Morning folks and welcome to another working week. I can smile knowing that there are Tottenham fans that were crowing just a month ago that are sad this morning, but behind that smile is the very real worry that they’ll actually bother showing up against us next Sunday, as opposed to what went on yesterday with their 3-0 defeat at home to Chelski. It is a genuine concern that Harry Kane has had four shots in four games and scored zero goals and got zero assists. If there’s one thing we’ve all learned as Arsenal fans, it’s that when we are given the opportunity to break ducks or records, we’ll help other teams out. I think it was last season that Burnley came to town and had never won in London. We obliged of course. So whilst my smile is very real talking about how their title challenge didn’t make it beyond mid September, it’s not too broad given that the NLD looms large on the horizon.
It’s kind of also depressing that there are basically three super-rich elite clubs that dominate the league, then there is everyone else. Man City, Man United and Chelski. You only have to look at something like Transfermarkt to see the money spent by those teams and it becomes depressingly obvious. I looked at this chart and it outlined everything. It’s spend in the last five seasons (up to the end of last season) and those three teams have each spent at least £120million more than the next biggest spender. I haven’t verified or double checked it, because I’m a lazy bugger, but it feels about right and shows just how the league has essentially become that rich kids playground.
That’s not a new story. We’ve known that for some time. But this narrative of us having the most exciting and competitive league in the world is. That doesn’t feel true at the moment. In France the state-owned club can dwarf everyone else and dominates the league. In Germany it is one team who wins it every season. In Spain we had Atletico Madrid do the business last year, but that feels like an outlier and it’s usually one of two clubs. The Premier League is no different to those leagues in terms of it’s competitiveness, or lack thereof.
Am I bitter? Of course I’m bitter. I want to see Arsenal compete at the top but it just doesn’t feel feasible right now. Even in the foreseeable. We can see what Arsenal have tried to do this years and you can see that there is a ‘project’ of young and talented players coming through. That’s great. I’m down for that and because we can’t get close to the spending power of those three biggest clubs, it’s probably the only other way we get close to them. But the chances of every single one of all of our signings becoming an elite megastar, then everything clicking together, in addition to them all staying completely fit for an entire season, feels a bit remote. Especially when you have these other teams who will only strengthen and strengthen each year with ‘plug and play’ players with whom they can drop a shedload of cash to get. United have an immensely talent front line and will get goals galore, but they are missing a central midfielder, but that won’t be a problem for them because they’ll either go out in January or the summer and spend £80million on one to anchor their midfield. City can just torch players if Pep feels like it because there’s always £50million for a young squad player they can spend. Chelski too, who now that they have a proper manager in, have no problem dropping £100million on a ‘right now’ player.
It’s depressing as a fan of a big club who have won many trophies in recent years and throughout our history, that we are essentially now sitting waiting to pick up the pieces from whatever those three clubs are gorging themselves on. I know this all sounds a little bit too down on a Monday morning after we’ve just picked up a hard fought victory against Burnley, but I just say what my brain thinks on these blogs, so apologies. We can all get excited about what our current crop of players could grow in to, but as a football fan I always live in the ‘now’ and right now it’s depressing to see how competitive football in England is essentially now down to who can spend the silliest amount of money.
What’s ironic in this is that we actually spent the most of any team this last summer, which any opposition fan reading this will point at as some sort of an excuse to beat us with, but we all know that misses the point. We’ve had to fund a massive squad rebuild job and even if we could have signed Jack Grealish this summer, his acquisition wouldn’t have been nearly enough to sort out our problems. So I’m pleased we took the approach we did, even if the signings still need to show us (with time) that they are worth it, which is impossible to know right now.
This has felt like the only option Arsenal have, however, given how far behind we are from those teams. Our only option is to ‘gamble’ on another youth project and hope this one is better than Wenger’s ‘Project Youth’ with Denislon, Diaby and Bendtner. My hope is that it is. But in order to get that project properly up and running, there needs to be more green shoots that we need to see and I feel like the next green shoot needs to be a ‘big scalp’ win. Tottenham aren’t City, Chelski or United, but that would represent a ‘big win’ in the eyes of the fans. They are a side with whom we are probably competing with to some extent in the league. So getting a victory next weekend feels like it would be another building block in the evolution of this team.
It’s going to be a long week before we find out how well they can rise to overcoming that challenge.
Catch you all tomorrow.