“Not for immediate English Premier League use.”
That’s how Arsene Wenger described Arsenal’s new $19 million signing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. It’s always good to build for the future; the problem for Arsenal and Wenger is that no one is actually sure when that future is.
Wenger has been building foundations since 2004. If he was constructing my house, I’d have to hire Alex Ferguson to come in and finish the job.
“Yes Arsene, the frames look magnificent, but what about the roof?”
With Cesc Fabregas gone and Samir Nasri packing his bags for Manchester, Arsenal will again be losing key players just as they hit maturity.
In The Independent, Sam Wallace points out that someone at Arsenal needs to knock on Wenger’s door and tell him he needs to splash some cash in the next few weeks to have any chance of challenging for the title.
Now I must say that there is a complete obsession with transfers in England. The premise here seems to be that if you haven’t bought players like you’re playing fantasy football, then you’re not going to win any silverware.
It really bugs me that no attention is paid to any other aspects of the club, like how the new coach’s philosophy will impact on the team or how the team as a whole has progressed over the last few years.
That said, I agree with Wallace. Arsenal does need to spend some money on players. But it may be too late for Wenger to make the other title contenders nervous this season.
The Fabregas and Nasri deals should have been sorted out, at the latest, last month.
Yes, Arsenal had been waiting for Barcelona to cough up the money, but instead of so much to-ing and fro-ing, why not just go there and sort it all out? Fabregas was never going to stay and everyone knew it.
Their replacements should have been targeted long ago and brought into the team in July.
The squad would have felt less disrupted and everyone at the club would know that there is a plan in place, not a 'wait and see' policy.
The best clubs always have a plan. Look at Manchester United when it lost David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo. Look at FC Porto, which sells its top players every season.
This is why Arsenal needs someone to oversee the whole project, basically a football director.
At the moment Wenger is in charge, but he is also a coach’s coach, someone who is at training everyday working with the team.
At Manchester United, Ferguson is quite different. He sits back, observes from afar and is then able to make informed, objective decisions and fight the battles he needs to fight off the pitch.
Wenger must stop trying to do both. Last season, he looked like he’d aged 10 years over the course of the season and admitted he was left frustrated and tired.
Having baulked at prices for so many top players, Wenger then bought an untested teenager for $19 million. He is obviously a much better coach than a football director.
To have so many key players in the final years of their contract is further evidence that the Arsenal manager is unable to ‘manage’ in the English sense of the word.
The answer for Arsenal is not to sack Wenger; instead it needs to find a competent football director who believes in the club’s philosophy.
Txiki Begiristain, who was the football director at Barcelona when Guardiola took over, would be perfect for the job, and I’m sure there are many others who can make the tough decisions that coaches shouldn’t have to worry about.
Despite the turbulence at the club, Arsenal still looked good in patches against Newcastle United.
If Wenger spent more time on fixing things on the pitch while not having to worry about the team’s finances or the latest transfer saga, the players might just find the solutions to breakdown a well-organised defence.
It may be too late this season but if Arsenal can get its house in order, that elusive English Premier League title may be available for consumption sooner rather than later.
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Philip Micallef is a football writer with almost 40 years of experience. He has worked for News Limited and now SBS. He is a long-time follower of AC Milan.
A journalist with decades of experience on TV and radio, Tony is an expert on all things Italian - including football.