Arsenal is a selling club

Continuing the review of Arsène Wenger’s time at Arsenal.  This is the third part of the consideration of 2000/1

by Tony Attwood

One of the great things about this series on Arsène Wenger and his time at the club is that each article draws out the correspondents who while pushing the old line that the club is about to sink, actually help me make the point I want to argue: that it was ever thus.

By the summer of 2001 the fans were mumbling furiously (if one can mumble furiously).  We had come second three times running – by 1 point, by 18 points and by 10 points.  Worse we had lost to Man U each time.  Worse still, the story was doing the rounds: the Arsenal was now just a selling club.

The class acts had gone: Overmars and Petit to Barcelona for £30m (rings a certain bell doesn’t it), Anelka to Real Mad for about £25m… and in reply we had got in players who during 2000/1 were not hacking it.

Stepanovs really got it from the fans for the 6-1 defeat to Man U, Garde and Grimandi were seen as just pals of Wenger from France who should not be at the club, Kanu shone and then frustrated and looked lazy, Luzhny was not the player he had been before coming to us.

Arsenal was a selling club, and the money gained from the sales was used to buy players who were rubbish, that was the story.  True Arsène Wenger had actually won us the double, kept us in Europe year after year, and in fact given us a run of league form not seen for 70 years, but none of that was good enough.  We were the Arsenal, and we deserved better) although quite how and why this was so was never made clear.

And so it was that the misery of the Anti-Arsenal Arsenal began.  Even Pires (yes Pires!) was coming in for criticism, and the fact that three of our players in the top four (in terms of number of games in the EPL) were French suggested dastardly things were afoot.   Worse, after the early sendings off in the league there was talk that Vieira was on the way out, and while the AAA hated Arsène Wenger they did at least love Patrick.

2000/1 was also a turning point for the club and Mr Wenger in terms of the Cups.  Up to the previous season the League Cup side had always been made up of most of the first team players, although one or two might have a rest.  But this season the manager was accused of “disrespecting the club” (it was the first time I ever heard that word “disrespecting”) for the League Cup game against Ipswich in round three – our first game in the competition that season.

Ipswich were a Premier League team this season – they actually finished fifth in 2001, and so were no walkover, but Arsène Wenger chose to play this side against them…


Weston Stepanovs Upson Cole

Vivas Pennant Vernazza Barrell

Wiltord Volz

Not a team of wholly unknowns, at least now, but they were mostly unknown then.  Ashley Cole was having his first season getting some first team games, Pennant had not and in fact did not play in the league that year, Vernazza came on twice in the league, Taylor had never played a league match, and was in fact the fourth keeper behind Likic, Manninger and Seaman.  Only Wiltord was a full blown first teamer.

As for Rhys Weston, hands up if you remember him.  The Arsenal official web site doesn’t – they can’t even find a picture of him, and have no details of the lad at all despite the fact that this was all just 11 years ago.

This was his first and last first team game at home and even here he was taken off to be replaced by Lee Conoville.   He went on to Cardiff in 2000 before going to Walsall, and now is (or last season was) at Dundee.

To say there was outrage at the team played would be overdoing it, but there were severe mutterings, and the AAA was probably born at this moment.  Disrespect was the new motto. The manager didn’t understand.

We lost 1-2 at home to Ipswich, but this was forgotten as we made the FA Cup Final – (but lost to Liverpool), including on the way a 2-1 win over the Tinies in the semi.  The first teamers got games in the FA Cup most of the time, but even here, notably in the sixth round, the tendency to drop players appeared.  Henry and Vieira did not play against Blackburn, and there were dark mutterings in the press.   The Anti-Arsenal Arsenal who were turning up the volume against the manager were aided by endless press stories of how Mr Wenger, being foreign and all that stuff, would not actually understand the importance of the FA Cup in World History (it was apparently one of the reasons why we won the second world war) but someone should tell him…. You do not drop players for a sixth round tie.

Mr Wenger gave a Gallic shrug and moved on.

There was also another element in the AAA armoury appearing now – that we just couldn’t score.   This rose to the fore with the semi against Tottenham where they had about six kicks of the ball, scoring with one of them, and Arsenal looked like they might never score.  The wasted chances were more of a talking point than the fact that

a) we had got to the final

b) we had beaten the Tinies

As for the final, this was probably the moment when a few of us thought, perhaps for the first time, “is this ref actually straight?”  Henry went round the keeper, shot for goal, dead on target, and Henchoz stuck out an arm to block the shot.  The ref seemingly didn’t see it.  The story is the linesman said it was “accidental”.  Liverpool won.  The press hardly noticed the event and ran out the old story about Arsenal missing chances, but somewhere in the background there was a worry.  Maybe it was a one off, but maybe there was something wrong at that game.

As for the Champions League we were back at Highbury, which was a relief, having proven to the bankers that we could fill a stadium more than twice the size.  This fact didn’t make much in the way of publicity, but it was the final point that gave us the Emirates.   The Ems would be full, even if we were not winning trophies.

We played in two group series – and got through the second group only because Lyon didn’t win after we lost 1-0 away to Bayern.  We lost in the quarters to Valencia.  It was not convincing.

So the season came to an end with runners up medals in the FA Cup, a quarter in the Euro and second in the league.   By the standards of all of the preceding century save that amazing spell in the 1930s this was sensational, but there was a new mood about town.

The new century, and this new group of people.  People who wallowed in their own misery, who beat themselves up by telling us Arsenal were useless, the manager was useless, everything was useless because we didn’t win every match and every trophy.

At the time I thought that this was rather silly, but was just a temporary blip, although I had a slight worry that Mr Wenger might leave in the light of this criticism and the dreadful, awful chanting against him that was now being heard at every ground.  Yet he was made of sterner stuff, and of course the AAA shut up shortly after, but they had found their voice, and would not go away.

Arsenal were a selling club – well we damn well ought to sell most of this team and start again, so the AAA said.  Henry was ok, as was Vieira. Parlour had come good under Wenger, and Adams could still do it, although there were questions after the last goal in the cup final.   But even Bergkamp was now open to criticism, and as for most of the rest, well, time to throw them out and start again.

And as for that business with the league cup, that had better have been a one-off!

22 Replies to “Arsenal is a selling club”

  1. In Wengers fuirst full season he pulled no punches Anelka was announced before the end of the 96/97 season, Overmars, Boa Morte, Grimandi, Petit, Manninger, Wreh(pants) &Upson were all signed before the start of pre season we delivered the double. In 2002 again he used his inicitive by signing Campbell, Van Bronckhorst, Wright, Inamoto and Jeffers we delivered the double again. Whilst two of those hardly had any impact on our season the fact is the three that did in Campbell, Wright(How had some good games bar the howler against Charlton at Highbury) and Van Bronckhorst scored some vital goals especially against Liverpool away. The pint I am making is Wenger knew who he wanted and did not ***** about playing games re the price he got his business done palyers were installed for the start of pre season so had proper preparation and compititions for places improved people. If he wants a player which I am assuming the likes of Gervinho, Alvarez and Samba have been targets for a while. Wenger knows how the market works why waste time(I know it’s not as easy as Football Manager:-P). What I’m getting at is it’s a sellers market in football and unless you have a player that is really unsettled and a complete mercenary you have to pay the going rate. Is 10m for Gervinho who has just won the double in france and reperesented the Ivory coast in a WC and ANC that much? Or is 12m that much to ask of Samaba who has 150+ EPL appearances and has consistanly performed for Blackburn too much to ask. Is the quuoted 13m being asked for the up and coming Ricky Alvarez too much to ask(maybe). I don’t think these clubs are being too extorninate and if Wenger sold as well that potential 35m will be a drop in the ocean.

  2. While MU are busy signing players Wenger and the board are sitting on their behinds or tanning themselves on a beach somewhere. Come on, wake up and stop acting like zombies when it comes to transfers. From what I understand from Samba’s interview no bid has been received yet for his signature. Are we really interested in strenghtening or is this another one of Wenger’s delaying tactics? For those of you who tried to convince us that Wenger is blameless for our sorry state of affairs you better think again. He is responsible for our tactics, defensive organisation, motivation and training among other things. He call the shots and ultimately the buck stops with him. He gives the pre-match and half time talk, sits on the bench and decides on the subs (apart from throwing water bottles). Even if what some of you said about the board is true, Wenger as a man of principle should had walk away as the BOD has created a situation where its impossible for him to perform to the best of his ability. Why is he still here then? Well I can think of 6 million reasons why he’s still here.

  3. @Tony and to the Arsenal fans there is a lot of talk about who can catch Barcelona, the reality is no-one can for the minute. Football has always been about moving in cycles. At the moment, Barca are at there peak, but in 2 or 3 years time when certain players will start to phase out, will the replacements fit in, know each others game and be as effective as the current crop? I remember the AC Milan side with Van Basten, Baresi, Gullit & co. At the time everyone said they looked unbeatable, but players get older and the younger ones that come through may not gel as well, and a new force begins elsewhere. Its natural progression. At the moment, theres no point in trying to emulate Barca by spending millions upon millions, because what they have at the moment money cant really buy. I think all clubs like United can do is keep developing as they are, bringing in young talent and letting them work together and get used to each others game for a few seasons. In 3 or 4 years time, a side with the likes of De Gea, Da Silva’s, Smalling, Jones, Young, Pogba, Nani, Valencia, Hernandez, an experienced Rooney, and one or two more additions along the way could be the next team to peak. Granted Barca have Messi, but Xavi & Iniesta will fade out eventually, and once a crack appears someone else will come on the scene and take center stage. What the likes of United and Chelsea need to do is prepare for that eventuality.

  4. Let’s try and put a semblance of balance in to the situation. Whilst it is clear that Wenger has issues with his youth policy and the getting a balance of youth and experience, we also need to accept that without the opportunity to perform, players such as Cesc and Jack would have been looking at pastures new some years back.

    Furthermore one of the criticism being aimed at Arsenal is that, skill wise, they are falling further behind in their quest for the title – last season very clearly showed that not to be the case, the problem was the inability to handle the pressure of the run-in (considering the performances of some players, Wenger must accept some of the blame that his selection policy was, to say the least, inadequate at times). Whether he is everyone’s cup of tea or not, Wenger is the most successful manager in Arsenal history. There is no guarantee that a new manager will bring instant success and so maybe Arsenal fans need to understand that a 6 year wait for a club about to celebrate 125yrs is not something to get anguished about.

  5. Its becoming increasing difficult to refrain from criticizing wenger….There seems to be some lack of bold intention and action in the transfer market. Surely with our appalling show at the end of last season, i would have thought that wenger would have bought 2 defenders and a striker already, irrespective of the potential departures of cesc and nasri. This apparently casual attitude does nothing to convince the players and the fans that arsenal will be trophy-hunting next season……perhaps wenger really will be happy with 2nd place!

  6. arsenal can’t be considered a selling club because that implies that they grow players into stars who then go on to greater things after arsenal but if you look at the players wenger has sold, after they were sold they all spiralled down even hleb said he should of never left, some of the players may have gone on to won trophies after leaving arsenal but they still didn’t go on to play for their new as well as they did for arsenal. e.g anelka, who could of been as good as henry if he stayed, overmars, petit, reyes, hleb, vieira, hleb, kolo toure, petit, adebayor, flamini, these were all first team regulars, this doesnt apply to subs. i hope the same doesnt happen to cesc but sammi is a different matter

  7. Interesting to see that Lansbury and JET will be part of the pre-season squad along with Frimpong, Bartley and potentially Aneke. I think Lansbury has the best chance of being part of the first team this year. Him and perhaps Coquelin tho Francis being away with France U-20 while we start pre-season will hurt him. Pearce was a moron not start Lansbury in the ill fated U-21 Euro campaign. He’s always had a good touch but he’s also a very busy player. Box to box with a great engine. Similar to Parlour with more technique. Besides scoring against Spurs last year doesn’t hurt. I don’t think he’ll make an impact like Wilshere but I’m pretty sure he’s good enough to make it with us. I hope he gets a chance ahead of Rosicky and Denilson if they stay. I’d rather see Lansbury play than some other muppets we have in our team.

  8. Same old, same old….. Wenger continues to do nothing when it comes to the use of the transfer windows to strengthen our team. Instead he sits in silence while Man U, Chelsea and now Liverpool and even Tottenham make notable additions to their teams while we, the long suffering fans can only look on in total frustration. Worse, our much despised ManU tell their supporters who they intend to acquire before the window opens and then busily go about signing named players to long term deals. What a novel concept!

    No one associated with Arsenal however, either players or the increasingly ignored fans, have any idea now as to what Wenger is planning to do or when it will happen this summer. All we know is when the season will start (mid August), when training camp will start (3 weeks) and the fact that it is now June 23 and NO ACTIONS OF ANY SIGNIFICANCE have occurred. NASRI still has not extended his contract. Non performers such as Almunia, Denilson et all are still members of the team and NO EXPERIENCED PLAYERS have been added…

    The Board continues to dither providing little apparent direction or motivation to “the boss” to inject some sense of urgency and direction into his deliberations on the many issues that need immediate action.

    We need “somebody to do something” ! ! !


  9. Arsenal need to just sell Fabregas once an for all. Think a few others need showing the door too. A rebuild. I know i’ll get slated but possibly a new manager, everyone has a shelf life in any job. . . I’m ready for the thumbs down. Arsenal used to be a great team, loved watching them while growing up, but feel they need a fresh start

  10. Our team is our team for good or bad. Changing managers, or players or owners doesn’t address the perceived problem of the AAA. This group feels disenfranchised. Their behaviour is now bordering on extra-systemic. In political terms we would call them terrorists. They aren’t of course but what they are trying to do is bring down the entire Arsenal system as a means of being heard or getting their way. They are using, in essence, propaganda, or repeatedly negative advertising as a way of getting their message out and it is effective because there is some truth in what they are saying…we are not winning. To counteract thi, winning would help but in addition, the club really must reach out better to its fan base and be seen to be listening to them. I don’t know if we shall ever be rid of the naysayers and the chicken little brigade but it would make life a lot more pleasant for the ordinary fan.

  11. It would seem that too many self-styled Arsenal fans know the ins-and-outs of the The Arsenal First Team Squad, better than the current management.

    The majority of new-start businesses fail in the first year.

    Tony, the replies to your article show how long The Arsenal would last with any of these “managers ????” in charge!

  12. Yes I think we know that by now that Arsenal are indeed a selling club. The Only big club in the world that keeps making profit every season despite not performing on the field. Theres no need for an article on this.

  13. Tony is this really true? The same/similar rumblings were present 11 years ago? Not being in the UK, and the wonderful (and dangerous) internet not being what it is today, I was always isolated from the rest of the stuff surrounding the actual football. (Miss that actually) So all I knew was that we aren’t at the same scale financially as ManU, but we are pretty darn good. The football we play is fantastic and though we do not win all the time, we do compete and we will win our fair share of prizes.

    I’m fascinated that there could actually have been such a movement then. I mean I remember viewing Europe as a bonus. Fearing the likes of Deportivo, Spartak Moscow, Galatasaray, Panathanaikos and even Basel as potentially tough opponents, or even slightly better than us. Juventus, Milan, Bayern, Real were all giants with which we could dream of competing, but knowing full well that it isn’t a proper comparison. Yet.

    I always assumed that everyone saw it that way then, and that it is now that we have forgotten how far we have come as a club in a relatively short space of time. If you don’t mind Tony, could you elaborate more on this mood or undercurrent of discontent at the time?

  14. All these so called fans who go on about AW not making any signings blah, blah. If they knew the club, then they would know that we have class and will not announce our signing until the offical 1st July date.

  15. Shard – if the AAA could be said to have started at any time it was with the 6-1 defeat, the use of Stepanovs and the third runner’s up position. That was the first time I noticed anything, at least, but of course there may have been something before then.

  16. What really bothers me is that old players like dixon, adams and parlour, and vieira actually, lived through all this with arsenal, and now they contribute to it in the media.

  17. What’s the point in critising our transfer activity at this stage? Let’s see what’s done first, there will 100 percent be signings.

  18. Everyone who posts for the first time or with an attachment goes into moderation Davi. After that it is a free for all, but as with Untold Arsenal, anyone who is abusive to the writer of the original article, or writes on something way off topic may be blocked and then put into permanent moderation, so that everything he/she writes is held until checked.

  19. I was at Old Twatford for the 6-1 and,(granted a few left early) most of us stayed till the end, outsang the prawn sandwichers, and applauded the team off at the end. If the AAA (Meldrews) were born then, they weren’t at the game. As for “disenfranchised”, do me a favour, AFC aint never been a democracy, it’s always been run by Old Etonians who never gave a monkeys fart for the Great Unwashed. In the real world, Wenger will be remembered alongside Chapman, as our greatest ever manager, long may he continue!

  20. Oh my god.

    Mick Winnett AND Tony Attwood on the same webpage.

    It’s like the Harlem Moderators!

    Are you still running the Arsenal Mailing List, Mick?

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