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Vultures over the Emirates!

Date: 20th September 2011 at 8:20 pm
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Why do players leave their clubs? Some players leave because of money. That is not as common as people make it out to be. If you are a player like Eto’o who has nothing left to win or a player like Asamoah Gyan that doesn’t believe that he will ever play for a club that has the chance to win a major title, then money becomes a motivator.

In most cases, however, players move to clubs that give them a better opportunity to win. A footballer has a small productive period in professional life – generally from 24 to 30 or you could extend that from 22 to 32. Still, it is between 6 to 10 years to gain everything you can out of the game. The medals mean the most followed by creating your retirement fund.

Players can see the trend in football (that Wenger confessed to last week). They can see how money is influencing the chances of trophies and they cannot see this changing in the next decade (during their playing lifetime) so they have to take decisions based on that and look after number one. Can you blame them? Really?

The taboo of a player moving from Tottenham to Arsenal or from Man Utd to Man City or Arsenal to Man City etc is all gone. Players look after number one and so they should. Football has changed in that respect. Few players are going to sit and waste their one and only chance (a small 10 year period) because of loyalty to an entity that could sell them tomorrow if they wished; to a club they didn’t want to go. Loyalty is over. My prediction is that with this new mobility, we are going to see the same with the larger proportion of the fan-base (the ones that are not born in the small 10 square kilometres of the club). The moment big money came into football, a chain reaction started that Arsène Wenger will not be able to change. He better stop complaining and get with the program.

Evra earns less than Nasri or Adebayor. What keeps him at Old Trafford is the knowledge that he can win trophies there. Nasri’s new contract at Arsenal would have given him more money than Evra. He left because he saw other clubs making the investment required to win. The same is true for Fabregas and Clichy.

As soon as players start thinking of leaving, they stop caring about where the team will be next season. When that happens, they stop giving their best. Arsenal’s collapse at the end of last season was a lot about players being unable to make the sprint to the finish line. Fourth place was clearly not the most important thing for Clichy, Cesc, Nasri who were on their way out. They would not be there to live the consequences.

All the above is not rocket sense. Agents know this and right now Arsenal is giving every reason for agents from around the world to come and start the process of securing the next deal for Arsenal’s prized assets. Bacary Sagna, Szczesny, Alex Song, Thomas Vermaelen, Ramsey, Wilshere, van Persie and even Gervinho will be in their sights.

After this kind of start to the season and all that is in the papers, it will not take much to get some of these players to start thinking about whether they will leave their football careers empty handed or with something. For players like Koscielny who are constantly wrongly blamed, it is easy to make them question whether it is worth it. For Sagna, van Persie, Gervinho, Chamakh and Vermaelen and even Alex Song, whether they will win a trophy in their careers or not is a very serious question given their age. IF these players start thinking about that; IF any of the agents do their jobs well and turn these players thoughts to the exit door then Arsenal’s season is Finished!! In fact, Arsenal for another few years is finished because we are not as attractive to new talents as we used to be.

Arsenal is in a critical point now and I hope Stan and Ivan realise that. It is not at the end of the season, it is NOW. Something needs to be done to protect the club and the future that Wenger and the board and fans have worked so hard to build.

Consider this. Seven years ago, Wenger would have called Juan Mata and said “Arsenal is interested in you, we will not be ready till deadline day so be patient”. Juan Mata, knowing Arsenal’s reputation – unbeaten run, excellent football, trophies, growth of young players etc would probably have waited and even taken a pay cut to come to Arsenal. These days, Wenger cannot command that kind of response from any player. Arsenal’s interest is not worth much much less these day – hell, we lost two of our best players to Manchester City because they wanted to win trophies even though Man City only have an FA cup to show for the last donkey years. But crucially, Man City are showing that they are not going to left behind by Chelsea, Real Madrid or Man Utd. It only took two seasons of not spending big for Italian clubs to fall by the wayside in Europe. Arsenal are very lucky to still be in the top four but it wont happen ONE more time.

In summary, we run the risk of losing our last batch of good players while at the same time we have ALREADY lost the capability to attract great players.

Koscielny, Djourou, Santos, Song, van Persie, Ramsey and a whole lot of false culprits have been blamed for Arsenal’s defeats. That’s all rubbish. Koscielny is a class defender. You can never understand the defending of a modern team by looking at their defenders alone – you look at how the team is set up to defend. Who played for defence for Man Utd against Chelsea? Are they world class? No, the team is world class at defending. Blaming our defenders or our players is short-sighted. Their organisation is the problem.

People say that Wenger is stubborn. I don’t buy that. Wenger has a much more unfortunate and unglamorous weakness. He is a pathetically slow learner.

Wenger has shown evidence of being able to change. He changed formation 2 years too late, bought experience 4 years too late etc. It is not that he cannot change, the problem is he doesn’t learn quickly enough to understand what to change. Football in his head is as it was in 2004.

If you look at Wenger’s most successful teams, they have pretty much played as a unit with minor injury and suspensions. Wenger has never had big squads. He always prioritized certain competitions and delegated the lower prioritized ones to the youth team and won his championships with a very stable and small squad. At the same time, other managers were using a larger squad of first team players for all competitions. They were forced to rotate from tiredness and injury.

Injuries and the need to field stronger teams in all competitions have recently forced Wenger into the realm of squad management. Ferguson has been doing this for years. Last year Man Utd won the league without a midfield. Ferguson knew he didn’t have one so he changed his play not to focus exclusively on moving through midfield. When Ronaldo left, he changed his style slightly, when a game is going bad, he puts a player and then changes the way the team players. Wenger manages in the training ground only. Other manager manage the training ground and the game. Wenger has a fantastic first team that can compete brilliantly at home and in Europe. But the problem is that players get injured or suspended, the team is expected to play exactly the same and falls apart.

Plug&play teams are very rare because Rosicky is not the same as Ramsey, Frimpong is not Song and Chamakh is not van Persie. Wenger has not learned that he has to change his team when the personnel changes. We cannot play the same formation as if Fabregas is still there. We cannot carry on with a thin 3-man midfield when our defence are completely new to each other. When you have weak midfield, don’t try to carry on playing through it. When you have a new defensive partnership, protect them. Managers should work tactically, not just strategically.

That is just one example of Wenger not learning quick enough.

But what do we do now? Our players are down and are at risk of having their heads turned. That will consequently destroy the season and then we will be in an even worse situation for attracting new talent. What do you do to change a situation where players and fans are in deep depression already after 5 games. Where nobody has any confidence that the next one will be won? How does the club show that they have ambition and how can they ensure that we have a new story to tell the players, the fans, the potential players targeted in January etc? What could they do that has a big psychological impact inside and outside the team? This team is not a bad team. This team is just badly organised. What will they do to put trophies in sight by January 2012?

What would YOU do?

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