Scout me a skipper, I’ll be back for breakfast

Arsene Wenger – 29 December 2012

“Yes, I will be busy,” he confirmed. “I don’t feel under pressure to name names because you [the media] find them on your own.

“We have the potential to be in the Champions League with what we have. We are open to strengthening the team, but the difficulty is to find what strengthens us. [You don't always find that with] the players available on the market.

“Yes [we want players who can make an immediate impact], that is why it is so difficult as well. Man United bought Robin van Persie for £24million and he is 29 years old.

“They have scouts all over the world. They looked everywhere. Don’t think that they just came in and bought Van Persie, they looked everywhere else. But to find the quality of striker that would strengthen a top Premier League team at the moment in the world is difficult.”

Arsene Wenger – 13 January 2013

“I have always said we have two targets – to get our players signed up and to get our injuries back,” Wenger said.

“We now have Rosicky and Diaby available again. If you look at our squad, it’s quite complete but we still work in the transfer market as well.

“We do not want to bring in average players. We only want to bring in an exceptional player. At the moment we have not found him.”

There is an amazing moment in the book Arsenal: The Making of a Modern Superclub where Arsenal scout Giiles Grimandi reveals that Arsenal scouted Jose Antonio Reyes for two years before signing him. Going to such lengths that they even watched him during practice sessions. And as if to put a fine point on it, Grimandi admits that he also watched Bacary Sagna 30 times before recommending that Arsene make the swoop. And from what I can tell, from the day that the Nicolas Anelka Memorial Training Center at London Colney was built, until about two years ago, this was the modus operandi of Arsenal’s scouting network: don’t scout broadly, scout deeply.

Watching a player for two years is almost ethnographic research and gives us a clue as to why Arsenal are so slow to pull the trigger on players and why Arsene Wenger consistently insists that there are no top quality players available. But it wasn’t always like that with Arsenal and I don’t know if Arsenal’s scouting network is still set up the same way. At least, judging by the purchases that we have made in the last two years I find it hard to believe that Arsenal scouted Park 30 times, recommended the purchase, and then somehow the player didn’t pan out. No, I see a change in approach.

In fact, I think that there have been three distinct periods in Arsenal’s transfer and scouting activities, the Henry era, the Cesc era, and the Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain era.

When Arsene first came to Arsenal he was able to use his knowledge of the “Golden Generation” of French players and mine his connections while exploiting what was essentially a soft market to bring in players on the verge of superstardom at exceptional value. This was the Henry era.

During that Henry era Arsene Wenger didn’t need to scout a player like Thierry Henry 30 times because he’d already scouted him in 1990 when he was 13. Wenger had signed Henry to his first professional contract, knew that he won French Young Footballer of the Year in 1996, knew that he had won Ligue Un in 1997, gotten to the Champions League semi-finals in 1998 (scoring a record 7 goals), and that he had scored three goals for the 1998 World Cup winning French team. That Henry was languishing at Juventus was only down to mismanagement, if ever there was a player ready to make the breakthrough to superstar, it was Thierry Henry in 1999.

And in the same way, what I think he tried to do with his scouting network was replicate his own encyclopedic knowledge of world footballers so that future decisions on players would also be easy. That’s why they have in the past scouted deeply, rather than broadly. Arsene wanted to know everything about the player before the club buys him so that he can maximize value and minimize waste. It worked a treat for Bacary Sagna who has been a tremendous servant for Arsenal.

But there’s also a problem with scouting deeply which is magnified by the money era and the explosion of freely available player information that we have seen in the last five years. That problem is simple, if you spend 2 years scouting just a handful of players like Eden Hazard and he goes to Chelsea then you have lost out on one of just a small number of potential targets. This happened time and again in the “Cesc era.” Arsenal just kept having their targets poached away and the result was that Arsenal were either forced to rely on players that weren’t up to snuff or that Arsenal kept looking at younger and younger players to build for the future.

But since the breakup of the Cesc Arsenal team there has been a markedly different approach to transfers and I suspect to the scouting scheme. Arsenal seem to be taking a two-prong approach and focusing more deeply on young talent from all over the world but especially on British players such as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Carl Jenkinson, and Chris Smalling while simultaneously scouting more broadly for older (27+) ready-made talent like Santi Cazorla, Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud, and Mark Schwarzer.

It looks a lot like Arsenal are no longer in the market for that 21 to 24 year old who is ready to burst onto the scene. I think they have been burned too many times by either having the transfer scuppered as with Juan Mata or having the player use Arsenal as a stepping stone to a bigger payday as with Nasri and Adebayor. In fact, the last player that Arsenal purchased in the 21-24 year old age group was Gervinho and after a year and a half at the club his career has been widely seen as something of a failure.

The new two-pronged approach makes perfect sense. Take young, local, talent and steep them in the club culture so that they will be more difficult to poach away when the Oilgarchy comes calling. Then surround those players with seasoned professionals who can help guide the young players but who will retire and clear room for growth in just a few years.

If my hypothesis is correct it would explain why Arsenal are quick to do deals for 18 year olds, slow to do deals for 27 year olds, and aren’t really in the market for 24 year olds. The 18 year olds are easier for Wenger, he feels more assured of their potential because he probably has a complete dossier on them. The 27 year olds are harder to find because by that age a player is usually quite settled. That’s why so many of Arsenal’s deals for those types of players have been under unusual circumstances: Cazorla’s club needed money, Podolski’s club was being relegated, Chamakh on a free, etc. But it’s the 21-24 year olds who everyone wants Arsenal to sign, Falcao, Cavani, Capoue, Yanga-Mbiwa because we all remember that Arsenal built champions buying exactly those kinds of players. But those are the exact players Arsenal has the most difficulty buying because those are the players that are most scouted by the competition, most coveted, and most expensive.

Arsenal under Arsene Wenger have never had a production line from academy to first team. As a result, the club’s success or failure has largely been driven by activities in the transfer market. In the early years Arsenal did well exploiting Wenger’s knowledge of world football. When that market dried up, Wenger dug deep and turned to younger players in order to build a team around Cesc Fabregas. With the breakup of that team, all in their prime, just at the point when he might have purchased them in the first era, Wenger changed tack again. This time looking for a core of young (mostly British) players whom he would surround with seasoned professionals. And that’s why the two quotes at the top of the article actually make sense.

Arsenal only seem to be looking for young players like Zaha or older players like Demba Ba. So, of course, when Wenger says that he doesn’t have any targets he means it because I don’t think Arsenal aren’t realistically in the market for middle-age players any more.


63 thoughts on “Scout me a skipper, I’ll be back for breakfast

    1. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Joe

      Bullshit Why bullshit? give your reasons for your point of view also great use of English. Maybe your not an Arsenal fan that’s were your stupid point of view comes from.

      1. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1alex cutter

        “…also great use of English. Maybe your not an Arsenal fan that’s were…”

        Ahhh, irony.

    1. +23 Vote -1 Vote +1Drew

      How can you say the author has too much time on his hands? The author spends a good portion of his life dedicated to this blog so that people like us can read and enjoy opinions on the club we all love and this your way of thanking him.

      Do yourself a favor and do not waste your time and stay away from these blogs.

    2. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Joe

      That may be true but it’s our time to waste, but may I just point out that your the one on an Arsenal site complaining about time wasting you really need go back to a site that caters more closely to your point of view I get a feeling it’s a man city site.

  1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Dick Swiveller

    Yes, I agree wholeheartedly with what you’re saying but when there are 27 year olds that would easily be a step up from Chamakh and plenty of wingers that would give us some nice balance it’s hard to argue that there aren’t players out there we could get. I’m sure we’re trying but if Giroud breaks down and Diaby heads to Diaby-land then half the Wigan team would improve our squad.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1Dhruv

      I agree with you. Nice article, but with money at Wenger’s disposable, he should have brought players like Dembele. Wenger sticks to the laid policy and is passive to any changes based on the situation. All great managers need to be proactive and know pulse of the game. Wenger sadly has been out of touch lately and has depended on Diaby and Rosicky.

  2. +6 Vote -1 Vote +1Shard

    When you see it laid out like that it makes perfect sense. Both as to it happening, and as to why Wenger would do so.. Damn. I wish I had thought of that :) Brilliant read.

  3. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1CarsonWells

    I have to hand it to you mate. You have changed my mind considerably. I was very wrong about this club I have been supporting for so long now. For that I guess I just wanted to say thanks.

  4. +46 Vote -1 Vote +11NiltotheArsenal

    This piece whether you agree with it or not (and I can’t immediately see what there is to disagree about), clearly demonstrates a deeper understanding of our club than most Arsenal bloggers.

    Well done, keep it up and don’t stop. We’re well addicted now and you should see your only meaningful purpose in life is to feed that communal addiction with erudite, well analyzed stuff like this. Every day.

  5. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Ickenham Gooner

    This is great analysis and fascinating. Seems so obvious when you communicate it so clearly.

    Sadly, though, does that mean a few more lean years while we wait for it to work?

    Also, I do disagree with Wenger’s comments re available good talent now even assuming the 27yr minimum requirement Tim has identified. It is out there, it is down to if we want to pay the going rate. We shall see, but I am not getting my hopes up.

    My own view, if we have a sufficiently complete squad – why are we sixth?

    1. Vote -1 Vote +11NiltotheArsenal

      Stating the obvious, we are sixth because we lack quality.

      More precisely, we lack any kind of consistency. We can be great, we HAVE at times, been great this season, but we just can’t string together a run of decent performances for the life of us.

      If anyone can figure out the problem they should replace Wenger this instant. It’s so frustrating to glimpse this potential but not to see it develop into something.

  6. +6 Vote -1 Vote +1Teampossible

    One of your best analysis Tim,
    I can’t believe you come up with such quality stuff on daily basis, since you know, you also have a job and a life.

    I don’t disagree with anything, but I was quite surprised to read that they were scouting a player for 2 years and I honestly don’t know what to think of it, because even in multimillion dollar mergers, they do the evaluations faster.

    To me that spells either indecisive scouting, waaaaay too prudence with the money for the fear of spending them in vain or just too much time on your hands.
    In any case, I somehow found it a tiny bit repulsive.
    Maybe it is because of all the Silvestre’s and Squillaci’s that came afterwards that make me feel this way, but still.
    Excellent read once again.

  7. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1ChitownArsenal

    Koz, Verm, Sagna were in that 21 to 25 area when we bought them right? They’ve all been good buys for what we paid for them. More reason we want more of those on our squad. Probably why we haven’t gotten any yet; come at a premium.

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Tim Post author

      Yes. Koz was 24 (turned 25 that fall), Vermaelen was 23 (turned 24), and Sagna was 23. Considering that Koz was with Lorient at the time, the fee of £11m was quite extraordinary. Guessing that Wenger had him watched for a long time.

      1. -1 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

        I think in general, Wenger watches most of his targets for a while. Ditto Santi

        The scouting environment is simply more complicated these days. There is a lot more money awash and there is better understanding of foreign markets in England where by most teams are now carrying a heavy composition of foreigners.

        Therefore whilst we may not be able to keep at bay the likes of City or Chelsea on some high profile young talent (Hazard for eg), we should endeavor to sharpen up on some that are falling through our hands, Cabaye, Demba Ba, Michu.

        There is definitely improvements to be made in our current scouting system which I believe has become a bit institutionalized in approach. Certianly our methods have been heavily copied since.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1Tim Post author

      They have also already made the jump to superstardom. Probably could have used a lot of other names but people identify with them. Creative license if you will.

  8. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1DANtheTHINKERer

    I think you are spot on with your analysis, with the exception of the actual age ranges, which honestly are irrelevant. The important aspect is our focus on younger undiscovered talents, and older, special circumstance, seasoned players. We are not in the market for household names, either due to a real lack of cash, or reluctant want to use said cash. The real question is, is this approach good enough?

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      I agree, age is irrelevant.

      We are in an adaptive environment. We do not pull the strings in the market. Therefore at the moment, the advantage in value is there (Santi, Podolski) but it could shift quickly and we have had to be far more nimble than before.

      Hopefully a slight increase in spending power on our part (say pushing our tolerable transfer limit up to low 20m if need be for certain signings), will improve our ability to adapt around the rich clubs and fend off some of the pretenders…like the lilly whites.

    2. Vote -1 Vote +1Zeddington

      I think Dan’s reply is spot on – the analysis seems entirely correct, but with less emphasis on the age ranges and more so on the stage of development that player is in (which you’ve loosely classified with the age ranges).

      And then the question of whether this approach is good enough. I would say no, not really – while it’s crappy to lose good players every year, this is remedied by winning, nothing less. Also, it may not be entirely bad to sell some of these players at a profit if they must go, provided they are replaced adequately and the team is not overly disrupted. This requires a balance, which may be hard to achieve – but doesn’t a team always require a difficult balance?

  9. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Anthony Gibbs

    Good statements in there,but the players we have sold could have one the club trophies if we kept the players we had scouted we would be a successful club,the club has become a feeder club for Manchester city and more recently Manchester United, IMO not a lot wrong with the scouting system, but big mistake in selling best players to our rivals a slow painful death of the club

  10. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1consentient

    A very good analysis. I would also add one other factor to the mix, which is that players simply aren’t interested in moving to Arsenal anywhere near as much as they were. Whatever you consider the top rung to be in the EPL, AFC slipped off it at least a few years ago and show no sign of returning.

  11. Vote -1 Vote +1Teampossible

    Tim, although this is in regards to players being bought and their age, it got me thinking about something else – the players we decide to sale.

    Somehow I have this feeling that the majority (and I mean “majority” as in almost each and every one of them of them) of the players Arsenal sales are attacking players.

    Somehow I feel like there has never been an 20+ mil offer for some of our defenders in the way it has been the case with all the attack minded players, like Cesc, Nasri, Adebayor or RVP.

    I know this probably leads to the “Arsene sucks at defence” argument, but perhaps there is some truth to it. After all, almost half of January has passed and we are still waiting for that 27 million offer for Squillaci.

    1. -2 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      I’m not sure about the myth that Wenger is poor at defense.

      Apart from Keown really, the defense that became the Invincibles were largely Wenger’s creation with Toure and Sol at the heart of his recruitment.

      That said, i do think he tried to penny pinch in the mid-late 2000s in part because he was emphasising to too strong a degree the Academy system and in part because the market had tighten because of Chelsea etc.

      Similarly we have taken greater risk with players in recent years in the forward department because of the tight market. Where Wenger had rich pickings in the early 2000s in France, he is not the only player these days.

      therefore the problem I have with this article is that in no way does it take into account the change in operating environment that Wenger has had to face. I’m not saying he is on the right track but I do think it very important to understand the reasons behind Wenger’s decision making. otherwise we are sans context.

    2. Vote -1 Vote +1Shard

      Defenders generally go for less money than attackers. We had our famous back 4 retire with us. Campbell was allowed a free transfer because he’d lost his head. Toure was sold for fairly big money. Cole for Gallas+5m was considered good transfer value. Clichy, who I think we were looking to sell, went for 7m. I’m not sure your theory is correct that the lack of astronomical transfer fees received for defenders suggests Arsene sucks at defense.

  12. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1begeegs

    Good article. I agree partly with what you are saying. It would explain why we are linked to more players in the lower leagues than before – like Zaha and Charlie Austin.

    In my opinion, I still think that Wenger is still taking a massive gamble with assuming that the core British players are going to be world beaters and/or won’t be bought by one of the wealthier teams – not only this, but that they will stay loyal. Perhaps English players are more likely to stay in the Premiership like Spanish players want to stay in La Liga, but that doesn’t mean that their allegiances will stay with Arsenal – look at Rooney or last years signing, Jack Rodwell (yeah – he isn’t great just yet).

    The only way that Wenger can keep his players loyal is to pay them and not on this ‘socialistic’ wage set where you are overpaying players that have yet to come good and not paying the stars enough. Oh yeah – and by winning things. When you win things, players want to come to you because you have good players and they win trophies (the money is obviously a factor as well).

    I still think that Wenger’s approach is fundamentally flawed and if he stays long enough to see his core British ‘kids’ grow up, he will see the same results as when he invested heavily in kids with Denilson, Bendtner, Fabregas, etc – the players who aren’t good enough won’t be able to be shifted because of the ridiculous wages and the good ones will get poached because they will want to leave. It’s all in the finances and the irony is that Wenger has a degree in Economics.

    1. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Tim

      I agree, this comment always gets me grief but despite the very public badge worship from Jack Wilshere, I think his head will be turned in a few years. Maybe even as soon as next year (meaning he will leave in summer 2014).

      1. Vote -1 Vote +11NilToTheArsenal

        Not if we win. The only real currency is winning. Get trophies and everything, absolutely everything else takes care of itself. These kids need to find something to believe in with this club. Wenger needs to find ways to keep that fire burning by somehow stabilizing this group for a 2-4 year period, until he retires. Otherwise we’re over and done and dusted for the next several years.

      2. Vote -1 Vote +1Redcore

        Really Good Article. Maybe the upside is that they will go for even more money when they do go because they are English :( .

        Also I agree that Falcao, Cavani etc are out of reach but I would think that Arsenal should be able to get someone like Mbiwa if they want.

    2. -1 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      Wenger is changing the face of football in England.

      In many ways, he started to really push for the foreign invasion of talent.

      But he also started the academy and is now on the verge of showing the fruits of it as the younger Biritsh players coming through are more technical than before.

      OTOH, I feel it will be a mistake to emphasis this British core to too much of an extent. It certainly is very important to have local boys commited (and crucially with talent) to cause in jenkinson, Gibbs, Jack, but we must also keep in mind the limits which can affect the way the team plays.

      Currently we are packed with direct wingers (young players coming through academy or through our Southampton familiar). We need to redress a little with players with some craft, guile and creativity.

  13. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Ssinderias

    Tim, your attempt to understand the logic behind Arsene Wenger’s transfer policies probably explains it better than anything else I’ve read in the last 3 years

  14. Vote -1 Vote +1Aamir

    Hi Tim, I love Arsene Wenger and am a staunch supporter of the great man. However, the past two seasons have seriously made me question him. Do you think we will sign ANYONE this current transfer window?

      1. Vote -1 Vote +1Aamir

        I would love to see any one of Moussa Sissoko ,Etienne Capoue (he wants to leave Toulouse), Yann M’Vila (cut price and still has potential) be signed. I really hope we do get 2-3 good players. This squad we have on paper is good enough for 3rd place in my view if Arsene can get the best out of them. But we are unbalanced and under-performing.

      2. -1 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

        As we speak, Nuri Sahin has left Mr Rodger’s neighbourhood and is now heading on loan for 18 months to Dortmund.

        I’m not letting Wenger off the hook. Some of his transfer decisions in the summer were baffling in priority particularly ;

        1) Letting Song go for that fee.
        2)Keeping Walcott on.

        To me, we would have been better served giving Song the 80K he wanted, kept him and sold Walcott, bringing in someone more commited (and preferably someone who can play with a bit more craft out wide)

        Instead, we are now trying to fix the very uissue we have created for ourselevs in finding Arteta an adequete backup. Cue Diaby LANS.

  15. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1tauroscatology

    Great post. I think one thing that’s overlooked when we’re talking about why we’ve underachieved is the rawness of the midfield. Of our front six, only Theo and Jack had played together before this season. (assuming Wishere, Cazorla, Arteta, Podolski, Giroud, Walcott). That’s frankly shocking. It’s hard to advocate patience when time is running out, but our playing style demands chemistry and familiarity, predicting each other’s runs and passes. I think our anemic performances – Swansea, Bradford, So’ton – are partly down to that.

    1. -2 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      Midfield lacks depth.

      the trio that make up the engine are :

      1) Jack, recently returned from long term lay off.
      2) Santi, over played.
      3) Arteta way over played.

      add to unfamiliarity issues and the recent pandering to Walcott in his new position thereby compressing our shape, it is not surprising that we have on occassion looked flat.

      Coupled with the baffling ability of Wenger not to maximise his assets rather opting for Ramsey out wide as oppose to Arsharvin or even Rosicky, slow substitutions, we have not done ourselves favours either.

      I don’t believe that all solutions are found in the transfer market. I think many of the critical issues we face can be fixed but have not been properly tackled.

  16. Vote -1 Vote +1caribkid

    Very well put together Tim and I find very little, if any, to disagree with. What I cant forget though, and it still haunts me to this day, is the shambolic transfer window we had in the Summer of 2011.

    Early signings of Jenks (young British talent) and Gervinho looked like promising additions and the incoming of the OX boded well for the season. Then the exodus took place with Cesc to Barcelona, Eboue to hostile Turkish climes, both Clichy and Nasri to City, Traore to QPR and Bendtner, Denilson, Ryo and Vela went out on loan.

    Notwithstanding the seriousness of the situation, Arsene Wenger was away in Austria or Switzerland (cant remember which) at a coaching seminar when in a space of 48 (last 48 hours of the transfer window) hours we brought in the likes of Benayoun, on loan, and Santos, Park, Arteta and BFG.

    The question was the, and still remains the same today, “How does a mega club like Arsenal screw up a transfer window so royally?”. The second question to be asked, “Why in the hell was no one held accountable for this flagrant lack of planning and organization?”.

    We really don’t know what happened and who was responsible, but it surely made us look like a mom and pop business rather than a well managed sporting franchise with the 5th highest revenue in the world.

    We all know what happened as a result and the 8-2 thrashing at the hands of Manu symbolized how lowly we had fallen.

    We salvaged the season by finishing 3rd due to implosions by Spurs and Chelsea, but far from touching distance to both Manchester teams.

    Now, that could not have been planned. So, did we plan to fail or merely fail to plan?

    1. -3 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      Which again is the issue at heart.

      We don’t have a problem spending.

      We spent 54m that summer bringing in a host of players for the start of a makeover.

      We spent 39m on slightly more quality the following summer.

      But we continue to bleed players who have come good and CRUCIALLY have experience institutionally with wenger’s system. Hence the constant rebuild.

      The problem hasn’t entirely been transfers rather our salaries and our inability to ward off the ‘richer’ clubs.

      This has to change and steps are being taken but the converse issue is that because we have been trying to keep up, we have now got a problem selling on rejects because of the salary gap created by the oil rich clubs in the market.

      It is a difficult question to solve as illustrated by what United pay RVP as oppose to what we could have and considering (sponsorship re-negotiations aside) that our commercial side is still not competitive.

  17. Vote -1 Vote +1jaymin

    i was pessimistic, but now am sanguine about it all. IF FFP is enforced as poitivegunner and santori believe it will be, then we are strong beyond imagining in the new era. If it is not, then denver nuggets owner will lose his nerve, and sell out to Usmanov, who will exploit the rules as well as City can (unless he’s attracted to West Ham, their leased stadium, and lower cost, first.) Either way, we win.

  18. -2 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

    More upbeat today?

    I think there is a danger in being too pedantic in saying that we only concentrate on players around 27 (who have been overlooked) and players at 18 (with reasonable potential).


    1)The market is constantly shifting. Where once Chelsea were targeting marquee names, they have in recent times targeted younger players and a proportion of homegrown youth to meet quota. We will have to adapt to market segments which represent value. at present there is some value in slightly older players in mid career who are not viewed entirely as the latest hot property. Therefore our hunt in this segment. this could change quickly.

    2)You have to take into account the change in the market place in different countries. Nothing is static. Wenger was in some parts fortunate that when he came in at Arsenal, france was experiencing a golden generation and he was in perfect pole position (with full market knowledge) to exploit it. Where as now, France has become an exporter of players (in part due to Wenger) and even teams like Newcastle which were predominantly once majority British in players are now mainly French!. As Wenger mentions, different countries go through up and down cycles and at this point in Europe, Germany and Spain are prime producers of young talent where France and Africa have cooled off somewhat (the later in part due to ACN being an annual affair)

    3) Also the PL has changed. Again I think it highly disingenuous not to consider the impact of the oil rich teams in the mid noughties. Apart from transfer fees, salaries have also jumped and there is now a big gap between the teams who can afford large salaries and those that can’t, making it more difficult for us in many ways to offload some of our rejects. In essence the playing field in the market is very different. Where Falcao may have cost half the price had he been a player in the late 90s, he is now valued beyond our reach. And you don’t even have to look that far to see the change in environment when you consider some of the silly money paid out to English/British talent by the likes of Liverpool. All this has meant that whilst our revenue has grown, we have also been pushed for price and salary in two compounding directions.

    It is therefore ridiculous to say that we are able to enter a bidding war against Chelsea or City when we can’t keep our top players because of the disparity in salary that can be afforded to them by the other side.

    4) Market knowledge has also been more flat with the advent of the internet. Where managers in the PL were predominantly English and hunted for less technical players available locally, there has been an upsurge in foreign managers in recent years savy with the overseas market. Just look at the composition of most teams these days, it’s not the same as the predominantly British entities we faced early in Wenger’s reign. Not even taking the higher tactical levels we face now into context, the influx of foreign players and ability of ‘smaller’ clubs to buy them also means that the market is tighter for us and has in some ways been relected in the increasing number of dud signings we have made in recent years as wenger has been force into more risky gambles for price paid.

    5) Finally with regards Henry, again I think you are missing the point. Henry was a promising striker but no where near full article when Wenger took him. He was at that point unconvincing. It is convenient for you to say that he would have inevitably turned out to be the striker he was with or without Wenger’s management.

    Look at Balotelli.

    Yes taking nothing away from Titi, the man was intelligent and worked hard to realise his potential, but on the flip side he is also the first to acknowledge the effect Wenger had on his career. You should at very least acknowledge that. And its not just Henry, ditto Viera, Llugberg, Pires. Who were they before they came to Arsenal?

    The fact is that Wenger is operating in a very different and more challenging environment now than he did when he first took reign. Because of this, our competitive advantages we used to enjoy due to his excellent picks in the market has been eroded. It has shown up some of his tactical limitations.

    Two track approach has to happen. We are not the only club doing so but we have a slight head start over some others (albeit they have greater spending power) because of Wenger’s foresight. But it does not mean we are not looking for cost competitiveness in the 22-25 year old range, just that it has been harder because some clubs you too easily discount from having an effect on us, are concentrating in that segment at the moment.


    1. Vote -1 Vote +1arsonwenger

      I don’t know about that but he does try and is one of the leading opinion makers which is all the more reason why he should be careful to put things within context.

      What I believe we also need to consider when loading on the new players is opportunity cost.

      Meaning (as we should learn from current issue with offloading) that if we take a player on now that doesn’t exactly prove to bring us something different or make as much an impact as we think, it may impact on us bringing someone who can when that player comes on market down the line in the summer.

      I believe Wenger makes his decisions projected a couple of transfer windows down based on what he knows with regards contract situations and potential movement of players that are key targets.

      That is not to say we do not need to loan on the striker or Arteta back up. It will be a poor excuse to use this but certainly it is something to bear in mind when considering why Wenger may be hesitant to bring in certain players.

      1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

        Ther are 19 days left in the window and I have no sense that we are bringing in anyone. Whatever move was planned depending on the Walcott decision can now be shelved. Diaby’s returned will mean that Wenger can foolishly gamble on him still making an impact and not bringing in another MF for what ever role they might have filled (eg. relieving Arteta).

  19. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1arsonwenger

    We buy them young because for the most parts (unless they are English), they are cheaper. Has nothing to do with length of time needed to put together a scouting dossier. That’s silly.

    But because they are young, it carries inherent risk.

    Current policy to solidify with experience from market has resulted (with exception of keeper position) that we have one experience player past 25 yrs for every position.

    That does not suggest to me that we need anymore experience at this stage.

    Rather now, it is a question of bringing players in who :

    1) Can make an impact regardless of age
    2) Can offer us something different to we can vary our approach in the game.

    An impact player can be at any age. What he needs is to bring the qualities that the squad is currently lacking.

  20. Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

    Claims of 30, 40 50mil in the bank and Wenger still insists that he will only buy when players depart. At Arsenal, transfer fund ‘availability’ has no correlation with actual spending.

  21. Vote -1 Vote +1FCArsenal

    Nice article.

    The Henry era as you say was far easier because rival clubs in England did not have vast scouting networks across the world so it was easy to see the potential of Veira. Nowadays a 18 year old Vieira would be monitored by all top clubs.

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