If you have been reading my articles regularly, you know I’m a pro-Wenger guy. There were periods when I doubted his skill, but these came before I was able to look at the wider picture, i.e. learnt to appreciate his planning abilities. Up to a certain point I was caught up in the now, unable to see the effects of Arsene’s long-term thinking. That being said, I have always respected the man as a person. I only doubted his managerial nous. I shouldn’t have.
This has only become clear to me recently, after the season ended. There are two reasons behind my enlightenment:
- We ended the season on a high. As such there’s no moaning about how we should replace Wenger. A positive environment enables you to look at things differently. You are not caught in the miserable now, hence you are not thinking about it constantly
- In summer, the quality of articles both increases and decreases. Decreases because lots are revolving around transfer rumours. Increases because the paucity of material at hand enables you to think big and look at things from different angles. Such articles give you food for thought
Some recent pieces of this ilk combined with my observations made me see the light: Arsene Wenger is the best thing to have happened to Arsenal FC. We are where we are now because of him. His devotion to Arsenal. Him working under constant pressure on things we didn’t even understand (and I don’t claim we do so even now). Arsene has patiently persevered in three directions and this summer it hit me with sudden clarity that the Frenchman is almost there. We almost reached the Promised Land, only fine-tuning is needed to get back to our best, the rest is behind us. So how come Arsene did all this? What are these directions I’m talking about? In short, what makes him a bloody genius?
We all know about the financial restraints we were put under as a result of building a new, modern stadium. I don’t need to dwell on that.
However, a recent article from Chris opened my eyes to many more things. Arsene not only built a new stadium in an era where EVERY top club needs one (yes, Chelsea, City, United and even Liverpool and Tottenham are playing at old stadiums which will need replacing soon. In fact, both clubs from London are already searching for temporary homes while the renovation/building works will be in progress). While Chelsea, United and City owners have bottomless wallets, Liverpool and Tottenham don’t and will struggle as a result. Even the big guys will face problems cause:
- building/renovating a stadium isn’t cheap. Their Sugar Daddies may limit the spending power during that period
- no one said Sugar Daddies won’t refuse to invest in a new stadium/leave the said clubs
We are past that stage now. However, Arsene has also made other long-term investments: in scouting system (buying StatsDNA and recruiting new scouts like Brian McDermott), in youth set-up (e.g. Jonker for Brady), in improving training facilities. The list is endless. Check out Chris’s article above, it will tell you the story a lot better than I will.
Two things stand out here. First is Financial Fair Play.
While the mechanism is not in full swing yet and rich clubs will try to find a way around, we don’t have to worry about our own situation in the slightest. We only spend what we earn and with the financial chains no longer holding us it’ll stay that way. We don’t live off Kroenke. Chelsea, City and United have that problem, a day may come when they’ll pay for it. I’m pretty sure even now they can’t buy whoever they please without selling someone first. Just look at how Chelsea had to sell Luiz to fund Costa’s and Cesc’s moves. How they sold Shurrle and De Breyne to buy Quadrado.
But it’s not the only thing that will keep their respective managers awake at night: which brings me to the second point – homegrown quota.
I’ll remind you the rule (being myself only recently explained it in detail). Every PL club can register NO MORE than 17 foreign players for the season. Maximum number of players they can register for a season is 25. That means you can have no homegrown registered at all, but your squad will only have 17 players. Not good for rotation.
Who can be considered homegrown? “A Home Grown Player means a player who, irrespective of his nationality or age, has been registered with any club affiliated to the Football Association or the Football Association of Wales for a period, continuous or not, of three entire seasons or 36 months prior to his 21st birthday (or the end of the season during which he turns 21)”
Notice a small but important detail: a player doesn’t have to be English to be considered homegrown. We have at least two players who aren’t English but are considered homegrown: Szczesny and Martinez.
Moreover, those who haven’t turned 21 can also be registered with the squad. You can register any number of those, in fact. They don’t take a spot from someone in that 25-man squad. Beautiful if you have talented youngsters who can already help out (we have at least Bellerin and Chambers ready for first team football). Completely useless if you don’t have such youngsters, which likely stems from the fact you either don’t develop the youth system at the Club or don’t allow talented youngsters a chance.
Where all of this leads us? That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, problems for clubs which don’t have 8+ homegrown. Which clubs will be hit harder than others? Chelsea and City.
You see, Chelsea has three homegrown: Cesc, Terry and Cahill. These are senior members, over 21. And City? Also three homegrown: Wright (didn’t know he was there), Clichy (hilarious) and Hart. Boyata, Milner, Lampard and Sinclair have all left.
Now these clubs are begging for homegrown players. City offered 40 million for Sterling. Chelsea tried to get their hands on Oxlade-Chamberlain. There are rumours City want Wilshere. In other words, both clubs are royally fucked up. They face a very daunting prospect of either overpaying for English players or having short squads for the PL.
And what about Arsenal? Well, Arsene Wenger is three steps ahead of the pack. I think when he first caught whiff of the homegrown quota, he started building an English core. And it’s not made of mediocre players like Lambert and Jones. We currently have 10 homegrown + Chambers and Bellerin ready to join the fray from 2016-2017 season. These homegrown are: Szczesny, Martinez, Gibbs, Coquelin, Ramsey, Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Welbeck, Walcott + Jenko (he’s likely to go on loan again). Of course, we don’t know for sure whether Walcott and Szczesny will be with us next season (though all the signs are pointing to the fact they will), while Martinez can also go on loan, but the important thing here is that we have GOOD homegrown players, all ready for regular first-team action. Not a bunch of bang average 30 year olds who are just “squad players”.
Having sorted out long- and mid-term, Arsene turned his attention to the here and now. He brought in world class players (Cazorla, Ozil, Sanchez) to complement the British core. He tweaked the formation to a 4-1-4-1 after realising a simple 4-2-3-1 leaves us overly reliant on certain individuals. He adjusted his in-game management (something many fans thought Arsene’s incapable of doing). He managed to beat big teams this season, while also grinding out some results.
Finally, he’s improving the personnel. The aforementioned Jonker for Brady. Shad Forsythe to improve (maybe even solve) the situation with injuries. And Arsene is becoming ruthless. He dropped Szczesny after his blunders. He didn’t reinstate Walcott. He keeps Wilshere on the bench and Ramsey on the right to accommodate Cazorla. Debuchy and Arteta can’t have a look in because Bellerin and Coquelin have been outstanding. Rumour has it, Arsene is willing to sell Ospina to make room for Cech. Our goalkeeping coach has already left, something that strongly hints at Cech’s incoming, simply because Petr wants to bring in his own coach, Lollichon.
Arsene refuses to sell his players for huge money because they are HIS players. The Frenchman looks like he got City’s and Chelsea’s numbers, he knows where their weaknesses lie and he seems ready to ruthlessly expose these weaknesses and make Arsenal bigger and better by capitalizing on the mistakes of their rivals. Arsene’s getting ready for war next season and believe me, he is hell-bent on winning it.
Perhaps this article could have been written in less glowing terms, as the situation probably doesn’t call for these. I hope, however, that you will forgive my zealousness: this piece was mostly written on the spur (erm) of a moment. It’s more emotional than anything else.
Nonetheless, I hope it made for an entertaining read. Let me know in the comment section below.
Until later. In the meantime, enjoy this fabulous video that fits perfectly with my tribute to the great man from @The_Arsenal