Arsenal must do more with the players at their disposal

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 26: Arsene Wenger, Manager of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Burnley and Arsenal at Turf Moor on November 26, 2017 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)
BURNLEY, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 26: Arsene Wenger, Manager of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Burnley and Arsenal at Turf Moor on November 26, 2017 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images) /

Other top teams spend more than Arsenal, but spending big is not the only way to compete. If the club’s not willing to reinvest, they should aim to reinvent.

In 2006, Arsenal left Highbury for the Emirates Stadium. The club stated the financial burden of the new stadium left them unable to spend alongside their direct competitors. The immediate aftermath saw the likes of top players, performing at high levels, sold on. Replacements never seemed to be on the same level, arriving in the form of youngsters, ageing veterans, or solid but not “marquee” signings.

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Most notably were the departures of a 24-year-old Cesc Fabregas in 2011 and a 28-year-old, top goal scorer, Robin van Persie in 2012. Meanwhile, direct competitors were receiving enormous cash influxes and breaking transfer records every window.

In the following years, Arsenal played the role of perpetual almost-beens. They were always good, but not good enough. And what was the easiest source to blame for the lack of winning? Clearly, it was the club’s reluctance to bring in top class players for eye-watering transfer fees and outrageous wages. After all, if that’s what allowed Chelsea, United, and City their success, it was plainly the only path to success and thereby something Arsenal must replicate if they hoped to compete.

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Then, in 2013, the Gunners shelled out over £42 million on Mesut Ozil, and, with it, announced a new era: Arsenal were prepared to spend with the big boys. They then followed up with another £38 million to land Alexis Sanchez in 2014. The dog days were over!

But still, they continued to underperform in the eyes of most. Countless factors have been discussed, though, it seems, fans, writers, and pundits are quickest to point to a player not being “top-four quality” as the reason the Gunners’ lack results.

Now, I don’t intend to argue that Arsenal have a comparable starting eleven to the likes of Manchester City. Nor do I intend to argue that they have the depth of other top teams. What I do hope to highlight, however,  is some of the lesser discussed achievements of these competitors that had little to do with their spending.

Leicester City

The 2015-16 Premier League Champions. Obviously, a well covered and miraculous achievement that I don’t intend to dive into. But to my point, what they achieved with the squad they had is what Tupac meant when he said “Trying to make a dollar out of fifteen cents.”


Burnley currently sit seventh in the table as the embodiment of unified team football. They make do with bits of individual quality here and there, but gain their success through collective play that makes them hard to break down. What’s more, their best players are continually scooped up by bigger clubs, e.g., Danny Ings, Kieran Trippier, Michael Keane. Yet still, they perform, and currently better than ever.

Individual Success Stories

Injuries happen in football. Not every club is spoiled with a bench like Bayern Munich. Which means when injuries occur, a club must find innovative ways to fill the void. This year’s prime example must be Fabian Delph playing at left back for City. Pep Guardiola didn’t have a true left back to cover in the absence of Benjamin Mendy, so he created a role where Delph has thrived. Does he play as a traditional left back? No. But does it work? Absolutely.

Last year, Jurgen Klopp did something similar by deploying James Milner as a left back. But the most impressive achievement goes to Antonio Conte for what he has done with Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses.

Conte took two career journeymen and put them into a system that has made them indispensable. Their roles as wing backs were not only positive changes on a personal level, but also incredibly influential in Chelsea winning the Premier League.

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What do all these points have in common? Clubs have taken seemingly average individuals or groups of players and put them in positions to succeed! So, rather than demand what is unlikely to arrive in high-profile replacements for guys like Granit Xhaka, Calum Chambers, or Alex Iwobi, let’s demand ingenuity. Let’s hope for management to impart creative tactics that get the absolute best of out what is at their disposal.