It’s all change at the Emirates
Like communism or free ice cream, Arsene Wenger’s philosophy was a beautiful ideal doomed to failure by human nature and the searing heat of the Sun. Bring through or buy cheaply a group of talented youngsters, keep them together, teach them the way of pure, possession-based football and then loose them on an unsuspecting world to sweep all before them in a tide of red and white glory.
Unfortunately for Arsenal fans, the culmination of this dream happened to coincide with Manchester City coming into more money than they knew what to do with and the rise of Barcelona, who were much, much better at every aspect of The Plan. Between them these two clubs have stripped Arsenal of Clichy, Nasri, Fabregas, Toure, Adebayor and, er, Alex Hleb, four of whom would still comfortably make Arsenal’s first XI. Add to this the loss of players such as Flamini and likely Alex Song, and the conclusion that Wenger has created a selling club is inescapable.
Of course for the right team that can be a great policy (Porto or Lyon until a couple of years ago are good examples), but if you don’t recycle the money into new players failure is a given, not a possibility. For a fanbase accustomed to success (thanks to Wenger), seven trophyless seasons and the annual exit of their best player is an unacceptable situation. And just maybe, the penny has finally dropped with Wenger that he needs to rethink his plans.
The probable starting XI post-Song goes something like this:
Sczezesny, Sagna, Vermaelen, Koxcielny, Gibbs, Arteta, Ramsey, Podolski, Cazorla, Walcott, Giroud
Of these, only three meet the criteria of The Plan – Bought young and cheap/came through the Academy. The three summer signings Cazorla (Age 27/46 Caps), Podolski (27/101) and Giroud (25/10) cost £40 million and even Giroud, the least-known of the three, comes fresh from a League title and Golden Boot winning season. Wenger is being forced to dismantle his vision, and might finally be constructing another very good Arsenal team.
Or of course, it could go the other way. Wenger’s more recent track record of buying better-known or more expensive talent is patchy at best: Arshavin, Hleb, Eduardo, Mertesacker and probably even Walcott all failed to live up to expectations, and given his previous attempt at joining a Big Club, Luka Podolski could all too easily follow them down the Road of Disappointment.
Maybe Arsene still does know, or maybe he doesn’t. We’ll have to hope he does though, because the last thing the league needs is another Liverpool.