manchester teams.”

I would love nothing more than to be proven wrong at the end of the season, but for now they argument that we can compete for the league seems farcical. The team has lost its two primary sources of goals from last season, while the third (Theo Walcott) is four and a bit months away from being able to agree a Bosman deal with another side. In response we have brought in fewer players than any other PL club this summer.

In mitigation, I think Arsenal’s three main signings are extremely promising. But standing alone, they look like three signings intended to keep the club’s head above water (or, some might say, keep the club narrowly bobbing above the Champions League qualification cut-off point). Just two or three weeks ago it looked as if the capture of Santi Cazorla was not an end in itself, but a means to push on and strengthen other parts of the squad too. Yet now we’re one injury away from Cazorla lining up alongside, say, Francis Coquelin and Abou Diaby. Would that be good enough to take to the Etihad or Old Trafford?

There was a time when I would vehemently defend Arsene’s caution in the transfer market. I agree that deals are complex and that every signing by every club is a gamble. Splashing money around à la Liverpool is that last thing I want to see the Arsenal doing.

But the bottom line is this: a club trying to win the league does not consistently sell its top players and then sit on the profits.

One summer of net profit making is perfectly understandable under certain circumstances. And hey, profits are a good thing. They strengthen the club, provide stability, reassure business partners and provide the scope for future signings. But in football their primary use is to strengthen the team and thus when they go unspent year after year after year, the policy is sure to raise eyebrows.

There is a feeling that this latest window has been a snapping point for some Gooners. Last season’s debacle was so frantic, with the late departures and uber-late arrivals, that it was possible to put it down to disorganised mismanagement (at worst) or “just one of those things” (at best). But this time around there appears something more calculated about Arsenal’s approach.

The club has quite clearly decided to go into the first half of the season with the current squad. We know that they could have signed Nuri Sahin, but decided against it due to the cost. That may be a reasonable decision in isolation, but there appears to have been no Plan B. The decision to sell Alex Song was taken several weeks ago, at the very least. Finding a replacement of equal or better quality may not be easy, but it is something that top clubs have to be able to do. And if you’re not able to do it then maybe selling your key first team players isn’t the greatest of ideas.

A Gooner friend of mine yesterday expressed annoyance at the apparent puzzle as to what goes on behind the scenes during weeks in which our top players leave and we fail to bring in adequate replacements. Messages are constantly conflicting. One minute we’re told by the manager that he will only look at “top, top, top players”, the next we discover that Arsenal made an enquiry for perma-cripple Michael Essien.

It’s not much use the club telling us that we only sign exceptionally talented players when we’re staring at a squad sheet that includes Sebastian Squillaci and Marouane Chamakh.

While there’s an element of enigma surrounding all this, some things seem certain. The club is essentially interested in bargain deals and loath to cough up a transfer fee unless it believes it is getting a 30%+ discount. This is not a bad thing in itself – and you cannot criticise the bargain-hunting one minute, and then laud the incredibly-cheap capture of Cazorla the next. But the approach need not be so puritanically consistent. It’s possible to bargain-hunt, but also recognise that sometimes it’s worth your while to pay full whack. You can shop at Aldi and watch your pennies closely from Monday to Friday, but when it’s your girlfriend’s birthday on Saturday it makes sense to just buy her the bloody £180 Jimmy Choo shoes that she wants. Keeping the £180 in the bank may look nice to your accountant, but it won’t help you get laid.

If you’ll excuse the metaphor, it doesn’t look like Stanley Kroenke wants to get laid. He just wants the club to keep ticking over while the money pumped into top level football continues to rise. Thus the value of his asset steadily increases, aiding the sensible, gradual expansion of his financial empire.

A tougher question concerns the manager. I remain convinced that Arsene wants Arsenal to win each game more than us fans do. I’ve seen, in person, what he’s like after a defeat. I feel sorry for his wife, I really do. And yet he appears to be content to keep busting his gut to keep the team in the top four while simultaneously producing annual profits from the transfer market – all at the expense of seriously challenging for the major honours. Why would he do this, so selflessly, for Kroenke?

The only explanation to my mind is that Arsene decided at some point that it would be impossible to compete financially with Abramovich & co. so instead adopted an obdurate obsession with being parsimonious with transfers. Given that all signings are risks, he may be preoccupied with the idea that the larger the fee, the larger the threat to the squad’s long-term wellbeing. As someone once said: Jose Mourinho manages a club like he’s concerned where it’ll be next week; Arsene Wenger manages a club like he’s concerned where it’ll be in 90 years. The £14.5m signing of Andrei Arshavin – generally considered a mistake – has probably cemented his uber-cautious approach. Better, then, to stick to risk-free signings as much as possible. This arguably clashes with the high-risk approach of remunerating some players so generously that we can’t then get rid of them when they fail to perform – yet that’s a question for another day and another blog post.

While we don’t know exactly what happens behind the scenes, the situation seems to be as follows: the club’s majority owner urges fiscal restraint; the team’s manager has become parsimonious in character; the team’s top player are increasingly likely to leave each summer, whether due to their own greed or the club’s ineptitude in tying them to contracts.

The result, alas, is the feeling that the club isn’t really competing for the league anymore. This doesn’t mean that we should lessen our support for the XI players that take to pitch each week – some of them, at least, will be genuinely trying to win every match. But it does explain the frustration felt by many Gooners last night.

Whether ambitious – or not – in our own lives, we look to Arsenal to show some ambition each season. We want them to make us dream, but increasingly the dream is broken by a groundhog day-style awakening where everything is the same as it was last time around.

This isn’t by any means a disaster, but also isn’t great for our morale. After yet another disappointing transfer window, the board’s report again reads: “Must try harder.”

http://gingers4limpar.com/?p=2135

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Post by Michael Schatzky on Sun Sep 02, 2012 1:20 am

Mario Leontiou wrote:Posted by Gingers For Limpar



While we don’t know exactly what happens behind the scenes, the situation seems to be as follows: the club’s majority owner urges fiscal restraint; the team’s manager has become parsimonious in character; the team’s top player are increasingly likely to leave each summer, whether due to their own greed or the club’s ineptitude in tying them to contracts.

The result, alas, is the feeling that the club isn’t really competing for the league anymore. This doesn’t mean that we should lessen our support for the XI players that take to pitch each week – some of them, at least, will be genuinely trying to win every match. But it does explain the frustration felt by many Gooners last night.

Whether ambitious – or not – in our own lives, we look to Arsenal to show some ambition each season. We want them to make us dream, but increasingly the dream is broken by a groundhog day-style awakening where everything is the same as it was last time around.

This isn’t by any means a disaster, but also isn’t great for our morale. After yet another disappointing transfer window, the board’s report again reads: “Must try harder.”

http://gingers4limpar.com/?p=2135

Yup.

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Post by Michael Foster on Sun Sep 02, 2012 2:33 am

I for one cannot understand where the hell all the board and Wenger are...people have asked questions and getting no answers......

It will prob be a quick flob off after the game tomorrow.
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Post by Vanig Bostanian on Sun Sep 02, 2012 8:22 am

What really annoyed me was the sale of Alex Song and not getting his replacement. The man had 3 years in his contract, why the hell sell him? Or why the hell sell him and not replace him? I said this to a friend yesterday, but Robin van Cunt was right. How can you go an entire season without a DM, relying on Diaby, who is not even a DM?

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Post by John Foxall on Sun Sep 02, 2012 9:52 am

Yeah, it's pretty unambitious. A few years ago we had the key parts of a good front 6, now the only front player of confirmed class is Santi Cazorla. We're very lucky that he's able to slot in with few problems, and even then it depends whether he gets nackered after Christmas like Silva and Mata. Now our defence is shaping up better but we have a largely average midfield and attack.

Blaming it on RvP or Song is ignoring the elephant in the room. We're treading water and have been for half a dozen years now. I honestly think that for something to change we probably need Wenger to leave. New ideas, something different. But with the new owners, Wenger is almost all that is left that really represents Arsenal. I wonder just how big an identity vacuum we could suffer if he left. Peter Hill-Wood would hardly fly the flag.

The failure to replace Song was inevitable. To submit ourselves to (pre-)deadline day torture would've been a waste of time. It's just weird a very weird experience for us fans to be honest. If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck it probably is one, yes we have little ambition. The board/manager are not even able to be honest about what our short-medium term plan is. I find that blaming it all on money is a bit too lazy. We're certainly at a disadvantage but other clubs get more out of their limited resources than we do imo.

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Post by Marko Maksimović on Sun Sep 02, 2012 10:17 am

To answer the question. No, it doesn't show a lack of ambition. This time around the club was smarter and planned for VP's departure before-hand. With regards to Song, well, we are never gonna play an all-out DM. It doesn't fit well in our system. An ideal 4-3-3 needs the midfield to be fluid with each player pulling his weight 110%. Song drifted forward a bit too often and left us exposed. He wasn't as key to us as he could have/should have been. It's easy for us as football fans who have nothing to lose except emotions and nerves with the club. It's a business, first and foremost. If I told you that tomorrow you could buy a rundown vehicle that you could fix up with minimal costs and a few years later sell it for millions what would you do? Obviously sell. That's what AW did with Song. We have a few players coming back from injury, our new boys settling in, it's looking up. Mercenaries, agents like David Dein have no place at the club. A lot of people here were saying how satisfied they were with the signings we made and the players we've let go. VP was inevitable, Song was just good business if you ask me. Bendtner, Vela, Park, Denilson, Almunia all gone. AW has been a bit more ruthless. If you don't have the quality or your head in the team then out you go. Fair play to him. Let the team get on with it. They need to step up and show us. Ambition should never be a question directed at AW or Arsenal Football Club. The world financial situation makes it much harder for the club. Building a new stadium is a show of ambition but because it doesn't fill a trophy cabinet or help us fans with banter over who's won what it falls down the priority list of us fans. The rise of lucrative businessmen and companies stepping into football has lopsided the playing field far too much, FFP has to be implemented really well for it to be levelled again. Or was it ever level? Fair play to Arsene Wenger. If there is any man in sport that I really wanna meet and sit down to talk to for a little bit, it's him. What he does for the club is beyond measure. All the shit he has taken and dealt with over the last few years is more than any normal person could deal with. He's kept the club afloat through these times when loads of other managers would have just stepped out. To think clubs with less resources do better than us is absolutely ridiculous? We've kept Spurs in our shadow year after year. We've beaten Barcelona, Man City, Chelsea, who are all clubs with much more resources. It's some consolation at least... Champions League football year in and year out is taken for granted, it means a lot financial-wise for the club and in terms of status. We were again one of the top seeds in the draw. I really doubt we can win the league, it's a looooong shot but any one of the cups is up for grabs.
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Post by John Foxall on Sun Sep 02, 2012 10:22 am

With regards to Song, well, we are never gonna play an all-out DM. It doesn't fit well in our system.

Sure, De Jong type players with no footballing ability are not in vogue. Having a player who gives you that solidity at the base of midfield and is particularly defensively disciplined, knows where to be at all times etc is important. Of course one could play in our team, especially one with passing ability like M'Vila.

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Post by Marko Maksimović on Sun Sep 02, 2012 10:29 am

John Foxall wrote:
With regards to Song, well, we are never gonna play an all-out DM. It doesn't fit well in our system.

Sure, De Jong type players with no footballing ability are not in vogue. Having a player who gives you that solidity at the base of midfield and is particularly defensively disciplined, knows where to be at all times etc is important. Of course one could play in our team, especially one with passing ability like M'Vila.

I completely agree with that but again, the whole system relies on the team's effort. It's not one or two players that give that solidity. It's the whole team, at the very least the entire midfield 3 should be rotating. Which rarely happened. Arteta dropping deep to cover Song was mainly his experience coming through. We still suffered because the rest of the side wasn't up to scratch defensively. Asking one or two players to cover a decent amount of the pitch is a tough ask. AW is trying to get the perfect mix, a solid core but not so solid that our attack is blunt.
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Post by John Foxall on Sun Sep 02, 2012 10:33 am

The team system is just one of the reasons why we fucked up/conceded goals last year though. We make all sorts of mistakes.

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Post by Subrat Koirala on Sun Sep 02, 2012 6:47 pm

What plans Wenger has remains to be seen, but yes, right now, we look unambitious. My only concern with not buying a Song replacement is not that Arteta/Diaby can't do a job sitting deep, but it'll probably limit Arteta's ability to create and hence put unwanted pressure on Cazorla.
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Post by Jonathan Prendergast on Mon Sep 03, 2012 12:31 am

Great read Mario.

It seems to me, we play 3 distinct midfield positions.

----- RCM ------- LCM ------

------------ CAM ------------

CAM was our weak position last season, as much as I like Ramsey and Rosicky. Now we have Cazorla. It's a shame Wenger took a year to replace Cesc, but he has found a quality player for a price at least half of what he is worth.

2 seasons ago Song and Wilshere were great in RCM and LCM. RCM position seems to be a defensive structural role, while the LCM get's to attack a bit more.

Arteta was fantastic at LCM last season, and we really missed him when he was out. Arteta is now one of the first picked.

But the truth is, we have plenty of players who can play the LCM role. Diaby, Wilshere, Rosicky, Ramsey, Coquelin. None of them would get to play their preferred position as long as Arteta is there as he is one of our most important players.

So, Wenger has sold Song, and moved Arteta into the more defensive RCM role, to allow other players to come into the team more. And so far, Arteta has been brilliant there. No goals conceded.
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Post by Hisham El Mawan on Mon Sep 03, 2012 3:49 pm

Marko Maksimović wrote:To answer the question. No, it doesn't show a lack of ambition. This time around the club was smarter and planned for VP's departure before-hand. With regards to Song, well, we are never gonna play an all-out DM. It doesn't fit well in our system. An ideal 4-3-3 needs the midfield to be fluid with each player pulling his weight 110%. Song drifted forward a bit too often and left us exposed. He wasn't as key to us as he could have/should have been. It's easy for us as football fans who have nothing to lose except emotions and nerves with the club. It's a business, first and foremost. If I told you that tomorrow you could buy a rundown vehicle that you could fix up with minimal costs and a few years later sell it for millions what would you do? Obviously sell. That's what AW did with Song. We have a few players coming back from injury, our new boys settling in, it's looking up. Mercenaries, agents like David Dein have no place at the club. A lot of people here were saying how satisfied they were with the signings we made and the players we've let go. VP was inevitable, Song was just good business if you ask me. Bendtner, Vela, Park, Denilson, Almunia all gone. AW has been a bit more ruthless. If you don't have the quality or your head in the team then out you go. Fair play to him. Let the team get on with it. They need to step up and show us. Ambition should never be a question directed at AW or Arsenal Football Club. The world financial situation makes it much harder for the club. Building a new stadium is a show of ambition but because it doesn't fill a trophy cabinet or help us fans with banter over who's won what it falls down the priority list of us fans. The rise of lucrative businessmen and companies stepping into football has lopsided the playing field far too much, FFP has to be implemented really well for it to be levelled again. Or was it ever level? Fair play to Arsene Wenger. If there is any man in sport that I really wanna meet and sit down to talk to for a little bit, it's him. What he does for the club is beyond measure. All the shit he has taken and dealt with over the last few years is more than any normal person could deal with. He's kept the club afloat through these times when loads of other managers would have just stepped out. To think clubs with less resources do better than us is absolutely ridiculous? We've kept Spurs in our shadow year after year. We've beaten Barcelona, Man City, Chelsea, who are all clubs with much more resources. It's some consolation at least... Champions League football year in and year out is taken for granted, it means a lot financial-wise for the club and in terms of status. We were again one of the top seeds in the draw. I really doubt we can win the league, it's a looooong shot but any one of the cups is up for grabs.

I agree entirely with this. Not signing anyone after Cazorla doesn't show a lack of ambition. If anything, it shows confidence. It shows that Wenger knows what he's doing, or at least that he doesn't need a half dozen panic buys on the last day of the transfer window to think he has a good team. As for the whole Song thing, you'd think people would realize that simply means Arsene intends to change the dynamic of the starting 11. Instead of playing with a DM and a high-lined defense, we're simply placing two central midfielders behind our CAM with a back four that sits back a little more. As in, we don't need Song anymore. Besides, he was only good for one thing last year, and that was feeding Robin van MoneyGrabbingShitbagWhore. The defensive side of his game, the side we need, was below par last season, and now that our Benedict Arnold of a captain has moved to Manchester United, Song was essentially useless to us. So why not cash in and sell him, to a team overseas no less? Especially if the whole story about him having a bad attitude and lack of commitment is true.

And so far, Wenger has been proven right by his decisions. We have three clean sheets in three games and are the only team in the league yet to concede a goal, and we've just beaten Liverpool at Anfield. Furthermore, our signings appear to be doing quite well for us. At this point in time, I really do not see why we can't just sit back, enjoy a nice cold drink, and have a little faith.

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Post by Jonathan Prendergast on Mon Sep 03, 2012 6:38 pm

Great post Hisham.
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Post by Mario on Mon Sep 03, 2012 9:06 pm

I can't see how people say we didn't need any new signings when Arsene Wenger disagreed with you about a week ago.


a) we were in for Sahin at the very least. ("We are looking to bring one more midfielder in of course") - http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/wenger-we-re-still-looking-for-signings

b) we were in for Mirallas. ( "Discussions were at quite an advanced stage with Arsenal," said Mirallas. "[But] I think I had a possibility of playing in more games, for longer periods, with Everton.") - http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/19336519

c) we were looking for a defensive player. ("and maybe one defender as well because we still feel we are short in some positions") - http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/wenger-we-re-still-looking-for-signings


Now all of a sudden we didn't them? That's not say we should have gone out and panicked on deadline day like we did last year but the whole point is to get the squad sorted as soon as possible. When the season ended in May I really doubt Wenger looked at his squad and thought we would do better without Van Persie and Song.

We may have decided to cut Song in the end but if we wanted to sell him once the season was over we would have done it earlier, instead it happened on the first day of the season which suggests it wasn't part of the plan. In the end the loss of Song didn't really bother me as I believe he could be upgraded and his lax attitude was a symbol of what was wrong with the team. But only if he was replaced. You don't lose a midfielder who has started that many matches in the last few seasons and not replace. We are gambling, again, on the fitness of key players, hoping potential key players stay fit and other key players return from injury as good as new. Arteta has such an important role in the team and an injury to him and next in line right now is who, Coquelin? That isn't good enough for a team that supposedly wants to win the league.

All in all, I don't think we could have won the league this season anyway. Even if we added the 3 new players and kept RVP and Song, I feel like the best we could have got was 2nd (despite their shaky-ish start Man City's squad looks too strong) but it would have allowed us to realistically challenge for the title and we would have had a much better shot in the cups. I think now the best we will get is 3rd but most likely 4th. I think the club are ok with that. Throw in the FA Cup and I'm ok with that, yeah.

Hope I'm wrong of course, hope the new solidity in defence continues and Giroud and Podolski score a shit load between them. We will see. But as Wenger said,

"We are working very, very hard. We have resources available so if it is not happening now it will happen in December."

... let's hope we aren't in desperate need come December/January.

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Post by Mario on Mon Sep 03, 2012 9:07 pm

By the way, I don't think our squad is bad or anything like that like some Arsenal/rival fans think ('worst Arsenal squad ever blah blah blah'). I think we probably have enough for top 4. But no more.

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Post by Chris Chan on Mon Sep 03, 2012 9:18 pm

This is what I wrote on fb just after the transfer window and despite what we saw at the weekend, I don't feel any different with regards to the ambition of the club.

In terms of our squad I'm not overly disappointed; on paper we look like we should be fine. However I think the club continues to show a lack of ambition. Yet another window passes and yet again I think we are one possibly two players short from really challenging for the top. Our action (or lack of it) just feels to everyone like we are settling for top 4 instead of really pushing forward.

What makes it harder is that there was value in this market this year. Credit crisis/FFP has seen clubs really struggling this year and the bargains are there to be had. Many Spanish clubs were forced to sell their stars this year, the Italians seemed to be trying to cut their squads down, PSG aside, sides like Lyon are suffering hard financial times. You would think that this has what Wenger has been waiting for, bargains galore and teams desperate to get their wage bills down, but in the closing stages, nothing. Of course there are some crazy deals still around but transfer fees seemed to have come down this year.

If we couldn't compete in a market where everyone was spending recklessly, and if we can't compete in a market where many clubs are suffering, in what environment can we compete? I am just a bit disappointed at the moment in that I really believed with a couple of additions we would be truly competitive for the title this year. Now I think we are yet against looking at 3rd/4th, same old Arsenal...

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Post by Mike York on Mon Sep 03, 2012 10:11 pm

Marko Maksimović wrote:AW has been a bit more ruthless. If you don't have the quality or your head in the team then out you go. Fair play to him. Let the team get on with it. They need to step up and show us.

Agree with that. Van Persie obviously didn't want to stay (his post-match interview after the West Bbrom game at the end of last season showed hints of that) and apparently Song had a bad attitude this break. What Wenger did this window reminded players that no-one is bigger than the club (and like you said, got rid oft he players under Dein). Arguably something he did again with benching Walcott against Liverpool. Now Theo has to think 'they drew twice with me and then got a 2-0 win without me' when going into the contract negotiations.
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Post by Jonathan Prendergast on Mon Sep 03, 2012 11:22 pm

Mario Leontiou wrote:I can't see how people say we didn't need any new signings when Arsene Wenger disagreed with you about a week ago.


a) we were in for Sahin at the very least. ("We are looking to bring one more midfielder in of course") - http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/wenger-we-re-still-looking-for-signings

b) we were in for Mirallas. ( "Discussions were at quite an advanced stage with Arsenal," said Mirallas. "[But] I think I had a possibility of playing in more games, for longer periods, with Everton.") - http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/19336519

c) we were looking for a defensive player. ("and maybe one defender as well because we still feel we are short in some positions") - http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/wenger-we-re-still-looking-for-signings


Now all of a sudden we didn't them? That's not say we should have gone out and panicked on deadline day like we did last year but the whole point is to get the squad sorted as soon as possible. When the season ended in May I really doubt Wenger looked at his squad and thought we would do better without Van Persie and Song.

It's not as black and white as you suggest.

It seems to me that, in midfield, Wenger only wanted a short term solution, as long term, he is happy with the midfielders in the squad. Sure if he could have gotten Sahin, he would have. But the final deal was ridiculous. In the end, Diaby, Arteta and Cazorla were much better than Sahin yesterday.

We could pretend that there are no financial constraints, but there is no point raising the wage offer for Mirallas to get it over the line, when he is unlikely to add that much to the squad. Remember how much criticism the club receives for over paying for wages for squad players?

I would have preferred the addition of 1 top class player, rather than the talk of Dempsey, even Dembele. We got Cazorla (and Podolski). 1 more would have been nice
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Post by Mario on Mon Sep 03, 2012 11:46 pm

Jonathan Prendergast wrote:

It's not as black and white as you suggest.

It seems to me that, in midfield, Wenger only wanted a short term solution, as long term, he is happy with the midfielders in the squad. Sure if he could have gotten Sahin, he would have. But the final deal was ridiculous. In the end, Diaby, Arteta and Cazorla were much better than Sahin yesterday.

We could pretend that there are no financial constraints, but there is no point raising the wage offer for Mirallas to get it over the line, when he is unlikely to add that much to the squad. Remember how much criticism the club receives for over paying for wages for squad players?

I would have preferred the addition of 1 top class player, rather than the talk of Dempsey, even Dembele. We got Cazorla (and Podolski). 1 more would have been nice



My point was though that we were in for players in at least a couple of positions which suggests that Wenger doesn't think the squad is complete. And cash reserves are sitting in the bank, we made profit on sales again, to have pushed through a signing or two. I don't necessarily mean Sahin and Mirallas, but we had a whole summer. I have no problem with the club pulling out of the Sahin deal either because it didn't suit us and I would prefer signing a player on our terms. But then there was no fall back option or if there was it was being left too late in the window and as we weren't desperate like last season we didn't go through. That's ok, as I said I don't want to see pointless panic buys, but it has still left us short.

It feels like the club is trying to squeeze everything we can out of Wenger until 2014 when commercial deals expire and we can renegotiate new and more lucrative ones and until then if we don't need to go that bit extra like the original article suggests, then we won't. Better not to take a gamble in case it doesn't pay off. Maybe it's why splashed out that much on Arshavin when we did because we were struggling for top 4 at the time? I don't know. From a business perspective we can say so far it's worked fine as we keep making the Champions League money season upon season and we are sailing the good Arsenal ship through rocky waters whilst a lot of other (non-oil) clubs are struggling financially, especially those with new stadiums/in plans to develop one. But the sporting side has been, I don't want to say neglected because our team is better than most, but we're going into every season with a couple of players short when, in the last couple of seasons at least, we don't need to as we have funds to spend without putting our short or long-term future at risk. Which again I don't want to see even if it means we're playing catch up. Plus, it wouldn't be hard to find someone better than Chamakh.

But we're also being punished by previous poor decisions in the transfer market as we can't get rid of the rubbish on big wages, freeing up more money and space in the squad. This will continue to be a problem until contracts expire (Squillaci next summer) and the loans turn to buys.

I also think it would be harsh to judge Sahin on one game for a team undergoing a bit of a transformation and who aren't as good as us. We don't know how he would have performed in our team, either yesterday or throughout the season. I think he's a good player, though.

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Post by Mario on Mon Sep 03, 2012 11:58 pm

However, I think our biggest problem in the last few years has been our inability to be disciplined, organised and fully concentrated for 90 minutes, especially on the defensive side of things. And that may be changing this season.

3 clean sheets in a row is a great start but we can only judge at the end of the season and against better sides and in Europe. But if we have turned a corner on that side of the game with the introduction of Steve Bould and Neil Banfield on the training ground then that might be the best transfer of them all. Obviously the better players you have the easier their job is but we've seen plenty of sides get the maximum out of limited resources by being defensively sound and organised and hard working. If we had that in the last few years we may have had a trophy or 2 by now.

(And it also would beg the question why this change didn't happen earlier, but better late than never)

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Post by Jonathan Prendergast on Tue Sep 04, 2012 12:18 pm

I still disagree somewhat Mario. When is a squad ever complete? Any squad can be improved. Any squad could shed a couple of players. That's why clubs make transfers twice a year.

Being interested in a quality player does not mean that our squad needed him. Just that he would have been a good addition.

On the subject of defence: it will be tempting to credit Steve Bould, as so many of us called for someone more defensive minded to complement Wenger. I think though, it's too short a time that Bould could have turned things around. It is more likely personnel, and that moving Arteta into Song's role has seen much improved solidity.
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Post by Subrat Koirala on Tue Sep 04, 2012 4:57 pm

Manchester City won the league last year and are title favourites this year again. Yet their weak link(I say weak link in comparison to rest of their squad) was and still remains their LB position. Hence I agree that every squad can be improved. But addition of players who can add that extra quality certainly helps.
This subject leads me to think of the Dortmund team. Not the biggest squad depth in Germany, and not every position filled with quality players, but their willingness to fight for the team and run that extra yard makes a big difference to the team spirit and results as a whole imo.
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Post by Mario on Tue Sep 04, 2012 10:28 pm

I agree every squad could be improved, either realistically (with City buying Javi Garcia and replacing Savic) or of course unrealistically (buying Messi). But ours always seem to be much more glaring holes that everyone can see. In the last few years we had the GK problem, CB concerns for a few years, DM, last year was AMC. You can't say those never came back to hurt us. It did during every run in.

And although I don't think the problems in one particular position are as huge as previous seasons we are still short overall and I think it will unfortunately come back to bite us, which is why we were in for certain players. But nothing can be done now, just have to hope the players we have are good enough over the course of a season and more importantly stay healthy.

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Post by John Foxall on Tue Sep 04, 2012 11:24 pm

Jonathan Prendergast wrote:

"I still disagree somewhat Mario. When is a squad ever complete? Any squad can be improved. Any squad could shed a couple of players. That's why clubs make transfers twice a year."

Come off it!

A squad is never complete in the sense that a manager would always love to have a few more players. I'll give you some definitions of a squad being incomplete - in 2008 when Rosicky was out injured and Wenger decided that the next best solution in midfield was Eboue at RM.

I think a sufficiently strong squad is when a) the second choice player is in most cases pretty good, and b) the third choice is either an experienced/young and promising/solid enough back-up that in injury crises there isn't a gaping hole in your squad.

I don't trust any of our back-up strikers.

What about up front? We seemingly have one man to lead the line and that's it.

What about if Diaby gets injured? I'd trust Rosicky but after that who comes in?

We've still got the two suspect GKs as back-up to Szczesny, and no-one to provide experience to balance out that area of the squad.

By anyone's reckoning this squad could be improved by bringing in two players.

"Being interested in a quality player does not mean that our squad needed him. Just that he would have been a good addition."

Eh? This is backwards thinking. We're not Real Madrid, with the exception of Chu-Young Park, we bring in players to genuinely use them not just have them faff around on the bench a la Gago/Sahin

"On the subject of defence: it will be tempting to credit Steve Bould, as so many of us called for someone more defensive minded to complement Wenger. I think though, it's too short a time that Bould could have turned things around. It is more likely personnel, and that moving Arteta into Song's role has seen much improved solidity"

What do you mean tempting? It's been more or less understood that we don't give enough importance to this area of our game for years now. Players like Adams and Campbell used to coach the defence from within the team, it's what the best players did. We've needed outside help for years now. It's not like a miracle has taken place, we're not perfect. We've certainly improved noticeable in the first few games this season though. Never mind the short period of time, it's a noticeable start. What do you think they were doing on the training field in pre-season?

And Arteta is playing the same role as last season, he's still the deepest man in midfield. That was never Song.

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Post by Jonathan Prendergast on Wed Sep 05, 2012 9:59 pm

1 - The point I was making was that because Wenger is looking at a purchase or two, does not mean the squad is anymore incomplete. I was responding to Mario's assertion, which it seems you may have missed.

Just because we were interested in Sahin, and he went to Liverpool, is not a bad thing for us.

Is Barca's squad complete? Would they say no to Ronaldo?

The discussion on whether our squad is complete or not. Or whether we need new players, shouldn't be determined by players we heard Wenger may be after, but a detailed analysis of the squad.

2 - Now that it appears Podolski is more likely to play consistently on the left, I agree we may be lacking a striker.

3 - Arteta was not the deepest man in midfield last season. Song was. Arteta would drop when Song pushed forward a bit. It's a clear change for Arteta this year. It's even been discussed publicly by Diaby. I think this is more key than Bould for the first 3 games. You think they never practiced defense before bould became assistant coach? You think it has turned around due to him this quickly?

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