Will they fear us if we get Arshavin?


A West Ham team that is brimming with confidence  having dispatched 6 of their last 7 opponents comes in to the Emirates stadium to face an Arsenal team brimming with false hope after eeking out a 9 game unbeaten run.

It’s almost amazing to think that the team have remained unbeaten for 9 matches and on its face it’s a pretty good run of form and should see Arsenal gaining confidence. But these aren’t the awe inspiring games that we’re seeing from our rivals for the Champions League spot; a 0-0 draw to Cardiff is hardly the stuff of legends. In fact, closer inspection sees that Manchester United haven’t conceded a goal since Arsenal beat them 2-1 in November and Villa have taken all 12 points in their last 4 matches. So, you’ll forgive me if I have to have a laugh when Diaby proclaims the title race is within grasp or Nasri says that all we have to do is “keep winning without leaking goals” and we’ll be right back in it. No. You have to make opponents like West Ham tremble at the thought of traveling to your stadium, then you can start talking about winning the title.

West Ham, for their part, are playing some very good football and pundits are claiming they won’t have anything to fear from Arsenal tomorrow. No one is saying that Arsenal aren’t a talented side, or that there isn’t a threat that Arsenal will start clicking and destroy teams like West Ham; rather that right now, every team in the EPL looks at our past performances and has to be licking their chops to come here and “pull a Hull.”

Ultimately, I’m not going to say it’s a crucial game because, frankly, it looks like the board and the team have thrown in the towel on even achieving 4th place. When you see the board sitting on £90m in cash reserves and not strengthening the squad when it is plain for everyone to see that the squad needs strengthening there’s a disconnect and Peter Hill-Wood revealed exactly what that disconnect is yesterday. As it turns out, the club (payroll, transfers, etc.) is being run as if we didn’t earn £30m a year in Champions League money.

There is no denying that it would be a real financial drain on the club if we didn’t qualify for the Champions League next season. Even if we were in the Uefa Cup and enjoyed a long run in Europe, that would not come close to making up the shortfall.

But although missing out on the Champions League for one year would be a big disappointment, it would not mean financial Armageddon for Arsenal. When we worked out the budget, and did our fund-raising calculations in respect of the new stadium, we did not assume we were going to be in the Champions League every season. That may be an assumption at other clubs, and it’s not for me to comment on the way they are run, but we did not want to get out of our depth in terms of paying our bills. So although it would certainly hurt us in the pocket to finish outside the top four, it would not be a huge shock to the club’s finances. (Emphasis added.)

Suddenly everything makes sense. We’re running the club as if we are West Ham, not as if we are a top four club. No wonder no one fears Arsenal: they are fielding a team, with but maybe three exceptions, is a mid-level squad. You could say that in a sense, we’re punching above our weight, up there in 5th place. We bought a mid-table squad and are nearly up in the Champions League, impressive.

What isn’t impressive is that we’re already seeing some fallout from Arsenal’s failure to re-invest in the team with Robin van Persie reportedly refusing to sign a contract extension unless Arsenal win 4th place. You need look no further than that fact to see why the Arsenal business plan was severely flawed. Because, while it’s a good idea to practice fiscal austerity and Arsenal seem to have that down pat, hell, they could probably last 10 years as a mid-level team in the EPL with the £90m (which will probably be like £110m after this season is done) they have stashed under the mattress, it’s a terrible idea not to re-invest in your company while all of your competitors are growing around you. Already the Arsenal brand has seen some of the shine come off which means less shirt sales and even though they may “sell out” every game due to counting ticket sales rather than the turnstiles, people are already not attending matches, which means less concessions, etc. I’m not suggesting that Arsenal should have spent all £90m on transfers, but some prudent re-investment was clearly necessary as our slump in sales, and slump in performance on the pitch certainly shows.

Where would Arsenal be right now without Robin van Persie? Shudder to think, eh? The thought of losing van Persie might explain why the team seems to be increasing their price in the Zenit deal to get Arshavin on the pitch — going so far as landing the Russian a work permit already. With Wenger stating that the club are going to know before kickoff tomorrow we should finally have an end to this saga one way or another.

The problem is that Arshavin is, in my mind, too little, too late. While undoubtedly a quality player, and certain to add some goals, he’s lacking match fitness right now and still doesn’t solve the problem of Arsenal’s porous defense. In the end, Arshavin won’t be the man to make teams like West Ham fear us again. That’s going to take a whole lot more than just one wing player can deliver, which means prying open the coffers. Unless, of course, they have thrown in the towel on this season.

It sure looks like it to me. Which is a real shame.

Right, so a 7am kickoff tomorrow, the match is live on Setanta, and I will be at Doyle’s. See you there?

15 Responses to “Will they fear us if we get Arshavin?”

  1. 1 arsenekidz
    January 30, 2009 at 8:17 am

    With losses to lesser teams this season, nobody fears Arsenal now. By the way, football is a team sport not individual(Arshavin)

  2. 2 shaun
    January 30, 2009 at 8:22 am

    I must admit I dont by into us needing a defensive midfielder… While a DM would be ideal in our current team (the way they are playing), this would reinforce our defensive mindset which we have annoyingly gotten into.

    What I do buy into is Wengers vision of playing attractive, high tempo football. Incisive, quick passing is enough to destroy most of the teams in the EPL and ultimately leads to our opposition respecting us again (something you alluded to in this article). I still dont believe Flamini was a DM, what he brought to Arsenal was the high tempo game which pushed Arsenal forward and raised our game. Viera, while a brilliant tackler often would push Arsenal forward in one of his marauding runs.

    I guess what I am trying to say is Arshavin may just provide the spark we need and the kick up the Arsenal we need to ignite our season because at the moment we are a shadow of last years team.

    I rea;;y hope he arrives. We need him.

    BTW, I love your blogs, I am a South african who lived in the UK for 8 years and I enjoy your insight into the Arsenal.

  3. 3 WC
    January 30, 2009 at 8:54 am

    This is a double standard if you ask me and shows the unfair attitudes towards Arsenal. If not for the West Brom 5-0 win you could have said the same thing about the Mancs not destroying teams since they lost to Derby 1-0 in the Carling Cup and had to squeeze out the win on aggregate, barely survived 1-0 to Wigan and Bolton and had to come from behind against Spuds in the FA Cup. Yet they are everyone’s odds on favorites to win the league. I’m not saying Arsenal don’t have problems or that our performances couldn’t be better, but at the same time we’re still on a little unbeaten run and have yet to lose to any of the other big four. Arshavin is no doubt a very good player but he’s probably on the same level as Nasri or Pires. We won’t find another Thierry Henry. Players like Thierry come along once in a lifetime and we have been very appreciative of his time at Arsenal as he was without a doubt one of the most feared strikers in the world while he was here. Football is 11 players, not just 1, though individual performances can catch the eye more often than not.

    I admit though Wenger seems to not want to swallow his pride and see the mediocrity of some of his players. He has big problems in wanting to let players go. Admirable is his passion for his players, but arguably a foolish team management tactic. We have money, but as fans we’re not entirely sure what it’s for. We still have a stadium to repay and whatever other overhead costs we as outsiders don’t see. As much as we hate Usmanov, he could be what Arsenal need. As I’ve said before, it’s no surprise that our rivals have stepped up their game in the wake of new owners. When the other teams were run as clubs and businesses it was Arsenal’s keen frugality and the Mancs’ marketability that made the league a 2 horse race. However now that Villa, Liverpool, Mancs, Chavs have all been taken over by a billionaire, they have been threatening to leave Arsenal in the dust. It’s unfortunate that some fat cat is probably the answer to our problems because hardly ever are they actually interested in football and see their teams as toys to play with. However it is a necessary evil in the world today that tradition must be broken in order to stay competitive.

  4. 4 Tim
    January 30, 2009 at 9:02 am

    Thanks Shaun!

    I also love hearing other opinions and you have presented something for me to gnaw on.

    I would say preliminarily that I agree with you, in that Arsh will give Arsenal width, creativity, and (I hate saying this over and over) someone who can get to the by line and put in a cross. So, I agree that attacking is part of what is needed. Passes to Eboue simply fizzle out.

    But all I need to say to prove that Flamini was a Holding Mid is that this year already Arsenal have conceded 25 goals in the EPL. Last year, all season, we gave up 31. Now, it is possible that Arsenal will go the next 15 games and give up only 6 goals, in which case I will concede the point to you and would fully expect the team to finish in the top 3.

    But on our current form, Arsenal are set to give up 41 goals, which is a 6th place finish if my calculations are correct. I can’t see anyone on this squad suddenly blossoming into the type of player that Flamini was. Thus, we need to buy.

    But, honestly, I think Wenger is ready to settle for 5th or 6th place.

  5. 5 caribkid
    January 30, 2009 at 9:14 am


    First things first, welcome to the blog and would like to iterate that this is fast becoming my favorite conduit for a fresh Arsenal perspective, THANKS TIMOTHY, keep it coming.

    Shaun, we are talking semantics here. At some point in his career Viera was a DM, Petit replaced him in that role, followed by Gilberto and then Flamini. Yes, they were all DM’s, but in the fluid Arsenal style were given permission to attack when done so within in the flow of the game.

    However, their principal role was to protect the back 4, particularly when the wing backs launched forward and we were caught on counters. Except for Gilberto’s lack of pace, they all had things in common which made them invaluable to the team, positional awareness, excellent tackling, creative forward passing, good aerial ability, desire, technical ability and provided steel down the spine. Although they attacked, even our CB’s are known to move up in attack, because of their primary defensive duties they are considered to be DM’s in contrast to the AM position played by Fab.

    We have nobody at present who provides all those traits effectively and therefore reduces our counter capabilities, places undue pressure on the back four and limits forwards thrusts by the wing backs. The “DM” in our role is crucial.

    Denilson lacks the pace, aerial ability and positional awareness. Diaby lacks the mindset and Song the pace. All of our current DM’s have flaws which only serve to expose our other weaknesses even more. That’s why we need a DM.

  6. 6 str8goon
    January 30, 2009 at 10:30 am

    You are all correct we absolutely need a DM hell maybe two in a formation of a 4-2-3-1. A DM’s job is to protect the back 4, stifle attacks down the center of the pitch, and provide good out letting passes to the front line. Flamini did that with energy, confidence, and passion. And just as caribkid says, all of our current “DM’s” have flaws, flaws in which our opponents take advantage of. We need a strong, ariel capable, technical, and if I may say so absolute hard ass who will sure up the middle and make opposing attacking midfielders fear going up the middle of the park. And the only players I can see doing this are Yaya, Veloso, or Cana. Cana being my preferred choice. Have you seen the guy or any of his videos on youtube? He’s an absolute animal who can posses, get the ball, and tackle his butt off without conceding too many fouls or collecting a bunch of yellows or reds. I could all but guarantee that if we got him he would sure up the defense and allow Wenger to concentrate on the attacking aspect of the game. An area where he’s much more accustomed.

    This would not stifle Denilson’s or Song’s development because they could learn from him. His positioning, concentration, tackling and movement. They would undoubtly become better players for it. Plus they would still be used in FA cup and CC competitions, not to mention they’ve both played in the CL and premiership and have already gained alot of experience. But the blind cannot lead the blind, they need a mentor. Like Cesc and Flamini had Viera to watch and teach them.

    We are so close to being able to dominate games and opponents. With our injured players back our attacking squad would consists of: RVP, Ade, Vela, Cesc, Nasri, Rosicky, Dudu, Theo and quite feasibly Arshavin. Now does that look like a bad attacking core!? NOT AT ALL. Looks damn close to world class to me. And I believe Nasri, Cesc, and Rosicky would absolutly flourish the way they did wen Hleb was in the squad. They loved each other. Were missing that defensive link in the back and our VITAL injured players. WE are not that far off from having an amazing squad, playing the football that we’ve grown up appreciating, and winning TROPHIES!!! Have faith boys, we will get there and we will life a trophy this season. WE ARE SO CLOSE. DON’T GIVE UP NOW!


  7. 7 T-Town Alex
    January 30, 2009 at 10:51 am

    Nice posts Tim and all you guys.
    I have a couple of things on my mind to throw out, and see what you guys all think:
    1- Why isn’t Vela a regular first teamer?! At least a traditional ’70th minute sub’ like Wenger likes it.. What am I missing?
    2- I sure hope Spurs don’t sign Appiah. They will make a decision this weekend. He has been training and playing with the club for a month. Reportedly they love him, but are not sure about match fitness due to his long period of inaction. They need someone who can hit the ground running. Reportedly, that is what is holding them back. I really want to see this guys play, but hell not in a Spurs jersey. When fit, Appiah can offer more to a team than Cana.

  8. 8 Tim
    January 30, 2009 at 11:06 am

    It’s funny, the more you guys compliment the post, the fewer hits I get!

    Also, I took my twitter feed off and added my Google reader feed, which I use a lot more anyway.

    Finally —


    Vela is a good player but Wenger wants wing players who offer more defense (like Eboue supposedly does) and if you think about it, it makes sense since our “fullbacks” are actually wingbacks. I have advocated for a more traditional role for one or both of the fullbacks on this squad and a more traditional role for the wing players, but alas, Arsene keeps refusing my phone calls.

  9. 9 caribkid
    January 30, 2009 at 11:13 am


    If anyone but Arsene could answer the question of Vela’s lack of playing time, it would have been answered a long time ago. On the surface, all indicators are Vela would be a substantial contributor in providing width with his pace and trickery on the flanks. He is also one of the more clinical finishers we have in the team and has 2 years of international experience for Mexico and a full year in Serie A.

    If you can get Arsene’s phone # maybe we should text him for the answer (LOL)

    As for Appiah, again, who knows. Based on what I’ve seen of him when he was fit, he would be the perfect acquisition at DM. It’s a bit puzzling that he has not been picked up as he is a free agent, so there must be something affecting the situation. Salary demands, length of contract, lack of fitness? Who knows. Can’t see the logic with Spurs taking him now since they acquired Palacios who plays the same position, is younger, fitter and in fantastic form currently. They also have Huddlestone who plays in that role and who is a sublime passer of the ball. Doesn’t make sense, but once again, who knows with ole “Arry”. Stock em up, let them compete and may the best ones flourish, and maybe they will avoid relegation.

  10. 10 caribkid
    January 30, 2009 at 11:19 am


    I think all the Arsenal blogs are probably getting fewer hits since fans are getting disgruntled with the lack of progress shown by the team and the seeming indifference of the Club to upgrade the squad.

    I’m a regular reader and contributor to AA (Arsenal America, not Alcoholics Anonymous)and have noticed a significant reduction (50% at least) in response to posts.

  11. 11 barnaby
    January 30, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    Can it be? A player, one of our better ones i may say, has more ambition than club management? Even if i’m blindly optimistic i’m not sure i can spin that one. Rvp may ‘love it here at Arsenal’ but it’s foolish to think he’ll enjoy eufa cup football, humility isn’t a strong point with him. He may stay for the money, for a spell anyway, because it’s unlikely we’ll match should a big club come in for him.

    Guys, there’s no disagreement here, we need to upgrade several positions to become a credible title threat. Arshavin represents a step in the right direction, but just one step, and that step has yet to be taken.

  12. January 30, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    I’ve been trying to put this “season to date” in perspective.

    Yes. Arsenal are well down from last season’s pace. At this stage last year we almost had it sown up until we went on a Liverpool like run of draws.

    The team should be measured by the same standards as everyone else. You know? Okay. Maybe people can’t do that. But just look at this season and the position of the top 5 and then add the following to the mix. What if Arsenal had held on to that 1-0 lead at home to Hull, not let in that Zat Knight late late goal at Villa Park and, say, not let in 2 goals in the dying seconds against Spurs? That’s 7 missing points. Keep the rest of it. We’re now right in the mix. 1 point behind Man Utd.

    This season is weird for all of the top 5. Utd are extremely casual, unprofessional almost (Berbatov’s stupid bubble of tranquility?). Liverpool are in way over their heads. Ditto for Villa’s tiny squad. Chelsea are a soap opera. Well I guess Chelsea are unchanged. Nobody’s running away with it though.

    Maybe it’s the Hull factor or Man City’s oil money or something but I am sure this season has a lot more surprises in store for us and as an Arsenal fan who’s endured the boring boring years I’m enjoying every minute of it. Win, lose, or boring draw.

    Occasionally this Arsenal squad take my breath away and occasionally they infuriate me. But in Wenger I trust. Eboue or no Eboue.

    P.S. As for being measured by winning trophies. In 2005 we beat Man Utd in the Cup Final (swan song for the invincibles?). We absolutely robbed them. We sucked that day but stole it on penalties. It was a hollow victory (although nice for Viera to score the winner). Fastfoward to this year and watch Arsenal deeeestroy Sheff Utd and Chris ‘fuckhead’ Morgan in the Carling Cup. It was thrilling. I won’t forget it. As a fan, I’ll always take the latter. We had so many of those performances last year too. Wenger will always keep Arsenal in contention and he will do it in style. I’ll follow this team Eboue or no Eboue.

    Eboue or no Eboue.

  13. 13 caribkid
    January 30, 2009 at 1:24 pm


    Last season I said, “Even if Arsenal doesn’t win a trophy, I will watch them forever because they play brilliant football and as a purist, brought me many memorable moments of sheer grace and beauty”.

    This season has left a sour taste in my mouth as I can’t bear to watch their feeble attempts at playing football. Coupled with their futile attempts to vie for anything other than mediocrity, this does not endear them to the current fan base and certainly will not attract other fans. Unfortunately, as we all know so well, it’s the fans who ultimately decide the income stream of any sporting organization.

    To risk this potential loss of income by not spending 25-30 million is absolutely absurd and insane, and is totally out of sorts with any economic theory ever conceived in the history of mankind. Arsene and the Board need to take a refresher course at the London School of Economics, otherwise they risk losing everything they have spent the past 12 years building upon.


  14. 14 Chris
    January 30, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    I just thought I would point out one thing that we all seem to know. Arsenal is one of the richest (highest revenue) clubs in the world. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richest_football_clubs) By revenue we rank only behind Madrid, United, Barca, and Chelsea, but we don’t go out and by players like those clubs do. I think what frustrates me and many other fans is that we are able to buy world class players but refuse to do so. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of giving the youth system a chance, but couldn’t we operate more like Barcelona? Barca have bought many established players yet the likes of Valdes, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Sergio Busquets, Puyol, Bojan (I’m sure I’m missing somebody) have come through the youth system and have established themselves alongside big-name players in their current squad. The established stars then help bring up the next generation of Barca youth players. I see this as the model that Arsenal should strive to imitate. Sure we need to bring players through the youth system, but only the very best should make it to the first team. I think what many fans feel is that too many of the youth team make it through that are not good enough for Arsenal, and then we do not have any established players to guide them. I would call for a strategy (and I think most other fans would agree) where we bring through the best youth, but also buy established players to nurture the younger ones and to strengthen areas that need attention.

    So, in short, I would argue that purchasing Arshavin is well within our means and will only help to provide creativity, competition, and experience to our current squad.

  15. 15 arsenekidz
    January 31, 2009 at 2:11 am

    We desperately need a quality DM so as to allow the rest of the attacking midfielders to move forward without having to worry much about defending and protecting the back 4. We do missed the likes of Petit, Viera , Flamini and Gilberto. I have thought of Kolo Toure because he started as a midfielder before being converted to center back by Wenger. He is quick, good with the ball and have good defensive qualities too. Anyway, I hope that Wenger will be able to produce or buy a quality DM soon.We have enough of quality attackers and forwards while some are on their way back from injuries.(Walcott, Eduardo,Rosicky)and not forgetting Arshavin should he make it to the team.

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