I have just finished reading Moneyball by Michael Lewis and I have made a couple observations: a) the book is great, b) Billy Beane is great, c) there are some striking similarities between aforementioned Billy Beane and Arsene Wenger.
Speaking of Wenger, he has just become the Gunners longest serving manager. A very good excuse to write an article.
For those unfamiliar with the book or Billy Beane, the book explores how a MLB GM (Beane) tries to build competitive teams on a relatively low budget. Sounds familiar?
Both men approach the game or rather recruitment of new talent in similar fashion—going for what/who the (transfer)market undervalues. Because i am not really knowledgeable about Baseball I will just give examples for the football side of things.
One striking example for Wenger's exploits: Emmanuel Adebayor (the guy all North Londoners love to hate). In 2006, he bought the unknown Togo striker for approximately 6 Mio. GBP who went on to score 30 goals (in all competitions) in the 2007/2008 season.
Not bad when you consider the fact that Chelsea paid 30 Mio. GPB for Shevchenko who just managed to score nine goals in his whole Premiership-career.
Now back to the Wenger/Beane similarities. First of all, you really can't compare Football to Baseball, so you have to redefine what success means to both teams (Wenger's Arsenal and Beane's A's).
Let's just say a Champions League qualification equals the playoffs. Arsenal have now qualified for Europe's premier football competition for some 10 seasons straight, whereas the Oakland A's have failed to reach the playoffs since their 2006 appearance.
It's safe to say that both teams are in a healthy financial situation. But both men have to rethink their approach. Arsenal haven't won any major trophy since 2005 and the A's haven't won any during Beane's time.
My point is that sticking to your principles is a very honorable feat but it doesn't necessarily brings you success. Wenger like Beane has proved that he is more than capable of assembling a competitive team on a tight budget but isn't it time for a (slight) change?
Billy Beane is now in the market for high school players too, shouldn't it be possible then for Wenger to buy at least one world-class player in the mold of Mascherano or an out and out striker like Torres?
The A's missed the playoffs for some years now, it would be awkward if Arsenal doesn't win any silverware in the future or even worse fail to qualify for the Champions League.