I was reading this on an article and i genuinely couldn’t believe it. It’s almost a parody at this point. It’s clear he is the mouth piece of Arsenal and remains so.
‘Wenger has made his decision clear that he wants to stay and, even at 67 and after years of stubbornness, he believes he can rediscover his glory years.There will be a major shake-up of the squad, big changes behind the scenes – they want a new Academy director and in the longer term a director of football – and an expectation of Wenger being able to take the club to the next level’ – John Cross, Daily Mirror, March 2017.
‘Arsene Wenger is determined to stay on as Arsenal manager – and wants to oversee a major rebuild of his squad this summer. It is likely to lead to a big clear-out at the Emirates, with boss Wenger targeting several summer buys’ – John Cross, Daily Mirror, March 2016.
‘Arsene Wenger will sign a new Arsenal contract, and is proving it by planning a huge spending spree in the summer transfer window. Wenger has left Arsenal in no doubt that he is staying because he is lining up big transfer targets as he looks to strengthen his squad for a title challenge next season’ – John Cross, Daily Mirror, April 2014.
‘Arsene Wenger will be given a huge budget to transform Arsenal back into genuine contenders next season by making summer signings’ – John Cross, Daily Mirror, May 2013.
Last week I received an email from the Arsenal, they used to email me regularly but I haven’t received any correspondence since I called for Wenger’s resignation in fall of 2015, so when I saw an email from the club I was surprised. Surprised until I saw the title: “Arsenal Season Ticket Waiting List”. Then, I had a chuckle.
I put myself on the Arsenal season ticket waiting list back in, I want to say 2009. At that time I was one of Arsene Wenger’s biggest supporters and still had hope for his audacious youth project to bear fruit. I also regularly attended matches every season, flying 3,000 miles to see my beloved Arsenal play both home and away. In those days I was able to see more than one game a year and knew plenty of people who would take care of my season ticket for me without doing anything illegal*.
It might have been 2011 that I put myself on the waiting list. That was the year I went to see Arsenal in the League Cup Final at Wembley and before the match I was as excited about Arsenal’s prospects for the future as I have ever been. I saw that League Cup Final as a stepping stone to future glories for Arsenal: that match was going to be the first of many trophies for the Fabregas/van Persie era. I even bought a commemorative kit from that year, which has the League Cup Final lettering right in the middle of the chest. I call it my “loser’s kit.”
As we all know, Arsenal lost that final, and within two summers lost Fabregas, Nasri, and Robin van Persie. Looking back, I see that League Cup as the pivotal moment in Wenger’s downfall. That was the moment that Fabregas, I suspect, decided to leave. And once Fabregas left, Nasri and van Persie followed. Wenger even foretold of his own downfall that summer, saying;
“Samir’s situation is clear for me,” Wenger said. “He stays. We are in a [financial] position where we can say ‘No’ and we will, in the case of Samir.” Wenger said that it was better to keep Nasri for another season and risk losing him for nothing than to sell him to United or City before the closure of the transfer window, even if it represented a £20m gamble.
“You are the same people who reproach me for not spending money and now you reproach me for wanting to spend it,” he added, with a smile. “It is in the interests of the club. Fábregas is in no-man’s land … Imagine the worst situation, that we lose Fábregas and Nasri; you cannot convince people that you are ambitious after that.”
Despite the “financial position” Arsenal were in, he did lose Cesc and Nasri and he was right; to this day he cannot convince people that Arsenal are ambitious. He especially couldn’t convince Robin van Persie, who had his head turned by United that very season after Arsenal lost 8-2 to them in August 2011.
After that 8-2 loss, Wenger was given some money. Or maybe he demanded money. Or maybe he had decided that the squad he had (stripped of its best midfielders) wasn’t good enough. I had written an article in the summer of 2010 which used stats** to show that Arsenal needed to spend £100m on new players if they wanted to compete for the League title. That £100m was in addition to keeping Fabregas, Nasri, van Persie, and Theo Walcott (I know). Wenger’s Arsenal lost all those players they needed to keep and brought in Mikel Arteta.
I know, that’s not fair. In the summer of 2011 Arsenal sold £70m worth of players and bought £60m worth of players. Actually, netting £10m in profits. They sold in the season that the math (and logic) showed they needed to beef up the squad.
I will also say that “worth” here is relative. Arsenal sold Fabregas for half what he was worth and bought Ox, Arteta, Gervinho, Mertesacker, Santos (remember him?), Park, and Jenkinson. I think Arsenal’s most effective signings that summer were Mertesacker (who hasn’t played for a year and a half), Arteta (who retired two years ago), Yossi Benayoun (a loan from Chelsea), and Thierry Henry (who scored a crucial goal to give Arsenal 3 points needed to lift us back into 4th place). Arsenal were hardly building for the future, the team was simply clinging to the rim.
That summer 2011 “trolley dash” dismantled Arsenal. In the years since that summer, Wenger has spent some (f-ing) money. He bought Özil, who was cast off from Real Madrid when they bought Gareth Bale, and he bought Alexis Sanchez, who was cast off from Barcelona when they bought Luis Suarez. He also finally landed a center mid, Xhaka, and spent a record amount on a center back, Mustafi, though this latter was an emergency buy after it was discovered that Arsenal were short on center backs due to injury. But almost every other player he’s bought has been either retired, been a failure, or has been loaned out/moved on.
As a result, Wenger’s net spend (eye rolls!) since losing Fabregas, Nasri, and van Persie is well over £200m and yet Arsenal are no closer to winning the title than we were in 2011. In fact, Arsenal are in 6th this season and are not going to make it into the Champions League next season. Arsenal’s squad also looks aged and is still missing key parts:
- Who plays in center mid with Xhaka and is he good enough to be Arsenal’s main midfielder?
- Is Mustafi going to get better or is he another Santos?
- Nacho Monreal is old and needs to be replaced
- If you replace him with Gibbs (who has been unreliable his whole career) who replaces Gibbs?
- Who is the long-term replacement for Koscielny?
- What happens to Wilshere?
- Where do you play Ramsey?
- Is Chambers ever going to fulfil his promise?
- Is Ox ever going to fulfil his promise or will he be another Walcott?
- Arsenal need a backup right back, if they can keep Bellerin
- Can you keep Özil?
- Can you keep Alexis?
- Should Özil and/or Alexis stay?
- Who will replace Özil?
- Who will replace Alexis?
- Who will play center forward?
- Can Arsenal get some stability in the keeper position?
- What is Arsenal’s playing style? What is the system? What flexibility is baked into that system?
- Who is in charge of organizing the defense and set play defense?
- And the most important question of them all… Do you trust Arsene Wenger to solve all of these problems , spend the money necessary, attract top quality players (upper echelon players, not second tier), identify the players Arsenal need to complement the players that we already have, and to implement a new system of play which balances defense with offense? In short, can Wenger recreate the team he had from 2001-2004?
My answer to question #20 is no. Unequivocally, no. He has been given the money and the chance that everyone begged for us to give him since 2011. He has proven himself incapable of keeping top talent and of recruiting the right players in the right positions. Wenger has also failed to get the best out of promising young players like Wilshere, Ramsey, Gibbs, Chambers, Ox, and every other member of the “British Core” he set out to create.
And tactically Arsenal are an absolute nightmare right now: the best players are being played out of their best position, there is no real defensive system, Arsenal
As the quotes from the top of this article show, Arsenal have been feeding John Cross this line about “Wenger rebuilding” every year. And every year it’s the same old chestnut: a huge “war chest” is being readied, the “powder is dry”, Wenger is going to clear out the “deadwood”, Wenger is going to “learn some new tricks”, he’s going to “buy big”, there are going to be “major changes” to the “backroom staff” those poor saps in the physio room who are the real problem at Arsenal, and of course there are a ton of “big names” on his transfer list because Wenger is ready to work with “big egos” and put aside his own ego in order to recapture Arsenal’s “glory-years.”
And they roll out this story, this promise of a return to an era that Wenger cannot possibly believe that he will ever recreate, at the exact time that season ticket renewals are due. I hope John Cross gets a cut of these season ticket renewals, he really should at least get a big bonus, as Arsenal’s main advertising agency.
Fool me once? Sure. Fool me for 6 years running? No thanks.
*Scalping tickets is illegal. Selling tickets for less than face value or for face value is legal.
**Basically squad valuation. There is a strong correlation between squad value and League position. In order to get Arsenal’s squad value to match Chelsea and United, Arsenal would need to spend £100m to get to their level. My article was received with howls of derision (and a lot of praise) and to this day people will say “yeah but look at Leicester”. Leicester is a great example, of the exception proving the rule: because in all 25 years of the Premier League only one team has ever won the League without being in the top 1 or 2 in terms of squad value. Huzzah.