SweetScience N5 explains Arsenal decline since 2006-07

From SweetScience N5

Hi Myles,

Spring is here at last!

I know you will be bombarded by emails.
But I just had to write my thoughts after this latest loss.

Your link to the article about the French managerial style confirmed what we knew from your earlier writings, and revealed more depth to the subject.

Pundits, journalists and fans ask – when did it go wrong for Arsene Wenger?

Of immediate note, summer 2017 was a mess with the divisive diva Sanchez being kept despite a £60M bid, but the structural problems pre-date this.

I think there were two key seasons when things went wrong.

2006 – 2007 was the most significant.

Belt tightening with the stadium move.
The break-up of the Invincibles leaving a brain drain amongst the players at the club, robbing the youngsters of the chance to learn from legends.

David Dein left, and Wenger took on two people’s jobs at once, with commensurate growth of ego, and lack of bite in the transfer market.

We have been in steady and painful decline ever since, with FA Cup wins papering over the glaring canyon…no league win for 14 years.

But there was a clear tipping point when the impact of this was painful, obvious and ominous.
There was a pressing need to make changes, yet the club continued as it was regardless instead of reacting.

Summer 2011.
It was the summer when for footballing reasons, Wenger should have been sacked.

But the club had changed, and now existed for financial reasons as an end in themselves, the footballing side as a means to that end.

The 2010-2011 season saw fan discontent formalised into pressure groups, among them Black Scarf Movement and arsenalfcnotplc.
Those groups formed for valid reasons.

It should have been a wake-up call to all, but that spring saw Kroenke consolidate his grip on power in the face of an ownership challenge from Usmanov. Team 0, Balance Sheet 1.
Summer 2011 was when Wenger’s second rebuild had failed, the first being 2006 onwards, the second being 2008 onwards.

We had lost the League Cup earlier in 2011, a shambolic loss to a far inferior Birmingham side.

I was near the pitch that cold February day, saw players shivering pre-match and thought – that’s not right, they have not warmed up properly.

You wrote of how we were complacent in approach, turned up with players wearing headphones etc.
That summer marked seven years since Arsenal had won the league.
Too long for a major London club.

But people made excuses based on how Arsenal had to belt-tighten after the stadium move, and the huge cash injections at Chelsea and the Manchester clubs.

These had an effect for sure, they did play a valid part.
London Colney was a 1999 state of the art training ground, superceded by the revamped/new training grounds at Chelsea and Manchester City…better and better equipment, higher quality artificial pitches.

We sold players to Barcelona, Man City and Man Utd a bit before we would have otherwise.
OK, accepted.

But far more responsible for destroying our title ambitions were three footballing failures.

The first – Wenger’s ego denying the other coaches enough time in training to work with players.

The coaches complained they need more time to rectify problems, Wenger overruled them.
Training by stopwatch.
Lack of pragmatism in favour of a grand plan.

We should have seen Senderos and Djourou turned into a capable central defence, instead they were left as youngsters stripped of initial confidence.
A recurring theme…Bellerin, Coquelin, Holding, Chambers etc etc ad nauseum!

Second – Wenger’s attempt to re-invent the wheel, to use smaller technical players to play a passing based possession game at the expense of pace, power and directness.

You have written about this often.

Of how Barcelona could do it in Spain, but this style did not lend itself to the more physical Premier League. Idealism over pragmatism, or over plain common sense.

Third – Wenger incredibly abandoned the idea of a top quality defensive midfielder…or at least powerful box-to-box midfielders who could tackle well.

We had these in Wenger’s first decade; the poise and strength of Petit, the power and telescopic legs of Vieira, the positional sense and calm head of Gilberto, and the all round savvy of Edu.
In the second decade we had players who were at a standard far below these – Coquelin, Frimpong, Xhaka.

Or whom at best had a season or so of form then trailed off – Arteta, Song, Flamini.

Of the current candidates they are inexperienced, not yet aged to full musculature, and have proven little yet…Bielik is on loan, Maitland-Niles and Nelson are in dips of form, and Joe Willock of whom we have seen very little.

So as the 2017-2018 season draws to a close, we find ourtselves playing catch-up to the top clubs who are in a mini-league well above us.

On the upside, the training ground has now been refurbished and Ivan Gazidis has prepared a new backroom staff.

But unless we win the Europa League, a second consecutive season outside the Champions League beckons.

It also leaves Wenger with next-to-no bargaining power in contract negotiations in summer 2019, butI think he will be sacked this summer.

He has been in a job since 2011 for two reasons:

One – because he has kept us in the Champions League, but that now looks very unlikely.
Two – because he has made Kroenke a profit.

But the only way he can turn a profit for Kroenke this summer is to raise £25M from the transfer market, the rough sum we have lost out on from not being in the Champions League.
In practical terms it probably means Ramsey or Bellerin being sold.

Yet the squad is stripped to the bare minimum as it is.
How the mighty have fallen!

Myles says:

Author Gavin Hamilton is an incisive writer who doesn’t waste words:

He wrote: If he had any humility he’d resign, but he hasn’t and he won’t. His type don’t, by which I mean the ‘Soixante-huitards’, that self-centred generation of Frenchmen and women who came to the boil in 1968.

Full analysis here: https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2018/03/arsenals-problem-french-bureaucracy/