Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Fink Tank

"So in the Fink Tank, Wenger has a fan. We understand his idea of trying to improve the team over time."

- The Fink Tank, the Times

A prophet is never appreciated in his own town, and a football manager is never appreciated in his own time. In the immediacy of a difficult Premier League season, it's hard to be mindful of the genuine class of Arsene Wenger. At the moment, we're howling at the moon because of the deficiencies of our squad and the baffling tactical decisions.  And truthfully, I don't think we'll fully appreciate the brilliance of Wenger until he's gone. It takes time for genius to be recognised. 

The Fink Tank wrote a good article which recognised Wenger's unique gifts. In it, Finkelstein looks at Arsenal's salary bill and compares it to their league position. And if you look at it that way, it's true, we've over-achieved. And if you bear in mind that a big percentage of the wage bill is spent on enticing youth players away from other clubs, the salary bill to league position ratio more impressive still. 

But there a corollary: we're paying our superstars much less than what they can earn with the big big clubs. When players reach a certain age and realise they could be earning much more elsewhere, they'll jump ship (e.g. Hleb, Flamini). It's understandable, but it's frustrating because we'll never be in the position to capitalise on the youth policy. Despite the impressive economic results, we won't be able to turn it into material success. 

And when you get down to it, that's what we really want. Material success. This is a material world, and we're all material girls and boys. There's only so much comfort you can take from sound economic principles and pretty passing. The heart of a football fan beats for shiny metal trophies. And in our shiny metal lust, sometimes we overlook other qualities. 

I don't know. I was going somewhere with this, but I think I'll stop now. Had enough of blogging for one day. Stuff to do, you know. 

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