We’re in the money,
We’re in the money;
We’ve got a lot of what it takes to get along!
We’re in the money,
The sky is sunny;
Old Man Depression, you are through,
You done us wrong!
As predicted yesterday, the Arsenal world has launched into arguing over quotes attributed to Arsene Wenger. Quotes which flatly state that up until this summer Arsenal have not had the money to buy big name players. To say that these statements have reopened an old disagreement among fans is an understatement.
The problem is that this is not something we haven’t heard before. In 2010, Wenger made a similar statement on Arsenal.com saying boldly that Arsenal could compete with Chelsea:
“I think we can overcome [Chelsea],” he said. “For a while we were not investing maybe because we had built the stadium but I think our financial situation is now becoming much stronger and we will be capable to buy the players we need to buy.”
And so, in the last three years we Arsenal fans have spent countless hours wonder why we haven’t bought those players and arguing over whether the club actually had money to spend on big name players.
I believe firmly that they had and have the money. I have looked at the financial reports for the last 8 years and I believe that Arsenal have had the money to improve the squad and have chosen not to spend that money until now. There are a variety of reasons given and imagined for why they didn’t spend: couldn’t compete with Chelsea, couldn’t afford the top top top class players, wanted to take dividends, were waiting for the powder to get really super extra dry, holding back the money for Wenger’s successor, aliens, didn’t want to “pull a Rangers,” plastic elastic lobster telephone, Wenger doesn’t like to spend, the board didn’t want to spend, Wenger doesn’t like the competition of “big ego players”, and the old chestnut that Arsenal have never been a buying club.
All of these ideas and more could be argued ad nauseam with no resolution — they have been argued since I started this blog 5 years ago so I see no end in sight. And we will never know the truth until Arsenal want us to know the truth: and even then? We’d still argue about it. Just like when Wenger says “I have the money” people still say “but Wenger doesn’t REALLY have the money.”
So, where I am going from here is not to argue over what should have been done but rather to take the current words of both the board and the manager and hold them to those words.
Both board and manager have now said that they have the money to spend and that they will spend to improve the squad. I expect them to honor that pledge and buy the players that will improve this squad.
AW: “I just defend the idea that you spend the money you have and not the money you don’t have. For years I did that. Today we have more so we can spend more. It’s as simple as that.”
Q: And you are excited by that prospect of being able to spend more?
AW: “Of course I am excited by that prospect but what I want to convince you of is that we are ready to spend the money if we feel that the players makes us a better team tomorrow morning. Maybe it’s difficult to balance that in a newspaper but football is not only about that. It’s bigger than that. It’s about the team, the quality of the play, the spirit and togetherness and the quality of the players. Therefore we have to focus on all the rest as well.”
Q: What are the reasons as to why the squad has declined even in numbers? Is that down to the years of having to be frugal?
AW: “What happened for years was the quality of our work has been taken away from us because the best players left for financial reasons. For the first time this year that has not happened and I don’t think it will happen again for financial reasons. We have made the first step. The next step is to strengthen the squad and the team by buying the right players.”
Sure, there’s some weasel room in Wenger’s insistence that the players they buy have to be better than the ones we have (the right players) but I can show you objectively that we haven’t done that over the last 8 years. Ready? Who was Park better than? Chamakh? Gervinho? Santos? Squillaci? Is Nacho better than Gibbs?
Therein lies the argument “is X player better than Y?” But finding better players than the ones we have is actually easier than ever before. The amount of data available to fans, managers, and scouts is absurd. Every year players make the step up from relative obscurity and every year we see these players on WhoScored.com and other data-driven web sites, look at their stats and can tell they are going to make the step up. For example, I never saw Özil play a single game but I saw his stats from his time playing at Werder Bremen and could see that this was a young player who was already putting up eye popping numbers of key passes, dribbles, and assists. In that same season, you could see that Arturo Vidal was a top player, Tony Kroos, Sven Bender, Luiz Gustavo, on and on.*
Last spring I said that we should judge this management team and manager on what they did this summer. They spent nearly a year and a half bragging about how much money they had and how they could afford top talent so my feeling was they needed to go out and get top talent. They did. And I will loudly congratulate them for doing so. Özil is a dream signing and the parallels between him and Bergkamp are uncanny. Absolutely stonking signing and everyone from Gazidis to Wenger to the guy who keeps the fax machine running need to be patted on the back.
And now they are talking loudly again that they will continue to buy and how Arsenal have new-found financial firepower. Bully to us! Not only do we have the money but Özil is the perfect piece to build around!
I will never mention the austerity years again except as a wistful remembrance if we do exactly what Arsenal are saying that they are going to do; use the money to build this team into title contenders again. Compete with Chelsea and Man City on even footing and do it the right way as they like to say, without a dime borrowed or loaned from a sugar daddy.
Finding top talent is easier than ever before, Arsenal have the money coming in to buy that talent, and Arsenal have the perfect player to assemble that talent around. And more importantly, the board and manager are now saying that they can and will spend.
How could you not be excited — positive even — over the prospect of this club finally pushing through to the next level?
Of course, that’s in January. For now, I will settle for just showing me some stellar football tomorrow. Come on you rip roaring reds!
*You want to know some breakout players this year? Max Kruse: 11 goals, 8 assists, 80 shots, 93 key passes, 93 dribbles last season. If you want a more traditional forward, look at Nils Petersen and Adam Szalai who have both already put in some impressive displays this season. In defense you’re going to hear Nathan Baker’s name (from Villa) a lot. At left back Bastian Oczipka is a crossing fool and a tackling maniac. At right back, there’s 27 year old Carlos Martinez from Real Sociedad who was one of the best players in La Liga last season. I’ll stop there but I can do this all day. ALL DAY.