Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Nasri move to the Dark Side leaves Arsenal in crisis. Crisis? What crisis?

How many times have you heard the following statements this summer? Arsenal are in crisis. They must buy players. Arsene Wenger must go. He has lost the plot. How many times have you heard them over the past six years?

These sentiments amongst pundits, journalists and fans will no doubt intensify in the wake of today's sale of yet another prized asset - midfielder Samir Nasri - to their big-spending rivals Manchester City.

But has Wenger lost the plot, or is he the one keeping his head whilst everyone around him is losing theirs? What is Arsenal's plot? What is Manchester City's?

In Wenger's case you can draw a straight line, slap a couple of post-its on it and write on them 'invest in youth development' and 'run a self-funding, competitive club' and leave it there. That is the story at Arsenal, beginning, middle and hopefully end. At City you might need more post-it notes, some gold stars and a couple of tubes of glitter. You might end up with a shinier picture, maybe even including a sickly-sparkley trophy or two, but you might also create an awful mess.

The Wenger mantra, which now infuriates even his own fans, has kept his team in the top four. It has kept them competitive in Europe and the domestic cups. In short, it has done everything it set out to, and it has done it within its own very strict principles.

Nasri has jumped ship 'to win things' and pick up sack loads of cash in the process. He may achieve the first of those objectives. No doubt with his signing on fee banked he has already achieved the latter. He may also join Emmanuel Adebayor in, at least teporarily, derailing a promising career by leaving Arsenal for the lustier pursuits of Manchester's new money.

He might not even get a game. How does Roberto Mancini fit him in with all of the other galacticos at his disposal? Surely his 'buy attacking talent' post-it was already fully encrusted with shiny gold stars. Isn't it time to add another post-it to City's latest spider-diagram and to write 'make these players I have bought in to a TEAM' on it?

Mancini's City might out-perform Wenger's Arsenal on the pitch this season. They certainly should, based on comparative spends and squads. There is, however, a tiny glimmer of hope that they might not. Either way, it is Wenger's philosophy which shows football its greater moral core.

A trophy for Arsenal this season would be vindication for this, and a great example to other aspirational clubs. Trophies for City would be further nails in the coffin of the soul of the game.
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