Lessons to be learnt from Arsenal

Posted: January 6, 2010 by mcdonaldtaf in Manager Talk
Tags: , , , ,

Arsene Wenger

Tonight, while we languish in 7th place with a meagre 33 points on the table, Arsenal will host Bolton. If their game in hand results in a win, Arsenal will overtake the current champions and sit one point off the top of the premiership table. People had long ago started to discount Arsenal as premiership contenders but half way through the season and contending for the title they are.

Meanwhile it has been a trying time for everyone connected to Liverpool Football Club, especially given the raised expectations from last season. This was to be our season… wasn’t it? Surely it should be us, up there, contending and Arsenal should be sitting and struggling where we are. Many are up in arms about this ‘unacceptable’ situation. The ‘Rafa out’ brigade are revelling in their chance to gather support and lets be fair that support is mounting at an unrelenting pace.

If you are one of those up in arms, calling or should I say demanding that Rafa step down… stop… deep breath… exhale… and take heart from Arsenal’s current position. Last season at this point, while we were top of the league, Arsenal had amassed only two more points than us now. They sat fifth with 35 points after a torrid run not unlike our own. Now I’m damn sure there were a section of Arsenal fans chanting for Arsene’s head who are currently notable by their silence. They were taking the same short term view some of our fans are now.

Does a manager becomes incompetent after one half of a season? Some fans say he’s great in Europe but can’t get his head around the Premiership. Yes, that’s the competition we finished second in last season if you needed reminding. Then there are those who criticise his talents in the transfer market. Despite his abilities to continually turn a profit on players allowing for a low net spend and stepped quality improvements within the team.  In his time so far (according to company accounts) Rafa has generated an average £44.6m of income on player disposals per year. To put that into context Houllier generated £10.5m per year. Then take a selection of the players who welcomed him – Dudek, Henchoz, Finnan, Cheyrou, Kewell and Cisse. Some of these were good players but look at the players  brought in – Reina, Johnson, Agger, Mascherano, Alonso and Torres to name a few. Maybe it’s down to his ‘demeanour’? Yes you know the way he can’t motivate players or alienates them. Yet players continue to want to come to Liverpool, after speaking to other players. Players who did have differences with Rafa like Alonso continue to support and speak very highly of him. All the while anyone can see how key players like Torres and Gerrard have blossomed under his tutelage. By the way why don’t you go and ask any manager in any industry if they’ve ever fell out with staff, or whether they had to take someone to task and that person didn’t like it and sulked?

Rafa Benitez

World class football managers do not grow on trees and it’s about short versus long term. Short term you could get rid and maybe create a ‘bounce effect’ which would see us hopefully get on a winning run – with the right manager. Everything would go quiet and the ‘Rafa out’ brigade would be sat there, arms folded, smugly grinning… they were right, see – “look at how right we were” they would chime. How long those grins would last depends on when the wheels start to fall off I guess.

Be in no doubt that we are on a long term plan. Rafa is central to this plan and his sprawling control is now responsible for the academy where he’s already made swift changes. Why? Well we can’t compete in the transfer market at the same levels as other clubs. Yes a new stadium would bridge the gap, but it wouldn’t bridge it far enough to reach the spending power of Chelsea and Manchester City’s billions. We have to buy smart and we have to grow from within if we are to be title contenders. Rafa is delivering on both these counts from what I can see.

Or you could take your short term plan and hope that you get the right manager. One who can run the many facets which Rafa currently does? We could hope we get a Manager who sees past the first team and the reserves and work with the board on a plan to re-create the invincible bastion. Who is that man and is he available and wanting to come to our club?

We need to realise the lessons of Arsenal’s 2008/9 season. Their board could have capitulated to pressure and brought in someone else. Someone as good as Arsene – who, again, fits the Arsenal business model so perfectly? Incidentally a business model not a million miles from our own I believe.

So do me a favour? Get off the man’s back and do what you are supposed to do. We’re called ‘supporters’ for a reason. It is not blind faith or anything of the kind. It’s about another 18 games of the season in the Premiership, it’s about a cup run and it’s about still being in Europe (if not the elite competition). Our job is to stand resolute behind EVERYONE at the club. Take heart from where Arsenal are now, keep the faith and believe. Any decisions on Rafa’s future can wait till May can’t they? Give the man and the team the support they need to finish the season off in style. If we do then maybe we’ll be the ones a point behind the leaders next season with Rafa at the helm. If they don’t well you can fold your arms and sit there smugly, can’t you!

  1. […] Night (Reading) I’m going to keep this specifically short. I recently wrote about the lessons to be taken from arsenal’s mediocre season, which ended with a champions league spot. When I say recently it was actually a week ago. While we […]

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