Tag Archives: gazidis

Emery, Wenger and the Blame Game

We all knew this would be a work in progress.

After such a long time at the helm, every fibre of the club would have been tailored for Arsene Wenger, so when his inevitable departure actually materialised, the new incumbent was always going to need a period of acclimatisation.

Patience is pretty thin on the ground when it comes to supporting a club these days though, and with our club making errors on and off the pitch, the long road back to contending for not only the Champions League spots but also title contention has never seemed so arduous.


Firstly, we have an owner who has forgotten where his pockets are. Stan Kroenke has reportedly forked out nearly two billion dollars on his LA Rams franchise in the ten years he has been involved with Arsenal. In that same period he has invested precisely nothing into our club.


This has come to a head during this Winter transfer window, where Unai Emery confirmed that he would be shopping in the Bargain Bin of the window, scouring the shelves for loan deals only. This is because of a combination of the new wage bill rules that came into effect in 2017, meaning that the bill cannot rise above a certain rate, and thanks to our spending in the previous two years, we may be skirting close to that limit.


The other reason is because we have an owner that could pump what would be the equivalent of chump change into our coffers to enable Emery to chase his vision.


There is a certain school of thought that this season could match last season’s mediocre league finishing position because of the mess left by both Wenger and Gazidis.




While Wenger can be blamed for his slipping standards, the squad that was left was far from terrible. The one area that needed revitalising was in defence, but that could have been said for the last ten years.


Gazidis though? The fact that players have been sold for far less than their worth, biting hard into our available wealth and therefore, our ability to reinvest into where it is so desperately needed? Contracts left to dwindle down so players can leave for free?


Yeah, Gazidis has a big part to play.


The initial optimism surrounding Emery dissipated for a while, but positive results against United and our doggedness in pursuing a top4 place has shown that the Spaniard is maintaining us on the right path,


Emery is not blameless and should never be treated as such when the time for critique is right. He has made some strange decisions at times, his handling of the Ozil problem could yet reap more negativity, and his insistence on imprinting his tactics on the side was always going to bring about teething problems.


For there to be doubt though, at the halfway stage of his first season? That’s on our fans.


Like the truth or not, but our squad is pretty much achieving on par when compared to the strength of our rivals. We may have a world class attack – Laca, Auba and Ozil are genuinely upper crust and are giving us the delusions of grandeur we sometimes suffer from.


Our midfield though? Torreira aside, we have a mixture of promise and inconsistent brilliance. We hit heights, but plummet just as deep at times. For every wonderfully dominant display like against tottenham and Leicester, we have a complete disappointment, a la Liverpool, West Ham and Brighton.


We are also too reliant on the fairweather Ozil for creation. Without the German, playing below par or otherwise, we have nothing else that comes close. Iwobi is a cause for optimism, despite what a large portion of fans think, but he is far from the finished article. We also have Mkhitaryan, who has only started to hit top form since his arrival.


Emery arrived with a club desperately needing a spring clean. The backroom staff is still being assembled – we recently made a position of Loan Manager, and about time – and with a squad jaded from methods that needed adapting.


These things take time.


In the meantime, we have to endure the turbulence, and resist from finger pointing while we grow. And we are growing. We are adapting to newer tactics, we are aiming for the top, but this trajectory is not the steepest incline, and it’ll take us a while.


What is mandatory is improvement. We can wholly expect a better season than last. Then next year? We should be aiming for top4. Season after that? Title contention once again.


Emery isn’t infallible, but he is what we need right now.


Keep the faith.


Arsenal Board Must Act

Arsenal’s ownership is an oxymoron.

The Premier League is awash with money, in fact, it has never been more affluent. Thanks to the TV rights deal that dwarves the other big domestic leagues, all Premier League clubs have larger fiscal muscles than their European brethren.

Our club are part-owned by Alisher Usmanov – an oligarch who is ranked amongst the richest people in the world, and Stan Kroenke – an American whose portfolio is amongst the largest in terms of sports teams. We also have Ivan Gazidis who was awarded a bonus for a season which is the worst placing in over two decades. 

On their own, Kroenke and Usmanov could financially back any team to the zenith of sporting achievement. They could completely transform the outlook of the league should they choose to.

Instead, with a backdrop of torrents of currency, they both choose to stand idly by as other clubs push on.

It is ironic that these ridiculously rich men who spent ludicrous amounts to garner our shares, now do nothing more than lasciviously eye each others stash of our club.

Perhaps our current problems in the Boardroom are magnified in part due to our past ownership?

The setup was always led by Arsenal-DNA. Although the loyal Ken Friars is still part of the makeup, decisions are now not made with Arsenal at heart.

Our club no longer have a hand on the tiller that is primarily concerned with the progress of our club, and it has now come to a point where it is harmful.

The good work that was put in during the late 90’s and early 2000’s gave us a headstart, one which was vital to capitalise on. The chasing pack was closing in, but we didn’t stretch our gap, we simply treaded water.

Now we stand on the precipice, caught between the ignominy of being just another member of the flock that grasp towards the top, and rekindling our groove and making ground on the distance we lost.

Manchester united may be saddled with debt, but they have crucially continued investment in recruitment. They have also shown little patience for mediocrity.

Manchester City have embraced the funds of their owners and player purchases continue unabated.

Chelsea too have dug deep in their pockets and regular silverware has been the produce from their spending.

Then there is tottenham and Everton.

Our North London neighbours have spent well and have a new stadium to look forward to. This new home has the capacity to propel them to regular contention for honours. They have not had the income of their more illustrious rivals but it has not stopped them. Of course there are many variables that may yet take them off course, but they are primed to continue their rise from where they were a decade ago.

Everton are under the stewardship of new owners. They now have the resources necessary to take them higher than erstwhile European place challengers. Ronald Koeman lost his way, but their spending spree in the summer is just a signal of what they are now capable of.

This is now the time for us to act. We have the potential in our sponsorship deals and our gate receipts to muscle in on the show that is seemingly going on without us of late. We could also overtake all and sundry if our owners acted like owners should.

At this moment we are merely a trophy on a wall, a conversation starter in auspicious surroundings whilst swilling brandy amongst the hoi-polloi.

Our previous Board members who are long since departed from the club showed how it should be done. Hell, even the dubious roubles of Roman Abramovich are evidence that not all takeovers have to be negative.

We need Usmanov and especially Kroenke to put their pennies into their new shiny piggy bank. The trouble is, they have not invested a brass farthing since becoming involved.

And it has worked in a business sense. Share prices have nearly doubled since 2007.

Maybe it is a nostalgia that blinds us. Football is a business now, but surely owners want their toys to be bigger and better than everyone else’s?

Right now, Kroenke has left his new plaything out in the rain to gather rust. We have a Chief Executive that received a bonus for a fifth placed finish so there is no incentive for improvement, which only adds to our woes.

Competition should see the strongest survive, and we are now limping behind. 

Arsenal’s new Head of Football Relations – Raul Sanllehi

Our club have been busy in the last year to replace the regime behind Arsene Wenger.

Jens Lehmann, Darren Burgess, Shad Forsythe, Sven Mislintat are among a raft of names brought in to rejuvenate certain facets of the club. 

Some say it is part of the new setup to ensure the transition to a post-Wenger world is as seamless and trouble-free as possible.

Some say it is Ivan Gazidis actually staying true to his word when he promised change.

Regardless, we are actually acting on the years of falling short, and bringing in people who have a reputation of delivering at the front end of the game.

Now, we have a new Head of Football Relations. 

We have recruited Raul Sanllehi from FC Barcelona to come in and work closely with new Head of Recruitment Sven Mislintat. This new team will help source new talent for the club, and get transfers over the line.

Sanllehi has come in to replace the outgoing transfer ‘guru’ Dick Law. Our transfer policy in recent years has gone from praiseworthy to laughable, so a tried and trusted man like Sanllehi is extremely welcome.

Who is this new fellow though? And why is he an improvement?

Raul Sanllehi was Director of Football from 2008. This is no mean feat when you consider the many turbulent presidencies of Juan Laporta, Sandro Rosell and Josep Bartomeu. It shows he is a safe pair of hands.

He was at the Camp Nou to get deals over the line, something we have lacked with the incompetency of Dick Law in recent years.

Before his years at Barcelona, Sanllehi was involved with Nike. Experience at a big brand like Nike means he is unfazed by anything thrown at him. It also means he has excellent contacts. His rolodex will be a who’s who of sport.

Indeed, even Ivan Gazidis said of his experience and contacts; in a club statement;

“Raul’s appointment is another important step in developing the infrastructure we need at the club to take everything we do to the next level. Raul has extensive contacts across the football world and has been directly involved in some of the biggest transfers in Europe in recent years. We look forward to bringing that expertise to Arsenal.”

Sanllehi will initially be working alongside Wenger, but this appointment is very much planning for the future.

We now have excellent and intelligent people in the most important posts at the club who are in touch with innovative methods and the modern game.

We are well placed for the future with this recruitment drive. When the time comes to replace Wenger, our team should be able to keep the club firmly on track.

Wenger’s Grip Loosens

Published on The Arsenal Review​

The fanbase is as divided as it has ever been lately.

Poor results and the lack of a concerted title challenge for a length of time not fitting for a team of our stature, has served as an accelerant to the flames which now lick lasciviously at Arsene Wenger, Stan Kroenke, Ivan Gazidis and the underwhelming players.

The root cause for our long-term malaise is also at the centre of every point of consternation between us Gooners right now. The barometer of opinion swings wildly when it comes to players, whilst Stan Kroenke and Ivan Gazidis have long been the subject of ire from us all.

Arsene Wenger though, is now feeling the heat that Gazidis and Kroenke now attract. It hasn’t been instantaneous, and there has been pockets of fans calling for his resignation for some time now – but as of right now – the vast majority of Gooners can see no successful future with the Frenchman’s hand on the tiller.

The last few campaigns have merely added weight to the claims that Arsene is not the man of old, the brain responsible for some of the brightest lights we have glittering in our history. Just like these moments now encased in nostalgia, he too is a thing that should be consigned firmly to the past.

It was perhaps the 2015/16 season though, that broke the camel’s back in terms of being able to validate any argument in terms of supporting Wenger. Leicester City of course, were the victors, as we finished in the runners-up spot a lengthy ten points behind.

The Foxes lost only three games that season, but it isn’t the credentials of Leicester that were up for question, it was the fact that the title was evidently up for grabs and with the right level of acquisition in the transfer market, as well as avoiding sloppy mistakes, could well have seen the wait for a first Championship since 2004 ended.

Last season then saw us fall further behind, as the usual suspects who had slumbered the previous season, had now woke up. It saw our team finish outside the hallowed Top4 for the first time since 1996, and it fully emboldened the groups who were calling for Wenger to depart.

Now, we look back on the beginning of the 2017/18 campaign, in the shadow of a transfer window which was an unmitigated disaster. Once again we enjoyed a great start with the shrewd purchase of Sead Kolasinac and the marquee signing of Alexandre Lacazette.

The hole in our central midfield went unheeded though. Again. This is yet another barb that can be aimed squarely at Wenger. The lack of a decisive midfielder who is positionally astute is leaving Mesut Ozil roving deeper than he needs to be to deliver passes to our strikers. It also sees counter attacks from the opposition filter through unhindered.

Lessons unlearned. Much like losses against Stoke and indeed, Liverpool. Heavy defeats that would normally see a coach get the chop, are now annual occurrences. Too much faith placed in players that have let him down on numerous occasions. Playing players in positions that do not optimise their talents.

Three FA Cups in four years have made him the most fruitful Manager the competition has ever seen, and has given him enough slack for him to continue in his work. Another season of not challenging at the top though, beckons. A 4-0 loss at Anfield saw us play so contrastingly with the vibrant Reds that it was unclear what League we were meant to belong in. It was embarrassing, and yet it has happened before, which is not acceptable.

Wenger has admitted doubting himself, but this was before deciding to sign another two year extension. He still feels he is the person to continue to push our club forward, but before he can do so – can he prove he is the man to apply the handbrake and arrest our slide?

With Man City, Chelsea, Man United and Liverpool all flexing their financial muscles and our hated neighbours looking forward to a bigger stadium from next season, can we even consider ourselves standing toe-to-toe with these clubs? Have we slipped so much that we can’t close the gap?

Wenger will not leave before his contract ends, so there isn’t much choice but to get behind the man. We can question his approach though. We can voice our displeasure just as we can roar in approval if needs be. That is every supporters right.

What is now clear is that Wenger – even if he is still capable of delivering – is now making more mistakes than he has ever done before.

We have a squad that is capable of doing so much, but with an owner who does not inject a penny of his own into the club, a Chief Executive more adept at spinning the media than propelling us into the future and a Manager who appears to be losing grip with the sharp end of the Premiership, we may be slipping into the void.

The fanbase may be divided, but ultimately, with every disappointment, it unites that little bit more for a change in direction – from top to bottom.

Champions League Failure On Loop

It was back in 2013 that Arsenal Football Club officially made it through the debilitating fog of strict budgets, and could compete with the cream of the Premiership and the rest of Europe. 

Years of auctioning off our prized assets to raise funds like a desperate priest organising raffles to pay for a new Church roof were over. Us Gooners could finally envision a season where the best players we had could actually appear in our shirt again. We could now realise the dream which was behind the building of The Emirates, which was to compete on an even footing with the very best.

A quote from our Chief Executive Ivan Gazidis, given at the tail-end of the 2012-13 season, highlights this very truth. Arsenal were geared towards moving up a level, to transform the promises made into something tangible. 

Ivan Gazidis – We’re very confident with the new deals we’ve got coming through, although we can’t talk about that in any detail. That’s showing really positive progression. We should be able to compete at a level like a club such as Bayern Munich.
“I’m not saying we are there by any means, we have a way to go before we can put ourselves on that level. But this whole journey over the past ten years really has been with that goal in mind which is why I say that this is an extraordinarily ambitious club.

“We get beaten up along the way but I think we are an extraordinarily ambitious club. This has been about putting us up with the best in the world and now the question is turning that platform now into on-field success.”

Since this was said by Gazidis, we have indeed won some silverware – three FA Cups have filled gaps in the trophy cabinet – but in terms of matching the success of Bayern Munich, Arsenal have failed to not only keep up, but it hasn’t even been a race.

It is unfair to compare domestic results between the two clubs, as the Bundesliga represents a far easier challenge for Munich than the Premier League does for Arsenal. It is the results in the Champions League which represents the fairest barometer to judge whether Arsenal have failed to deliver on not only their aims, but what us fans were promised.

Bayern Munich, since 2013, have been crowned winners once, and reached the Semi-Final stage in the last three years. 

By stark contrast, Arsenal have been halted at the Last16 stage four times. 

Ivan Gazidis was correct in one element of his projections, as Arsenal have indeed flexed their newly found financial muscles thanks to the shackles of debt being loosened somewhat. Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Granit Xhaka and Shkodran Mustafi have totalled an outlay of nearly £150million. 

In terms of results on the pitch however, a stagnation has occurred. In the Champions League, Arsenal have flattered to deceive. 

To progress in Europe’s top competition, there are many requirements, and luck is certainly one of them. Luck to garner a plum draw is just one reason why clubs need to broker a deal with a leprechaun in order to have the best chance to proceed to the latter stages.

In that facet, the Gunners have not been dealt the greatest of hands. 

Barcelona twice, AC Milan once and Bayern Munich three times have given Arsenal the most imposing of tasks to break the Last16 hoodoo. The only real chance the Gunners have had in seven years to get to the Quarter-Final has been Monaco, but we failed to capitalise on it. We fell at the same hurdle.

So, we can say the draw has been most unkind, but referring back to what Ivan Gazidis said yet again, the Chief Executive said that we could look forward to being on an even keel with the likes of Bayern – and currently, we look further away from achieivng this than ever.

The recent 10-2 aggregate defeat to Bayern Munich has highlighted just how much distance is between Arsenal and the very top of the game. The annual money lists see our club where it has projected itself to be, but in terms of results on the pitch, it has not matched the financial power we now boast of.

It means that Arsenal have failed. The Premier League may be an obtainable prizxe within the next few years, but the Champions League looks to be a mirage on the horizon that we can look on lustfully. 

Arsenal for the last seven years have been felled at the Last16 stage, but it was this years incarnation of Groundhog Day that really spelled out how far we are away from realising the words of Gazidis and the wishes of fans. 

A 10-2 aggregate deficit at the hands of Bayern is not acceptable for any self-respecting ambitious club. 

Arsenal are now not only treading water, but there is a distinct threat of sinking. The proud, ever-present record of Champions League qualification since Wenger has taken charge means a sound financial footing, but what good is a presence in a competition if there is no actual chance of winning it? 

Are we now just making up the numbers? The reaction from Bayern players when drawn against us speaks volumes. 

A club who fail to make good on their promises need to be held to account. Something needs to give. 

Next season gives us a new platform to concentrate our efforts on. No Champions League means we can look to the title first and work our way up. 

The Rest of the Transfer Window and Arsenal….

Written by Benjamin Dungate


What to make of Arsenal’s transfer activity. What there is of it.

The signs are not promising. The usual noises are coming out of the club. Talk of “spending big if the right player is available.” We have heard it all before.

The mention of having already spent big is concerning though. Yes, by any measure of normality the club has spent big. But in today’s inflated lunacy £30M is nothing. That gets you a good player that is unproven in the league.

Ivan Gazidis’s recent comments regarding our limited efforts in the window thus far were not exactly lapped up by Gooners, and the Arsenal Chief Executive attempting to downplay the importance of signing players or spending money was a rare faux pas from someone who is normally well spoken and practiced when speaking to the media.

Arsene Wenger the next day though, attempted to pour water on the blaze caused by Gazidis, placing emphasis on Arsenal’s continuous efforts in the market. It was quite bullish, and means there may just be a ray of optimism to latch onto.

So this talk of coughing up if the right player is there is rubbish. Gonzalo Higuain was available. Yes £94M is a ridiculous amount and clearly far too much for anyone, let alone a 28 year old but that is the market at the moment.

Alexandre Lacazette is also available and no less proven in the hustle and bustle of the Premier League than Higuain but at 25 at least he has time on his side. His market value is £48M. Once again, a hefty gamble.

Edinson Cavani is probably available but God only knows how much he would cost.

So who are you left with? Part-exing Olivier Giroud in any deal is totally unacceptable. Only a fool would use a proven, if unprolific, striker as a make-weight when buying in someone knew who is no more likely to succeed.

There is obvious clamour for the club to blow everything on Romelu Lukaku but I am not so sure on him either. He was good last season but his showing for Belgium in the Euros, particularly against Italy, highlighted how far he still has to go to reach his ceiling.

Obviously a young strikers ability should not be judged solely on one game against an Italian 3 man defence but neither should it be viewed on how he performed against a Republic Of Ireland team who were on the whole, poor.

In the end I find myself having some sympathy with Arsene Wenger. He is dammed if he doesn’t and dammed if he does and it goes wrong.

I would love to see Lacazette or Higuain come in but not at the expense of Giroud. His link-up play is second to none and his is dominant in the air. I think the key to it is not smashing £50M because the fans demand it, but in maybe modifying our formation and tactics to use more efficiently what we already have.

As gauling as it is, I think we will be left aghast on August 31st that the club once again failed to adequately recruit.