So when I play FM, I tend to like to do careers having adopted the persona of a former legend of the club. The first one I did is as Ally McCoist as Rangers but that got a bit boring after a while - built a team that wins every SPL game without conceding yet can't do anything in Europe, like Celtic - and now, well, I have started this one....
After over 20 years at the club, legendary manager Arsene Wenger has departed Arsenal Football Club.
Despite the official media reports outlining that his departure was one where both parties were willing to part, club sources have explained that the Arsenal board have finally succumbed to fan pressure to remove the 67 year old from his post after seeing the club stagnate over recent years.
Indeed, whereas Arsenal used to be an interesting proposition for the best players and coaches in the world, their stock has fallen dramatically and the 2017/18 campaign will see the Gunners playing in the second tier Europa League after failing to qualify for the Champions League.
As a result, the A-List managerial candidates Joachim Low and Carlo Ancelotti turned down the position, which saw the board come to disagreements over who should be recruited as head coach.
Eventually, they decided that they wanted to get the club back to where they were in 2003/4 - winning the Premier League as an unbeaten team playing exhilarating football.
Of all those players, there was only one suitable to take the North Londoners forward...
The Dutchman Returns
After time away from the club, mainly in the Ajax academy, Arsenal legend Dennis Bergkamp had honed his coaching skills. He was set to get the big job at his boyhood club when their current manager vacated his role. However, upon hearing of Wenger's departure from Arsenal, he postponed signing a pre-contract with Ajax to see how the situation at the Emirates Stadium developed.
As it goes, it was a good decision by Bergkamp. He knew he wouldn't be first choice so hearing the likes of Low and Ancelotti distance themselves from the role didn't bother him and he was just keen to answer the call if it came to attempt to restore his club to former glories. Indeed, he was aware that the fans' support would be there immediately and, while he intended on showing them he was the man for the job, he was glad that he would have something of a honeymoon period.
The call came, he accepted, and he was working for the Arsenal once more.
His first task?
During his board introduction, he was asked whether he wanted Arsene Wenger to remain at the club in a Director of Football capacity.
Needless to say, Bergkamp refused.
A major rebuilding process is required to rejuvenate the squad, good luck in your quest!
First day in the office
Following his appointment, Bergkamp was eager to get to work as soon as possible. He packed his bags and travelled over from Amsterdam and was met at London Heathrow by one of the club's office assistants.
The drive through the bleak weather, despite it being summer, towards the London Colney training ground the club called home, the Dutchman was excited and was informed that Wenger's assistant, Steve Bould, was taking training that morning for the players who hadn't been granted longer holidays. Mainly, it was youth teamers but the likes of Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla were in for treatment on injuries.
Arriving at his manager's office overlooking the training pitches, staff were still clearing various things belonging to his predecessor and he looked out of the windows to the range of pitches he now had to work with.
'Let's get to work,' he thought.
Immediately, Bergkamp saw fit to take a hammer to the backroom staff. His logic was that this was the supporting cast to Wenger which allowed comfort to seep into the club and he didn't want any essence of that lingering.
This club, he believed, needed a totally fresh start and coaches Jens Lehmann, Neil Banfield, Padraig Roche, Sal Bibbo and Barry Solan departed alongside assistant manager Steve Bould. Some members of the scouting team departed as well with Bergkamp keen to bring in people he believed, with the advice of his advisors, were more suited to the role of identifying talent for the club.
Staff members coming in included the highly rated physio Andy Renshaw. Bergkamp felt that the likes of Wilshere and Cazorla - if they were to be effective in the team - needed to get over their constant injury issues and a new physio was one way to ensure that. A new fitness coach also arrived in the shape of Stjepan Ostojic to assist Tony Colbert and, in addition to various new scouts and coaches, a new assistant in the shape of former Chelsea and current England man Steve Holland. Bergkamp was set to appoint the recently out of work Erwin Koeman in the role due to his strong friendship with the countryman but saw fit to appoint a man who had a long history in English football, the Premier League and who had been a part of a successful Chelsea staff.
After sorting his staff, a long hard look at the squad was required and, as expected, an influx of talent was neccessary.
The squad built by Wenger, while full of ability and potential, had got too comfortable and soft - they hadn't challenged for the title for years and that is in no small part due to a lack of steel and hard work in the team, qualities epitomised by the likes of Patrick Vieira and Gilberto Silva in the past.
While the club has many promising youngsters, it also has some overpaid and ageing players on their books - that is where Bergkamp started.
Immediately, he put both Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil up for sale. The former said he was intending on leaving at the end of his contract and wouldn't negotiate a new contract, the latter was leeching off the club and had failed to deliver on a regular basis. Both on huge money, removing both from the club was of paramount importance to the new boss. Indeed, both players moved on.
Sanchez, despite Bergkamp's best hopes, moved to a Premier League rival in the shape of Liverpool (£60m) as did Ozil who arrived at Manchester United (£60m) and this gave the Emirates club huge room for manoeuvre in the transfer market. Indeed, central midfield is an area the club have struggled for years but, despite the need to strengthen, removing players occured beforehand with Mohamed El-Neny moving onto PSG (£25m) and Granit Xhaka to Monaco (£27.5m). This left the club with not far off £230m in the transfer kitty for reinforcements and, as said beforehand, energy and steel were the key requirements.
The first player to arrive was Lazio's highly rated 22 year old Serbian Sergej Milinkovic-Savic who arrived in North London for £36m (£175k p/w) and, while on big money, is already capable of being the box to box engine the team need. Furthermore, it was vital - in Bergkamp's mind - to sign a top quality player with a great reputation as a signal of intent; 'this isn't the old Arsenal, we are back and we mean business.' The next man in was another highly rated youngster, 17 year old centre half Matthijs De Ligt from Ajax for £19.5m (£55k p/w). While Arsene Wenger's modus operandi was signing young players, he hadn't signed one this young who was ready to be such a key player in the first team immediately. However, at the age of 17 and with the likes of Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi and Per Mertesacker at the club already, De Ligt arrived as a rotation player with the hope that he will be ready to be a starter every week by the time Koscielny moves on. Furthermore, the young Dutchman followed Bergkamp from Ajax and, such is his admiration for his new manager, he turned down other huge European clubs to move to the Emirates.
A protracted negotiation for Napoli wonderkid Amadou Diawara reaped no rewards for Bergkamp, though. The Serie A club agreed to a fee of £37.5m with a 10% clause of future profit but the player was reluctant to move; demanding the club won the league this season and the Champions' League next as well as being named vice captain saw Bergkamp withdraw from negotiations with the player; he wasn't willing to make such promises to a player making his way in the game. Instead of Diawara, then, his attentions turned to Walace of Hamburg and, for £19.5m (£98k p/w), the 22 year old signed on the dotted line and is expected to be the base of The Gunners' midfield for years to come with Francis Coquelin acting, for this season at least, as his understudy.
After the departure of Xhaka, another deep lying playmaker was required at the club and, for £4m more than Xhaka was sold for, German Leon Goretzka arrived at the club (£31.5 (£90k p/w), leaving Schalke with one year left on his contract. He will both play with and interchange with the club's other key playmaker Aaron Ramsey and is, again, a young player but one who has already played at the highest level with the Germans.
More transfers are currently being negotiated but, reluctant to let others see his hand, Bergkamp has demanded that his press secretary doesn't release any details until they are confirmed...
As the season opener at home to West Brom approaches, the traditional curtain raiser of the Community Shield arrived as Arsenal - the reigning FA Cup holders - face Chelsea.
In the build up, there was a further signing in the form of AC Milan's former Liverpool inside forward Suso for a fee of £30.5m (£110k p/w) . Initially, the club was in talks to sign Riyad Mahrez from Leicester but, after evaluating his options, Bergkamp plumped for the Spaniard, partially due to his potential and partially due to the fact he counts towards the club's homegrown in nation criterion for the Europa League.
As for the Community Shield final, Chelsea won 2-1.
Arsenal lined up as follows:
RB - Bellerin
CB- De Ligt
Unfortunately, before the match Koscielny picked up a training injury after starting all bar one of the club's pre season fixtures, leaving De Ligt to step in. After conceding two goals in the first 30 minutes of the match, the Gunners eventually got a hold on the game and missed two penalties in the second half before Milinkovic-Savic scored a powerful header from a corner.
After the match, the club announced the signing of left winger Ivan Perisic from Inter Milan. As Bergkamp explained when he joined the club, he wanted to bring in players who were experienced in Europe's top leagues and, while the other players recruited have that coupled with potential, it is unlikely that the Croatian is set to do so. However, there is no doubting his quality and power as an inside forward from the left flank. In addition to that, Walcott broke his foot in training and Iwobi, in the coach's opinion, isn't ready to start matches week in, week out. Perisic is set to be a starting option on the left wing and arrived for £37m (£140k p/w). The club spent £174m in the transfer window and sold players for £173m, leaving the club with £40m in the transfer kitty.
August 2017 - A strong start
After a disappointing showing in the Community Shield final, Bergkamp was quietly cautious about his team's chances in the Premier League. However, he needn't have been...
Match 1 Arsenal 5-1 West Brom; Lacazette (3), Perisic, Dawson (OG); Mustafi (OG)
Match 2 Manchester United 0-0 Arsenal
Match 3 Arsenal 2-0 Manchester City; Lacazette (2)
A superb start to the season sees the club sitting on seven points from the first three games with Lacazette hitting superb form immediately. I had concerns about facing the two Manchester clubs. Early on in the match away to United, holding midfielder Walace went off injured to be replaced by Coquelin who, in turn, got sent off. As a result, Goretzka had to slot in as the ball winning midfielder against City and played superbly, earning a 92% pass completion rate including an assist for Lacazette's second.
The Europa League group stage has been drawn as well with Bergkamp's Gunners set to face Sporting Lisbon, Hertha Berlin and Turkey's Basaksehir.
A strong start to the league campaign with your new-look team! Exciting times ahead for Arsenal!
September 2017 - Meh
The strong start has been followed by patchy form...
Match 4 Watford 2-2 Arsenal; Lacazette, Perisic
EL 1 Sporting 1-0 Arsenal
Match 5 Arsenal 1-1 Brighton; Wilshere
EFL R3 Everton 1-3 Arsenal (AET); Vietto, Lacazette, Giroud
Match 6 Leicester 1-3 Arsenal; Perisic, Lacazette (2)
EL 2 Arsenal 1-1 Hertha Berlin; Lacazette
Patchy at best. Still unbeaten in the league but after being 2-0 up at Watford at half time and 1-0 up with 5 minutes left at home to Brighton it should have been even better. Europa League hasn't been good but the deadline day signing, Luciano Vietto (season loan) from Atletico Madrid helped Bergkamp's men to victory in the third round of the League Cup - Spurs in the next round!
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