I watched bit of Arsenal’s defeat to Bayern München last night. What I saw was, in a word, comprehensive. I’m no Arsenal fan, don’t get me wrong, but it must be quite harrowing to see a team like Bayern come to town – see so many mirrors of yourself in them, but also to see how far advanced they are from your own team.
Arsenal’s problems stem, not just from Arsene Wenger (though he is the figurehead) but their unwillingness to waste the money they make. There’s great sense to this standpoint, because the club remain on an ever more stable footing. Its almost Teutonic in its rigidity, and, indeed, the way Arsenal are run wouldn’t look out of place in the Bundesliga.
The problem Arsenal have is that so few of the teams around them do things the same way. Manchester City’s spending spirals upwards, Chelsea’s spending spirals upwards, and Manchester Utd’s the same, Tottenham’s spending rises, too, all spending advanced amounts of money to get to a level of performance the same (in Tottenham’s case) or above Arsenal’s level.
There’s no way the Gunners can compete there without spending more money, and no reason, really, they should do that. That particular aspect will be interesting to see development after the introduction of FFP; the more stable richer clubs should perform better more quickly, I would think.
So to see Bayern, whose stability and size is probably not that much bigger (in theory) than Arsenal, but because the rest of their league lives within their means, they are able to maintain that level without ludicrous spending to keep up with their league mates.
Sensible development, sensible spending and continued improvement.
That’s what Arsenal have been working towards, and that’s what Bayern have been able to do¹. Its not just the bringing through of youth – let’s be honest, some of Arsenal’s best players of recent years were bought; Bergkamp, Henry, Fabregas all came into the club for sizeable fees.
Arsenal are playing a fair game in an unfair system. The longer they continue to do so, the further behind they’ll fall. That’s the real shame about yesterday’s game, and I feel sympathy for Arsenal’s predicament despite² the fact that Arsenal are the club who pretty much started this whole commercialism ball rolling in the early part of the 20th Century under Henry Norris. There’s an element of me that thinks they’re reaping what they sowed some 80 years after the event, but it doesn’t make it any less sad to see today.
¹I’m probably stretching a point there, given the cost of Javi Martinez, but its not a million miles off the truth.
²Turn away now, Arsenal fans.