Analysis – Why Arsenal fans have reasons to be optimistic at last

The biggest achievement is not our position in the league by AndersS

I admit it. I am more optimistic about Arsenal than for many years. Not so much because we are currently in top 4 or because Arteta is in charge. No, it is because I sense bigger things may lie ahead!

For the past 10-12 seasons, we haven’t really looked like potential winners of the Premier League.

Man City and Chelsea have dominated in winning titles.

I don’t think anybody believes City and Chelsea would have done it without the major investments from their respective owners. It must be fairly obvious, it is possible to “buy” your way from “middle of the pack” to the top if you are rich enough. However, it is not guaranteed. If we look at Man Utd, their spending on players have been well up there with City in the same period, but with a lot less success to show for it.

If we look at ourselves, we have in fact also spent quite a lot, also in the past 8-10 years before this season, and definitely more than Spurs and Liverpool. Yet, both clubs have managed to surpass us in the league in several seasons in a row.

Especially Liverpool have shown that, with the right moves, you can compete with the likes of Chelsea and Man City and become winners, despite spending a lot less. We have not shown the same ability in the league for many years.

I have my own theory on why this is. In the short version, it basically is, we (meaning the management and the owners) overlooked that we, from around 2008-10, no longer had a manager who was in a different class from as good as every other manager in the league, except Sir Alex. In the first half of his tenure, Wenger had training methods, tactics and a vision, which could leave the traditional British managers and “kick and rush football” standing on the platform when the train left. Many not knowing what had hit them.

Wenger did all this without spending more on players than our competitors did. But it could only last until many had woken up, and new methods again had clubs like Spurs and Liverpool moving at a faster pace than ourselves.

Eventually we not only got caught, but we were also surpassed by Spurs and Liverpool, and Liverpool has basically left us standing on the platform without a plan for what to do.

They hired a manager with a playing style not seen before in the Premier League. He also had a plan, and most importantly, the club has seemingly been behind him all the way. I am not sure the fans have been. In the process, the club twice has sold their arguably best player at the time. First Suarez, then Coutinho. I am sure many Liverpool fans were upset both times, and just imagine, if something similar happens at Arsenal. I am sure, we would see fans claiming decisions like that would be because of our owner’s presumed greed and his lack of care for Arsenal. Both claims often seen here on Just Arsenal. Personally, I find them somewhat simplistic. Kroenke has allowed plenty of spending over the years, and as mentioned, more than Liverpool. So, greed has not resulted in Kroenke taking money out of Arsenal, handicapping us in relation to Liverpool. If anything, I think Kroenke can be criticized for not seeing that we were slowly being overtaken by clubs, who had a better plan and possibly a better manager, than we had at the time. Whether that was lack of care for Arsenal, or simply too much confidence in a manager, who in the earlier part of his tenure was head and shoulders above nearly every other manager, I don’t know.

Once we dropped out of top 4, I think we still hadn’t realized the situation. Wenger was backed to immediately “rectify” things, and I suspect both he and Kroenke had the belief it would happen. When it didn’t, confidence in Wenger had dropped so much, he had to be replaced. But I believe, we still hadn’t quite come to terms with the “power shift” in the league. Emery was given the task to bring us back into top 4, more or less straight away. Not until it was apparent he wasn’t going to succeed, did it really sink in, we could probably not straight away catch up with teams, who for a number of years had been improving at a faster pace than us.

A longer term and more comprehensive plan was needed. It would not be a plan to hope to become the 3rd club after City and Chelsea to get an owner who could buy us back into contention. Some may hope for it, I don’t, but either way it cannot be a plan to rely on, as it is basically out of our control. We needed a more realistic plan.

It seems to me, Arteta, the management and the owner have been on the same page in devising a promising plan. Most notably shown in our transfers. Money has been invested in young and very promising players, who can blend well together, and who seem to be “all in” on the project.

Many questioned our summer transfers. Why not spend the money on a couple of established stars, instead of several young players, where none of them were thought to make a huge difference alone? A very relevant question at the time, I would say. Now it looks like a very clever decision indeed. 

I will also go so far as to say, that although the Auba situation clearly wasn’t one that was planned, I do think, once it had come to the stage it did, from a strategic point of view, it made sense to let him go and not to rush into buying any new CF, who maybe could or maybe couldn’t help us short term. Decisions, I think have been taken in unison by Arteta, the management and the owner.

This is the main reason for my optimism. We seem to finally have a plan, which, if it succeeds, not only will turn us into title contenders sometime soon, but also will make us title contenders for a number of years, as our core players are very young. Whether Arteta can take us all the way is, of course, much too early to say. The beautiful thing is, if the plan is strong enough and many are behind it, it doesn’t rely on one person alone. Nor does it, in my opinion, rely on us finishing in top 4 this season. It will be a help if we do, and it is great to see how we are doing at the moment.

But I think that , no matter what, there is reason to be optimistic, because we have a promising plan which the whole organization is behind.

Maybe nearly all fans are as well?

kind regards

Anders S

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Arteta discusses the Leicester win, Thomas Partey, Odegaard, and the race for Top Four

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  1. If we win on Wednesday, it would be massive, massive statement for the top 4 challenge. Not only would it give us a huge advantage over United/Spurs, but would make a statement that we are ready for UCL football.

    However, seeing how strong Pool are, even a draw would be fantastic result. Let’s not forget Spurs and United also have Pool to play, away at Anfield.

  2. Spending is only 1 aspect, look at Everton for example and they have spent a ton.

    Once you have a good squad it just needs to be maintained properly. We are almost there, we are just short on cover which we’ll hopefully address in the next window. Then we just need to sign at the right time and sell at the right time which has always been our weakness. 1 good player and 1-2 fringe players a season is then all that’s needed to be signed every year if contracts are managed correctly.

  3. Kroenke couldn’t implement his own vision when he had to make the decisions with the other investors and board members. He has full control now, so let’s give him another five years to realize his plan

    Remember, FSG needed nine years before winning their first major trophy with Liverpool. We shouldn’t compare Kroenke with Sheikh Mansoor, Abramovich, the Saudi royal family and the other oligarchs

    1. Lets not forget Kroenke has made money available. We were the highest spending club last summer even though we weren’t even in the European competitions!

      No doubt money will be available this summer too, especially with the CL qualification.

      1. Yes, a CL ticket would most likely give Arteta more budget to bring in new players. Too bad Vlahovic rejected us

  4. The difference is now we have an honest manager not an stubborn arrogant liar. Honesty and discipline are the foundations on which great organisations are built. Mikel turned things around the day he banished Ozil and while every naysayer wanted him gone, thankfully the owners knew he was honest and disciplined and had faith in him, the rest is history. This is the Arsenal, founded in 1886, not in 1996. Imagine how low we reached when Troy Deeney passed a casual comment on our mentality! Good all the fat is trimmed for good, we have a good dedicated band of players, whether we achieve top 4 or not, we are better on and off the pitch. Thank you Mikel.

  5. I really enjoyed reading your article, Anders. The plan you mentioned must have been sanctioned since getting the club back to at least being in contention required a degree of time, patience and not relying on knee jerk reactions. I suspect there were conversations about Arteta being the man to take the club forward as 2 seasons being the nearly team tested all our resolve, but neither were the few years before Arteta anything to sing about either.
    Yes, ManU have shown that chucking money at something isn’t always the answer and PSG with megastars haven’t won the CL so being a serial winner is more complex.
    I’m really pleased that Arteta is growing into his role. I had confidence in him, although I did wonder if I was barking up the wrong tree at times as it has been sluggish progress. If this plan carries on working the way it has been heading in recent months then Arteta and the team around and above him deserve enormous credit

  6. You say “league position is not the reason to be optimistic” yet is it not coincidental that your plea for optimism just happens to be when we are in our best league position for 5 years? I did not see you expressing optimism when we went 0-3 in August? I was optimistic (admittedly the only one) and could clearly see the direction we were going (again the only one). After Graham’s two titles and Wenger’s 3 titles Arsenal fans became incredibly entitled, arrogant and short sighted. Only winning the league was good enough so the Arsenal fans “endured” 14 years of top 4 “misery”. Serial winners like Ferguson Mourinho and Guadiola were dismissed as fake and their happy fans as plastic. Emery failed terribly by only getting 5th and losing the EL final so was dismissed as useless. It took two catastrophic 8th placed finishes and for Arsenal to hit rock bottom for the Arsenal fan base to lose the bizarre we are a top team entitlement mentality. Expectations have been reset so that now top 4 is seen to be a success something to be proud of. As for a clear pathway well we had a clear pathway under Wenger. 14 years of top 4 under the sustainable model but the fans rejected that as a failure!!! For now the fans are saying top 4 is great. But if we finish 5th next season will they turn on the failure Manager again? Probably. Expectations drive perception. So for me top 6 will always be a success. Top 4 perhaps once every 3 years would be great. The title perhaps once every ten years. Even if we never win the title again and finish mid table I will still enjoy following the club.
    If you have unrealistic expectations you will spend most of your time whinging and moaning and for some fans thas is exactly what they enjoy most about following football. As the saying doesn’t go “There’s nowt so queer as folk, except for me and thee” 🙂

    1. Fairfan, I am saying the league position is not the main reason, why I am optimistic.
      The main reason is, I think, no matter if we finish 6’th ( I don’t think we will finish lower), I now see, there is a real and promising plan to, what we are doing.
      I readily admit, I didn’t acknowledge it early in the season, and at the time, I think, you were one the relatively few, who did. So, well done!

      1. @Anders S. You have been consistently hopeful and reasonable with your comments for Arsenal which I respect you for. As you say there are thousands of different expectations. None are wrong just different.

    2. fairfan, I much like your piece, and especially about fan expectations being too demanding.
      Though I do personally, even so, crave and even expect- given the healthy direction our club is now showing – a better future series of finishing positions than you do.

      You are the polar opposite to those who rant about top place or extremely close, being their entitlement and both views are, IMO, somewhat short on reality. Top six alone is not a success, as least not if 6th place is ALL we ever get, season in, season out.

      As a club of our worldwide standing, I think we can expect to be around the top echelon of the Prem, MOST seasons. What exactly constitutes an “echelon” though, is a moot point!

  7. BRAVO AND WONDERFULLY WELL SPOKEN ANDERS! What a joy is is to read , among thr droos of many article son here, a properly thought out first (as in before writing , not after!!)and astute analysis of wher eqe are going under the present set up. Speaking as one of thre more consistent JA constant critics of thre Kroenke ownership, I do take Anders point about the recent spending by KroenkeSnr and I also agree with- and would choose to also STRESS, as far more relevant than does Anders, the long term neglect by Stan compared to , hopefully, Josh.

    I admit to being a little more optimistic about Josh than perhaps he has yet earned but fanhood MUST be about hope . Or we have little else to sustain us through the bad times.
    But most of all and where this excellent article truly hits the spot, is Anders clear recognition of the wider picture that underpins all successful teams. The daily JA rants against MA are steadily disappearing as each day passes, as at least an element of reality dawns on “even the late to see things changing” fans.

    Liverpool, in stark contrast to City and Chelsea over the last few years has spent less than we have but have spent and bought so very wisely, getting top dollar from sales and shrewdly recognising top class incoming players before they hit their peak.

    Liverpool are an incredibly well run club with a strong fan connection and, for those reasons, I personally would love to see such a non oligarch and non state controlled club take the title this season. Esp when you compare the creature who owns City! Ugh! Not for me!
    As for NEXT season, I will not be supporting Liverpool though, as I have ANOTHER team, which I “quite like” and on which I spend countless hours worrying and writing about.
    We Gooners are going places my friends !!!

    1. Thank you.
      Like you, when we can’t win it, I would also prefer it to be by a club owned and run in fashion similar to Arsenal. That gives us hope and a good yardstick to measure our progress.
      Also, like you, I wouldn’t like us to have owners like the ones, we are seeing at City, Chelsea and now Newcastle. No matter how many titles, they potentially could buy us.

  8. Anders. I thank you for a well researched, analysed and written article. It is a very realistic assessment of our situation unlike what some utopians write. I have always argued that the problem of the club was not lack of investment but how the money was being spent. You don’t need to outcompete Chelsea and Man City in money to beat them on the pitch. Alex Ferguson did it for a number of years. What is needed is players with a focus, determination and unrelenting spirit. There is nothing special with these clubs. Arteta, being a new mananager might still be nervous but he is showing positive signs.

    1. I thank you.
      Interesting you mention Ferguson and players with a focus, determination and spirit. I also think that was his strength. To create a team with those strengths, rather than a team of 11 individual and skillful top players. Arteta looks like he is trying to do the same, and it means some stars don’t fit into the plan, despite their status.
      Maybe he can do it.

  9. Thank you for a nice read, AndersS. I must say that I am on the same page with regards to optimism as you, that maybe we would go on for something bigger. I would also go so far as to say that I have not been as optimistic since the 2014 season, when we signed both Ozil and Sanchez in consecutive windows. I felt the next year we will surely have a go at the PL title, but the challenge fizzled out. I think that was the last straw for Le Prof, when he saw Leicester pipped us for the title and all he needed was a striker to share the goal-scoring load, but Arsenal only got Cech. We still won FA Cups but after the 2015-16 season, it was hard to be optimistic. It seemed that Le Prof was not the same miracle maker that I had seen and considering I started supporting in 2010 I cant even begin to imagine the disappointment of older fans those who saw the double winning teams as well as the invincibles.
    Regarding the current situation, surely most fans are still on the fence with MA, because we have seen promising bursts of form from Arsenal before falling apart. The only reason I am more optimistic is because of the timing. Currently, the only club who have a capable and young side are Chelsea who might be sanctioned to hell for all we know, both Mancity and Liverpool stars are getting older and ManU have been dysfunctional since SAF went away, taking with him the coveted Fergie time they so needed to win many titles. Spurs still have Kane and Son, and a few promising players but no one else, and without Conte would not achieve anything. And that is key here. I think Conte might not stay next season if investment is not allowed, and my Spurs supporting friend agrees as well.
    But curiously, that is not the case with Arsenal. First of all, we dont have any key player bar Lacazette and Partey as people we might call old. The rest being at most 25-26 years of age. Secondly, the brand of football MA wishes to play, I think is scalable. Le Prof’s brand was unique and we all knew when he left the next manager would have a gigantic task of making the players unlearn the style thaat made Arsenal so famous in the first place. But that is not the case with MA, who even if he leaves for some reason, will leave a well settled squad for the next manager to come in. Thirdly, some of the players we have playing for us have genuine performer aura about them (I am not yet saying star because who knows lol). They seem to be reliable performers who can play almost every match upto expectations. The only possible problem we may have is owner related, with Mr. Kroenke possibly in hot water for moving the Rams out of St. Louis. And that is a big worry, but atleast for this season I am optimistic. Even though I am still a fence sitter regarding MA, I guess shifting a little towards the In camp wont hurt currently.

    1. Sid, It seems the truthful winds of change are steadily blowing you off that “fence” and into the right side of how wiser fans think.

      1. Tbh yeah, Jon. I like what I see from Arsenal currently, and I anticipate good things next season. Now we have been consistently performing for a while now (11 or so PL games) let’s hope the boys play well at home to Liverpool. I certainly will be pleased to see the kind of Man CIty performance, even if we lose. But I just hope that kind of performance doesnt take more out of us like it did after ManCity.

    2. @Sid
      Thank you for taking the time to make a well considered comment. It seems we agree on most things. It is interesting you say you haven’t been as optimistic since the 2014 season.
      Our current 51 points for 26 games is actually the most since the 2013/14 season 😉

  10. What Arsenal are doing with Arteta (modern day manager), the transfers, the trimming down of the squad has been exceptional. Now Arsenal have a foundation to build from (a good young team) 3 more signings this coming window and we solidify our stay in the top 4.

  11. We’re playing one match a week with a skeleton crew and doing decent. I feel we should be higher up the table.
    If we secure European football next season, that with the other cup competitions is going to put a strain on the squad. We should have had replacements for the departed players already in the team gelling and getting acclimated to the league.
    Next season will be the true test of where we stand.
    I’ll hold all praise and or judgment till then…IJS

    1. NY-Gunner, What is the reason you put IJS at the end of most of your posts? I know what it means, “I’m just saying”, which is itself meaningless, as no one ever thinks you are doing anything else except”just saying”.

      All posts by all fans are also “just saying” too, rendering your own IJS as completely pointless . Serious question then , WHY?

      1. for the se reason you are just saying saying what you just said about him saying what he said.

        IJS IMHO


        just for you Jon

  12. Anders, although there’s reason for optimism, as our current League position and youthful squad would attest, I think it’s important to note that our current management team didn’t come with a clear, singular vision, which is why some fans, like myself, might need more time to be fully convinced

    as we’ve come to understand, through the tireless efforts and singular focus of Klopp at Pool, there’s clearly more than one way to skin a cat…of course, his path to success required him to make big name sacrifices early on in order to achieve clearly-defined long-term objectives, whereas our path saw us conversely make counter-intuitive big money financial commitments from the offing, to players like Willian and Auba, which proved unwise, especially if the “process” was not simply a last ditch attempt to salvage a fledgling managerial debut

    when Pool sold Suarez and Coutinho, they used these moves to bankroll their “process”, by keenly identifying their most pressing needs then targeting those players who could help them to best achieve their desired ends…at the same time, process-wise, we were paying through the nose to rid ourselves of players, some of whom were inherited and some self-inflicted, which meant that the only viable means of moving forward, without considerable financial backing, would have been to pursue a more youth-oriented initiative

    of course, MA was fortuitously supplied with a couple significant lifelines, which were neither sufficiently earned nor ingeniously planned, like the emergence of players like ESR and Marts, whom he didn’t seem to rate that highly, and the fact that the club offered up a previously unseen kitty, even though there was little evidence to suggest that this was a warranted move

    now some of the pieces acquired have looked the part thus far, albeit it’s still early days sample size wise, but even the most optimistic of fans wouldn’t equate White to VVD or Ode/Lokonga/Nuno/Tomi/Ramsdale to Salah/Mane/Allison, from a future impact perspective…of course, if we do earn a CL invite and considerable funds are made available, maybe this impact gap can be properly or at least partially addressed with some off-season acquisitions

    that said, we simply can’t afford to get this wrong, especially knowing that we’ve allowed a handful or so of players to run their respective contracts down again, which means even less monies being accumulated in our coffers for future purchases…so if we fail to secure a viable Striker and properly redress our midfield deficiencies, there could be serious problems ahead, as this would likely require us to sell-off some of our most promising youthful assets in order to functionally balance the books…from a “process” perspective this would be a move of dumpster fire proportions, unless it was just one player who could be replaced by an academy graduate or the like

    so all I would say is let’s not get too mesmerized by the “starry eyed” phase of the “rebuild” process, as there’s still a long way to go…that said, the silver lining of our particular set of circumstances is that even if things go sideways between now and season’s end, which I truly hope isn’t the case, we do have decent contractual control over some of our most viable assets, so picking up the pieces could be a more palatable proposition for any future administrative/managerial team…hopefully, this won’t be a required option

    1. TRVL4
      Thank you for your comment. I agree with a lot of what you say.
      I would like to add, that I also think there is a long way to go yet. But I am more optimistic than for many years, because there actually seem to have been a realization, that we need a more comprehensive plan to get back into contention, and I do see that plan is taking shape. Whether, we can stick to the plan and make it succeed remains to be seen.
      Any journey starts with the first step….

      1. I agree in part with your sentiments regarding the newfound optimistic uptick, as the last time I felt positive whatsoever about our club was at the end of 2014-15 season, when I was convinced that we would make a bona fide push for the title by upgrading our Striker options, only to be disappointed by our half-measure pursuits

        of course, the circumstances are vastly different in that the aforementioned squad was constructed for the purposes of much more immediate potential success, whereas this one’s far more about our future prospects…regardless of these fundamental differences,, we desperately need to both secure a CL spot and resist the temptation to rest on our laurels come the summer window

        as of right now, we don’t have the required guile up top or the midfield steeliness to compete with the best at home or abroad, so it’s absolutely imperative that we redress these obvious deficiencies sooner rather than later, which is why it worries me so when I hear talk about retaining Xhaka and/or re-upping Laca/Eddie…hopefully we will finally heed the lessons of the past and opt for a vastly different path moving forward

    2. TRVL, your grudging post shows in stark reality how some fans are always the LAST to see anything, MEANING YOU! And those tiny few who still agree with you!

      Most have now seen the light. Will you EVER see it, I wonder?

      1. so you saw the light when Arteta brought in Willan, gave Auba a mega deal and gave Ozil a fresh start?

  13. This is a master peice of article crafted by Andrrs, and administered by Pat,
    Can see the writer must have been a veteran in the arena, You’re right mate, it’s not solely because of our league position why I am optimistic and by extension my family.

    Its awesomely clear what the gaffer wants to achieve, it’s even clearer those in the background is on board 110% with the process even when I had my doubts.
    Now that’s a next thing am impress about too, it’s just like our way of playing from the back most of us didn’t realize how effective such a strategy was but as the chips begin to fall in place, we suddenly become impressed, just like the process now in progress at coloney park.

    Its refreshing reading this article, after all the fan fare and critics, am a massive supporter of Wenger, but should never allow to suffer so long after losing his mojo, I still have sleepless night after that 8 – 3 mauling at united the selling of Van Persie after playing a season fit the first time for us.

    We should have move him on somewhere upstairs long time ago while we change with time. Am optimistic mate not because of currently sitting fourth, but more because of the direction the train is going and if you look carefully a large contingent of Jamaicans in the front seat .

    1. Gunsmoke, thank you for your comments. I totally agree about Wenger. He should have been offered to a role upstairs, maybe 10 years ago. I think it would have been better both for Arsenal and for his legacy.

  14. All I can say is, thank goodness the majority didn’t pay attention to those “Arteta out” so called fans!

    I’m not going to pretend I knew Arteta was going to be success – no one could, but at least some of us knew that it would take time to clean up the absolute mess that Arteta inherited. Arteta out fans expected results and performances from day one, which was ridiculous!

    I love the fact that Arteta looked at the club’s problems in their entirety, and not just what was happening on the pitch.

    1. this is why it’s so infuriating to try and have a rational conversation with the Arteta Knows Best crew…you act as if MA had a clearly defined vision from day one, yet he was the exact same individual who deviated from the “process” as soon as he got a sniff…following his first half-season, he convinced Auba to re-up for a ridiculous wage, then did likewise with Willian, to the actual detriment of those whom are now the centerpiece figures of the process 2.0….he chose a “retool” over the “rebuild”, then when things went sideways he conveniently resurrected the whole youth movement narrative…as such, things could be farther along now if he had actually started to clean up the “inherited” mess right out of the blocks and actually looked at the “club’s problems in their entirety”…if he wasn’t given a new lease on life, which included the rise of players like ESR and Marts, whom he didn’t appear to rate very highly, and an unheard of transfer kitty, we could have been in a rather similar pickle had he been relieved of his duties at the end of last season…so whereas your comments appear logical, especially since you added the whole “I’m not going to pretend” nonsense, they’re not based in reality

      1. Trust the process didn’t specify on “re-tool or re-build”, it simply means trust my actions.
        With regards to Aubameyang, as at that time everyone wanted Arsenal to keep him as he was hot on the scoring charts so I don’t see that as a mistake by Arteta. If he hadn’t tied him down to a new contract, you guys would still be bashing him of not been able to keeps his star man.
        Willian move wasn’t perfect I’m the aspect that he needed an experience winger/Attacking midfielder that would shoulder a lot of burden away from the young guys and allow them come into the team and play freely without much pressure. It didn’t work and both parties agreed on separation.
        If we can accept on this life that no one is perfect then we can move forward in life. According to Wenger it’s not about you losing a game, it’s about your reaction on the next match that determines if you are good to hold on, acording to most fans here Arteta made mistakes but frankly he didn’t dwell on those mistakes and he has moved on, so we should move on too.

  15. The fact of the matter is Klopp has shown by his methods, tactics, playing philosophy and logic that with less spending, a Club can achieve great success, conquer the League and Europe. But many times I feel Liverpool players go unpunished for their hard and heavy tackling, clear diving and the lot. Maybe they have the rub of the green. Anyway, I feel arteta is on the right path and may it long continue. Arsenal is bound to be successful and go back to where it belongs, the signs are looking great. we have a young and passionate squad, willing to play well for the Club and the Manager and the team has now a set standard and style of play.

  16. For some reasons aforementioned in the article, success ‘might’ return sooner.
    Now we seem to know how to manage small teams, we will find a way around the big ones too.
    Just some calmness and better concentration against the big sides; Arsenal could be joy again.

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