Yesterday, one of our readers, Adam Kemp, wrote a long and detailed article about why Arsene Wenger is holding back Arsenal chances of success. This generated a lot of responses, and The Analyzer wrote a comment that was even more detailed than Adam Kemp’s article. He has asked me to post it as an article in its own right for discussion. So here it is……
To Mr. Adam Kemp: A Response by The Analyzer
First I would like to welcome you back from where ever you were hiding. I guess you were praying and fasting for all these years for this moment so that you would come out and say “I told you so five years ago”. Having said that I feel your post is palpably out of context and seriously lacking in perspective.
You mention how big Arsenal is based on its cash flows and brand valuation, without stating how that was achieved by making sacrifices on the field of play. Between 2006 and 2012 the club had to deal with losing its best players as it could not match the financial power of teams such as Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern, Man United, Chelsea, and Man City. Instead the club made such sacrifices to bring Arsenal closer to the big clubs in Europe so that you could claim in your article that Arsenal is as big as clubs it could not compete with between 2006 and 2012.
Without the astute management of the club by its executive team and Wenger’s capabilities on the field, Arsenal could easily have degenerated into another Leeds following the decision to build a new stadium. Give the Arsenal squads for the period 2006 to 2012 to any so called great manager and see if he would have achieved the following in the Champions League: 10 straight qualifications to group stages, 2 quarter finals finish, 1 semi final finish, and 1 runners-up finish.
You tried to draw parallels between the current team and the teams that Arsenal had between 1998 and 2005 by arguing that those teams would have dismantled Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiacos. How you are certain about this is beyond imagination. Incidentally the so called great teams of the period 1998-2005 achieved the following in the Champions League: 2 quarter finals finish, 1 round of 16 finish, 4 group stage eliminations, and 1 round one elimination. During the invincibles season, Arsenal achieved the following results in its first three games: Arsenal 0- 3 Inter Milan; Lokomotiv Moskva 0- 0 Arsenal; and Dynamo Kiev 2-1 Arsenal. Thus the team had 1 point after 3 games in a group where only Inter Milan could have been regarded as a force to reckon with. Yet this was Arsenal’s best group of players for ages.
You made the point that when Arsenal turn up we win games and when we do not we lose. I do not understand what point you are making here because this is pretty obvious. That is why we always caution against underestimating any team. Last night cannot be blamed on underestimating the opposition but on some players having awkward performances. These players include Ospina, Koscielny, Gabriel, and Bellerin. I have included the three defenders on this list because the corners that culminated into goals were down to poor communication between the defenders. First Koscielny and Gabriel went for the same ball thereby creating a dangerous situation which they only rescued by conceding a corner. That corner led to the first goal. Second Koscielny and Bellerin did not communicate well in clearing a harmless ball leading to Koscielny conceding a corner. That corner resulted in the second goal. Third, Ospina, a player who kept 14 clean sheets in 19 appearances last season made a schoolboy blunder in claiming a harmless ball leading to the second goal. Those were the moments Arsenal lost the game. I reiterate here that 2 goals are more than sufficient to win any game, particularly at home.
You try to bring in the lack of transfers into this argument, and how you think it has a bearing on the outcome last night is beyond me. The quality of Ospina as a keeper cannot be doubted. In fact fans here were calling for him to start when Petr Cech had an underwhelming start to his Arsenal career. Of our six defensive players on the field last night, only Gibbs could be regarded as a backup player. The other five were the dream starters of most Arsenal fans. By blaming lack of transfers are you saying Koscielny, Gabriel, Bellerin, Coquelin, and Ospina are not good enough to be first teamers at Arsenal?
Lastly, you decided to propagate Mourinho’s rubbish about Arsene’s supposed untouchable status at the club. First, neither you nor Mourinho have an idea about Arsene’s performance targets from the year he joined Arsenal to date. Your one dimensional perspective that a manager’s performance target must be to win things on the field and nothing more does not get support from realities of football management. When Alex Ferguson was appointed manager of Manchester United he went for six good seasons without winning the league (finishing: 11th, 2nd, 11th, 13th, 6th, and 2nd in those six seasons). On the cups front he was not doing better either, only winning the FA Cup in his 4th season in charge, European Cups Winners Cup (ECWC) in the 5th season, and League Cup and ECWC in the 6th season.
During those six seasons when he was an also-ran manager, Ferguson invested heavily in player acquisitions with no results to show for it. For instance in the 1987/88 season he made high profile signings that included: Steve Bruce, Viv Anderson, Brian McClair, and Jim Leighton. A season later he brought back Mark Hughes from Barcelona. He followed that with further high profile acquisitions that included: Neil Webb, Mike Phelan, Paul Ince, Garry Pallister, and Danny Wallace.
Why Ferguson kept his job with such poor on-field performances against the backdrop of huge investments in players must have beat the imagination of Adam Kemps, Mourinhos, and likeminded football followers of that time. As a matter of fact some Kempesque Manchester United fans wanted Ferguson fired in the 1989-90 season, when banners with the following message were commonplace at Manchester United games “Three years of excuses and it’s still crap … ta-ra Fergie”. Had the club management thought like you Adam Kemp and Mourinho, Ferguson would never have achieved what he went on to achieve. He would have been sacked when he was two seasons away from starting to produce on-field results that would transform Manchester United from being an average English club, into the second most successful club in English football.
The Ferguson case demonstrates that club administrators do not always have the same performance targets for their managers as fans and other outsiders have in their dreams. Club administrators have intimate knowledge about what the club can and cannot achieve in a particular period. As long as the manager’s performance is within the stated short term and long term performance targets then club administrators will not sack the manager whatever the outside world says. If Mourinho’s performance targets require him to win the league every season that does not mean the performance targets for Wenger must be similar to his. Chelsea and Arsenal are two different clubs in terms of resources, philosophies, and history.
Turning to Arsene’s case in retrospect, it is apparent that the club administrators wanted a manager that would transform Arsenal into a big club without upsetting the self sustaining business model. Prior to the arrival of Wenger, Arsenal was a club that always had limited spells of success followed by long spells of average performances. The longest spell of success was 11 years between 1929 and 1940. This was followed by another of seven years between 1947 and 1954, and another of seven years between 1986 and 1993. Such erratic flirting with success rarely made Arsenal a global brand.
The Wenger period saw a nine year period of success, which transformed Arsenal into a global brand, based on pitch performances. This was then followed by a period of austerity caused by building a new stadium to improve the club’s revenue streams. This period if not well managed could have easily transformed Arsenal into another Leeds United, however this did not happen, courtesy of Wenger’s capabilities as a manager on the field, and profound understanding of the club’s vision for the future. The period 2006-2013 saw Arsenal remain within top four in England, while in Europe it always went beyond the group stages. Everyone during that period predicted that Arsenal would implode. That the club consistently finished within the top four and went beyond the group stages of the Champions League, when no one expected them to was clear testament of how the team overachieved during that period. Rather than slate and belittle Arsene’s management during that period, one would expect you to give him credit for what he achieved with very little resources.
As from 2013 to date the club has been steadily adding big name players while retaining key players, something that could not happen during the period of austerity. Over the same period the club won back to back FA Cups and Community Shields. Only a pessimist or a person who is bitter about Arsenal and Arsene cannot see progress between 2013 and now. The same way such a person(s) could not have seen progress in Manchester United winning the FA Cup in the 1989/90 season, while finishing 13th in the league; winning ECWC, while finishing 6th in the 1990/91 season; and winning ECWC and League Cup, while finishing second in the 1991/92 season. If you insist on your claim that Arsene is untouchable, then I will say he earned the right to be untouchable.
(Tinashe Shamuyashe, The Analyzer)