Thursday, 28 February 2013

Are Arsenal going the way of Liverpool?

As the Tottenham tie grows closer many Arsenal fans will be wondering whether the club would be able to recover from losing out on the Champions League. Having seen Liverpool after their Champions League victory in Istanbul it is clear to most football fans that no club is safe from decline. Having won the most prestigious competition in Europe who could have predicted that the club would be struggling to qualify for even the Europa League in 2013? In a similar vein, watching the Arsenal Invincibles you could hardly have predicted that Arsenal wouldn’t see premier league success for at least the next 9 years, and come 2013 would be embroiled in a battle, with their arch-rivals, to see who could qualify for the Champions league.  We have seen a slow decline at Arsenal FC since the move to Emirates – though the 07/08 season promised a lot- and the questions on the lips of a lot of our fans is – ‘Will the decline continue?’

Looking at Liverpool’s situation at the moment is like staring into the eyes of a disappointing parent – you see so much of them in you, but fear turning out like them. For this reason let’s look at a few of the mistakes that have led to Liverpool’s decline into only a slightly above-average Premier league team.

Sales of Key Players- The loss of players like Mascherano, Torres, Xabi Alonso and Raul Meireles has seriously depleted the Liverpool side over the years.  Selling players for huge prices can often be very tempting for clubs – any of our fans can tell you that – but adequately replacing them with the money can be a huge issue.  Take the Torres transfer for instance, Liverpool pocketed £50 million for him, but replacing the striker has been a task which has resulted in a greater outlay than the fee received.  Furthermore, the effect on immediate club performances can be equally disastrous as most replacement signings will require time to settle in. In reality Liverpool were probably actually right to sell Torres – who had requested transfer-listing. The example simply illustrates a point. In truth, the issues that arrived following the Torres sale were mainly due to misuse of transfer funds.  Sales of players like Fabregas, Nasri, Adebayor, Cole and Clichy show that, in this area, we have fallen into the same trap as Liverpool. What is more frustrating is that this season we have lost our best striker and holding midfielder, and now find that we are lacking in these areas. Had we not sold those players last summer the League would probably look a lot better for Arsenal.

Sacking Rafa & repeatedly changing management – Okay we don’t fall into this category and I’m glad. After sacking Benitez Liverpool descended into a whirlwind, with good managers coming and going. Each manager came in and tried to stamp their own brand of football onto Liverpool and all fell to the way-side. In fairness to Liverpool, with the signing of Brendan Rodgers – who is being afforded more patience than some of his predecessors – I think they are realising their mistakes. Essentially, bringing in a new manager with a new style of football can be like signing 11 new players for the team. As the team gets used to playing a certain way – which can take more than one season – results suffer. As results drop a new manager comes in and BOOM! Another couple of seasons of mediocrity. One of the main reasons for Barcelona’s sustained success despite managerial changes is that the new managers have maintained their brand. Looking back to Arsenal, Wenger is sadly coming towards the end of his tenure at Arsenal. I don’t want him to leave but I can’t see him here for more than two or three seasons. When the board does decide to replace him they need to find a manager that can maintain the continuity at the club or we risk going the way of Liverpool. Laudrup anyone? (BTW Swansea are another good example of what I am talking about).

Buying overpriced, English Players – Arguably Liverpool’s biggest mistake was to buy so many British players. As sad as it may seem to say so, English players come at a premium at this level. Why? Well they’re just so damn marketable. Of the fairly regular first team players almost all English players are fan favourites or at least very valuable adverts for our club – Wilshere, Walcott, Gibbs and the Ox. Even Jenkinson is starting to make his way up there. For this reason the prices on English heads are somewhat understandable. The issue that Liverpool had was that they spent far too much on bringing far too many average English players into their team – after a point a lot of the players you are buying won’t have much value in terms of image anyway. Take Charlie Adam who was bought for a steep £9M, he hardly improves Liverpool’s global brand, yet an equal substitute could probably have been bought for half that amount had Liverpool chosen not to choose English.  Now obviously these players were bought for footballing reasons as well, but it seems that the owner’s taps are running dry and quite frankly they aren’t seeing an equal return on the pitch, mainly as a result of Dalglish’s poor spending.
Once again Arsenal hasn’t fallen into this trap, but quite frankly when you are making a profit on player sales season after season it is hard to do so. While we have had our share of flops it is no match to Liverpool’s mismanagement of transfer funds. With such a financially-shrewd board it is unlikely we will repeat the mistakes that Liverpool did, however if reports are to be believed and Wenger does spend, then the coming summer transfer window will be key in deciding whether our club sees a decline equal to Liverpool or is propelled back to heights we have previously enjoyed.
Well that’s all for now,
Feel free to drop a comment.

1 comment:

  1. A very fine post Rohan. Just checking whether I can comment now. If so, I will be back later to comment in more detail.

    All the best with your new blog. :)