By 1970’s Gooner
Ljumberg and Henry are the latest in a line of Arsenal stars to depart from that incredible team that was to be appropriately named the “Invincibles”.
But will they ‘fade to grey’ as has Vieira or a lot of other ex Arsenal stars who dared venture to pastures on seemingly greener grass across the pond?
Like some of the bigger names: Anelka, Petit, Overmars, Vieira, Edu, Pires.
Being released by Wenger does not of course, one may argue, necessarily stigmatize a player as a failure who will not again reach the dizzy heights of football perfection.
However, I tend to think so. And there are, I think, obvious reasons for this.
Wenger grooms the players for the position that suits them best and they therefore have every chance of achieving high levels of excellence. Remember Henry was a winger when he arrived at Arsenal and wasn’t himself sure if he was cut out to be a forward.
Wenger also organizes the team’s tactics and way of play to fit the players’ skills, motivates them superbly through his man management skills and creates a loyalty factor which is second to none.
But of equal importance is Wenger’s ability to match his obvious football sense with his financial nous. And by this I mean that he knows when it is time to let a player go.
This is when the price they will fetch is at or above their football worth to the club; and this usually comes after he has squeezed the most tasteful and potent part of their football juice.
This philosophy is greatly aided of course by his policy of buying young, unknown, hungry and talented players from all over the world. Getting their best years out of them and then selling them off at a high profit so that he can move on to the next world star in the making (will Cesc Fabregas be the next?).
It sounds a bit ruthless but modern day football is absolutely that and if you ignore the economics then you do so at your own peril.
Let’s take Ljumberg’s case.
I think it is obvious that Freddie has gone beyond his peak. He has lost his pace and with this his ability to go past defenders and provide the width that Arsenal desperately needed last season.
As a result his goal scoring ability which undoubtedly was one of his strongest assets has gone. Now how West Ham will be able to utilize Ljumberg effectively is beyond me. It looks to me that he will prove to be a very expensive flop for Curbishley.
Wenger got a tremendous output from the player’s nine years at Arsenal and at an initial transfer price of only £3.5m.
So it is no surprise that the £2m (rising to £3m) that Arsenal will receive for his transfer to West Ham was, I presume, snapped out of Eggy’s hand before he could have time to think about it again!
And the bonus is that Arsenal will be saving about £70,000 per week in wages or another £3.6m per annum! Since Freddie had another two years of his contract left then the saving on his wages is about £7.2m.
If you add the transfer fee of £2m then the total “income” from Freddie’s transfer will rise to almost £9m! Now this is what I call “good business”.
For more on the surpluses created by Arsene’s transfers see my posting: “Wenger’s transfer activity runs large profits and bulges the transfer kitty”
Let’s turn to Henry.
My basic argument (which I also expressed in other postings) is that he will not be the same player for Barcelona as when he was playing for Wenger at Arsenal.
The most obvious reason is the way Wenger sets up his teams and their style of play which is to always use the front man as the pivot of the attack and set the team up to always play in a way always suited to Henry’s style. This invariably culminates in providing the scoring opportunity for the centre forward.
Will he get this at Barcelona? Especially when they have so many other stars in their line up all wanting the lime light and a piece of the action? I don’t think so.
Also, how will Barcelona themselves tactically accommodate four superstars in their line up with all playing in the more creative forward positions? They have Ronaldinho, Eto’o, Messi and now Henry.
Henry, as has been proved before in his displays for France, when he was paired with Trezeguet, cannot be as effective with another forward next to him. It crowds him out.
Barcelona’s style of play depends on quick passing and movement and for this to happen the players need space. Something that will become a very rare commodity if all four of them play.
Four into three don’t go! Someone will have to stay on the bench.
There is also another important reason why I think that Henry is likely to find that the grass is not greener elsewhere. His age. At 29 going to 30 he is indeed entering that age where fitness and injuries will come more into the fore. And who is to say that Wenger has not consulted Henry’s stats and ergometric data in making his decision to let him go.
At £16.5m plus a saving of £6.5m a year salary for the next four years may prove good business again!