Arsene Wenger and the promised land

The fans are in the stands chanting, holding up signs, demanding that the manager go. The press monkeys are howling at Arsenal’s transfer dealings. Former players are asking why players don’t want to join Arsenal and are now openly questioning the boss’ managerial style and transfer history. Arsenal are beset on all sides, walled up in the castle they built for themselves.

I spent the first five years of this blog writing passionate defenses of Arsene Wenger and the Arsenal transfer policy. I was one of the very first of the “positive Gooners”: people who defended Wenger and his record. We can’t buy expensive players because we don’t have the money, I would say, Wenger is building a team instead of buying one, Wenger gives young players like Fabregas a chance, Wenger is keeping Arsenal in the top four, getting kicked out of the top four would be a relegation, the referees are biased against Arsenal, the media are biased against Arsenal, we don’t need a sugar daddy, Wenger has a grand plan, he is building the stadium for us and when it is built we will be swimming in the money.

And I am stunned at the audacity of such a plan. If I went into the offices of John Henry, you know “Mr. Sabermetrics” from Liverpool, and said “John, I’m going to build you a new 60,000 seat arena, while operating the team on a shoestring transfer budget, by mostly building up young players, and I’m going to keep the team in the top four for a decade.” He would have laughed and asked me what I was smoking.

Big clubs just don’t do what Arsenal did. They do what Liverpool has done since 2006: bought and sold hundreds of players, sacked four managers, and changed ownership, all while sitting in their antiquated stadium and talking about their grand plans to renovate or stadium share with Everton. And big clubs like Liverpool have won just one League Cup and played in the Champions League just a handful of times since 2006.

So, where does all of this Arsenal teen angst come from? Why are fans spending their time and money to take signs to the games that say “enough is enough, time to go”? They are doing this because we are not getting what we were promised. In a sense, this is the Arsenal of their own making.

What we were promised was that if we could just all stay calm during the lean years, we would have a stadium that would provide us with the financial firepower to buy the big name players. It was a simple message, something to get behind.

And we did see big name players start to come in: the day Mesut Özil signed for Arsenal was a watershed. Özil was one of the first players I had ever identified with stats as a top class player back when he was playing in the Bundesliga. When he moved to Real Madrid, I was disappointed because we didn’t have the clout and money to sign him. And when he signed for Arsenal, I was so happy that it was like someone had opened the Arc of the Covenant and melted my face off. Except.. I’m not a Nazi. I think that anology sucks but I’m keeping it there because I don’t have an editor.

And then came Alexis and Wenger also started spending bigger on component players like Chambers and Welbeck and Debuchy. Arsenal were spending the money!

But along the way, there were weird blips. The day that I realized Luis Suarez wasn’t going to come to Arsenal was a low point. When Arsenal were rebuffed by Gustavo, so he could move to Wolfsburg, left me scratching my head. And the day that the summer transfer window closed and Arsenal’s only business was to buy Petr Cech was the moment that I realized something was wrong with the promises that were made.

What happened with Arsenal’s wasn’t just one thing, it was a combination of things. The first is that the League changed radically when Man City came in. Having one sugar-daddy club plus Man U to battle is one thing, but to suddenly face two sugar-daddy clubs and Man U meant grave changes in the transfer market and in terms of player salaries.

Meanwhile, Arsenal didn’t really make it to the transfer promised land on their own. We haven’t paid off the stadium. Our new found wealth is pretty much the same new found wealth that every team in England enjoys, albeit Arsenal are richer than most and still one of the top 10 richest clubs in Europe.

But the huge revenue increases from the television contracts both domestic and foreign didn’t actually make Arsenal richer, it just seems to have further inflated transfer prices and salaries. As if to illustrate that crazy inflation Arsenal are facing, as of today Valencia are quoting £50m to Arsenal for a center back. Arsenal spent £40m three years ago on buying the best playmaker in Europe. I shudder to think what Özil would cost Arsenal now or what a striker would cost Arsenal these days.

But even to that inflation there is a catch: Arsenal have £200m in the bank. That cash reserve, £100m of which is available to spend on players, is the single largest brickbat which fans use to beat up on Arsene Wenger. It is the promised land, the mana from heaven. Even if he spends all £100m, Arsenal are in no danger of not being able to “pay our 600 employees” which was the weird excuse that Arsene himself put out there for not buying players.

So, why isn’t Arsene spending? The answer is three-fold.

The first is that Wenger is picky about players. He has a certain personality profile that he likes working with. He demands that his players give 100% on the traning ground and he demands technical excellence. He also likes his men to be clean-cut off the pitch.

Wenger is also notorious for having his own valuations of players. He put up with Bendtner when Arsenal were poor but he’s not going to pay £30m to get some party guy in the door. It’s one thing to buy Denilson for £100k and try to develop him into a defensive midfielder and a totally different thing to spend £75m on Lukaku and try to develop his touch.

Fans wonder why Walcott is still at the club but Walcott ticks all of Wenger’s boxes. He is a good guy, he works his socks off in training, he wants to improve himself, and he is probably one of the cheapest forwards Wenger could possibly buy, owning to the fact that his transfer fee was paid off a decade ago. His movement is intelligent, but his touch is frustrating and he’s never going to be a ruthless striker but in every other way he’s perfect for Arsene.

When Wenger is out looking for players, when he says that he is having a hard time finding players as he has said this week, when he says give me a list of names, this is really what he means: give me a list of names of players with exellent technical qualities, who work hard in training, keep their noses clean off the field, and who either aren’t going to cost me all of my transfer money or who are complete on the pitch. As I have said before the reason Wenger is so cautious in the market is because he is like Goldilocks and if he pays huge they have to be just perfect, like Özil and Alexis.

The third thing, however, is a little hard for Wenger and I think for the fans to swallow. Players are starting to reject Arsenal. The Gustavo rejection was the shot across the bow. A decent defensive midfielder, with an edge but who can passs the ball and is technically proficient, rejected the chance to move to Arsenal and chose instead to stay in Germany. That move can be excused by some Arsenal supporters who can say “are you 100% sure that Arsenal were in for him?”

Gustavo wasn’t alone in rejecting Arsenal. Schneiderlin turned Arsenal down. Iheanacho turned Arsenal down. And there have been a number of players whose managers or whose agents have blocked from moving to Arsenal. Of course, people will say that we can’t be 100% sure that all of that isn’t just agent talk.

Fine, then what about Vardy? There is no denying that Vardy* rejected Arsenal. Arsenal activated Vardy’s release clause and then Vardy dicked around and drew out the transfer for a few weeks and then signed a new deal with Leicester City. Leicester may be the title holders but they are a tiny club who will be back in a relegation fight before the end of Vardy’s contract, that I guarantee. This fact that Vardy rejected Arsenal prompted an apoplectic response from Thierry Henry “when Vardy turned down Arsenal, I was like… REALLY?”

We don’t know how often these rejections are happening but even one of them, and one so public, signals problems with the perception of Arsenal as a destination. Arsenal are having trouble attracting top talent. We are not seen as a club with a real chance to win the Champions League and in the absence of that type of glory the only thing that remains is paying massive salaries and fees to land the world’s best players. Arsenal are never going to be that club. So, we are not getting in the top talent unless, like Özil and Sanchez, their clubs no longer want them.

And thus, Arsenal have trouble building the squad and the fans are frustrated because we see that we have the money and yet we are not seeing the players come in. They promised us top quality players in the lean times and instead we are getting rejected by Vardy. Wenger got us to the promised land, but like Moses, I think he can take us no further.

Qq

*I will add more about Vardy in the comments.

75 Comments on Arsene Wenger and the promised land

  1. Wenger going after Vardy is a bit of a strange one. I think Vardy ticks almost none of the boxes I expect for a Wenger signing: he has been caught racially abusing a man in a casino, he’s not at all the straight-laced kid that we see Wenger normally go for, and he’s not really a technically proficient striker. He was sort of cheap, though even that is debatable: £20m for a 29-year-old player who has only had one good season and who would have been on the books for four years at £8m a season salary and who would probably have little resell value doesn’t seem like a bargain.

    So, I wonder if the Vardy bid wasn’t a bit of Wenger seeing what’s available in the market and sort of putting aside a lot of his values (clean cut, etc) in order to just land a player?

    It also makes me wonder if he won’t do that again, we are pretty desperate right now.

    • 28 million is still very less than going for Lukaku/Higuain which would cost in excess of 75 mn. That’s is the largest tick box on our checklist.
      His Plan B was Lacazette who he thought would be 35 million. Wish Wenger was a bit more pragmatic and paid the asking price for the Lyon man. If he can come down on all his other principles in case of Vardy, why can’t he relax this.

      • Agreed. Again, it’s probably now too late to get Lacazette for anything less than very silly money (and even then they might just flat out reject it), but a month or more ago if we had offered 40-45 million pounds (after they knocked back our initial, low-ball offer) I think he would have been ours, or at least Lyon would have had to seriously think about it and Lacazette’s people could have put a lot of pressure on them to accept it. Given the market, I can’t understand the fans on multiple blogs who say they think that kind of money for Lacazette would have been silly (have they SEEN Theo play?!!! we’re desperate!!), but the sad fact is that at this late point we really are in silly prices territory, e.g. the quoted Mustafi price.

  2. Hi Tim, I’ve only recently started reading your blog regularly and I have to say in general the quality is very high and this piece in particular is excellent. I’m going to send the link to friends. Keep up the good work!
    A couple of questions/comments:
    1. Apologies if you’ve covered this on your blog before, but what’s the evidence that Schneiderlin turned us down? My impression was always that he wanted to come to us, and we had been interested in him, but when Coquelin emerged Wenger decided Schneiderlin wasn’t worth the money he would have cost and we never went in with a big bid, paving the way for United. Was it something to do with his agents?
    2. Speaking of which, I think reality is slightly more complicated re the point about players not wanting to join us. First of all, I think players like Mahrez and Lacazette would totally jump at the chance to join us provided we showed real intent to sign them and pay them well. All this bollocks from the papers about this or that player “snubbing” us is clearly the gutter press just delighting in kicking us while we’re down. But the fact is that we haven’t offered their clubs enough money for them, so they haven’t had the chance to sign with us. Second, surely there’s a difference between a player not wanting to come to us and a player’s AGENT not wanting to do business with us. And my impression is it’s much more often the latter than the former. E.g. I think Raiola is a douche bag and that’s why we had no chance to sign Mikki this summer, even though it seems we were definitely keen (not saying he would ultimately have chosen us over United, just that on his own he might have considered it). But that raises further questions for me: why do so many agents seem to hate us? Is it just because we’re not willing to pay huge, sketchy agent’s fees? And why do agents seem to have so much control over the choices of their clients??? Are these players like adolescents who can’t think for themselves???

    Thanks.

    • The Schneiderlin story actually covers both of your questions:

      Yes, Arsenal were absolutely after him. There was a ton of bookmaker movement on him joining Arsenal and bookies went crazy in slashing his price after the rumors leaked that he wanted to join.

      Agents basically control these player’s lives. Players are often uneducated and rely on their agents to help guide their careers. This is certainly the case with Schneiderlin whose agents were the same agents as Gervinho. The way Arsenal treated Gervinho was a major factor in the agents suggesting to Schneiderlin that he shouldn’t sign with Arsenal.

      I’d be interested to know how the player feels about that decision now.

  3. You were crushed when Suarez didn’t sign? Maybe I’m wrong, but I remember you using stats to lead the charge against his signing. Your favorite word that summer was “profligate.” Am I remembering this wrong?

    • “Crushed”? No. I said it was a low point. It was a low point because we couldn’t even convince Luis Suarez to join us and were dicked around by him, his people, and Liverpool. Not only that but we lost out on Higuain, who was the much better option for us (who wouldn’t kill to have Higuain at the club right now?) and who fit our playing style.

      We were humiliated, publicly.

      That was a pretty low point.

  4. 3. One last thing. Surely it can’t be the case that inflated transfer/wage demands for English clubs means that the extra wealth from TV money is making no difference to our overall spending power?! For example, assuming that report about Valencia wanting 50 million for Mustafi is accurate, I can’t imagine they would be demanding that much if we had gone in with a big bid, say around 30 million, two months ago, or even the day after Per got injured. No doubt part of the reason that clubs are quoting insanely high transfer fees for their players now is that there’s one week left in the window, and clubs are incredibly hesitant to lose their best players now without time to sign replacements. And for this, we have only our dithering selves to blame, right?

    • “Dithering”… Arsenal found out Mertesacker was injured on the 26th of August. By the 29th of August, there were reports that Arsenal had bid on Mustafi. That’s hardly dithering.

      The question you’re posing is one that is impossible to answer. If we had bid £30m instead of £20m, who is to say that Valencia wouldn’t just say “give us £40m”? Then we are right back where we started.

      What Arsenal maybe should have done is given Valencia £30m when they countered. If that’s what happened, but like with all things, we don’t know what happened. They could have come back with “pay the full release” which is what they are saying now. The full release is Euros 50M.

    • It’s hard to estimate the net effect, but I’d say it was probably overall a negative for us. What really matters isn’t total budget, so much as total budget compared to everyone else. The TV money has inflated every premier league team’s turn over to the point where our stadium revenue isn’t that decisive any more, and that sexy big cash balance is suddenly rendered somewhat anaemic. We’ve also got an historically high wage bill, so less room for going nuts on player wages. Right now distinctly average players command big 7 figure fees and clubs like west frickin brom can, if rumours are to be believed, declare Johnny frickin Evans to be unavailable at any price. That’s straight up mental. The TV deal does give a comparitave advantage against European rivals, but they’ve seen the crazy money sloshing about and are licking their chops. There are few teams with as desperate a need to sell as Valencia, but they are still playing hardball over Mustafi. So what chairman is going to sell a prize asset to us for less? At the end of last season I said that i thought our transfer budget equated to maybe two really top players, now it looks more like one good one and a couple of overpriced journeymen. I suppose the TV money will be helpful next season, as we should have continued spending power, but then, so will West Ham, and Liverpool, and Everton, etc. etc. and so forth. 🙁

  5. It makes me sad again and again when I see how fans treat Wenger after all that he has done for the club. Have a feeling that people stopped being supporters a long time ago. Everybody knows everything about everyting these days. Wenger showed over and over again that he can bring in good players and people still doubt him. There is whole team that works or transfers everyday, how people cannot understand that. And its not like Arsenal is doing nothing, Xhaka and Holdings are number one transfers. Personally I respect Wenger even more with every day. Its not easy to stay strong and keep faith in yourself with everything thats going on. And yes he is stubborn and he will keep Walcott forever, but he’s our manager and there is no better man for arsenal job, you can say whatever you want.

    • He definitely gets way more abuse than he deserves. He’s been an unbelievably positive influence on the club and I don’t think we’d be anywhere near where we are as a club without him.

      I think most people on here appreciate everything he’s done for the club. As Tim even says, what Arsene proposed and implemented was incredibly audacious.

      The money is becoming a sore point though. We were told we’d be able to spend with the best of them after years of austerity. People see all that money in the bank and can’t understand why we have one of the biggest cash reserves in football but seem reluctant to spend it on anything but the ‘perfect’ player.

      Arsene Wenger’s got a pass for life from me for all his done, and continues to do. I love the guy and what he stands for. But I can understand why people are so upset when they see all that money in the bank, especially if they’re paying for a season ticket.

  6. You could argue that the huge injection of tv money into all Prem clubs hasn’t actually benefited Arsenal at all. Not only are prices hyperinflated, but printing all that cash has devalued our already hard won reserves. Demand, and the ability to pay for it has far outstripped supply, the market has gone insane.

    An idealist with strong moral principles like Arsene is probably the last person you’d pick to swim in such shark infested transfer waters. I hope he can show an edge of pragmatism there, a willingness to compromise. Suarez was no angel either.

    Arsenal may not a destination club, but neither is it a stepping stone club. We are hovering around the cusp of gianthood, much as our perennial league position suggests. We can pay big wages, but not mega wages. We can pay big transfer fees but not mega fees. And we can attract great players, but not enough to offset the deficit in our tactical shortcomings.

    Only winning the big stuff will reverse that, not once, but repeatedly.

    And I’m sad because I’d like nothing better than to see Arsene to lift that Premiership trophy again and shove everyone’s criticisms back through their teeth. No-one deserves it more than he.

  7. Wenger has just overstayed at Arsenal He now leaves on past glory There is a Lack of ambition at Arsenal both from the players except Alexis Sanchesx and Ozil Also the manager lacks ambition. We are good at talking eg we have quality. Quality which does not deliver? We can cry our hearts out but nothing will change as there is a deep understanding between Wenger and the board. It’s their club and they are doing what pleases them.

  8. As I said in yesterday’s comments, I defended Wenger (and Arsenal) every day for years, both here and elsewhere, but it’s been harder and harder to do so as squad-building habits during years of austerity only continue in years of plenty. There is no excuse now. We have the resources, but we’re not using them, and that’s making exceptional players think twice about joining us. Why waste your talent at a club that will not build a squad of players at the very least equal to your ability and ambition? Can you imagine how Ozil feels knowing that his caviar passes will be served next to the sausage that is Walcott? The problem is Wenger.

    And let’s be clear: He’s a great man who has done so much for the club. He has left a legacy that will never be forgotten, and he will be remembered in the same breath as Herbert Chapman for what he has contributed both to the Arsenal and the league. But his stubbornness is proving costly.

    The problem is not that he hasn’t delivered consistency. That’s abundantly clear. He has kept us in the top four for years, and continues to do so. No, the problem is that it’s abundantly clear we could do better, and it remains baffling as to why for years now Wenger has preferred to keep the faith with underperforming players the upgrades or replacements for whom would make us competitive for the title. Three key positions remain stagnant or held by players who properly belong in mid-table clubs.

    I’ll also add that I’m not sure Wenger cares a great deal about the clean cut image. Yes, there’s Walcott, but Wenger also likes Wilshere, who struggles with off-field behavior, and he was perfectly willing to stump for Suarez and Vardy. Van Persie was better known for his petulance and bad-boy image before Wenger signed him, and there a number of players over the years who weren’t exactly clean cut but passed Wenger’s criteria.

    • Wilshere’s off field antics are pretty tame for an English player of his stature. What was the last thing he got caught doing? Smoking a stogie? Suarez’ off field behavior was exemplary: total family man who does what his wife says. Van Persie was known as a young trouble-maker but he cleaned up by the time Arsenal bought him, again through a woman.

      The only one left in that group is Vardy. Vardy was maybe reformed after the gambling episode. We certainly haven’t heard anything else about him.

      He absolutely goes for players with strong religious beliefs who don’t like to party and who keep their noses clean.

      • Also, Wilshere gets a pass because he’s the only player to come out of Arsenal’s academy in the last 100 years*.

        *SLIGHT exaggeration.

      • Maybe. If you ask me, I don’t see a marked difference between the character/behavior of Arsenal’s players, generally, and the character/behavior of players at other top-flight clubs.

        However, I agree with you that Wenger is picky and has a certain type in mind, but to my mind the thing that holds him back more than the character issue is his personal valuation of players, both inside and outside the club.

  9. Add Kondogbia to the list who publicly rejected us. He went to Inter of all places.

    When West Brom are stating they want 25m for Johnny Evans then you know the footballing world has gone insane.

    I don’t want Wenger to buy just anybody either, or pay an absurd amount for a player even if world class. But here’s my beef with Wenger (and Arsenal) – if you aren’t willing to be silly in the market then where’s the Plan B? A club our size should have an academy pipeline of players par excellence, a British version of La Masia pumping out at least one starter a year. Instead the academy is a shambles. I’m glad we bought Holding, but really, why aren’t there 3 Holding’s in our system already?

    Wenger’s Plan C is some sort of hybrid approach; buy one top drawer player a year (Ozil, Sanchez, Cech, Xhaka) and then (because he’s forced to) promote one homegrown player a year into the first team (Wilshere, Gibbs, Coquelin, Bellerin, Iwobi, ?) and patch up the holes as best you can. The trouble every season is that with this strategy we never seem to be able to keep up with the Joneses or with our injuries and the homegrowns, with the exception of Bellerin, are not up to the task.

    Where’s this headed? I would be extremely surprised if Ozil and Sanchez re-up given our current situation. If those two decide to leave that would be most devastating of all. The damage to our reputation would bu almost unrecoverable from.

  10. This is in essay form, a much improved, expanded and better articulated version of my own comment from a few posts ago and I am in obvious agreement.

    The other comments that resonated with me today and to which the article has already alluded, were from someone with a wee bit more celebrity than 7 am KO (though not much).

    When a former player and not just anyone but absolutely one of the greatest individuals to ever play in the Premier League calls the club out as “weak” and “without personality” – agree or disagree – people who care or know or think about Arsenal pay attention.

    Patrick Vieira’s full comments also include praise for Wenger’s discipline, philosophy and principled stance about spending but his indictment proved ultimately endearing for me because just like any other Gooner, he just wants Arsenal to win stuff and doesn’t want an ignominious end to Wenger’s career.

    But as I see it, he’s dead on: this team, through attrition, injury, poor transfer business, etc. has ZERO identifiable personality, spine and strength on the pitch. Nice guys may not finish last but they do often finish fourth.

    • because just like any other Gooner, he just wants Arsenal to win stuff

      ===

      That is absolutely right. I want Arsenal to be as successful as it can, and I don’t think we’re maximizing our potential for personnel with Wenger in charge, unfortunately.

  11. The love/hate relationship that many Arsenal supporters have with Wenger is long past tiresome and frustrating. The “Enough is Enough/Time To Go” sign is likely representative of the majority of supporters. Of course I have no way of knowing that, it’s just opinion/speculation.

    It hardly seems to matter what or who might come next or how low we’d sink in the table with another manager. For some anything is better than “deja vu all over again” and for that the blame lies squarely at one man’s feet.

    • You’re entitled to your opinion of course but wouldn’t it be fair to say that those ‘time to go’ signs would be an accurate representation of the sentiments of the majority, when the majority of the support in the ground are holding them up?

      • Even though I sort of feel that way, I’d never hold that kind of a sign. Paradoxically, I respect Wenger too much for that.

        So while I complain about him on an Arsenal blog I wouldn’t do it to his face. Shame on me, I suppose.

        Surely I’m not the only one who feels that way. Is that a majority? wtf knows?

          • It was close to 30 years ago, I guess when Jerry Jones bought the Dallas Cowboys and uncermoniously fired the legendary Tom Landry in favor of Jerry Johnson from Miami who had zero NFL experience.

            People all over the country were shocked but that Jerry souls soon win back-to-back Superbowl’s.

            Kinda like when Rioche got the sack and Arsenal brought in some French dude that no one had ever heard of.

            That’s the seismic and positive change we need once again.

      • It’s just some attention seeker on twitter. Even if it were a real employee and even if they were working 40 hours/week, that wouldn’t even free up enough money for 1 day of Walcott’s salary

  12. I’ve lost track of this issue but does Arsenal pay the Living Wage now? 7.60 sounds like it’s not so and if thst’s true shame on us.

    • I can’t remember when I heard of this last, and honestly I can’t remember the actual source/quote about this situation. I’m THINKING it was a Gazidis answer but I could be wrong. However, the impression I carry right now is that Arsenal pay their employees the LLW, but they still have sub-contractors who don’t pay it and Arsenal’s stance is that they can’t force them to change their policy for anything other than fresh contracts.

      I could be totally off-base with this.

  13. It was the season before the world cup and Gustavo made it clear that he wanted guaranteed playing time. With Arteta still there, it was a guarantee that Wenger (correctly) refused to give. I dont attach as much importance to that rejection. With Vardy, I kind of expected that he’d opt to stay at Leicester. He came under unbelievable pressure to do so, to the point that even when prompted to say in recent interview that the decision was easy, he pointed did not (although it was still reported that way by some). He’d just helped “plucky little” Leicester to the title, became a folk hero and a certain starter. A big fish in a little pond. Once they improved his pay packet, he had no need to leave his comfort zone.

    For me the big issue isn’t rejection from players like Gustavo and Vardy. It’s eventual rejection by Ozil and Sanchez because of a perceived lack of ambition. Ozil’s gone from feeding Ronaldo and Benzem to feeding Walcott and Giroud. And in his 3 years at Arsenal, nothing has improved. He is palpably fed up with the dross around him, and increasingly refuses to hide it. That is the big danger.

    Tim’s only half-right, in my opinion, on dithering. True that we dont know the transfer back stories. However we do know that 3 weeks after bidding for Mustafi, there was no follow-up. Similarly Lazazette. One bid, then crickets for a month. Do we want the player or not? Lyon’s willingness to sell was undrelined by the fact that they went public with the bid, and the fact that Arsenal hadn’t followed for weeks.

    Wenger’s explanations also don’t make sense. Are Nolito and Mane “top top quality?” Probably not. Have they improved the City and Liverpool squads? Of course they have. Our manager is out of excuses. The forwards he has since RVP left/was leaving to now are Podolski, Giroud, Welbeck and Sanogo — none (thus far) in 2 summer transfer windows.

    Not good enough.

    The audacity of the stadium project was well described. But I don’t agree that he hasn’t met the high expectations he set… he’s fallen far below what we can reasonably expect in terms of basic, competent management.

    • “Wenger’s explanations also don’t make sense.”

      Worrisome but this has become a pattern in his press conferences and public comments. He seems increasingly tone-deaf and out-of-touch in terms of connecting with Goonerdom.

      Maybe it’s the inevitable ennui of year-after-year of consistent but avoidable under-performance?

      Being a Gooner is tiring, it’s hard when you invest of yourself at certain level and intensity and aren’t rewarded with anything shiny.

      I’m tired of being tired but my love for the club makes me come here and make my frustration public.

    • Very well said, except that bit about basic, competent management: in some ways keeping us in the top 4 with so many problems in our squad has been a work of genius; it’s just that that miracle work gets averaged out by the inexplicable stubbornness in the transfer market; so I’d say that his overall performance averages out to something a bit more than competent, but still very, very frustrating.

  14. My biggest complaint regarding Wenger is that ever since 2005, for once I would have loved to see a complete squad.
    For 10 years we were either missing a goalie or a striker or a CB or a midfielder, always 1-2 players short of the possibility to see what could Wenger do with a full squad.
    I still can’t understand how even after the barren years, we are still going over the same thing. And I’m not talking about players like Benzema, this team with even Bony as another striker last seasons and a solid CB probably could have achieved more, and this is what annoys me most.
    I know it’s a stupid thing, but sometimes I actually believe the narrative that Wenger intentionally doesn’t optimize his squad because in that case he would be held accountable much more than he is now.

  15. And despite his outstanding legacy, I can’t feel sorry for Wenger concerning the pressure he is under or the opprobrium he’s getting, or ungrateful that some fans are giving him terrible stick. Everyone in football gets pressure and stick, from the manager to the 34-year-old whose legs have gone and doesn’t know where is next contract is coming from

  16. Great blog…Love the Moses part😂😂😂

    Firstly I’m not saying Xhaka isn’t good,what makes me panic is us having defensive problems and our specialist def.mid can’t slot in as cover,even more frustrating,he don’t even start to at least cover for the youngsters,does Wenger really trust him or was he scared he would expose him…a good def.mid MUST be able to cover because if you lose one of your centre backs in a match (red card or injury) and you made all your subs already it normally becomes his duty to cover…

    ^^^ Mr Wenger boasted about x-Arsenal players (99.9% of them)begging to come back to Arsenal…makes me wonder why…WHY NOT?…at Arsenal you can play 17 unproductive matches (Giroud) or 5 useless seasons (Walcott) and still start the season assured of being first choice getting a good salary with no stress…where as at other big clubs 2 under par performances or an injury get you glued to the substitute bench (Vermaelen,Van Persie,Nazri,Fabregas…and the list goes on)
    Who don’t want to come back to that land of milk and honey…

    It’s time to let our Dearest Moses go…

    Amen

  17. Great article as usual Tim. I’ve supported Arsene’s ways based on my identification with perceived values and principles. I am slowly accepting that transfers equate ambition , and for most that means transfers to improve notable deficiencies, not transfers for the sake of transfers. When I look through the eyes of the players that is true as well and like others here I fear that our lack of transfers/ambition will spell the end of Ozil and Sanchez here. For me it is harder to accept that Wenger’s ways just will not translate into competing for the title. I find this a tremendous blow to what I love about Arsenal and frustration with what the premier league has become

  18. My nightmare in all this is that Ozil would join Jose Mourinho his old boss (at Madrid) at Manchester United.

    You heard it here first.

    Ozil’s body language during our collapse earlier this year suggested someone who wanted out. And Jose is mischievous that way.

    He’s said that the German is the best in the world in his position.

  19. Some players need guaranteed playing time, vardy I suppose had it all going for him at leicester already as a hero. Arsenal are a long way from being Barcelona, and I don’t think it’s Wenger s fault. Who are the other managers who could attract stars to work with at a smaller/less well paying club, all else equal? Guardiola maybe?

    • Pep will definitely attract more players but he will not entertain coming to Arsenal if the owner is not willing to spend on stars. He is a manager who needs the best players to work for him. I admire how he has gone about sorting Hart out at City.

      I am not too annoyed with lack of transfers. I feel the biggest disappointment of Wenger’s reign would be a sub standard academy. When we decided to be frugal we should have had the ambition to be the best academy in England if not Europe. If we had done that, right now we would reaping the rewards and not be running around like headless chickens looking for CF and a CB.

  20. Good post Tim, it well the describes the frustrations around Arsenal at the moment.

    I think the other thing is a signing would bring some excitement back, lift the fans and the players. Everything about Arsenal feels flat, like we’ve seen it a million times before. The tactics, the injuries, being unprepared. Arsene’s view I assume is once we start winning games that changes things, the problem is the discontent is permanently there under the surface and will always bubble up.

    Last season the 2 – 1 win against Leicester from the Wellbeck goal was glorious. I want more of that, I want to dare to dream again. Sadly this season feels unlike any other in one way only, in that my expectation and hope just isn’t there because nothing is changing.

    That we have been looking for a new striker for 4 years and haven’t found one shows our strategy just isn’t working. If we get Mustafi and no one else the window will feel like a failure.

    Lets hope Wenger has an ace up his sleeve, so he can end his last season on a high.

    • I don’t think it’s his last season. He’s already said how much he fears retirement and I can’t think if he’s ever said he’s tired of the game or less ambitious, transfer failures notwithstanding. And he’s the perfect front man for Kroenke’s safety first financial strategy. He’s loyal and honorable enough to not point the finger at the board for instructing him to spend as little as possible. Wenger’s quixotic vision of doing things his way dovetails perfectly with the club’s we can’t afford to compete mantra.

      • Difficult to say. Post the FA cup win in 2014, he did hint that without victory it would of been difficult for him to continue. Pretty sure he has also said when he no longer feels he is the right man for the job he will step down. The board wont want him to leave though that’s for sure!

        It’s possible uncertainty around Arsenes contract is also creating difficulty for us in the market…

      • Tee,

        Not disagreeing with you, since Wenger is the perfect man for a Kroenke club, but a fear of retirement might mean he simply takes a management job elsewhere. So I’m not sure that statement signals anything about his future plans being with Arsenal. But, like I said, he’s perfect for the Arsenal board. They’ll do anything to keep him.

        • Kroenke desperately wants to keep him, regardless of results or fan sentiment. I don’t get the feeling that Arsene wants to retire. Therefore, the only way that Wenger leaves is if he decides to leave. I suppose he could manage somewhere else. The question is if Kroenke is willing, why would he go elsewhere? Kroenke’s vision of how the club should be run affords Wenger a tremendous amount of control as long as he stays within budgetary constraints as well as almost no accountability to actual results. It’s a perfect arrangement. Kroenke gets a good manager who doesn’t openly kick up a fuss when budgetary restraints prevent him from bringing in the perfect player while Wenger gets more control over the running of the club than he could anywhere else.

          • Wenger did also say that he expects that his decision to retire will sneak up on him. Be sudden, rather than a planned farewell tour. He’s more Tim Duncan than Kobe Bryant 🙂

  21. I liked a comment one of the guys from the ABW Podcast made recently about the fans paying market value for tickets, and Wenger himself getting paid market value to manage the club, yet he refuses to pay market value for new players. Bit hypocritical, no?

  22. I get it. I really do. But I still don’t agree.

    As you say, the stadium move was audacious. Especially as it all started way back in 2002, when we decided that to compete with ManU we needed to move and have a bigger stadium with more corporate facilities. Not only did we plan this then, we delivered the stadium on time, despite having a bank withdraw funding, something which Wembley failed to do. No unambitious club or manager does that.

    The plan was always to get to be among the elite. But here’s the stuff that changed ever since then. The coming of Abramovich. The housing crisis reduced our gains from the sale of Highbury. Growth in other teams’ sponsorship revenue even as we were locked in with front loaded deals. The coming of ManCity who got not only someone to pay the bills, but also a new stadium for free.

    That we came through all that relatively unscathed is remarkable, and down to Wenger’s skill and loyalty.

    The promises made were to compete for the best players, and for the biggest prizes. Now since then we’ve also seen our revenue advantage from the stadium drop in significance, while we still pay loan repayments on it.

    This is not to plead poverty. This is to say that it is understandable why timescales on those promises may be a little delayed.

    I was pleasantly surprised by the Ozil signing because it came a year early as far as I was concerned. (The Puma deal wasn’t done yet)And then we had Alexis. We also didn’t lose any of our players since Van Persie decided to issue a statement probably because we were considering holding on to the last year of his contract. All of this is huge.

    I get that we should do more, and I agree with that. I really do. But I don’t carry frustrations of a decade with me when I say that. Arsenal and Wenger had a clean slate with me after 2014, with gratitude for getting us through.

    And since then we won successive FA Cups, signed a top player every year, and bought a few squad players to supplement them.

    I am frustrated about last season. I think Wenger took two gambles with the squad. Relying on Arteta’s fitness, and relying on Walcott as striker. Both gambits failed, and this cost us the title. I think each of those gambles was understandable, but certainly both should not have been taken together.

    If at the end of this window we haven’t added to our attack, and with the injuries, to our defense, I will be very upset. But I’m not going to scream bloody murder (except maybe once or twice). At least not until the season unfolds.

    • Shard you make some good points.

      I think the issue is though he didn’t need to gamble on Arteta, the money was there and he didn’t spend it. In fairness in January he bought Elneny which steadied the ship, but our form also fell off a cliff. Up front he gambled on Theo and Welbeck, and that didn’t pay off either. He’s gambling not signing a centre back now and starting the season with Holding / Chambers.

      • I agree he didn’t need to gamble on Arteta. That’s why I’m frustrated. It was reasonable though because if Arteta were fit, he helps our game immensely. Arteta, Coquelin, Flamini is a very decent rotation for DM. But Arteta basically never played, and Coquelin got injured halfway in, which cost us.

        I wanted an Arteta successor brought in last season. (Xhaka is that now) I was ok with Walcott playing as striker.

        Actually, last season is the only one I can think of in Wenger’s tenure where so many players under performed. Usually his players match expectation if not exceed them. This is either cause for hope, or cause for real worry depending on whether you think it’s a blip or a sign of things to come. It could go either way.

  23. On the players saying no to us. Meh. I bet every club has players refusing to join them. Every club, without exception. Sure, most clubs then go and buy someone else, while Arsenal don’t. But then most clubs also make a lot more poor signings than Arsenal do. And I get that it is frustrating. In trying to be correct all the time, w are likely to miss out on someone we should have signed. We compensate for that by investing in youth. Which isn’t a complete compensation, but is still a good thing.

    And look, again, not to plead poverty, but Arsenal cannot compete with City, Chelsea, and ManU in terms of money as a policy (can as a one off). Which is why we look to be more cautious. Is this necessarily correct? Maybe not. But Liverpool and Spurs haven’t exactly risen up by doing the opposite for years. (Klopp and Conte are saying much the same things as Wenger gets slated for. But they are new in their jobs so get away with it)

    And I don’t agree that Wenger was using the 600 employees as an excuse to not spend. He simply made the point that he is not reluctant to spend, that he would spend 300m if he has the right player and he has the money, but that he would never spend the money the club doesn’t have. The employees was just a way of putting that across.

    PS, I don’t know how true this is, but I have read in the past that during the 2005 season we were late a couple of times in paying players’ salaries, and probably other employees’ as well. This might explain why Wenger has this in his mind to use as an example.

    • Good points again, but clearly this thinking is having an impact on existing players (Sanchez / Ozil) signing new contracts. Worst case scenario they don’t sign, we will sell them next year. Arsenal PLC wont want to lose the cash when we can sell them for 30m each. A bit melodramatic maybe, but seems sadly plausible to me.

      • Don’t we have enough to worry about without creating an additional worry about Ozil and Alexis’ contracts right now? I refuse to take part in such speculation. It serves no purpose. I don’t think it’s clear. How can it be? It’s all behind the scenes. In fact, I haven’t even seen a media story stating they are unwilling to sign a contract, which is usually how this stuff normally starts. In this case it seems to me that fans have come up with this all on their own. Which is very weird to me.

        • Because we saw it before with Van Persie very recently. I could be wrong but from memory at this stage he wasn’t saying anything about not signing either. I also think its based on watching the players on the pitch, they have both been very visibly frustrated at times. I am speculating of course you are right, we have no direct evidence to the contrary but it does feel like a problem which is looming in the background and isn’t really being addressed.

          I’m not saying they definitely want to leave (far from it), but would you be motivated to sign a new contract given the current situation?

          • Fine, I’ll speculate with you. We ‘know’ that negotiations are continuing. Would you negotiate if you weren’t interested in staying at all? Perhaps only to gauge the market you would, but prima facie at least their position isn’t a clear cut ‘no, I’m getting out.’

            On field frustration could just as easily show a desire to win for the team, as a desire to leave the team. None of us know either way.

            If they don’t re-up before January, with 18 months left, I think we can start to worry. However, even if they don’t sign up, I think it’s far from certain that we’ll sell them even with a year left. RVP was not recent. He was the last of those that flew the coop before the new money came in. Of course, it doesn’t mean it can’t happen again. I just don’t believe Arsenal are in as desperate a position to sell as we were in with Cesc and Van Persie. We ain’t doing any of our rivals any favours now. (Wenger’s words on the rejected Debuchy loan to ManU were that ‘it’s normal’ to not strengthen your rivals)

            We could sell abroad, but I just find it hard to worry over Arsenal’s options – and they do have them- about what is a hypothetical at this point. And in general, I don’t worry about losing players. Even star players. I mean I was devastated when we sold Henry, and fuming at Cesc for forcing his way out. But, I’ve seen us lose Overmars, Petit, Vieira (and Edu), Reyes, Hleb, Cesc, RVP, and we’ve survived (and before the stadium years, even thrived). If one goes, someone else comes in or takes a chance to step up. That’s what team sports are about.

    • If you believe Wenger would spend £300m on a single player under any circumstances just because he said so, then that would certainly explain why you believe certain things about Trump.

      Neither has any basis in reality but that isn’t stoping you from believing it ,is it.

      A five minute Google search could provide evidence Trump flipped flopped on the Ukraine issue( something you said he didn’t do), and another five minute Google search could provide Wenger quotes from the past indicating this sort of expenditure on a single player would be madness , and something Wenger would never do.

      As an Arsenal fan and still a Wenger supporter, I wish he would just zip it and stopped making ridiculous comments when rattled by Wenger out chanting fans. It’s simply getting embarrassing by now.

      • Ok, since we’re equating Trump and Wenger again. First let me point out for the HUNDREDTH time (see we all exaggerate sometimes. The import doesn’t change) that while I like and respect Wenger and hence want him to win, I do not like Trump and have no respect for him. I just don’t want Hillary to win. Think of it like having to choose between ManU (the established order) and Chelsea(the disgusting, new oligarch upstarts) for the CL trophy, or perhaps for the next 10 CL trophies.

        Now answer me this. If you had reason to believe that wars and suffering would definitely expand under Hillary, while there was a chance that this would be reduced/diluted/delayed under anyone else, even Trump. What do you do? Note that I have no stake in the US as such. I don’t live there, I don’t have the vote, and I don’t particularly care to follow campaigns there. I only approach it from a geopolitical angle. So a few more emboldened racist folks, and cops etc don’t match up against the millions in the middle east. This doesn’t mean they aren’t important individually and is exactly why Trump is scary. Just that Hillary is scarier. The Western media will not say this, they almost never choose to disrupt their established order. But this is where I approach this from. So can we give it a rest that I like Trump, or I believe everything he says because I am so naive? (I disbelieve everything every politician says on the campaign trail. Trump is just less cultured about his lies)

        On Wenger spending 300m. Like I said, everyone exaggerates. But in 2009 in an interview with Martin Samuel, Wenger was asked what he’d do if he had 100m to spend. (He had earlier joked about giving it back) He asked if he were allowed to spend it all on one player or for many players. When told it was up to him, he said he would prefer to spend it all on one player. That one player who would make the difference. This was 2009 remember. Before this became such a charged issue (though it was still an issue) And he has said things along those lines ever since. Including recently, first with the Pogba signing where he said it’s justifiable if they have the money. And also where he said it less important how much you pay or overpay if you are convinced by the player. I have no doubt Wenger would pay top dollar for a player he was convinced by (and could economically justify buying) Which is what his consistent message is.

      • PS. On Wenger’s statements saying the transfer fees are crazy. You can think they are madness and still be willing to pay them because that is what is required. It is neither impossible nor hypocritical to exist and even thrive within a system, and yet point out its ills.

      • One more thing. Again, I’m not following it very closely, but if the Republican party did not have Trump, rather someone more…politically appropriate/presidential…would Hillary’s flaws, including alleged corruption and involvement in other scandals, the sabotaging of her party rival’s campaign etc be so easy to overlook, dismiss or distract from?

        You want to vote for Hillary, that’s up to you. But I suspect there will be a lot of people voting for ‘Not Trump’ rather than Hillary Clinton. (the opposite of my stand) So while the discussion stays focused solely on Trump, Hillary gets pretty much a free pass.

  24. Tim,

    I’m reading Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance. Give it a go. Many themes / parallels that could be extrapolated to Arsenal fandom.

  25. Shard,
    If this season plays out like last season, then we must be prepared for Ozil, Kos and Alexis exit, and i will not blame the lads.
    Wenger is simply stale and is really frustrating us, sometime i think he enjoys that.

  26. I’m sorry, but I can’t continue listening to this. How long are we going to pretend that our lack of success is down to not being active enough in the transfer window? We’re a team without identity – a bunch of poorly managed players acting like headless chickens on the pitch.

    If Klopp can make Firminho work as a striker (not always, I’ll give you that), why can’t Wenger do that with Alexis, who has the qualities to succeed there? Why can’t Ramsey play in a double-pivot? Why have we come to accept these as facts when maybe, just maybe, we should question Wenger’s ineptitude to make it happen?

    To me, he’s a manager who has lost his mojo. He’s no longer the guy with the answers, but rather a guy who makes people ask more questions. He’s had plenty of money to spend for a few years now, and the team hasn’t moved an inch. We’ve just swapped Gervinho for Alexis, and apart from the few moments of brilliance (thanks in large to Alexis not being Gervinho), we’re getting the same deal.

    Can someone tell me what Wenger’s vision for this team is? Because looking at the current roster, it’s really hard to put my finger on it. If we’re a pressing team, why is our press full of holes, two whole seasons after getting Alexis (who was supposed to be the catalyst behind the change)? If we’re a counter-attacking team, why are we so poor in transitions? If we’re a possession team, why do we struggle with creating passing lanes when teams with much lesser players don’t seem to have the same problem (at least not to the extent we do)?

    For all the talk about creating chances before Cazorla got injured last season, most of them looked rushed, improvised, and shots from acute angles that never really had a chance of going in. Our play seems choppy most of the time and it’s sad because these players are capable of more, way more. In my honest opinion, this narrative seems to suit Wenger, because it indicates that he still has something to offer to this team. I think he doesn’t and he’s starting to get found out.

  27. Tim, if 50 mil is the new price for
    Mustafi then they can eff themselves!
    It’s madness, even at 25 mil! He needs
    to get back to premier league pace anyway
    which is not guaranteed. I think the overseas
    clubs are of their nut asking 50 million for a
    defender (actually this is all relative as it
    does not impacte day to day life) but they can seriously do one!
    I am also a bit dissappointed that you are joining in on this chorus
    Tim, it’s clear that Holding is probably going to be the 3rd or 4th
    choice after the other two recover, so now we must put down 25 mil
    plus 100k a week because la liga is so screwed up they can’t properly
    negotiate tv contracts so they need to rob premier league clubs? FFS!
    I’m sure you work hard for your money (like many of us) and you try to make the best
    decisions with it. But the clubs we compare against don’t have to think about
    sustaining anything beyond appeasing the fan base and skysports .com that want
    more zeros on transfer fees so that the beast feeds itself. I for one cannot wait
    to see certain beasts EAT themselves. 1 – The beast of Jose and UTD eat themselves
    2 – Prices become so inflated even la liga drops them, followed by ligue un. No one
    buys from Serie A that much anymore anyway (Pogba an exception) It’s all a bit much
    and I’m 36 not some 60 year old going mad.

  28. Regarding the Viera comments. Maybe he’s right, I don’t know. Do the Arsenal team have a strong personality? Maybe not. But, and I know this is going to sound like excuse making, sometimes it feels like we’re barely allowed a personality.

    When we tried to play exciting expressive football the league allowed teams to kick the sh#t out of us. As far as I’m concerned we got close to zero protection, and were, in fact, punished for being good. See 3 broken legs in a few years. Now I’m not saying teams like stoke were wrong to look for another way to beat Arsenal, but I do feel like teams were given more leeway than was ever fair, to play outside the rules.

    On the other hand, lots of people rightly suggest that we should go toe to toe with them, and take them on at their own game, which added to technicality, would likely see us emerge victorious, But it seems to me were barely allowed to look at an opposing player without getting a card. How many times have we watched/read about a player on a rival team getting away with tackle after tackle, before finally getting booked in the 85th or something, while an Arsenal players first tackle is a booking? How are Arsenal supposed to physically intimidate any team when every indiscretion is punished in a way that seems out of line with other teams. Stoke is usually pointed out as a tough away fixture where they take no prisoners and it’s expected and maybe even encouraged. Can you imagine Arsenal charging around sliding into tackles and getting into opponents faces? While I can imagine it, I don’t think it would last more than 1 match because we’d be punished (rightly).

    I also remember the uproar over Arsenals card count back in the day. We were called a dirty team. People asked if Wenger was able to control his players. And stats later showed our card count was pretty average.

    And then there was the Eduardo diving controversy, the ‘kick diving out of football campaign’ with him as the poster boy and the huge deal that was made even though it wasn’t a close game where one goal would make a (statistical) difference?

    I’m just suggesting that Arsenal get minimal protection on the pitch and are punished for almost every transgression (rightly) while other teams seem to get away with it. How are they menu to impose themselves on other team and have ‘personality’ when they’re seemingly punished for any show of strength.

    I also think it’s interesting Viera doesn’t mention City. For all the money spent have they a recognizably strong personality?

  29. Question – how does James Rodriguez look for £50m? He’s 25, a left-footed player who is comfortable on the wings (or the #10 spot), great finisher and free kick taker. And his wife is David Ospina’s sister. Real Madrid have said he can go.

    Mahrez is staying at Leicester. Draxler is (apparently) staying at Wolfsburg. We all know Walcott is shite. Could James be an option? A front line of Sanchez/Giroud/James with Ozil/Xhaka/? in behind would be pretty good.

  30. I’m just saying I think there’s a lot of things other teams seem to be allowed to do to impose a personality or style that we get punished for.

    It doesn’t explain why we don’t seem to have a consistent style at the moment whether it’s pressing, or passing or counter etc. Hopefully that will change or the plan will become more apparent.

  31. fzza, totally agree.
    It is basically extortion against any EPL team come looking for a player, and the other league teams just hold out for more money.
    Just spending money to churn and burn does not equate with success. How much has manure spent the last 3 years? It is mind boggling and they have won jack all- granted an FA cup, but not even qualifying for CL.
    Can’t wait for manure to implode, $h*tty to become stale and Arsenal to rise again like a Phoenix.

  32. i began paying attention to arsenal’s slow work in the transfer market during the ’07-’08 season. it all came apart for arsenal when they lost tomas rosicky to injury. instead of bringing in a new winger, wenger played a striker and a central midfielder there. the striker had his leg broken a few weeks after rosicky went down and the center mid (diaby) looked like a fish out of water in the wide areas.

    rosicky was injured all season but finally broke down in early january. wenger had to know this was going to happen and had time to bring in another player. his refusal to bring in a proper wide player is what i believe cost arsenal the title that season. there’s a common belief that the eduardo injury was the turning point i don’t share that belief. arsenal lost their balance when they lost rosicky.

    ever since that season, arsenal have always had a hole in their formation somewhere. this never happened before. it’s kind of new and seemingly perpetual. this also seems to coincide with david dein’s departure. he left pretty much right before all of these holes began to appear in the arsenal side. i’ve theorized that people liked doing business with dein but don’t like doing business with arsene wenger because he’s so slow. this is all stuff i’ve made up but it’s not beyond the realm of belief.

  33. Some context is usually required when discussing the Wenger succession. Namely that if you think finding a replacement for Giroud is difficult (on a NPG/90 basis he is one of the best strikers in Europe over the last few seasons), finding a replacement for Wenger is even harder. For a start, the new man (or woman but most likely man) has to work with the players already at the club as the board would never sanction a Mourinho-style clearout.
    The standout candidate has just gone to Man City. Tuchel ticks most of the boxes but his Dortmund side allow an awful lot of shots in their own box. Luis Enrique might just be the man for the job but his Barca side does get an incredible advantage from having a front line of MSN.

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