Wenger set to spend the war chest, shake things up, buy big names, make big changes, oh and would you like a season ticket with that?

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.

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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:

  1. Who plays in center mid with Xhaka and is he good enough to be Arsenal’s main midfielder?
  2. Is Mustafi going to get better or is he another Santos?
  3. Nacho Monreal is old and needs to be replaced
  4. If you replace him with Gibbs (who has been unreliable his whole career) who replaces Gibbs?
  5. Who is the long-term replacement for Koscielny?
  6. What happens to Wilshere?
  7. Where do you play Ramsey?
  8. Is Chambers ever going to fulfil his promise?
  9. Is Ox ever going to fulfil his promise or will he be another Walcott?
  10. Arsenal need a backup right back, if they can keep Bellerin
  11. Can you keep Özil?
  12. Can you keep Alexis?
  13. Should Özil and/or Alexis stay?
  14. Who will replace Özil?
  15. Who will replace Alexis?
  16. Who will play center forward?
  17. Can Arsenal get some stability in the keeper position?
  18. What is Arsenal’s playing style? What is the system? What flexibility is baked into that system?
  19. Who is in charge of organizing the defense and set play defense?
  20. 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.


  1. And yet some people will still argue that he deserves one more, one very last chance. But I think those people are heavily outnumbered these days, and they’re led by our very own Shard.

    1. Interesting that that would be your first thought to this article. Yes, you must be right and I must be wrong because I’m heavily outnumbered.

      1. It’s not that you’re outnumbered Shard, I’m actually not sure that this is the case, but I am sure your position stems out of ideological belief rather than analytical observation.
        You basically start out with a premise that Arsene is still the best man for the job and you go from there.
        Whilst people like Tim look at facts and data and conclude he’s not.

        Anyone who says “I don’t want Wenger to go ever”
        kinda eliminates themselves from any serious debate on this issue.

        1. Hmm. Let me try to be clearer then. My ideological position is not that Wenger is the best manager for Arsenal. He MAY be, but I don’t know that he is, and I’m not saying that he is. But at the same time I don’t think he is a bad manager. (I aloso don’t know who is the ‘best’ and think we’re more likely to get it wrong than right)

          I am not even opposed to a new guy coming in. I am opposed to the atmosphere that has been created (over a decade) and against the sort of comments that pass unchallenged even on this site which is hardly a den of fanatics.

          It is true I will never campaign for Wenger to leave. It’s a stretch that I would do that for any football manager actually. I mean I genuinely thought that David Moyes and especially Van Gaal didn’t deserve to be sacked. A manager would have to be truly useless at his job, or be a terrible person for me to oppose him being at my club.

          Arsenal means more to me than trophies. Guarantee me 5 straight CL wins if we get in Mourinho and I’d still fight against it. I bat in Wenger’s corner because I feel he (and Arsenal) have been treated unfairly for a long time and that this has contributed to (not caused) their failures, such as they are. Inasmuch as that is a non negotiable with me, you can say it is down to faith or entrenched starting position. But beyond that, bring on a new manager, I don’t mind at all. I just disagree that it is all Wenger’s fault and somehow this seems to piss people off.

      2. It’s called faith, Tom. Faith is the belief in things unseen. Happy Easter, everyone

  2. We’re going through a dark period at the moment. But let’s look on the bright side… errr… maybe Cazorla will miraculously grow a new leg and save us all!

  3. I remember that article Tim. As I recall your conclusion was that Wenger actually added value to the squad.

    Impossible to argue that is the case currently. But I still disagree that No 20 is the most important issue. Whether Wenger stays or goes, the other issues you highlight will have more relevance to where Arsenal end up.

    I’m not terribly worried about anything. For years fans calling for change have been deriding the top 4, or at least the monotony of it. Well, there you go. Something different.

    At worst we lose Ozil and Alexis, and maybe then we make wholesale changes to all those players who have a year left on their contracts. Ramsey, Gibbs, Wilshere, Ox, and whoever else. Arsenal will still have a solid base to build on with their keepers, and CBs (experienced heads and young guns) and some decent forwards. They will also have gained some 150m in transfers and freed up some 700k weekly wages. If they can use that money to convince good players that they are embarking on a new project then we will have a decent base to build on. It’s not catastrophic for us as a club to be where we are right now. It just feels that way because we’ve avoided this scenario for very long.

  4. As for the John Cross thing. I don’t see why the club putting out their message is seen so cynically, as if the press doesn’t always carry some agenda (even if it is clicks) The way I see it, a lot of those things the club said (via Cross) they were going to do, they did.

    1. It’s not the club, it’s “Crossy” who gets criticism and rightly so. It’s not the job of journalists to provide free propaganda for the clubs. I’ve called him out on this now for years and he’s even blocked me on Twitter.

      The bigger problem is that journalists like Cross need to suck up to the club in order to get access. Without access, they don’t get stories. So, he publishes what the club wants him to publish. In this case, bullshit about Wenger changing.

      1. Give Cross all the criticism you want. And by all means call out the (much larger) issue of how things get into the papers. But I actually think Arsenal haven’t done enough over the years to get their message out. They’ve preferred to stay above it all except for stuff about war chests etc and this hasn’t worked in their favour. Arsenal’s PR department is either rubbish or has its hands tied.

        Though as I said, I think what the club said they were going to do, they generally did. For instance, I think they really are looking to bring in a GM, regardless of whether Wenger wants one or not. I also see no mention in the quotes about Wenger changing his methods. Only that there will be changes in the amount of money spent, or in the backroom operations, both of which were correct.

  5. Arsene Wenger is too old to change or learn new and modern ways of football. He is too cast in his economics mould of football. You cannot teach an old dog new tricks. You cannot also get a new wine by pouring one into an old wineskin. I am surprised that Arsenal board are adamant just as I am surprised that Arsenal Supporters Trust and fans have not taken a decisive step to boycott Arsenal matches to drive home their message or decide to set up a new Arsenal club like ManU did in the past. May be, that will make the point clearer. But, I’m equally amazed at Wenger’s stubbornness in sedating himself in a club despite his 13 years of failure. There is no club or national manager who will stay put even when he is underperforming, even in developing countries. AW should be ashamed of his sit-tight syndrome. Even if the club is his own, he should move on and allow a much younger and more dynamic manager to take over. As for Stan Kroenke, Arsenal fans ought to know that most Americans do not regard football as much as the English or Europeans. So, he doesn’t see Arsenal beyond a business proposition and just as you do not change a winning team, he sees no need to change AW as long as he makes money for him. Other considerations of winning trophies are not his consideration.

  6. simply put
    wenger out: problem 1-20

    in arsene we trust: problem 20& above

    i think there are young managers that can diagnose 1-20

  7. Wenger is stale, past it, ego driven, can only manage yes men, mediocre, unambitious, once a winner but has tragically morphed into what he knows Kroenke wants him to be.
    It is now clear a combination of Deins influence, George Grahams defensive attention and the players ability to ignore this fraud and manage themselves enabled Wenger so much success so many years ago.
    Wenger is a shallow, self satisfied, sorry specimen of humanity
    Only at this club would he be given the time of day.
    The fans, in exponentially increasing numbers will give him hell of he stays, it seems the UK contingent of the board are actually waking up to this

  8. Magnificent article, close to your best imho. It was so cruel, the way you frisked John Cross. I almost couldn’t watch.

    Correct in asking who will play centre forward, but the question that you didn’t ask is what are we going to do with the ones that we have, particularly Welbeck, an unhappy Lucas and Giroud. Left up to me, I’d keep only Lucas (one of the most effective Arsenal players per minutes played), flog the other two and buy big.

    Some of us called for Ibrahamovic when he was at PSG. He’s been an excellent acquisition for United. I’m not saying that he would have come here, just that we should not be afraid to make that kind of signing.

    My dream signing, though, would the young, world-at-his-feet, Thierry play-alike Kylian Mbappe. He’d have to give up a year of Champions League football though, and I’m not sure (unlike United and Chelsea) that we have the other pull factors to bring him to the Emirates.

    1. And oh, Mbappe’s gonna cost. I mean REALLY cost.

      One of the following is going to happen when Arsene offers Giroud plus 10 dollars for him…

  9. Spot on! You could have added that Arsenal Football Club is just a business nowadays and that it lost its soul from the moment it was sold to Kroenke.

  10. With Wenger at the help, I expect nothing but Europa league over the next 2-3 seasons considering others do not take up 5-7 positions.
    after 3 seasons when commercials will slow down only then will kroenke understand.

    PS: I still dream Wenger will prove us wrong .. not because he has it in him rather that we have no other choice till 2019.

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