Wenger has changed. No he hasn't. That seems to be the new divide amongst the Arsenal faithful at the moment. It's the new AKB vs. WOB. We seem hell bent on keeping a divided fan base. Those that a few months ago wanted Wenger out, are now ok to be Wenger in but only because he changed and isn't "incapable physically of spending money" anymore. Those that were Wenger in, now feel that they were proven right and that Wenger hasn't changed, only the circumstances have.

So has Wenger changed? Or was this all part of the grand plan and people weren't patient enough to see it? It's a little bit of both I guess. I will try to look back at what has happened in this club during the past decade or so, and hopefully get my point across as to way I'm saying it's a bit of both.

The Dream...

The starting point to where we are now is the decision to build and move to the Emirates. I think most can agree it was a right decision, in order to compete and be considered a big power of European football we needed to be playing in a big, modern state of the art stadium. The club decided to do it the right way, or how they like to say "the Arsenal way", that meant that we needed to generate our own money to do so, which meant we needed to tighten our spending. So I think a decision was made between Arsene and the board for an unofficial salary cap to be put into place plus an unofficial spending limit on a single transfer, from the transfers we concluded in the past few years that limit was between the 12-15 million range. That was all well and good during the '02-'05 seasons and we managed to buy players like Reyes, win the league unbeaten and an Fa cup. What happened next was something that no one could have foreseen and resulted in what we now know as the trophy drought years.

Unforeseen Consequences...

Oil money. As soon as Abrahimovic completed his take over at Chelsea, player prices doubled. Players that cost 12 mil became 25 mil players overnight. We were priced out. We couldn't compete for the top top talent we wanted anymore. Our top players wanted higher salaries, we couldn't provide it, we cashed out. At this point I think Wenger, having conceded that he won't be able to buy the players of the calibre he wanted, decided a change of policy. Up until that point I don't have anything against what the club were doing and had done. But that policy....that project....

Project Youth...

"You never win things with kids" a line we got fed up of hearing. Wenger I guess decided to get exciting young talent from around the world on the cheap, give them confidence, games, experience and higher wages than they ever dreamed at that stage in their careers. I'd say that this was a huge mistake on Wenger's part not because their collective inexperience would make it harder for us to win trophies but because the only players that stay from being 17-18 till their peak years at a single club are generally local young players not foreigners. For example Cesc did leave us early, but had already spent 8 years at the club. That's as long as Henry stayed. And if you look around  long serving players at all other big clubs are mostly British. So ultimately most of our good players left, and we were left with some average players on high wages that we couldn't sell on. Speaking of average players...

The Almunia Years...

Actually average is a big world for our three year first choice keeper. I would say he is the worst player to ever play for Arsenal. Hear me out, and if any of you are wearing Almunia tinted glasses please take them off...yeah you at the back I can see you all absence-mind-fondering about. Yes we might have had worse players, but none that have been first choice for as long as he has in a position as critical as his. No matter how good or bad our defenders were they were always in a state of panic because they had no confidence in their keeper. Even our attackers I felt would reach a stage of fuck offery after scoring in say the 80th minute only to concede from two injury time set pieces just because of his inability to deal with crosses. I think this was one of Wenger's biggest mistakes, he should have bought a better keeper, it wouldn't have affected our budget and it would have helped us out a lot. Some might say well he could have come good just like Ramsey did, well maybe but is it worth it in a position as critical as your goalkeeper? The same applies to a number of other players that really weren't good enough. The other thing I think Wenger was mistaken at is for a few extra millions he might have been able to get some better quality players in positions that we desperately needed without affecting out budget too much.

TheChange...

He has changed. I can't ever imagine Wenger in a situation like our rightback's after Sagna leaving, going out and buying a proper experienced replacement AND a young talented one AND loaning out last year's 2nd choice RB. I get we now have the money to buy a replacement but loaning out jenks is ruthless and right. In years past he would have never done that even if it were cheap replacements. Another thing that tells me he has changed a little is Ospina, when have we ever had two good goalkeepers that can be both 1st choice? It's a battle between them and I would think we'll end up selling the loser in two years. That's ruthless and would never have happened before. Last season there was money there, maybe not as much as we think, but still there was money to do good business but the club and Wenger ballsed it up, this season they had a plan, the went in early and they pulled it off.

The Not So Change...

When he had the money he used to buy, now that we have it again he is buying. When we had quality players he won trophies and now that we do he started winning again and will hopefully win more next season with even better players.

One day we shall look back at what he has done for the club and how much he transformed it and understand that even with some mistakes and stubbornness, even if it could have been done in an easier way or in a shorter period, that he is by far the best man that could have taken us and transformed us to the club we are becoming and hopefully the club we will be in the future. I apologize  Mr. Wenger for doubting you a little in the past but you didn't make it easy for me because you never change, but you actually change a lot and that's not a bad thing. And whether you changed or haven't at least most of us are AKBs again.

Mean Lean's Response

It is a debate that will run and run it seems. You are right about the divide in opinion, some people have stuck to their guns for so long now that they are incapable of changing. Maybe from both sides of this imaginary fence. One part you didn't factor in though was the money lost due to the housing crash which hit the club hard at the time.

The truth is only a few people who work at Arsenal were present at board room meetings and know what the plan was to be. What portion of profits were available to stick straight back into the squad. How much of a factor Champions League revenue was and not simply the money made on transfers. Whether you supported the clubs stance or you were against it we do not know the ins and outs.

However, I prefer to talk about what I can see, what is in front of our own eyes and that is the following.

From the time we moved from Highbury into Ashburton Grove we received £8m a year from Nike for our kit sponsorship and a further £5.5m a year from Emirates. Putting aside our ticket sales, player sales etc that was our commercial income. During that time manager spent a reported maximum of £15m on a single player.

Since the Emirates renegotiations our stadium naming rights and shirt deals have jumped up to £30m a year on top of the £30m from Puma which was a measly £5.5m from Nike. I don't know how much was front loaded and when exactly but since our new income we have spent £42.5m on Özil, £30m+ on Alexis, £16m on 19 year old Chambers and £10m+ on a 29 year old right back. All of those signings in what just over a year has never happened since we moved into our new stadium.

Am I to believe that our new deals had nothing to do with our new approach to the market? Am I to believe that he could have always spent this money but his ego was too big to do so, or that he wanted to prove he would win with cheap kids (who were bought because they had sell on value) or that he was scared to buy big players because of big personalities or that he was too old to spend modern day prices.

I know what I believe that's for sure. Unless I am going mad, the proof is black and white. But that has gone now, we are here in 2014 the year where Ivan Gazidis said things would be different and many did not believe him. The playing field is now more level than it has been since 2005 and we've secured our first trophy in nearly a decade. It is time to make that extra push now and get to the top.

Here is a lovely video on this very subject, well worth watching.

 

The Arsenal 10 Year Plan from ArseVideos on Vimeo.