Benitez’s Woes Highlight Wenger’s Quality

Rafa Benitez is a very good manager. He’s won the Champions League, UEFA Cup, La Liga, FA Cup, and probably a number of other less significant titles. If my memory serves me right the Spaniard also had the upper hand in his battles with the Dark Lord of Anti-Football when the Portuguese was at Chelsea. Most games were tactical borefests but Liverpool held their own against the expensively assembled London side.

It would be safe to say that Benitez is amongst the top ten managers in club football right now. Fans of the Spaniard might claim that had Rafa been given the same amount of financial backing that Mourinsho was, Benitez would have bettered the Dark Lord’s record. I don’t quite agree with that but it’s difficult to dismiss the argument off-hand as it has some merit.

Despite his undoubted abilities, one negative aspect casts a shadow over the ex-Valencia, Liverpool, and Inter coach. He left all three roles “with mutual consent” after falling out with the board/owner(s) over a number of issues. In all cases lack of funds for signings and control over transfers were key factors.

Benitez has thus far failed in establishing a legacy at any club. It seems to me that a significant part of that was down to his inability to work within the financial realities of the club. This is a very critical part of management and very few, even at the top, have actually succeeded.

For instance, Ancelotti had a fantastic record at Milan. His teams played well and won a number of titles. But once they had some financial difficulties, had to sell Kaka, and couldn’t really buy the big names, the Italian struggled to win titles. If Chelsea don’t splash out in January or the summer, it will be interesting to see what Carlo achieves for the Blues.

Too many people tend to divide a football club into the financial side and the football side. As the X in “Arsenal haven’t won a title for X years” grows, this division gets stronger in the minds of frustrated fans. Thankfully, those who take the decisions at Arsenal understand how intricately linked the two sides are.

If we look at clubs around England and Europe this link is easy to see. Manchester United have had a big stadium and a strong brand for a long, long time. They have had more money than Arsenal for years. Chelsea and Man City have wealthy benefactors. The two Spanish clubs have their own TV deals and banks/governments have bailed them out of serious trouble. Moreover, immigration laws allow them to sign younger South American players.

In contrast, German clubs have a much better balance between finance and football. When was the last time a German team won in the European club competitions? Is it a surprise that a team like Werder Bremen crashed out in the first round of the Champions League? Obviously a German club will win the Bundesliga and their domestic cups so they all get a chance to win something and not fall in the “no title for X years” trap. But that doesn’t mean any of those clubs is much better than Arsenal. This balance between the two aspects, finance and football, also gives smaller teams a chance to win something as other sides can’t buy all their best players.

Similarly, even though Inter did bore us to death while buying the Champions League last season, Italian clubs, in general, have struggled in Europe after the scandal and the financial crisis. At one stage people talked of AC Milan with awe and admiration, now even Spuds have a good chance against them!

Why have I suddenly started talking about other leagues and clubs while talking about Benitez? To show a link between the financial and football sides of a club. Once that is established we can discuss the performance of a manager within the constraints of financial reality.

The Spaniard didn’t get the kind of funds that Chelsea gave to their manager. But he had a lot more than what Arsene Wenger had and was pretty close to Fergusson. Rafa certainly had a lot more money than most managers get. So what was the problem for Benitez?

I think the biggest problem at Liverpool was the manager’s failure to get the right signings for the money he had. This meant that there was a lot of churn at the club. He couldn’t really get a good squad together, which would be the key to creating a legacy. And that is where we have to see the parallel with Arsenal.

Many fans feel that having a £50 Million profit means the club can splash out on proven players. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way mainly because the “proven player” is probably the biggest myth in football. No one can guarantee how a new signing is going to turn out.

Robbie Keane is a perfect example. The Irishman had an excellent scoring record in the Premier League for a club close to the top. Who could have been a more proven striker for Benitez to buy for the money he had? For some reason, it didn’t work out. Liverpool recovered a large part of the money they’d spent but they lost 6 months when the money spent wasn’t delivering on the pitch and that killed their title hopes. This happened to Benitez far too often and is one of the key reasons for the churn seen at Liverpool.

Then there is the case of Daniel Agger. I’d say he’s a very good defender. But he’s had fitness problems almost as bad as RvP’s. The money spent on him is gone but the performance on the pitch is not there even if the player and manager are not directly at fault.

Benitez also struggled to convert potential into performances. Ryan Babel was rated just as highly in those days as Eden Hazard or Javier Pastore are these days. Benitez spent a fair amount on a talented player but where was the output?

We have three distinct examples here. One is a proven player who can’t fit in with a different manager/system (Keane, Ibrahimovic, Shevchenko, Berbatov, etc). Another is a top class player struggling with injuries (Agger, Woodgate, etc). Finally, a really talented youngster failing to fulfil his potential.

That doesn’t mean all signings are disasters. Benitez hit the jackpot with players like Torres and Reina. The point is, any new signing could go both ways but no one can predict in advance how it will turn out. Consequently, at the time of a new signing no player can be called a “proven player”. A player can only prove his worth after he is signed so any new signing is a risk.

People who have worked in any kind of a planning role will understand the importance of contingency planning. If you have £50M you cannot spend it all on one plan.

Arsenal could spend that kind of money on two supposedly “proven players” and might win as a result. But it could just as easily flop. If it flops not only do Arsenal lose the money, they also lose a year. Next season it would be no titles for X+1 year and very little money to spend. Obviously the flops would lose their market value.

This is precisely what happened at Liverpool. Even though they did get a couple of titles, mostly using the squad Benitez inherited, they couldn’t get out of the vicious cycle, buy – flop/injured – sell – buy again. Eventually, the owners ran out of money and their debt problems didn’t help.

These days Liverpool don’t have much money and they don’t have a strong squad. Arsenal could easily be in the same place if they go down that path. The other clubs who have gone down this path either have owners that can absorb hundreds of millions in losses, or have governments that bail them out, or have revenues far higher than that of Arsenal. This is also the reason I’m hugely disappointed that the successful move to the Emirates is not seen as the monumental achievement that it is for the club.

While Rafa Benitez won a trophy or two at Valencia and Liverpool, he couldn’t take the club to a stage where they could consistently compete at the top with or without him. That failure overshadows any success, even the Champions League win.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Arsene Wenger has been perfect with his transfer dealings, tactical decisions, etc. With the benefit of hindsight we can always find some better options, but taking small yet meaningful steps towards the top, while working in a constrained environment, is an extremely challenging task. As with anything in life, we have to accept some mistakes when they come with a largely excellent performance.

61 Responses to Benitez’s Woes Highlight Wenger’s Quality

  1. shottagunna says:

    The same said about Benitez can be ascribed to the dark lord of Porto, Chelsea, Inter and now Real.Apart from a talent in assembling an expensive group of veterans who are very functional and efficient what else is the legacy of this so-called special one. Crass individualism, a vain-glorious personality and a tradition of boring football.
    Give me Wenger any day and seven-times on Sunday.

    • Ketch says:

      The fact that Porto were not a big team in Europe when before they won the Champions League, correct me if im wrong, but im pretty sure they were no where near favourites to win the Champions League.
      As for the other clubs, he went on to win titles consistently at every place.
      I think Wenger is a great manager and one of the best ever, but i also think Jose is up there too.

  2. nick says:

    Your argument here does not hold any water. Nobody is asking Wenger to break the bank. Wenger does not even try to win any cup. He said recently that what the club needs is to finish in champions league place.For example last season where we were close to winning the league, he chose not to strengthen his squad while all our strikers were injured, instead, he was using Arshavin as a striker. He sold Adebayor without replacing him. To me that is criminal. He is not ambitious anymore and i wonder why.

    • Dhruv says:

      Who would you have replaced Adebayor with? Just wondering.

      The thing here that is important to note is that The Arsenal are the only team to successfully have moved into a new world class stadium thereby ensuring future success and cementing their place among the elite all the while still being competitive. No other team has done it and are not operating under the extra financial burden that comes with it hence The Arsenal should be judged on different criteria for now. And I know The Arsenal have not won anything in x number of years but were competitive, one year CL finals, the next leading the league and going strong till the Birmingham nightmare, last season we were in the mix for a while. This season we might be as well.

      Point is no other manager could have emulated what Arsene Wenger has done these last few years. Any manager you can think of?

      I agree with your point of not getting a striker with all those injuries. That was a curious one.

      • nick says:

        David Villa wanted to come to Arsenal when Adebayor was sold.

      • Miranda says:

        On the Villa point: none of us know what Villa wanted; we didn’t have access to his thoughts, only to the stories put about his agent or made up by the tabloids and those sites that specialise in this brand of nonsense because it’s what credulous fans what to read (e.g. ‘caught offside’ or whatever it’s called, which announces an imminent signing virtually daily, this morning’s being that we’re about to buy Beckham). Anyway … I remember a more convincing-sounding rumour that we did try to sign Villa but the deal broke down because of the vastly excessive wages he was demanding. If that’s true, then he didn’t want to come very much and was only considering it for the money, much like City’s numerous signings. Think about it: why, apart from the money, would Villa want to move to England(awful climate, barbaric league) when the two biggest clubs in Spain were competing to sign him?

    • gunna63 says:

      you seem to forget that bendtner was meant to step up after adebayors departure. what would have happened if he had bought another striker and he got injured? what would have happened to the new striker when all the other ones had come back from injury? it not lack of ambition, what matters is spending to improve the quality of the squad in the long run instead of just spending to increase the size just to cover a position for a few months.

      • nick says:

        You are leaving the fate of a club like Arsenal in the hands of Bendtner who has been injured for 3 months to save you. Bendtner even not injured should not be one of the main strikers for Arsenal. And to sell one of your main strikers and not replace him with a proven one is not a wise move. A club is there to win honours and not be also-rans. There is always a quality player who can improve our squad and win honours but Wenger always chose not to go that way. I remember him choosing not to spend 5million extra to get Chamakh, even though he is not a proven player, just his presence would have been better option than Arshavin, but he waited so that he can get him for free.If he had pushed a little bit to get Chamakh the season before, our chances of winning the league may have improved but he chose not to. This tells me that he is not ambitious to win anything because he has the monopoly of the club because of fans like you and the board.Arsenal will never win any major trophy again while Wenger is the manager. He is always proud of making profits every year. I just don’t understand why some fans are backing Wenger on this. There is no excuse for what he is been doing to the club. If you come out and say you have made a profit, try to improve your squad with proven players but not gambling with youngsters. I remember about 3 years ago when Villa was trying to find his way out of Valencia and praising the way Arsenal play, Wenger came out and completely rule out signing Villa. He then on went to sign Chamakh instead of Villa. This manager has too much freedom because of fans like you and you are doomed as far as winning anything is concerned.

      • Waleed says:

        nick, I’m sorry but when Adebayor was sold, we did replace him. With Robin van Persie, who had an absolutely brilliant few months before he was hacked down.
        The fact is we didn’t need freaking David Villa because we had van Persie, Eduardo, and Bendtner. Do you remember?
        Unfortunately at one point in the season all three were injured. That’s not bad planning or bad managing, that’s just bad luck.

        Wenger is proud of the profits we are making because it’s not easy to keep a club competing at the top and still operate within a budget. Most clubs in the world who are on our level are in debt. And that’s not good because although clubs always survive, they do slip down the table or even go down a division or two. Maybe you won’t understand this but the whole world recognizes it – that Arsenal are the perfect example of how a club should be run. So suck it.

      • yugomie says:

        what of loaning a striker? There was a Huntler @ Milan then, that was not playing etc.

  3. eirik says:

    I never really got wengers insisting on not spending but you explained it well. I think he realized it when he saw the failure of Reyes

  4. typeface says:

    Excellent article, Desi. Love your blog.
    We’re very lucky our manager has a sense of responsibility. He hasn’t whinged about money sinced we moved from Highbury to the Emirates to waterproof our future. You know why Benitez is still so popular at Anfield and Wenger is facing a wall of hatred and scorn? Well the CL win does play a big part, but I guess taking the fan’s side and constantly crying out for more money endeared him more to the supporters than Wenger who advocated a more prudent buying policy in times of financial shortage and complete madness in the tranfer market. A politican implementing austerity measures is always losing the popularity contest against the one who’s campaigning for tax relief.

    So be prepared for some furious Liverpool (and Arsenal) fans.

  5. Dhruv says:

    Great piece once again Desi.

  6. caveat emptor says:

    desi, i think you are right. i belive the biggest indictment of Benitez at Liverpool is financial mismanagement. in recent years, exemplified by the purchases of robbie keane and alberto aquilani. That being said, I imagine that football is like any other business, in that a well run club has appropriate management controls. in Liverpool’s case it seems there was no oversight on Benitez’ spending. Like most managers would, Benitez seemed to pursue short-term footballing goals as opposed to, and at the cost of, longer-term success with sustainability.

  7. Ketch says:

    You say pretty much everything i think. I think you are the only blogger i dont really disagree with.

  8. WC says:

    So the solution to ensure we don’t have expensive flops is to buy cheap inexperience so that we have an excuse? That’s pretty much what I’m getting from this.

    Firstly, Benitez has poor man management. He’s great tactically but he could not get the best out of his players over a period of time. Why do you think most of his triumph were cup competitions? Cup competitions are mostly about who is good on the day because you only play a dozen games in the CL and it’s win or lose. A league is about longevity and being able to make your players hungry for a span of 38 games.

    At Valencia he inherited a pretty good squad buikt by the likes of Quiqui Sanchez Flores and Ranieri. Benitez simply came in at the right time and added his tactical mind to it.

    At Inter, he has a laundry list of injuries so it’s not entirely his fault that they are struggling – only partly. His key players are decimated by a long season which includes the WC and then this Club World Cup which no one watches.

    Even worse, in Italy most clubs have a transfer guru. The manager doesn’t have as much input as Fergie or Wenger does. Men like Moggi when he was at Juventus pinpointed layers and brought them in – the manager does not have the same amount of control over the transfers over there.

    How long are we supposed to buy into this financial constraints theory and stadium debt when the club announces record breaking profits year after year? It’s a bit of a hard pill to swallow when your club says it’s making hundreds of millions in profit every year and then won’t pony up an extra 2M for a tried and true player and instead buys some unknown who puts in subpar performances.

    • caveat emptor says:

      I don’t think Arsenal has ever made hundreds of millions of profit a year. in any case, the number to watch is cash flow, which is only recently on the up. Further, you want to break up revenue/profit/cash flow into what is predictable and what is not, and manage to what is predictable. Money from the Champions League and from the sales of apartments (especially in these times) is not. Without the positives from these two items the finacial picture would have been very bleak.

      • WC says:

        Except Arsenal typically can predict a ballpark profit margin. They typically know at least how much they get from CL group stages and they know this from the season before when they qualify, they pretty much always sell out season tickets for ticket revenue, they have planned their stadium debt so they know how much they are to pay with each due date.

        Aside from the apartments what isn’t accounted for?

        Moreover they make ridiculous profits on transfers – where is that money?

      • Waleed says:

        so WC, who would you spend all that money on? We have a very good team right now, and aside from buying some of Barca’s stars, who out there would actually improve this team?
        Anyway, the whole “we have money so we should spend” argument is pointless because we’ve already invested so much in our young players that giving up on them now and replacing them would be ridiculous. If you buy an expesnive CM right now, where does that leave Wilshere and Ramsey?
        And transfer fees aren’t the only thing the money goes into. There are wages as well.
        Please think about these points.

  9. devilish_ht says:

    Yours and Tony’s blogs are the two best Arsenal blog . You write with sense and logic . I salute you for not falling into all the logical fallacies .

  10. SoCal_Gun says:

    “Yours and Tony’s blogs are the two best Arsenal blog. You write with sense and logic. I salute you for not falling into all the logical fallacies.”


    Gotta agree with you again on the article

    It’s much harder to keep a team consistently towards the top of their domestic league and European competition (with occasional championships)than it is to build a team that wins for maybe 2-5 years, but then has to struggle everywhere for much longer. I’d much rather support the former team as well, because they are ALWAYS in the hunt.

  11. Domhuaille MacMathghamhna says:

    Many of the bloggers on this site are well meaning but oversimplifying the reality of managing and developing a Football club. Wenger adopted a policy (after the Invincibles) of financial restraint, youth and reserves development, prudent transfer dealing and a sort of social contract with the team and its Board as follows:

    1)He wouldn’t sign superstars and big egos who would disrupt the team morale and restrict the chances of developing players,subsequently
    2)He would give the youth and reserve players opportunities to show that they had it enough for the first team but if they didn’t produce then, they’d have to wait,
    3)No player would be bigger than the team as a whole as seen by the way he handled Cesc Fabregas,Bendtner and Adebayor…
    4)Financial solvency and sound economic management would come before quick fix sugar-daddy style parachuting in players who might work out but could also bankrupt the club.
    5) He would work WITH his Board and club shareholders to ensure that Arsenal will remain among the best and richest in Europe and the most entertaining to watch.

    He has done all of the above, frustrating the quick fix Football fantasy managers fan-base, who want him to buy,buy,buy without understanding the complexities of managing a great club like Arsenal on a shoestring budget.

    • WC says:

      So basically the last 5 years – all business and no football.

      I guess football wasn’t meant to be a sporting competition but instead a game of who can make the most money.

      I’m not sure anyone ever asked for a sugar daddy. I’ve read dozens of Arsenal blogs and hundreds of comments and no one wants an Arsenal Abramovich. What people are saying is simply that every year Wenger says one thing and does the complete opposite.

      In the summer he said that 40 goals is too much to concede for a club trying to win the championship. What does he do? He spends 8M on a defender who has only had one season in the top flight for his club. Not even a good club either. When proven players exist for as much if not just a touch more. Vermaelen is now injured for another month and a half and we can “expect no miracles” in the transfer window. So we’re now down to 2.5 defenders and slowly selling off or loaning out any youth replacements.

      Fans don’t want a billionaire owner, they want a manager who has failed to really rectify the same holes in the team for the past 5 years. The high line isn’t working and the defenders employed to play it aren’t that good. There’s no international quality goalie who even plays in any of the top 50 ranked footballing nations. We haven’t beaten the Chavs or Mancs for almost 3 years now and we have one of the shoddiest home records in our fancy 400M quid stadium.

      Gone are the days when we could play any club and no one knows who would win. Now however, whenever Chelsea, Man Utd or Barca are in the frame we’re written off well before kick-off. Oh hell sometimes when we play Stoke or Sunderland we’re already at written off as either a draw or loss.

      As ugly as Man Utd have been playing, whenever I see them play I just think they are going to win because that’s how well Fergie has oiled that machine. If Utd are down 1-0 in the 89th minute it’s never a surprise if they come back to tie or even win 2-1. I’ve grown accustom to this kind of thing because those players have belief – even the terrible ones like O’ Shea and Fletcher.

      What’s Arshavin done lately really? Where is he when we need inspiration? Why is he one of the highest paid players at the club and only playing competently one day a month while sulking for the other 29 or 30?

      Fergie bought Berba for 30M and half the time he benched him until he fixed his attitude and motivation. Wenger would never do that – he’d allow the laziness to continue as he has with Arsh.

      • Waleed says:

        Wait, so how do we have “2.5” defenders? We have four defenders, so that if one of them (like Vermaelen) is injured, others can step up. That is why you have four defenders. You don’t have four defenders for the sake of having four defenders at all time.

        And we are not run like a business. It’s not about making the most money, its about keeping us solvent so that 1, we can buy the players we need, 2, so we can hold onto our best players, 3, so we can pay our players well, 4, so we can have the best facilities for our players and fans, and most importantly, 5, so our club doesn’t go down the tubes because of one or two bad seasons.

        So as you can see, the money part is important. I wouldn’t be overly critical if we didn’t make money (because most clubs dont) but it’s a very good thing that we are.

        The rest of the stuff you’ve said is biased rubbish, almost as if its coming from a spurs fan, so it’s not really worth commenting on. If you think our machine isn’t oiled well enough please go ahead and do it yourself.

      • Chowdhury says:

        I think you are just a Spud in Disguise.
        Your blabbering about “watching Man Utd play…” gave it away. You are just an average “Glory Hunter”. Thats all. So don’t be so hard on yourself.
        And unless you already manage the finance of any Multi Million Dollar businesses of late, please go back to flipping burgers or whatever that you do and leave the management part on people who have education and experience to know what they are doing.
        Every Tom, Dick and Harry with a blog these days think they could just go on and manage a complex institution like a Premiership club. Makes me wanna throw up. I bet 9 out of these 10 smarty asses have hard time managing their own measly tax returns. Pathetic.

    • Confidentgoner says:

      Guys like you are willing to accept mediocrity from a coach, that’s fine. There are others who know that AW has passed his sell by date.

      There are a suite of problems I have noticed for sometime. His matchday tactics, his subs and the timing of the subs have all been faulty. His wanting Song to always bomb forward has made us weaker defensively, because there exist a hole in front of our defense once we loose possession.

  12. Gurkhaligunner says:

    Great post mate again have to agree almost everything. Keep up the good work 🙂

  13. Danny B says:

    People forget the invicibles were built on the same budget. Its the narrow minded fans that don’t see what Wenger has done, he has built a set up that can compete an keep us at the top level for years to come. We have a team I love watching play, granted we haven’t won a trophy in 5 years but I would much rather watch a team play exciting football than watch man utd win the league in such a horrible fashion

    • nick says:

      Where is the beautiful football? This fantasy football you are talking about has deserted us most of the matches we have played so far this season. We look very ordinary playing even against the lower teams, especially at home.

    • Eric says:

      The Invincibles were relatively speaking an expensive squad.

      • WC says:

        Compared to the rest of the league they were expensive. Shows you what Wenger can do when he used to spend that extra bit on quality. Mind you he still wheeled and dealed on the cheap but he bought quality where it was needed.

        If only he remembered that.

  14. MattK90 says:

    Think how epic our transfer budgets are going to be when the debts are paid off and we’re still making X profits each year!!!! Proud to be a gooner

  15. Waleed says:

    Desi, Robbie Keane isn’t a very good example. He just isn’t a good enough player for a top team.

    I do agree that Benitez cannot make transfers. I don’t know why in England the manager is supposed to know everythying. Benitez needed support with transfers.

    The other thing is, there was no real long term plan at Liverpool. At Arsenal, Wenger and the board drew up a long term plan involving the stadium and scouting and the youth policy and everything we’ve done is to bring that vision to life. The point being to take the club to a higher level and make it more competitive.

    At Liverpool there was no such effort. Benitez would just spend (or waste, rather) all the money on signing mediocre players. Not a lot spent on improving other aspects of the club, and not a lot spent on wages.
    And wage spending is what determines a clubs success, not transfer spending.

    • nick says:

      You are very blind, wake up before its too late. You have been lied to for the past 5 years. How can you plan a whole season with Van Persie, who is often injured, Eduardo who was coming from a broken leg and Bendtner, who cannot hit a banjo with a ban door. You are a very deluded fan. Wake up from your slumber!!!

    • nick says:

      Pathetic Waleed, how can you say we have a very good team? We have already lost 5 games in the league and 2 games in the CL. We lose to teams like West Brom, Newcastle, and Spurs at home after leading 2-0. Mediocrity is how your life has been surrounded with? You are sorry excuse for a man.

  16. Ajinkya says:

    i have read somewhere that Bundesliga is where the maximum money is spent on youth projects. You can see that they have generally home-grown players, and the players generally, go from one club to another in the same league.
    So, at the end of every 2 years you see a new German sensation(or even more than one), the fruit of the youth development. They make it to the semi-finals of every tournament, in the World Cup they did that, with a really inexperienced team.
    That is where Arsene comes in. We have a lot of capable youth players, English players also. So it is going to benefit the country, in some few years time. But it is sad that nobody appreciates it.
    Benitez, perhaps never got as many years to settle down anywhere.
    By the way, Desi,
    what is your say on this?

    • Honest Bill says:

      I found that link pretty funny, although i wouldn’t recommend anybody else waste their time reading it haha

    • WC says:

      Germany spent a ton of money over the last few years totally revamping their youth system. That’s why they were pretty much non-existent in European football for a long time. However it wasn’t so much the clubs as it was the German FA that did it – something the English FA has yet to do……

      The Bundesliga is also one of the most financially balanced league. There’s no single club owners, the clubs are owned by the fans essentially through shares. Ticket prices are cheap and all around the same amount for each club. There’s no 100 quid tickets like Arsenal are going to do, they’re all about 12-15 euros or something like that so it’s mostly even which is good for development from all clubs.

  17. nick says:

    To waleed,
    You are the who should go to hell. You are very naive in football administration, football club is there to entertain and make its fans proud but not make profits. Always getting humiliated by Chelsea and Man Utd, aren’t you embarrassed by this? You will make excuses for someone who has been lying to you almost every single season. I can paste the same excuses year after year. You are very pathetic and “yes” man and think the same fate has been following you throughout your life because you are “YES” man. Because of fans like you, Barcelona is going to humiliate Arsenal next year. You are afraid to hold someone monopolizing an organization as big as Arsenal by himself accountable, you must be ashamed of yourself as human being because you very weak. Telling someone to suck it and dodging replies. You are chicken!!!!

  18. Piper says:

    i love this blog…

  19. WC says:

    Hahaha love the name calling the iferiors throw around – Manc lover, Spuds fan etc etc. So mundane and unoriginal.

    firstly yes we have 2.5 defenders – pick either of Squilacci or Koscielny as half. Personally I’d give the half more to Squilacci since Koscielny has the age to get better (possibly) and Sebastien was never a great defender at any of his clubs.

    The fact that djourou has been our best defender so far is sad commentary at our defensive situation. I assure you he’d never make the start into most other top club defenses. You want defenders look at ciani and Tremoulinas – two defenders who produced one of the stingiest defenses in Europe at Bordeaux. That’s saying something seeing as I do not rate Boredeaux’s midfielders’ ability to protect the defense over Marseille or Lyon’s.

    since Song has turned into Leo Messi the likes of Stijn Shaars, M’Vila or Matuidi would be a welcome CM addition. Will that stifle Ramsey or Jack? No because they aren’t defensive mids, they’re just forced into it by Song’s forward attacks…..

    Sell Arshavin while he might still be worth something and go take a look as Jovetic. The boy can dribble and shoot as well as Arsh, without the sulking….

    Rosicky – no goals in 35 games for an attacking midfielder. I loved him at Dortmund but since his injury he’s nowhere near getting his form back and he’s not getting younger.

    I thought clichy would have been the next Ashley cole but as much as I hate Cashley, he’s still one of the best left backs in the world. Clichy has even gone backwards over the past 2 years if you ask me. If Madrid want him let them have him and buy Taye Taiwo. Far more consistent and with European experience. Even Gibbs is better than Clichy when fit – far more assured with the ball but damn those injuries.

    Shay Given, Roman Weidenfeller, Manuel Neuer, Rene Adler, Tim Weisse, Cedric Carasso, Marcus Stekelenberg – take your pick of goalies, they’re all international quality.

    You can all slag me off if you want – which I know you will – but the numbers don’t lie. We don’t have the best defense and haven’t for the past 5 years. Without Vermaelen no one can organize the defense. Defense wins championships, even Wenger alluded to that when he realized we leaked 40 goals last season.

    • Golden Gooner says:

      Can’t say that I agree with much here, but at least you put out some names to be discussed unlike the usual BS of “there are players out there…”. Well done!

      • WC says:

        I’d like to know what you don’t agree with and I’ll address them. I like the possibility of rational discussion blog comments afford, not the constant trolling and 11 year old tantrums from the Arsene Knows Best or the Arsene Must Go lot.

    • Honest Bill says:

      Firstly i don’t get why you refer to it as 2.5 defenders. None of them have been particularly bad and even a defender as good as Gallas couldn’t plug the leak in our defense. It is because of our approach to the game. Nothing to do with bad defenders.

      I also feel like you’re being overly negative about the impact of Djourou. Why is it sad to see he’s been one of our best players? I could understand the concern if he’d been performing badly but he hasn’t. He’s been doing exceptionally and i feel you are not giving credit where credit is due.

      Also it’s a little simplistic to say just buy Taiwo (or whoever) There are more factors involved and there are a fair few steps between wanting a player and buying him.

      Rosicky. Yes that is a disappointing goal return, however that statistic doesn’t show all the good things he does do. key passes, keeping possession. keeping good tempo etc etc. He has also not had a proper run in the side, and i’d be interested to know how many of those appearances were as substitute.

      You’re right though, we do need to defend better that’s an absolute certainty. But this can’t just fall on the shoulders of the Back line, this is the whole squad which needs improvement. Attack and defense are not seperate areas of the game like the zonal formation numbering appears to suggest, they work in tandem and all players on the field need to perform their best for it to work.

      A bit more confidence throughout the squad will see dramatic improvements in most areas of our game. I do however think that new signings, especially established, ‘world class’ players can have a positive effect on the mentality of a team, one needs only look to Arshavin’s signing for evidence of this. Shiny new players can bring with them new confidence and assurances, as well as providing a brilliant and experienced player.

      It is something Wenger ought to think about (though he probably already has) because All confidence needs is a little spark to become unstoppble, but the same can be true of negativity. Not just the staff but we also need to help this team change it’s current psychological mind-set.

      I agree that i long for the days to return where i do not fear any opponent. But Chelsea, i mean the actual tangible, physical team is no better than Arsenal. But their will will be imposed upon us time and time again until we exert our own.

      • WC says:

        None have been bad, but at the same time none have been especially good either. I’ve shaken my head at Djourou since I saw him at 19 – he’s never convinced me that he can consistently be a Sol Campbell or Tony Adams. He reads the game poorly and has ineffective body language – he gets caught flat footed more often than he should.

        I know it’s not simply I want this player and they magically appear but Clichy has been in decline and his consistency is poor. I’m not the only one that sees this.

        Defending and attacking is a team effort in 4-3-3 but Wenger doesn’t want to instill the work ethic. Everyone compares us to Barca but you watch Barca and at no point are all 10 outfield players standing still. They attack as 11 and defend as 11. We have some players who lose the ball and never track back – like Arshavin. That wouldn’t fly in the Barca team but Wenger allows it and Clichy is in no man’s land by himself on the left when that happens.

        I don’t care how much substitute or starts Rosicky had in those 35 games – that’s almost an entire season without a single goal and that’s including penalties and free kicks taken. Rarely do I think a manager buys an attacking player and doesn’t expect them to score at some point.

  20. caveat emptor says:

    WC, you’re angry. I get it. You also responded to my comments on the financial constrains, so I’d like to stick to that and analyse the finacial performance (all numbers are in millions of pounds)

    1. Arsenal decided they would not have the financial muscle to compete long-term as a football club by staying at Highbury. So, they moved to the Emirates and undertook some commercial initiatives. As a result football revenue increased from 132.1 in 2006 to 222.9 in 2010. Seems like the right decision

    2. they had to take on a lot of debt to do that, which was as high as 644.5 in 2008. This came at a pretty big price

    3. Total cash flow generated by the group between 2006 and 2010 was 56.1. Not a lot of money to play around with. Further, this includes net new debt of 169. So, without the debt, cash flow would be negative

    These numbers do not show a football club more focused on business that football. I hope you agree there was not a lot of cash laying around to buy additional players. You could question the move to the Emirates, but while the transition is not complete (still a lot of debt), but once it is, it will leave Arsenal stronger.

    OK, now that’s off my chest, I’m off to enjoy the holiday weekend.


    • WC says:

      I’m actually not angry, I’m objective. I won’t recite the Einstein quote about insanity and doing the same thing over and over. However, that’s what Wenger has been doing.

      The move to the Emirates was inevitable and a good financial move. Highbury just didn’t have the seating capacity for the ticket demand for Arsenal. It was the right financial move they had planned for the debt long before they started building so most everything aside fomr the apartments should be accounted for.

      What they didn’t expect is 40M from Toure and Adebayor but they got it and they’ve probably spent half, if as much, form it so what happens to the rest? Even more I expect the board puts aside a transfer kitty for Arsene every year which they most likely take into account already in the books so Wenger does have money. I highly doubt there’s a year where the board says “Sorry Arsene, no money at all this year, not even a penny”. If Arsene had no money he’d just come out and say it, instead he says “We won’t buy unless we find the right player”. That could very well mean he has money but doesn’t want to spend it.

      I don’t think Wenger realizes his hey day of finding rough gems is over with. The internet and communication tools exploding as it has weakened his ability to scout. Anyone he finds, you can guarantee someone on Twitter, Facebook or wherever has made some public declaration on them for anyone to access. Prices for unproven potentials has been going up but Wenger doesn’t see it. I mean Koscielny was 8M – a player barely anyone knew about cost that much. Even Romero Lukaku is quoted at 17M – a 17 year old is more expensive than anybody currently in the Arsenal squad simply because he’s had alot of online exposure for the other clubs to see and assess.

      • caveat emptor says:

        WC, interesting observations all. But captured in the financial statements (that’s their purpose), which are available at the club website. Have a look at them. The bottom-line key number is the cash flow available to the club, and over a 5-year period it was 56 million pounds. So, for starters these numbers reject your notion that Arsenal has focused on business success as opposed to footballing. 56 million pounds cash over 5 years is not adequate return to purely finacially interetsed investors, given the size of the “business”. Next, at an average of 11 million pounds of additional cash available each year, best of luck to anyone that wants to play football manager with that loose change.

        Finally, you seem to insist that the move to the Emirates was a good financial move. More importantly, it is a good footballing move. There was no other available way to compete with the financial muscle of the other footballing superpowers – Manchester United, Real Madrid and Barcelona. And it will bear fruit in the immediate future with increasing amounts of money available to spend on football operations. If that does not happen in the next few years, then I will start tilting in the direction of your bias.

        Finally, what Arsenal did was immensely difficult. Let me know if you have examples of other football clubs that undertook such a large expansion project, kept footballing standards high, and did not suffer financially. With numbers please, not just high-level observations.

  21. […] Benitez’s Woes Highlight Wenger’s Quality Rafa Benitez is a very good manager. He’s won the Champions League, UEFA Cup, La Liga, FA Cup, and probably a number […] […]

  22. Kushagra India says:

    not fully agree with you Rafa will screw heaven if given a chance one has to have an eye for a player ,the no of turkies he signed at Liverpool is quite phenomenal .We are safe financially so there is no excuse for quibbling over few thousand pounds over GKs relying on untested ones(leaving out Almunia a perennial flop) and thinking that RVP will remain fit throughout the year(last season), few signings like Arshavin would have won us some good things.We don’t want to spend 50m but few genuine make dos…

    • peter parker says:

      Great article. Sooner the arsenal fans realise this better it will be for club.

      To Desigunner,

      Like you blog, but don’t agree that you need to spend 100’s of million to build a team. Look at what Spurs have done with turn over of 119 million comared to ours 222 million and wage bill of 60 million compared to 110 millions plus of ours.

      Critcize me as you wish for pointing that out however you have to remember that success breeds success. ManU have great commercial revenues coz of their success and hence better financial clouts despite their owner’s debt. Moreover, their young players are better at defending and attacking than ours coz of better coaching and tactics and hard work and team ethics. Our’s like Wilshere amble in the middle of the park when fame goes to their heads, their players break their gut to get back into position as your analysis showed.

      Bottom line is that this is not all about money and while talking about money, our football expenses are 202 million in last year, tell me how many clubs spend that much money and achieve noting. Wenger was good but his ideas have become outdated, he needs to learn and adapt as SAF does, not to stay in the past forever

  23. mcdonaldtaf says:

    I’m pretty sure as a Liverpool and Rafa fan I’m probably about to get shouted at.

    You appear to play down Benitez’s achievements especially the fact that he won two La Liga titles, after Valencia broke up the reigning duopoly. There was also more going on at the club than just the debts problem.

    The idea that Benitez has a bad transfer record is the usual argument bandied about (usually by the media) but during his tenure the club made profits on most Benitez acquisitions which were later off loaded. The media often overlooked his overall transfer record but it included Alonso, Reina, Crouch, Torres, Mascherano, Johnson, Agger, Arbeloa. There’d were also other played which delivered value such as Luis Garcia, Skrtel and Sissoko. Even Aquilani, who showed glimpses last season, is playing very well at Juve this season.

    If you’re really interested in the transfers and squad values of all clubs, including the point you are making about value – check out ‘Pay as you Play’ by Tomkins. I think you’ll find it of interest.

    Finally I believe our new owners will look to emulate what has happened at Arsenal. It is a business model which is envied throughout the Premier League I suspect. It is by me.

    • desigunner says:

      I specifically wrote the first para to ensure that I don’t come across as someone trying to belittle Benitez. I also did say that he is probably in the top 10 managers right now. Sorry if it still came across as an attempt to play down his achievements. I was actually trying to show how a top manager can struggle despite spending in the market and this was meant as a difference perspective for those who think spending on one or two players will solve all problems at Arsenal.

      • mcdonaldtaf says:

        Wasn’t having a dig and could see what you were saying. However, the transfer record of Rafa is an argument that still rages at Anfield. Many still believe that Rafa spent Tens if not hundreds of millions of the Americans’ money. This is not correct. In most cases he had to sell players first.

        He also in his last two seasons made significant profits to pay for interest payments on the Americans’ loans. Hence why we have a strong first XI if all fit, but a weak bench.

        The situation at Arsenal, from the outside at least, looks very different. You guys seem split on whether a couple of established players should be brought in as the missing components needed to win the title. Whereas others can (rightly in my opinion) see that a little patience is needed as the current crop of players are virtually there or thereabouts.

        The only thing I will say is that your key players see the same thing. This usually means that just as you get ‘there or thereabouts’ you lose a key component (or two) and have to start all over again.

        I can tell you as a Liverpool fan though that if we can emulate what you guys are achieving a lot of reds will be happier! Swap you Wenger for Hodgson? Anyone. Hello?

      • desigunner says:

        Ha Ha … I’d not swap Wenger for anyone but there are a few who might take anyone over Arsene!

        Completely agree with your observation that key players leaving at crucial moments held Arsenal back.

        Through discussions with a close friend who supports Liverpool, I have followed the debate within the Liverpool support regarding Benitez and his transfers. I agree he didn’t always have the money and had to sell but the ones he had to sell weren’t his big players.

        Personally speaking, the problem seems to be that a number of his big money transfers didn’t turn out as expected. The money he paid for Babel was good money for a youngster, same can be said for Keane, Dossena wasn’t cheap for a left back, and there are other examples as well. I’d not blame these transfer failures on Benitez alone. In fact that is a key point in my argument. Even a good manager, after a great deal of homework, can spend money and it can flop for some unforeseen reason. Blaming it all on the manager would be a easy and lazy argument relying on hindsight.

        One argument that I do find valid is that Benitez didn’t do enough to develop young players. The owners might have broken some promises but surely he had enough experience to realize this could happen.

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