Dear Mr. Wenger,
There is a philosophy in the world of sport especially in relation to the Olympic movement which says that winning is not really as important as participating. Which of course we all know is nonsense. Qualifying for the Olympics is based on a system where athletes are classified based on how high they can jump, how fast they can run or swim or how far they can throw. At the end of the day, based on how well they do these things, a few of them are awarded coloured metals for their efforts based on how much better they do it than others. Now if the joy is only in participating, there should be no need for medals. The fact is there are those who are assured about how well they do these things and expect to win a coloured metal and a failure to do so would elicit disappointment. For instance, Usain Bolt knows that he’s a great short distance runner. Whenever he takes part in a competition, he expects to win gold. Anything other than that would be regarded as something of a disappointment. He doesn’t take part in competitions just for the joy of participation alone because he knows he’s good enough to win.
In the last few years, Arsenal Football Club has gone from one that expects to win the competitions it participates in to one that qualifies for and takes part in competitions supposedly just for the joy of qualifying and taking part. Every year before a new season starts, all the pundits look at the Arsenal team and they write us off as not being capable of challenging for any major honour and for the past or nine years, they have mostly been right. Every year come March, April and May, Arsenal is slogging it out with less accomplished clubs just to come fourth. Not winning the Premiership but struggling for fourth. For a club that has never been relegated since entering the top flight and has 13 domestic league titles, 11 FA Cup wins, 1 UEFA Cup Winners Cup win, 1 UEFA Champions League runner up medal just to mention a few, aiming to come fourth every year is just not good enough.
For a club that had once had pace, power, height and technical ability with the likes of Henry, Viera, Gilberto, Pires, Wiltord to become one that is technically inept, aerially challenged, lightweight and full of vertically challenged players is just so baffling. I understand that you are presently under a lot of pressure from fellow Arsenal fans as a result of our disastrous start to the season and woeful performances. The present winter of discontent has seemingly been exacerbated by our recent losses to Swansea and Manchester United. While I understand that they are unhappy at our current form, I understand that none of them are willing to tell the truth of why we are where we are. The answer is actually quite simple.
I recently read a comment on Twitter by Gary Lineker where he used the word “great” to describe Wayne Rooney. I must confess that I was alarmed when I first of all saw the words “great” and “Wayne Rooney” in a sentence together. I had to read the comment well to make sure he was talking about Wayne being an England great and not a world great. When I had assured myself that it was in reference to England, I allowed myself a sigh of relief. It occurred to me that it doesn’t take much to be an England great seeing as they are a second tier footballing nation still hung up on their success in 1966 and desperate to achieve success again but without the technically gifted players to accomplish the feat. Hence to them, anybody can be “a great”.
I just finished looking at the list of the highest goal scorers per season for the Barclays Premier League. Do you know what I had always suspected but just confirmed? Wayne Rooney has never ended up a season as the highest goal scorer in the Premiership. The two seasons he ended up with more than 20 goals in a season, he ended up second on the list for the season. On average, Rooney’s goal tally per season is between 14 to 16 goals. Yet according to some people, Rooney is “world class”, a word the English misuse so often, it’s laughable. A pundit on a Sky Radio football programme actually said Rooney is one of the “best 10 footballers in the world”. When people point out that the statistics don’t support the assertion that Rooney is in no way world class, his supporters like Phil Neville act surprised by this and tell us to look at what “he has achieved”. By this, they mean we should look at all the shiny medals and trophies he has won with Manchester United and based on those we should inevitably conclude that Wayne Rooney is world class.
I recently discovered an amazing fact Mr. Wenger. It was a great surprise to me to find out that Ronaldo Luis Nazario de Lima, the retired Brazilian footballer known as Ronaldo or the Phenomenon, never won the UEFA Champions League. In spite of his goal scoring feats in Brazil, Netherlands, Italy and Spain, he never had the privilege of winning the trophy. At crucial times, he suffered injuries that destroyed his team’s chances of winning the competition especially with Real Madrid. Yet on his individual performances, he is still regarded as one of the best players ever. Yet based on the logic of people like Phil Neville, the fact that Wayne Rooney has a Champions League medal probably means he is a better player than Ronaldo. The fact is that Wayne Rooney has been lucky enough to be in a Manchester United team with players like Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Robin van Persie who have carried the team and ensured Wayne Rooney has won all those shiny medals he has at home.
I have always told friends that the last time Wayne Rooney showed any technical ability was when he played for Everton. If most people are honest, Wayne Rooney’s most memorable goal ever is the goal scored against Arsenal when he was 16 or so. Now even Paul Scholes has had to come out and admit the fact that he does not believe Wayne Rooney has fulfilled the potential everyone felt he had. I had earlier written an article about the fact that all Wayne Rooney has going for him is plenty of hard work but little technical talent but I guess you didn’t get to read it. You can find it here (http://theafricanprince.authorsxpress.com/2014/10/20/letter-to-arsene-wenger/). I think the main bias for all of his supporters is that they look at all the trophies he has won with his team and it blinds them to the little he has contributed to the winning of those trophies. Robin van Persie joined Manchester United and showed his class by carrying the team over the line to win the Premiership. Wayne Rooney has never done that. Yet he is supposed to be world class.
You might wonder why I have written you to talk about Wayne Rooney. While he certainly is central to my argument, he is not the reason for the letter. If I were to grade English players regardless of whether or not they play for the English national team, I would rate them in this order: John Terry, Joe Hart (should be number 1 but a number of high profile blunders has seen him fall in my estimation), Gary Cahill, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard (a player who people do not use the appellation world class for yet still scores the same number of goals or more than Wayne Rooney. If he spends the entire season with Manchester City, I can bet he will score more goals than Rooney). After this we have Wayne Rooney. After Wayne Rooney there is a sharp drop in quality (what little there is) with regards to the English players. After this, we then have players like Walcott, Dawson and other run of the mill players.
As you will have noticed, in my view the best English players play for clubs like Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City. None play for Arsenal. That is the real reason we have been average this season. There were around five English players in the game with Manchester United, to me that was the main reason we lost. A team cannot have that many average players and expect to win games or trophies. He seems to be able to score spectacular team goals yet Jack Wilshere finds it extremely hard (even impossible) to score simple goals when one-on-one with a goal keeper. It was not so long ago that English pundits were falling all over themselves to call him world class. Now they’ve all stopped using the appellation for him. Especially when there are players like Raheem Sterling, Ross Barkely and John Stones (who have done absolutely nothing) who can be referred to as world class. I couldn’t stop laughing at the number of times Garth Crooks used the word “outstanding” to describe Sterling for doing nothing on the BBC Live Text during Liverpool’s match against Stoke City. Even his manager has bought into the hype, describing him as “outstanding” after the match against Bournemouth. I didn’t see any of that “outstanding” ability against Manchester United when he was busy missing clear goals. Now every English player (especially those under 20 who have no personal achievements are world class. To think that Sterling is being compared to Cristiano Ronaldo is just outrageous and insulting to Ronaldo.
I read that the club is in discussions for a new deal with Theo Walcott. Every time I remember that Theo Walcott has spent 8 years at Arsenal and earns a £100, 000 a week when he has hardly set the world alight feels me with pain. To think that he is just a year or so younger than Messi yet their personal achievements are so far apart is just mind boggling. The thought that he is going to be earning more for doing nothing is just appalling. To my mind, he should have been allowed to leave when he was allegedly demanding to be a central striker. There are plenty of stories in the media and from pundits about how Arsenal is always letting its best players go. To my mind, the last English player that fitted that description was Ashley Cole. However, if people are of the opinion that Theo Walcott is one of Arsenal’s best players, then we seriously have a problem. The gulf in talent between him and Alexis Sanchez is just so scary. While I wish him all the best, Theo’s recovery from injury and return to the team does not fill me with any great joy or anticipation.
While Tom Cleverly played for Manchester United he was supposedly world class. He even made the England team on a regular basis in spite of complaints from fans who thought he was rubbish. Yet since he moved to Aston Villa, everyone seems to have forgotten him. Even Roy Hodgson who kept playing him in spite of fans protests and petitions has not played him since he left Manchester United. What happened? Did his supposed talent suddenly fizzle out? In my estimation, apart from Kieran Gibbs, there is no English player presently on that team who is good enough to play for us. That is of course if we are of the opinion that Arsenal Football Club is one of the best clubs in England and in the world. However if we believe that Arsenal is just another run of the mill mid table club punching above its weight and fighting for 4th place is normal then most of the players we have can be said to be good enough to help achieve 4th place.
I loved Robin van Persie and I understand why he left Arsenal. He was a world class talent who probably felt he was carrying a team of average talents. He knew he was good and he felt he could not achieve the glory his talents deserved with Arsenal. I do not begrudge him his Premiership title. His move had less to do with money than that of people like Gael Clichy and Ashley Cole. I remember reading on the BBC Live Text that after the Anderlecht vs. Arsenal match which we won 2 – 1, Alexis Sanchez kept shaking his head at the end of the game. I shudder to think where we would be on the Premiership table without his goals. I don’t know what the rumour is over there in England but here in Nigeria, people are already saying that come next season, Sanchez will be a Manchester City or Chelsea player. That he would leave Arsenal to play for a club that would help him achieve his aspiration of winning medals that his considerable talent deserves which Arsenal is of course unable to help actualise. If he left, I wouldn’t blame him. Alan Hansen said you can’t win anything with children. I say you can’t win anything with mainly English players.
Like I said in my first letter, one day these players will probably leave Arsenal one day claiming they can’t win anything with the club, not wanting to admit that they are the ones who are just not good enough. Like I said previously also, while I respect the fact that you’re a great coach, you’re not an alchemist. Do you honestly believe that Theo Walcott can improve? If you honestly believe that, then I don’t know what to say. Sadly that is why I know and believe the club will not win the Premier League or Champions League as long as you’re in charge. I might be wrong but that’s what I believe. In my mind, I’m already looking forward to the next coach who hopefully will clear out all the English players. After the loss to Chelsea, your comments seemed to allude to the fact that we lost the game because Chelsea spent more money. I disagree. We lost because Chelsea has players with greater quality in practically every department. I do not believe that the amount of money spent on a player is indicative of his quality. Eliaquim Mangala cost a lot of money yet his defending for the first few weeks after his arrival left a lot to be desired. However, at times there is something to be said about buying players who have proven themselves instead of buying 16 and 17 year olds with “potential” on the cheap and then being disappointed, especially when they are English players. Nemanja Matic was sold by Chelsea and later brought back to the club. Apart from Cesc, he’s probably the best signing they made in the summer. Also, apart from maybe Alexis Sanchez, Lukas Podolski and Tomas Rosicky, even Branislav Ivanovic is better than most of our players. The only player on the Chelsea team that I can think of that any English player is better than is probably John Mikel Obi.
Have you by any chance watched Barcelona this season? Munir El Haddadi is obviously a world class talent. To me, he is obviously technically better than any English player. The fact that Suarez has sat out his ban and El Haddadi is not getting the playing time he was getting at first does not detract from the fact that he will be a great player in the future. You recently said you once wanted to get Messi at the same time you got Cesc. If you have such a relationship with Barcelona why don’t we try getting him on loan or something? I bet he will be a great catch for whoever he ends up playing with. Instead of El Haddadi, we are stuck with Wilshere, Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain. There was a time when the accusation from pundits was that while Arsenal beat the smaller teams, we just could not beat the bigger teams. Now we can’t even beat the mid table teams like Swansea or Stoke City. Since Swansea beat us, logic dictates that West Ham will hammer us.
I was watching an episode of the Premiership Fan Zone the Sunday after our loss to Stoke City and Phil Neville and another former English player (whose name I did not catch) were on the programme to talk about the weekend’s games. According to the guest (not Phil Neville) the aim of buying new players is to strengthen a club. According to him, he couldn’t understand why you passed up on the opportunity of signing Cesc Fabregas. According to him, the reason you didn’t sign Cesc was because of Jack Wilshire. Jack Wilshire! Now I had always thought it was because of Mesut Ozil (which doesn’t make not signing him acceptable of course) but if it is true that you passed up on signing Cesc because of Jack Wilshire, the only conclusion I can come to is that the Emirates is presently occupying some sort of alternate universe. As it can only be in an alternate universe where Jack Wilshere is as good as Cesc because in the real world where I live, Jack Wilshire is not as good as (and will never be as good as) Cesc Fabregas. It can only be an alternate universe in which Oxlade-Chamberlain is deemed to be better than Podolski or Rosicky. Podolski scored more goals than any other player in the run to our FA Cup win and suddenly he’s no longer good enough? The other day, you were saying that Ramsey needed only to play well and the goals would come later. Are you implying Podolski isn’t scoring goals or playing well? Also, I can’t understand how Rosicky is not playing. He might be 34 but his technical ability cannot be matched by any of the English players.
I understand that the FA Chairman Greg Dyke wants England to win a major competition by the year 2022. I’m sure the Germans, Spanish, Dutch, Brazilians, Italians (all of whom I consider better than the English) will have something to say about that. That idea is almost as funny as Rooney being considered one of the best 10 players in the world. To achieve this, Mr. Dyke wants to change the Barclays Premier League into the British Premier League by limiting the numbers of non-European Union players. Someone should enlighten him that when people pay their pay TV subscriptions to watch the Premier League, we don’t do it because of Andy Carroll, Jonjo Shelvey, Wayne Rooney, Stewart Downing or Danny Rose. We do it because of Alexis Sanchez, Diego Costa, Robin van Persie, Wilfred Bony, Enner Valencia and others. Also you should probably point him in the direction of Robbie Savage’s excellent article on the BBC website (bbc.com/sport/0/football/29995556)about quotas not being the answer.
Of course, the fact that British players are prohibitively expensive doesn’t help matters. To think that Adam Lallana, Darren Bent, Andy Carroll are more expensive than Tony Kroos of Real Madrid is just so laughable. As I type this, it occurs to me that is probably why you buy teenage English players with “potential” in the hope that they repay the faith in them and become something big. I quite understand that you don’t want to buy a player in the hope that you’re buying another Thierry Henry and then end up with another Francis Jeffers. However, just because you bought a player at a young age doesn’t mean you have to stick with him when he’s not good enough when he’s older. A few years ago, people asked why you were playing Nicklas Bendtner and you replied that if he was good enough to play for his national team then he was good enough to play for you. When I heard you make that comment then, it seemed to make sense. Now I disagree. What if the national team is rubbish? Your comment then would make me assume that you believe that players that make the national team for Gibraltar or San Marino for instance are good enough to play for Arsenal. I think not.
Having said that, I really wonder why you’ve stuck with Wojciech Szczesny. He’s obviously not one of the best 20 goalkeepers in the world. He’s definitely light years behind De Gea, Joe Hart, Hugo Lloris, Asmir Begovic and even Simon Mignolet. Just before he signed his senior contract, I hoped that maybe you’d get someone better. There were even rumours involving his father that you were going to sign a better keeper. But you didn’t. How did we get from David Seaman and Jens Lehmann of the famed Invincibles to Szczesny? It boggles the mind just trying to comprehend. In all departments of the game we are just not good enough. Did you by any chance read the article in the Independent that said Szczesny is one of the worst keepers in the Premier League? Why do we keep buying players who are just not good enough in the hope that they’ll get better? I read your comments about how you won’t be seeking to bring Peter Cech to the Emirates. How can we hope to win anything when you keep placing your faith in players who are not good enough individually and really add nothing to the team. While glad at the fact that we are playing Monaco in the next round of the UEFA Champions League, I was a little embarrassed and saddened by the collective sigh of relief from the fans and the club at the fact that we were not going to play the likes of Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Barcelona. It was simply admitting that we are not good enough to play with the big boys.
I could go on and on about how poor we are and why but I’ll stop here. I could go on and on about how inconsistent Ramsey seems to be regardless of his midweek goal in the Champions League. I could write on and on about how your misplaced faith in English players and others like Szczesny is hurting the reputation of the club. I could go on and on about how the fact we are not winning anything or challenging for titles is not good enough for a club of the stature of Arsenal Football Club. I could go on and about how your sticking with average players (or not playing the good ones we have) instead of buying world class ones is destroying your legacy and leaving you open to criticism from people like Stewart Robson. I could go on and on about how your insistence on buying English players who I believe are only good enough to play for Southampton or Swansea and then hoping they win the Champions League would be funny if it wasn’t sad. Your refusal to change and spend money on good players in the hope of winning something is extremely detrimental to the club. That’s why at this moment most fans want you to go because there just seems to be no hope of winning anything as long as you remain in charge. I guess you believe you won’t get sacked by the board and so were stuck with you and people like Theo for the next two and a half years. However I am looking past those years and looking forward to see who the next manager will be. I know Arsenal will get past these present days of mediocrity and be great once again. I can’t wait for us to be Premier League Champions once again or even Champions League winners. When you’re gone.
I would like to thank you for all you’ve done for Arsenal Football Club. Thanks to you we have the Invicibles and other records that will never be taken away from us. I would also like to wish you all the best for the future, the last few years of your contract and for when you finally leave the club we all love. Thank you.