For almost a decade, Arsenal fans have lamented the lack of a succession plan in place for when Arsene Wenger leaves his role as manager. But now, as evidenced by the signing of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, a plan is finally being put together – and it stinks.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m just as keen to see the board do something in order to prepare for when Wenger leaves, but in their haste to show that work is being done, they’re only creating bigger problems for whoever the new manager is down the line.
As of today, Alexandre Lacazette is the best back-up striker in the world, and it’s not even close.
Not even the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona can afford such a luxury.
It is an extraordinary state of affairs that Arsenal find themselves in, and they did it willingly.
Aubameyang is a world-class striker, but was there a desperate need to bring him in right now? Or was this a case of the board and Sven Mislintat wanting to make a statement in regards to the future running of the club?
It’s hard to make a case for the former.
Arsenal are 6th in the league and face an almost impossible task of catching two of Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea or Tottenham in order to get back in the top four and qualify for Champions League football. If it was just one of them, then maybe. But two? I’m not sure if signing both Ronaldo and Messi could help us at this juncture, never mind Aubameyang.
As for the Europa League, he’s cup-tied, so he’s literally of no use to us there.
So why did we go so far out of our way to upset the £53million pound striker we bought in the summer?
Perhaps it was done to show that losing Alexis Sanchez wouldn’t be the end of the world.
Perhaps it was done to show the rest of the footballing world that Arsenal could still sign big name players (no pun intended) and that they remained committed towards doing whatever it took to be competitive. And that’s fine.
But if the likes of Aubameyang were willing to sign for Arsenal when we look as average as we do right now, were we going to look any worse in the summer if we’d asked him then? No.
So again, I ask, what was the rush?
The only plausible answer is that Mislintat and Gazidis didn’t want to just show that work was being done at Arsenal to plan for the future, but that they were the ones doing the work, that a new era at Arsenal had dawned and that they had a plan.
Not only was it a signal to the current manager that the days of him having complete control of the club were over, but also to any future manager that they weren’t going to be just shadows in a corridor any more. ‘If you want to be Arsenal manager, then you have to work with us’ was the message being sent as Aubameyang stood in front of London Colney whilst holding his new shirt.
This, in isolation, isn’t a bad thing per se.
There are tons of clubs who succeed with a Director of Football in charge of transfers, and there are plenty of good managers that operate under such circumstances, even in England where the managerial culture frowns against anything else other than the ‘gaffer’ being in total control of the club.
If Pep Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino can do well under such a system, then so can the next Arsenal manager. But the problem with this isn’t the execution of the plan, it’s that the timing that stinks.
First off, Wenger is maintaining that he’s going to respect his contract. He has every right to do so, and after turning down so many better paying jobs in the past for the same reason, I won’t criticise him for doing so now when it’s in his interest instead of mine.
But if Arsenal don’t fire him in the summer for not securing Champions League football again, why did they buy him a £55million striker he didn’t want if the plan was to let him stay until 2019?
And if they do fire Wenger?
Well, if a new manager comes in, then he’s going to need every resource available to build a new team. Arsenal needs at least a new goalkeeper, one or maybe two top quality centre-backs, depending on whether Koscielny’s Achilles problem gets any worse, and a defensive midfielder that can give Arsenal some stability and leadership.
Do Arsenal have the money to do all of that? Maybe. I know what would have helped though, and that would have been not spending £55million on a striker five months before what is shaping up to be the most batsh*t mental transfer window in the history of football.
Real Madrid are convinced that PSG will sell Neymar to them in the summer because the Parisians can’t get around FFP rules after they pay Monaco £160m for Kylian Mbappe. PSG are convinced they’ll be fine if they sell off half the squad to make up the balance.
So, if Neymar goes to Madrid, then expect two of Ronaldo, Benzema and Bale to leave to cover the cost. Maybe Isco too. Even Modric might go.
If Neymar stays, then Cavani, Di Maria and Draxler will leave Paris.
The last time such a fire sale happened was in 2013, and Arsenal ended up getting Mesut Özil for £42.5million as a result. They nearly got Higuain for £30 million six weeks before that too, but then Luis Suarez got involved and…….yeah.
My point is that there’s going to be a lot of clubs looking to sell quality players in the summer in order to afford one of the players either Madrid or PSG let go, and having as much money in the bank as possible would be nice in the event that we get asked for cash up front just like we were for Özil.
It would also have been nice to have as much scope available as possible for the new manager to be able to build a team that he can work with. Fresh start, clean slate etc.
But as it stands, Özil and his new contract are nailed onto the teamsheet, as are both Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan. Any manager that comes in is going to have to accept playing those three almost all the time, and that’s a lot to ask.
If your dream is getting Diego Simeone in to fix the defence, then consider it dead because he’s not playing all three of them in the same team, never mind Lacazette as well.
It just seems that instead of having no plan in place, Arsenal now have two; one if Wenger stays and one if he goes.
But at the moment, they’re trying to do both at once in an attempt to show that it is not a one man show any more, and all they are succeeding in doing, is making the manager’s job much much harder, for both the person who has the job right now, and the next person as well.