Reasons why Arsenal fans should be confident about our chances next season regardless of our transfer activity By Muha Anko Anko
Truth be told that the five teams above us will definitely strengthen and may obviously spend more than twice of what we may spend regardless of what the actual figure is out there for us to spend. I will also be the first to say that Arsenal will surely need some spending in order to reduce the gap between us and the teams above us. That’s very clear for everyone who has any idea of football and has been following the Premier league. What’s also clear for all of us fans is that regardless of how much money we have or which position we are in the financial table in the premier league, we can’t spend as much money as Man City, Man Utd, Chelsea and most recently Liverpool can. And most of them have been on top of us for a reason. That I admit fully. But are they there for financial reasons only?? I very much doubt that.
I know many of you will slate me for this but just be open minded for once and see why we may NOT actually need to spend hundreds of millions to be in top four next season. In justifying my points, let’s look at some facts here, the winners of the premier league 2015/16 were Leicester, how much money did they spend to achieve that miraculous win? They were position 10 of EPL expenditure table in 2015. Man City, Man Utd, Liverpool and Chelsea were top four spenders with Arsenal being 18th with only 10M used on Petr Cech that summer, but they (Leicester) won the league with us, Tottenham and City in top four respectively while holders, Chelsea, despite their expenditure, ended up position 10.
In 2016/17 again Manchester City led the way, splashing £174.05m on John Stones (£50m), Leroy Sane (£37m), Gabriel Jesus (£27m), Ilkay Gundogan (£21m), Claudio Bravo (£17.1m), Nolito (£13.8m), Marlos Moreno (£4.75m) and Oleksandr Zinchenko (£3.4m).
Meanwhile, neighbours Manchester United were the league’s next big spenders, with Jose Mourinho investing £149.55m on world-record signing Paul Pogba (£93.25m), Eric Bailly (£30m) and Henrikh Mkhitaryan (£26.3m).
Chelsea were third with 12M and Arsene Wenger reversed his frugal spending approach this term, spending £91.1m on Shkodran Mustafi (£35m), Granit Xhaka (£34m), Lucas Perez (£17.1m), Rob Holding (£2m) and an estimated fee of £3.4m for Takuma Asano during this window in this season, Chelsea won the league and if we are to be honest, they had one of the worst defensive records up until after Conte changed tactics after we beat them 3:0 at the Emirates. Again here, what won the league despite spending 124 M, was tactics, not necessarily money.
Last season again Manchester City splashed the most cash this summer, with an outlay of £217.3m – primarily on defensive signings Kyle Walker (£50m), Benjamin Mendy (£49.2m), Danilo (£26.9m) and goalkeeper Ederson (£34.7m) – in addition to midfielders Bernardo Silva (£43m) and Douglas. Chelsea overtook Manchester United as the next biggest spenders on Deadline Day, with last-minute signings Davide Zappacosta (£23m) and Danny Drinkwater (£35m) joining fellow summer acquisitions Antonio Rudiger (£34m), Tiemoue Bakayoko (£40m) and Alvaro Morata (£70m) to total £202m. United spent £169.5m on blockbuster signings Romelu Lukaku (£90m), Nemanja Matic (£40m) and Victor Lindelof (£39.5m), while Jose Mourinho also re-signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic on a free transfer. Arsenal only brought in Alexander Lacazette and A Kolasinac for free, only in this season actually the team that spent the most won the league. As much as money was used, one can argue also that also tactics also was relevant because Chelsea despite being second spenders, actually finished fifth. So yes, money plays a huge role, but also tactics were very crucial in how each team faired that season.
But actually while writing this article, I have noticed one particular thing that also played a role, that is; the manager, while they may not spend that much, no one can argue with the fact that Tottenham have performed their best under Pochetino, Liverpool have resurrected under almost new manager, Klopp, Chelsea won back the league under new manager Conte, and Manchester City are enjoying the best moments of their history under again, an almost new manager, PEP. So what have all this teams done that Arsenal have not been doing in the recent past apart from spending? MANAGER.
Now to my point. Arsenal have done one major step this season by getting a new manager, who on paper, seem to achieve more from underperforming players. He is also flexible when it comes to tactics
Now let’s look at facts about our squad…
We can all agree that our weakness has been defence this season and our away form, because our home form has been somewhat stellar last season. We were only second to the champions with 47 points at home and City with 50. If the league table was to be awarded by home form, we would be second. While also scoring the second highest goals at home, again second only to City, last season.. but when it came to defending, we conceded a shocking 51 goals while scoring the same amount of goals with Tottenham, only that they conceded 36. Out of our 51 goals conceded, 31 were away from home. This coupled with our poor away form leads to only one conclusion. CONFIDENCE! that’s precisely why we had so many errors leading to goals last season.
Looking at our attack, we can go toe to toe with any of the big 5 of the EPL. In fact I believe we are better equipped up front than both Utd, Spurs and even Liverpool. With Auba and Lacca, we have one of the most lethal striker partnerships in the world leave alone the EPL. Auba played 14 to 15 games and scored 10 with 4 assists, while Lacca on his return, he scored 9 in 10 games with 2 assists. Doing all this at a team with lower confidence, now imagine what they can do if they are well motivated in a team playing with confidence? Trust me teams will fear Arsenal next season.
While some may not agree, but I believe Arsene stagnated almost all of our players. l will be also first to agree that in his day he developed world class players from youths, but in last 6-7 years, how many world class players have we developed? None! Who is to blame for this? Our transfers or the person in charge of development of players?
Why did the players stagnate? One of the main reasons is lack of competition. Let’s look at Bellerin for instance, the reason why he displaced the then France number one right back at Arsenal was because he was playing with a lot to prove, yes injuries to Debuchy played some role, but the main thing was because Bellerin played his heart out looking over his back because Debuchy was always going to come back. Right now he knows there is no one in the squad that can threaten his position. I think Emery has seen that and that’s why Lichsteiner or whatever his name is, is coming in. Our top performing defender, Monreal, had someone pushing him at the back, that is Kolasinac, ever wondered why he even chipped up with more goals last season than any other season? It’s because Kolasinac was also contributing up there too. He had to work his soxks off too to keep his position.
Last season also Ramsay got the player of the season award, do you remember the last time he had that? Why did he achieve that? It was because he was competing with Jack for a box to box position. I remember one time Jack came back from injury scoring goals from wing just to prove that if Ramsay can score, he too can score. When was the last time we had that? Carzola’s best came when Ozil arrived, he was our number 10 and with Ozil’s arrival he had to work extra hard, that’s why he took the box to box position from Wenger’s son’s, Jack and Ramsey. So competition brought the best out of these players. But it has not been there a lot in the last few seasons.
Another reason for our player performances going down under Arsene was because most of their them were being played out of their positions.
For heaven’s sake, which is Iwobi’s favorite position? Look at Ainsley, look at the Ramsay/Jack development stagnation? They came when they were being forced out of their positions. You can’t develop while playing at wrong position. The Iwobi most of us are slating here, has been praised as one of the most exciting Players by one sir Alex just a few years ago.
Now finally, the Emery effect on players can be a major weapon this coming season. There is a saying; Form is temporary, but Class is permanent. No players just becomes foolish just like that. I want to look at the players we claim to be useless and need to be replaced. Starting with Cech, yes his form has been somewhat below par, but he still is a top goalkeeper. You can’t expect a goalie to perform miracles when you have a poor defense. Yes, there are some errors he made that led to goals but still just two seasons ago he was the best Goalie in the EPL, do you remember what we had then that we don’t have now? A CDM in Francis. Not the best in the world, but he also brought the best out of Ozil and Sanchez. we had a period where a combo of Mustafi and Koscielny didn’t lose a match in over 20 outings.
There has to be a factor behind their poor performance. Yes Mustafi isn’t the best defender in the world, but that guy is a world cup winner with Germany. You don’t get a world cup game with German if you are useless. What brought his best then? Again Francis, despite not being the best in the world.
Same applies to Ozil, before he came to arsenal he was racking up assists at Madrid, he won German player of the year 3 times even in the season he led the top assist player were the days he played with Santi and Francis.
Are we seeing a pattern here? It’s not also a coincidence that we haven’t been in top four the last two years because we had no Francis in the starting XI.
Yes I believe we need to strengthen, but our team is not as useless as it showed last season. Even Xhaka will come good if we got a top DM and a winger. Yes we need to buy a defender, maybe a goalie too, but not sure we need 200m to be back at the top.
What really keeps me smiling is the fact that top DMs are not that expensive, look at Kante, Jorginho, Fabiano, these players don’t cost more than 50m. But they make everyone around them better, its not a coincidence that Kante won the EPL with Leicester and Chelsea consecutively and Vardy and Mahrez performed better with him than without him, look at Vardy’s numbers now that they have Ndidi, he scored a massive 20 EPL goals last season.
I know Emery will improve these players, and install systems that are going to bring the best out of these players. I have read most of us here saying they are excited to face next season without Wenger, regardless of the transfers, how do you think the players feel? Yes new players also adds confidence But we just need to spend well at the right places. Not a complete overhaul.
Over to you guys, looking forward to your comments below.