Jonathan Blaustein’s season wrap up: Top Four Here We Come!

By Jonathan Blaustein

Good morning, everyone.

Hope all is well in your corner of the world. Here in Taos, New Mexico, it’s a sunny Monday morning, and I’m sitting down to write with a freshly made cup of coffee.

It’s been a while, but I thought it was appropriate to at least summarize the 2016–17 Arsenal campaign, now that it’s done and dusted. (Yes, Americans can use English slang, if we’re writing about football/soccer.)

The FA Cup Final is receding into memory, but let’s start there. It was a cracking game, and I think we all know Arsenal could have scored 3 or 4 goals before halftime. We beat the shit out of Chelsea that day, and the scoreline flattered the team in blue.

Despite the negativity that accrued through much of the fan base as the season wore on, I was thrilled with the performance. I was sure that getting through Man City and Chelsea to get a trophy was impossible, but I was wrong.

Mea culpa.

But I mostly predicted the season trajectory properly. Anyone who’s watched the Emirates Era Wenger teams knows they can, and do, go on a winning run at the end of the season. Arsene Wenger has proven, as I wrote, that he can get his team up for anything, over the course of 10–15 games.

The problem, of course, is that the Premier League campaign is 38 games. I’m sure he won’t win the league again, not so much because he’s totally incapable, but rather, because he has a very limited opportunity in the best of times, being outspent by the Oligarch clubs, and now, he’s facing a slew of mega-managers flush with new TV money.

I can see how winning the FA Cup was enough to keep his job, as he didn’t take down Aston Villa or Hull City this time. He beat the Champions, and as with Leicester last year, he beat them soundly twice in the same season.

Stan Kroenke was never, ever, ever going to kill his cash cow, unless he absolutely had to. And Arsene Wenger was never, ever, ever going to quit, unless he absolutely had to.

Lacking a proper leverage event to end the Groundhog Day scenario that has engulfed the club, here we are again. Even Benedict Fucking Cumberbatch, with an awful American accent, knew how to break the loop in “Doctor Strange,” but not Arsenal Football Club.

So where does that leave us?

If I were the king of the world, I’d give Alexis Sanchez however much money he asked for. Just pay the man. And to ease his worry about being trapped in mediocrity, maybe give him a release clause, so he can get bought for $100 million next summer, if Arsenal haven’t made it back to the Champions League again.

Once he has a new contract, his re-sale value will skyrocket, so no matter how much money he wants in salary, it still makes sense.

If you promise him anything he wants, and then go out and spend $200 million on improving the squad, (gross, not net,) then I think Arsenal will be a strong bet to win the Europa League, and certainly get back into the top 4.

So even if you lose him next year to someone in the Premier League, it will be worth it, both in what he helps achieve next year, and in how much more he’ll be worth once he has a long-term contract.

I’d also commit to the back 3 formation, and let everyone know it. My quibble with Arsene, with respect to the change, is that he waited to make it until after the season was busted. I understand that some people, (I’m looking at you Shard,) will say it’s unfair to criticize him for making a successful and risky change.

But I’m allowed to say whatever the hell I want. That’s the benefit of being a columnist. And it’s clear he didn’t have the guts to make radical change while the Premier League title was still a possibility, because Arsene admitted as much in the press.

He considered it for months, but only pulled the trigger once it was too late to save the title challenge.

Tim is great at doing all sorts of research, in addition to having a strong handle on the narratives surrounding the club. You’re never going to get a story from me that compares young players, or pokes around transfermarkt to unearth the next big thing.

Hell, this year, I think I watched less non-Arsenal-related-matches than at any time since I became addicted to English Football. So I can’t even claim to have seen much of guys like Keita, or Mbappe, or even Pulisic.

That’s not my bag, so I probably won’t write too much this summer, as it’s primarily silly season at this point.

But I think I can tell you a bit about the likely trajectory the club will take.

For one, I’ve read in many places that Arsenal won’t make it back to the Champions League for a long time. To me, that’s a bunch of bunk. If there’s anything that Arsene is great at, it’s making the top 4.

Now that he’s the man in charge, for certain, I think the idea of him improving the club enough to overtake Tottenham or Liverpool is likely. He knows how to win, he just doesn’t know how to win consistently over 9 months.

There’s a difference.

The reason why Arsenal won 3 out of 4 FA Cups is that the talent level is there. And though I thought his players had quit on him during the winter, (maybe they did?) he also knows how to get his guys to play for him when there’s glory on the line.

So thinking we’ll head towards 10th place is not a theory I’d espouse. Not one bit.

Nor do I think we’re back to selling our best players to direct rivals. That won’t happen either.

Basically, Arsenal are an anomaly club these days, with an omnipotent, long-serving manager. As well as that run of 2+ decades of Champions League qualification.

Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham, and Manchester United have all been out of the CL in recent years, and Chelsea and Man U won the Europa League when they were there.

Then, all of those clubs bounced back. So I think it’s safe to say that Arsenal will too. Wenger may have lost his title-winning magic, but I’m predicting he’ll be able to get the team playing it’s same brand of Top 4 football next year.

We’ve also proven we can spend money, and make players better, in the last few years. Sanchez had a career year this year, but no one gives Wenger credit for that. Nor the fact that Ozil, flawed as he may be, almost broke the EPL assist record last year under Wenger’s tutelage, and added goals to his game this season.

Now that he’s got a proper defensive line-up, and a good slate of CB’s, I’m not worried about this team falling off a cliff, and I don’t think you should either. (Sorry, Tim.)

Rather, I think we’ve got to settle in for the typical narrative, with the exception being that we no longer have to fear the Champions League hidings that have been so damaging to morale.

While I’d like Sanchez to stay, given what he knows about Bayern, shouldn’t they be attractive to him? They beat his team 10–2, and won the CL during the Obama years, which were not that long ago. (Though the Trump months feel like they’re playing out in dog years, don’t they?)

Only Manchester City has avoided missing out on the CL recently, and they’re just playing on a different level, financially. It’s important to remember that.

Ozil is our record signing, and Man City have, off the top of my head, spent that much (or more) on Stones, Sterling, De Bruyne, Sane, and Bernardo Silva, just in the last 2 years. And I imagine Fernandinho, David Silva and Aguero cost that much, as did Mangala, who’s not even playing for them anymore.

In order for Arsenal to win it all, so many things have to play out just so. That happened during Leicester’s title-run, and AW still couldn’t capitalize. So it’s ridiculous to think a League title is in the cards, until the next manager.

Rather, I think we should just buckle up and enjoy the ride, as I suggested a month or so before the joy of the FA Cup victory. Winning the Europa League is realistic, as is another FA Cup defense.

Maybe Wenger will put some chips on the League Cup next year, just because he hasn’t won it before? If you ask Jose Mourinho, it’s a trophy, and that man loves silverware more than a Victorian thief who’s inexplicably been invited to a rich man’s party.

If we do lose Sanchez, they’ll buy someone like James to replace him. And still, Arsene’s going to invest. He gets a lot of stick for not being so great in his talent evaluation lately, but I think Xhaka and Holding are for real, and Iwobi and Bellerin will continue to improve under his guidance.

Basically, I think we have no choice but to hope this next phase is about building to compete in the next title window, after Pep, Jose, Klopp and Pochettino have moved on. Just like in the NBA, where everyone knows the Warriors window of dominance is likely open for another 3–4 years, I think as fans, we have to accept that Wenger is now a bridge to whatever comes next.

There will be some nice wins, the next couple of years, and likely some embarrassing defeats as well. We won’t win the Premier League, nor the Champions League, until after Wenger retires.

C’est la vie.

He has a job until he’s ready to leave, and hopefully we’ll pick up some smaller trophies along the way. But if he creates a succession plan, and builds things well for Arteta, or Simeone, or maybe even Zidane to come in for the 2019–20 season, then who knows what the next decade might bring.

Until next time…


  1. geez, every time i post a comment, a new thread seems to start almost immediately. how can my timing be that damn brilliant?

  2. johnny, i don’t think i’ve ever agreed with you more. the only caveat is that i think wenger can win the league. for crying out loud, raineri won it. it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the club told wenger, when he signed his extension, that he had to win the league in these last two seasons or he’d be done at arsenal. obviously, they wouldn’t announce that but it’s what i would have done. other than that, spot on.

    1. Was Ranieri a brilliant manager because he won the league with Leicester? Such is his stock among major European clubs after that improbable feat that he is coaching at Nantes now. Evaluators looked at him and saw that he has coached in 15 different jobs before Leicester and never once won any titles before suddenly catapulting to fame on the back of one of the most improbable title wins ever. That’s not a brilliant manager who finally broke through in the right setup, that’s a journeyman manager who finally struck gold where he least expected it, and his new job reflects that. On the other end of the spectrum, everyone agrees that Mauricio Pochettino is a brilliant manager, but what has he won, besides respect? And would you appoint him to manage your team? My point is, a title doesn’t make a manager brilliant, nor does a lack of one mean a manager is expendable.

      1. that’s not my point. my point is that if rainieri is capable of winning a championship, so too is wenger capable of winning one this coming season.

  3. Arteta huh? I’m glad you didn’t mention Thierry Henry. Even if he’ll ever manage Arsenal, I hope he proves his mettle somewhere else first

  4. I don’t think we will win the League again under Wenger. Media and referee conspiracy

  5. I like the thought of Arteta coming back to manage us, I can’t see it within your time frame though. Assistant at City next year then a medium level club for three years, then a higher club for a couple of years after that before he will have earned the necessary respect to be trusted at a top club.

  6. Wenger CAN win the title but he WON’T. At the end of the day, I don’t think we have the squad to win the league (I know some disagree). We aren’t competing for the best world class players and neither are we competing for the best up and coming talent. We haven’t had a world class CF for 4 seasons and haven’t had a functional mid-field for 2. No matter how much money we want to bid, there are at least 6 other clubs in Europe who can outbid us. The only way for us to win the league is to have a manager who can get more out of these players than the sum of their parts. Wenger barely gets to par. The only way he can win it is if he manages to pull off some miraculous transfer market coup. Well I’m not holding my breath for that to happen.

    I agree we have a good chance to finish in the top 4. There is enough history with this manager to give me confidence on that outcome. The other thing that gives me hope that even though we had our sh8iest season by a mile, we only finished a point behind 4th and still managed to get 75 points.

    I think it’s imperative that we hang on to Alexis though. Even if he doesn’t sign a new contract, we should for once show some balls and not let our best player leave. The longer we hang on to him, the more the pressure will be on him to sign a new contract. I’m sure his agent will not want him to leave on a free.

  7. A bunch of things here.

    I never said we were falling off a cliff. I said the same thing you said: that Top Four would be great and “Cesc la vie” when we don’t get it.

    I would appreciate it if we all stop characterizing my feelings on this. And just so that we are absolutely clear… my feels are THAT I DON’T GIVE A FUCK. Basically, what has happened here is that Arsene Wenger has removed my fucks and I have none left to give. I’m not actively hoping we lose (I’m not an asshole), I’m not going to fly banners over the stadium demanding a new manager (I’m not an asshole), I’m not a guy who will boo the team in the stands, I’m not going to be demanding Wenger out every week, I’m not even really that negative about the players even when I critique them and Wenger’s system, and I’m also not thinking we will win.

    I’m right in the middle.

    Actually, the more I think about it, I’m kind of the perfectly corporate supporter: not pissed off enough to stop watching or boycott the club, and no longer expecting anything good from the club. I’m just here, providing eyeballs and content for a club that really doesn’t look like they are going to win the League anytime soon.

    And let’s make it even more clear. 2nd place to 10th place is all the same to me now. I’m not a Spurs fan. Daring is not the fucking same as doing. I don’t get excited because we “put the pressure on”. These are all qualities that Arsenal supporters make fun of! We have become so delighted with a top four finish and it is so Spursy.

    Sure, Arsenal can finish “top four” in 2018 and then can get trounced 10-2 in the Champions League in 2019. At this point, that’s what I see happening.

    What would get me excited? Actual change. Buying Mbappe and building a team around him. Buying a replacement for Sanchez and Özil and then letting them two rot in the reserves if they refuse to sign a new deal. Building an actual team that will actually compete for the League title and be actually competitive in the Champions League. Bold decisions which show ambition. That would make me excited.

    I don’t see that happening right now. If, however, Wenger lucks into an actual title race… Of course I will be happy, I never wish for Arsenal to finish anywhere below 1st place with 50 wins in a season.

    I’m just saying that a race for “top four” isn’t exciting or even remotely interesting. On the opposite side of that coin, it doesn’t upset me when we don’t make it into the top four.

    And note here, I’m not telling YOU how to feel. I’m telling you how I FEEL. Please do not tell me how I should feel or that my feelings are wrong. Ok?

    The second thing is about the money. Arsenal LOVE it when we pretend they are a poor team. They LOVE it when we all talk about how little money they have. And especially when we say “yeah but look how much money Man City have spent”. Arsenal are 7th in turnover in world football. Higher than Chelsea and Leicester City. And actually, when you look at the player values in Transfermarkt, Wenger has done a good job building an expensive team. Their algorithm has Arsenal as the second most valuable team in England. And Arsenal have built that team while squirreling away £100m!

    I’m tired of fans saying “oh we just can’t compete”. That is far more defeatist to me than anything the worst WOB has ever said. I see no difference between people laying down and accepting defeat in the transfer market and begging for Arsenal to finish 5th so that Wenger is forced out of the club.

    But even more important, Arsenal don’t have to JUST SPEND HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF POUNDS ON PLAYERS. Wenger does this same rhetorical trick, “Stones cost £50m but we got Holding for £15 and so you all think he’s not good.” That is NOT the point, at all. Holding was bought. He didn’t spring out of the ether. Neither did Mahrez, Vardy, Xhaka, Cazorla, Cech, Mertesacker, on and on.. We haven’t MADE a player in 20 years. But we do BUY them and then give them a chance. That’s all I want, for Wenger to build a team. Not spending anything on anyone after Cech in 2015/2016 was fucking criminal. And he’s done this every year, trotting out the same excuses.

    So, for example, I’m already hearing people praise the 352 as the panacea of Arsene Wenger’s football club.I don’t see evidence for that but to play three at the back, you need 6 CBs. And right now, Koscielny has a chronic Achilles problem and Mertesacker is older than mummy farts. Replacements need to be found now. Same with Cazorla in midfield. And Ozil and Alexis up front. These players are all getting old and need to be replaced within the next two years. That means we buy and we buy now because it takes a few years to get acclimated. And yes, that means some players aren’t going to get to play (Lucas) and will want a move away, but I don’t care. I’m not even going to remember Lucas apart from as a guy who played for Arsenal once! Sell, buy, lose money in the transfer market, so what?

    It’s OK to lose money. It’s ok to lose a lot of money. But what we are stuck in right now is this idea that we shouldn’t even try because “we can’t afford it”. But by not even trying we are ensuring that we continue to decline: players are only getting MORE expensive. And they will only get even MORE expensive when the top six renegotiate the TV contracts for a bigger slice of the pie for themselves.

    But back to the sentiment at the top. I don’t expect anything from Arsenal. I don’t expect us to buy Mbappe. I don’t expect Wenger to buy a midfielder to take over from Cazorla. I don’t expect Wenger to buy a world class striker. I don’t expect to finish top four. I don’t expect a couple of great center backs. I expect Arsenal to continue to extract capital from us in their perfectly corporate way, with their tiny risk strategy, and I expect all of us Arsenal supporters to grouse about it a bit, to cheer on some FA Cup wins (or even better, to get excited when we “put the pressure on” Leicester), and to fight among ourselves.


    1. Dude, I wasn’t suggesting anything about your views beyond that post where you hinted Arsenal were headed towards the lower half of the top 10. (Or that’s what I surmised from what I read.) I pretty much always agree with your take, or I wouldn’t want to write for this blog. We’re both Americans. We both know that Stan Kroenke has proven, conclusively, that his teams don’t win anything. Choosing to lower your expectations is a good way to protect yourself against the stress of wishing for things that won’t come true. I get it, and think it’s wise.

    2. I agree with much of what you say in terms of what we need to do but whether a top 4 finish excites you or not, it’s important for us to finish top 4 if we want to compete in the transfer market. We already have the unfortunate reputation of a team that doesn’t win the league. The only thing that makes us attractive right now is Champions League and I bet we are going to have a lot of issues this summer because it we can’t offer it. And please don’t tell me about how much money we have and all we need to do is to offer more money. We have a lot of money, as you say, but with players’ fees and wages reaching stratospheric levels, we need to be smart about how we spend the money. To me, that’s the rub. Can we spend our cash reserves wisely? My gut feeling is that our fate will be decided by how smart we are in the transfer market.

      1. Being in the champions league doesn’t make us exciting any more. Show me which top quality player wants to come to Arsenal to get their asses whupped 10-2. You aren’t going to find many. Players don’t go to clubs “to be in the Champions League” unless they want to showcase their talent in order to get a move to a bigger club. They go to clubs in the champions league because they believe there’s a chance they might win it! And also because there is amore money in endorsements. So, we are going to actually have to spend more or be much better at recruitment. Neither things I think Arsenal are going to do.

        And by the way, our fate has already been sealed by how stupid we have been in the transfer market. While people are out there gleefully comparing Holding to Stones, we are about to lose both of our best players and are stuck with an ageing, overpriced squad full of key players with major injuries. Not signing anyone other than Cech cost Arsenal the League, the Champions League this year, and possibly losing Sanchez and Ozil because we can’t compete on the field. So, yeah, we need to get better in that department.

        But I don’t know how we will because we aren’t going to spend (lose) money in the transfer market and we can’t just start over with a youth project. So.. until we get a new manager with new ideas who can generate some hype. Same stuff.

        1. Nobody wants to lose 10-2, especially on a stage as big as the CL. Still, having qualified for the competition for almost two decades running gave us some recognition on the international stage and a slight advantage over other clubs in our tier which we have now neatly swept away. Put it this way, if we are competing with Liverpool for a player this summer, chances are that the player will choose Liverpool over us mainly due to CL football. Of course there is also the pull of working under Klopp but the player and his agent will first and foremost take CL football into consideration due the factors you described like endorsements and such. I agree with your glum assessment of how we have performed in the transfer market. My point is that we haven’t helped ourselves by finishing outside of top 4. We needed all the help we could get.

          I know a lot of what you have said earlier boils down to managing expectations, but I still expect us to finish top 4. At least that gives us hope to build a platform for taking our club to the next level.. and as Wrighty said recently “if you don’t have hope, what the f*** have you got?”

          1. “My point is that we haven’t helped ourselves by finishing outside of top 4. We needed all the help we could get.

            I know a lot of what you have said earlier boils down to managing expectations, but I still expect us to finish top 4. At least that gives us hope to build a platform for taking our club to the next level.. and as Wrighty said recently “if you don’t have hope, what the f*** have you got?””


    3. Tim, I think you should take some time away from Arsenal. It’s one thing to adjust expectations to reality and teach yourself not to get angry with each poor turn of something you can’t control, and quite another to become so fed up with it as to let us loudly know that you no longer care about it (oxymoron anyone?). This summer is a perfect time for an Arsenal holiday. When you come back in the fall, we’ll still be here.

    4. Nice rant Tim 🙂
      My feelings mirror pretty much those of yours , except maybe forcing Sanchez and Ozil to play out their contracts and have them rot on the bench if the don’t extend. I’m sure you didn’t mean that but it would be fun to see.

      Here where I disagree with you. I’m glad Wenger extended, as I knew he would.
      The whole will he stay or will he go drama and suspense at the end of the season was so predictable that even Stephen King and John Grisham couldn’t have made it interesting and plausible.

      I’m glad Wenger stayed because I want to see the end of this sequel with the same principle characters playing their roles( except Sanchez. He’s gone)

      I want to see what Wenger does in this transfer window and how much he spends.
      I want to see what formation he plays and where Arsenal place next season.

      If Wenger fails to make top four again, then this season wasn’t just a blip but perhaps a new norm for him, which might indicate how his Arsenal career might’ve looked had there been more top managers with more recourses in the league during his earlier years.

      If he fails to make top four next season, the upside will be that even his biggest backers might finally consider that a new course is needed although I won’t be holding my breath. I’m looking at you “Untold” 🙂

      1. But duuuuude… we have had soooooo many chances to see what Wenger will do.. He’s had the money now for 5 years he’s had the chances to make a championship team now for 12 years. What do you think is really going to change?

        Anyway. He’s the manager. blah blah. it’s going to be another season.

        1. Well, for one he might stick with the new formation which would in itself be admission of sorts on his part that the “kamikaze” offensive football he persisted with for so many years might’ve been ill suited to this PL.

          If he does, that will be a vindication of many former central defenders like Squillaci for example.

          Also, if the Arsenal fandom is ever to be united again,then I can’t think of a better way to achieve this then Weneger winning the PL in the next two seasons, in which case people like you and I would admit being wrong, or him failing to make top four again , in which case people like Doc and Shard might admit finally that he’s done.

          Not extending his contract would’ve made neither of these two outcomes possible.

          There’s of course that possibility that he finishes in the top four the next season and gets blown away in the CL 10:2 on aggregate and we’ll be back to square one 🙂

        2. Incidentally, “I’m the manager blah blah blah and it’s going to be just another season” is what the players are gonna hear in their heads, no matter what Wenger says to them after the Summer break.

    5. CBs at the club already. Koscielny, Mertesacker, Mustafi, Gabriel, Chambers, Holding (that’s 6) In addition Monreal can play there, as apparently can Kolasinac, and we have Bielik coming up from the youth.

      There’s planning for successors to come in but this is ridiculous. We already have two 21/22 year olds ahead of a 18 y/o and behind two 25 year old CBs. We’re fine there. And neither Mertesacker nor Koscielny are as dead on their feet as you imply.

      Arsenal the corporate entity does promote itself as doing things the ‘right way’ and this is a marketing spiel. Wenger has said we can compete. I, as one of the contrarians on this site, have said we can compete. We can spend huge amounts. We can recruit well and big. Why is it so hard to understand that to say other clubs (especially the ones for whom football is not the real business) can spend more is not an excuse. It is just fact.

      1. Yeah I think for the first time in a long time I am not worried about our CB situation. Koz does have a chronic Achilles problem but I think our other CBs have shown (albeit it’s a small sample size) that they are more comfortable playing a 3 back system. Amazing what happens when you get the balance right and your CBs aren’t under constant pressure. I think we can give Koscielny plenty of time to recover. We will be fine with any combination of Per, Holding, Mustafi and Nacho to start the season.

      2. Only two of those CBs are first choice: Koscielny and Holding. Mustafi needs to make huge improvements, Chambers has been loaned out because he’s not good enough and didn’t even have a good year. Gabriel is a disaster. Mertesacker is dead on his feet. Monreal can’t win a ball in the air to save his life and Kolasinac is another Monreal.

        If we are relying on a back three of Monreal, Kolasinac, and Gabriel; Chambers, Kolasinac and Mertesacker; Mertesacker, Monreal, and Mustafi; etc then Arsenal are in real trouble.

        Don’t condescend to me. It’s not hard to understand your simplistic ideas. Why is it so hard for you to understand that saying “we can’t compete” in the transfer market, which Wenger has also said, is simply giving up?

        We can disagree and that’s fine but I won’t have you talk down to me like a child.

  8. I look at Ox’s performance in mid-field in the England France game, then I look at Dembele’s performance (who is 3 years younger) and it just makes me want to cry.

    1. Dembele was MOTM and Ox was probably the worst player. He should just stick to the right wing position and forget about been a CM. Maybe Arsenal should focus their attention towards Dembele instead of Mbape, maybe he can be easier to lure. If Alexis and Ozil dont want to sign, to hell with them, give me Dembele and James.

  9. I remember Ox scored a cracking goal in the Maracana in a 2-2 against Brazil in 2013. Young players flatter to deceive. Ox’s problems have been injuries not lack of skill or application. Southgate played him in a front 3, not a position he’s played for Arsenal this season.

    1. JB, I like your writing, even if you committed my pet peeve: opinion stated as if it was fact. You even call out that sort of thing yourself:

      “For one, I’ve read in many places that Arsenal won’t make it back to the Champions League for a long time. To me, that’s a bunch of bunk.”

      I think it’s important to recognize that league position is not nearly as important as the distance between ourselves and our competition in terms of points. Would you rather finish 5th if you were 1 point behind the first 4 teams or 2nd if you were 13 points behind first place? We haven’t really been close to a title in many years. That’s much more pertinent than where we finished among the pack of runners’ up. The financial and prestige incentives of a top 4 finish are important, but our track record on that front is no prognostic indicator for future performance. The same could be said of Arsene Wenger. His incredibly productive run from 1996-2005 didn’t predict his incredibly barren 2006-2013; why then do we insist that 2006-2013 will predict 2017-2019? Like most managers, he is basically as good as his teams are. insisting that we will finish top 4 just because we’ve done it before is just as foolish as to insist that we’ll never win the league with him just because he hasn’t done it in a while. Both are a form of gambler’s fallacy. If the coin is yet to be flipped, every new flip has an exactly 50% chance to land heads or tails. It doesn’t matter how many prior flips have come up heads or tails. The league competition is much more complex than a coin flip, but it’s no less true that each go around has its own unique story, basically independently from prior campaigns. It’s also true that the league title has become more volatile in recent years as the money gap has closed between the haves and have nots. Before a ball is kicked, Arsenal’s chances can perhaps be best characterized as poor but probably not as poor as they have been before, and that would be true no matter who is picking the team or running practices. In the gloriously chaotic circus that the PL has become, Arsenal has a puncher’s chance, and with each summer of spending, that chance goes up a little bit. That’s something to be happy about, in my book.

      1. sorry, bro, but i’d rather finish second than 5th, even if it’s 13 points back. that just means that the first place team likely played some lights-out soccer. what are you going to do? at least in 2nd, we’re better than all but one team (and in the champions league).

        i do agree with you that arsenal have every chance to win the league and more than just a fighter’s chance. early in the season, arsenal proved how potent they could be with cazorla and, down the stretch, proved they could win without cazorla. arsenal’s team isn’t as bad as some make it out to be.

        1. I’d rather play well enough to only be one point behind the best team. Usually when you do that it means you finish second. My point is though that if it weren’t for the UCL lucre, would you really care about top 4? Nobody would. Our goal is the title and if that’s the goal then it should be about points and point differential, not positions in the table.

      2. Doc, normally, I’d agree that past performance doesn’t guarantee future performance. And I’ve been open in my criticism of Arsene. But honestly, if the dude made the Top 4 20 years in a row, I think it’s fair to say he’s really good at getting into the Top 4. It’s his thing, well beyond the flip of a coin, which is why I feel comfortable “predicting” that he’ll do it again next year. And Doc, that’s also why I stressed that I’m a columnist. We trade in opinions. Educated guesses. I’ve been open about the fact that it’s all I’m good for, (beyond good writing, I hope.)

        1. That’s cool man, and discussing opinions is fun, as long as those opinions stay opinions and don’t become “facts” that other people are too ______ to see (insert your favorite adjective here).

          Speaking of opinions, I still fully disagree with what you said about Arsene being good at making the top 4; I think Arsenal bought just enough talent to maintain a squad that could realistically stick there and Arsene has played that hand more or less to a par each year. So in that sense, yeah, he’s been great at making top 4 because that’s been our most probable potential landing zone as a squad. I don’t think that makes him uniquely suited for that achievement in a good or bad way, it just makes him the guy that happened to be managing Arsenal football club during that time in our evolution and he was, as he likes to say “remarkably consistent.” Had he been in charge of Chelsea or City during the same time, I would guess he’d have won at least a couple of titles while the guy in charge of Arsenal would probably not have won any, just based on the simple math of the wage bills and net transfer spends for either club. And next year, he’ll simply be the guy that manages Arsenal football club in 2017-2018 season. I won’t deny that we all have emotional strings attached that make it much more than that to us; each time he grabs a water bottle, zips his jacket or flaps his arms, we’re going to be reminded of seasons past; but to me those strings are not what will make or break the season: that’s entirely down to how the squad plays compared to how the other squads play over 38 gloriously chaotic games. Wenger the manager will influence that, no doubt, especially in this coming summer as he is also the de facto GM and raison d être for some players to come or to go. But once the season starts, to my mind, he casts a much larger shadow in our minds than his actual impact on 38 games that are played by 22 unpredictably fallible humans, one unpredictable ball and three error prone officials.

          1. So you don’t think that having communicated to his teams that fourth is the minimum requirement, or rather the only true objective before each and every season for quite some time , it had any real impact on his players achieving that objective?

            I’ve been on teams that were expected to do nothing and also ones where expectations were higher and I’m here to tell you that even professional players tend to for the most part apply themself more or less according to expectations, doc.

  10. I will never bet good money that we would not win the league next season simply because we can win it. For some reason which maybe only the psychologists can explain we are very self-deprecating. It’s not the way we see ourselves that others see us. Those others, including top top players, see Arsenal as one of the top exciting teams in Europe. And they are right.

    CL is crucial. But believe it or not money talks. Man U and Chls got the players they needed last season without CL, including the world’s most expensive player. Yes our financial muscles are not as big, but they are still big enough particularly backed by good scouting. I marvel at the amount of talent in the Monaco team: Mbappe, Lemar, Fabinho, Falcao, Mendy, Bakayoko, Jorge and others. Any of these players would choose Arsenal over Monacco except the player worrying about playing time.

    There is a very good chance that the few teams that can afford Sanchez’s and Ozil’s wage demand would not need them. And any way if we sell well and buy well they are replaceable. After all, the 4 teams that finished above us never had Ozil and Sanchez in their team.

    1. I once met a professional footballer who used to play for AC Milan. I told him he should join Arsenal as he plays in a position of need.

      He was well aware of what was said about Arsenal and Wenger, but you should have seen the look on his face. He was so excited at just the thought of being able to play for Arsenal, and he made a gesture as if to say ‘God willing’.

      You’re right, we’re too self critical/conscious/deprecating. Maybe it’s because we’;re not the loudest club around. Arsenal are understated. This tends to be seen as weakness and a lack of willingness to take action. Just a random thought, but maybe Wenger’s time in Japan has affected the club’s ethos more than people realise. (including me – almost a necessity to add that caveat these days)

      Personally, I think Arsenal can win the title. We’ll need some luck along the way, and that is something that has been in terribly short supply for us, but so does every team to an extent.

      As far as making our own luck goes, we need to start by recruiting well. Kolasinac is a good start. A midfielder and a forward and I think we’re set. Provided of course we’re keeping Alexis, Ozil and Ox.

  11. i feel your pain when deals don’t get done, tim, but do you really think it’s because wenger doesn’t want to get them done? i mentioned in the previous thread how i think wenger simply lacks the charisma to get deals done, that’s why they don’t happen. he waits too long or lacks the nous to get the deals over the line. in short, arsenal miss david dein. the way wenger blew the suarez deal or how much they paid for mustafi are examples of things that probably wouldn’t have happened if dein were still at arsenal. it’s not to imply that wenger plays no role in players coming to arsenal, as that’s absurd. in fairness, it could be something else but i believe this is something wenger just sucks at. if he sucks, it’s not his fault; we all suck at something. however, it is his fault if he doesn’t honestly reflect on how much he may suck and allow someone with a more silver-slick tongue to do the talking or grant them the latitude to be more decisive.

    by the way, wenger only buying a goal keeper is something he’s done before. it was the summer of ’03 when david seaman left to man city. arsenal’s only purchase that summer was jens lehmann and arsenal went on to make history. i also don’t think arsenal need to buy world class players to compete. in the invincibles team, how many world class players did wenger buy? sol campbell is closest to world class when he came to arsenal and he came on a free transfer.

    1. That was a different world. Wenger’s inside knowledge of French football, which wasn’t rated in England at the time, was a huge advantage he no longer has. Top young French talent is not just coming to Arsenal anymore because the world has moved on and everyone is scouting and recruiting them harder, earlier and with more money than ever before. It’s difficult to say with any certainty because we weren’t there, but it does seem as if Arsene has been reluctant to join in that rat race and it has probably cost him and the club the chance to land some top prospects in recent years. Rubbing elbows with sleazy agents playing clubs off against each other, shmoozing with shady executives trying to rip him for every dime, pandering to the whims of callow youths.. The vulgarity of it must offend an old Monsieur like him. Yet, needs must.

    2. Unlike 2003, there were glaring weakness right through the spine of the team that needed addressing, so the comparison is not really apt. For me, signing only Cech that window was awfully complacent. Moreover, transfer money doesn’t not rolled over to the next FY (budgeting and financing don’t work that way).

      After buying Mustafi, Xhaka and Holding the following summer, it was well documented that he couldn’t go big on striker, and had budget only for Lucas, at £17m. By failing to invest properly in his squad the previous summer, he did it and its prospects a huge disservice. 2003 was different.

      The best bit of business he could do this window is keep his jewel players, even if they do a Bosman in January.

      1. i don’t think i agree with you two. arsenal looked like they could beat any team in europe with santi cazorla in the side. arsenal finished second in the league that season. if santi could have remained reasonably fit for the season, arsenal may not have gone unbeaten but they certainly would have challenged and, in all likelihood, beaten leicester to the championship. santi was as vital to arsenal’s success that season as gilberto was to the invincibles. it’s not for me to say that wenger was wrong to not buy another field player but, based on how strong they finished the ’14-’15 season, i didn’t feel troubled by arsene’s decision to not buy a field player (other than at center forward but i’ve said that since 2012).

        arsenal didn’t simply need a field player to replace cazorla, they needed a leader in midfield; someone to provide on-field direction/instructions in tough games. you don’t just buy those. it takes pedigree and experience. then, it takes time to earn the respect of players with egos that have been at the club. wenger not buying a field player is not the reason they failed to win the league that season. they could have easily won it if they had that more significant quality, direction.

        1. I’d quibble here a bit. Having requisite depth is a part of building a championship squad. Wenger gambled for 3 years straight on the health of Arteta and Cazorla, two linchpin Spanish midfielders who were older, and had become injury prone. And with Cazorla, in 2015-16, he played him into the ground b/c he didn’t have a proper backup. You’re right that if Coquelin and Cazorla had stayed healthy, we might have pipped Leicester, but the fact they got hurt was likely (or possibly) a function of the fact that they lacked rotation.

          I still remember Tim saying, that summer, that Wenger wasn’t going to buy anyone beyond Cech, and it seemed like he was trolling us. I would have bet anything Tim was wrong, but I would have lost that bet. It was a horrible mistake on Wenger’s part, and indicative of the kind of hubris he has continued to show, as when he blamed the fans this year for his team’s free-fall, rather than the players, or more importantly, himself.

        2. “i don’t think i agree with you two. arsenal looked like they could beat any team in europe with santi cazorla in the side. ”

          But often did not, with him in it. Remind me of all those stellar nights against Bayern, Monaco, Barcelona, Chelsea, United etc when Santi WAS playing?

          A wildly overstated assessment.

          Cazorla is good, but not that good. Luka Modric and at least a dozxen other players are probably consulting their lawyers as we speak 🙂 It’s a fantasy to say that we’d have beaten any team in Europe in the time he was out injured

          1. But surely the more pertinent part of the point he’s making is that if Santi had remained healthy, there’s every chance we would have pipped Leicester for the title, or at least come very close. I think this is a very plausible claim, even if having Santi in the team doesn’t suddenly make us world beaters.

          2. i’m not just talking arbitrarily having santi in the side. i’m talking about since he’s made the move to defensive midfield. with santi in that role, arsenal don’t have a lot of losses. in fact, most of their games are wins.

  12. Criticise away JB. We can’t know whether it would have worked if brought in earlier, but this is a time at Arsenal where even Wenger’s achievements are at best acknowledged as back handed compliments. So what’s another one? That too something as minor as this.

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