Every summer it seems that yet another star, a great player – be it our leading marksman or the steel of our midfield – that, thanks to Wenger, has grown into an icon for the club with a worldwide reputation of quality to go with that, leaves the club for what most of the departures describe as “a new challenge”. A new challenge where they get paid more. It’s become an annual tradition – a habit, if you will. If you asked me why it keeps occuring I couldn’t tell you, I will probably remain dazzled every time another one walks out the door, leaving some of us frustrated and angry while the rest of us (I’d categorize myself into this next category) are left with every fibre of our bodies heavily confused. Haven’t they ever heard of the Arsenal Curse? There might be more categories, but over-simplifying things is an underestimated tool, one I like to use to its’ full extent. For example: Arsenal – Good, Others – Bad. See, it has advantages. It reduces the need of thinking.
Fading need of using my brain aside, in the recent and not too distant years we Arsenal fans have had to deal with parting from once beloved and adored heroes such as Henry, Vieira, Anelka, Pires, Wright and more. Now they might have had their own reasons for leaving – I’m not writing this to air out the anger, sense of betrayal and frustration that I’ve grudgingly kept inside myself all these years that the players mentioned above have inflicted on me, I’m writing this to praise what we have left. Not because of the fact that they’re still here – the best possible indicator of loyalty there is, but because of how they got here and what it means for our future.
Wenger might have upset a Gunner or two with his quaint way of bringing players in during the various transfer windows, or perhaps his lack of bringing players in is a more accurate description. It’s an opinion that is quite commonly shared all over the world, even a few Gooners adhere to that myth which, unfortunately, leads to them complaining about it on the internet – probably the least successful way of dealing with the problem imaginable, not just because it has the potential to provoke a chain reaction of discontent and, sometimes, hostility towards Wenger (which is the last thing we need, trust me) but also because it’s extremely annoying to read.
But, if it’s true that “he never brings any players in, and when he does, there’s too few of them”, then my question, my dear doubters, is this: how can we still be where we are, playing the football that we do? The answer to that is in fact the very same method and philosophy that so many, not only the Arsenal fans, criticise every year.
When Vieira left Wenger ended up buying no one. Instead he promoted the young Fabregas who was eagerly waiting in the ranks, aching to prove his worth. When Henry left many were crying out in desperation for a replacement, but Wenger ended up buying no one – I didn’t count Eduardo, seeing as the only replacement worthy of mentioning would be another player of the same stature as the one who left, and while I don’t intend on having a go at the Croatian league, it’s hardly the kind of place Henry’s immediate successor would ply his trade in. Instead Adebayor, bought for less than my younger brother’s weekly allowance (who is only 11, by the way), stepped up and scored more than anyone ever expected. Apart from Wenger, that is. This year Flamini and Gilberto (and Diarra, kind of) left a hole in the centre of midfield and no one has been brought in to cover up.
But that’s not completely true. On 31 August 2006, Denílson joined Arsenal for a fee of £3.4 million. It sure seems to me that Denilson is doing exactly what Fabregas and Adebayor managed before him; taking over after a prominent predecessor without the need for Wenger to splash the cash. Against Blackburn at Ewood Park Denilson actually out-shined Fabregas throughout the game. Now, Fabregas was actually playing like a normal, mortal human being back then instead of in the scintillating way us Gooners have grown custom to, but still an impressive performance from our Brazilian nonetheless. While watching the game I noted that the Denilson-Fabregas partnership worked in exactly the same way that Flamini-Fabregas did. They covered up for eachother and “took turns” going forward, with the emphatic scoreline 0-4 being all the proof of it’s success anyone could ever ask for.
So that’s pretty much what Wenger does. He buys young, he buys cheap and he buys people with bags of potential so when yet another one leaves us for pastures anew we’ll be fully set and prepared for yet another teenage sensation to step it up and dazzle us in ways that should be illegal.
The next time an important mainstay departs I’ll be worried if Wenger buys big, because that, above all, will be a signal that he abandoned his successful methods and that should worry you far more than the actual loss of an important player. I’ll be all smiles he if buys no one, promotes someone from within and buys another promising youngster if Fabregas ever leaves. Pretty much like saying ciao to Flamini, send him off to sunny Italy, where referee’s are for sale and women have chest hair, promoting Denilson from within and buying Ramsey. This will not disrupt the harmony of the squad and it will make sure that the club avoids the lure of spending astronomical sums of money for players that will never produce performances to match the inflated price tag. Buying like some of the supporters are asking Wenger to do will take us to the same path that Manchester United and Chelsea are currently walking, inevitably ending up in an abyss of doom and forced demotion. Watching a young player come to the club, develop and then break through into the first team is one of the high-points of my life – it’s also why I find the Carling Cup the most exciting of all competitions to watch. It’s also the reason why we’ll always be at the top while making profit. Our cheap way of persistent succession will be remembered for eternity. Buying players for £20+ million will not have the same effect and, most importantly, it will not by a long shot guarantee success in any way.
Our fellow title-contenders (and Liverpool too) really should adopt the same method to avoid bankruptcy. Imagine another top team using the same methods.
If Torres goes – who will be there for them if they don’t spend? N’Gog? You’re having a laugh. It would be impossible for Liverpool, Chelsea and Man U to keep the same level of quality within their starting lineup without spending as soon as an important player leaves. C.Ronaldo is United’s most important player and Fabregas is ours – who will be most equipped to deal with the loss of their star performer? I have no difficulties seeing Denilson keeping the same level he did against Blackburn, but I can never see Nani scoring more than 10 goals per season. And then Nani cost around £20 million.
The future is bright, the future is Arsenal. When our rivals will be forced to sell all their highly rated players we will still be here, running circles around our opponents and scoring brilliantly constructed aesthetic goals for fun.