As the critical state of the Arsenal empire draws ever closer to a spectacular implosion, it seems every football fan under the sun has an opinion of just what has gone wrong in these last 7 years. Well if you’re looking for some fresh new stories circulating the football world, turn away now because here is another set of whinging opinions from another disgruntled Arsenal fan.
Criticism seems to have peaked in the last couple of weeks as Arsenal have had their worst start in over 30 years, it’s clear that something is wrong with the current team, but something has been wrong with the team for a long time and future progress is contingent on addressing these underlying problems.
As a life-long football fan I have always supported the view that the bare minimum required from the board and managers of a team is to preserve the status-quo, something exemplified no better than by Sir Alex Ferguson who has carried countless United teams through 26 years of footballing success.
It seems that the shock of going from a team of unbeatables to a team of farily-easily-beatables has been diluted by a mortilisation process that has extended over a seven year period. So much so that if you now ask an Arsenal fan why we don’t compete for top players or are why we are unable to mount anything near reminiscent of a solid title challenge, it’s more or less accepted that Arsenal are simply competing at a different standard.
And the truth is we are competing at a different standard but we shouldn’t accept it and as fans we shouldn’t rest until immortality is restored.
You always need to be careful when reading football news, sifting through the daily tabloids could leave you believing that Usain Bolt was genuinely on the verge of joining Van Persie in a striking partnership for Manchester United.
And bearing this in mind, caution should be exercised when claiming to know what exactly is going on behind the scenes at Arsenal. However, earlier this year Arsenal fans were gifted a credible source of inside knowledge when 30% Arsenal shareholder, Alisher Usmanov, wrote a letter to the board which was made publically available.
Regardless of whether Usmanov had ulterior motives for writing the letter (such as galvanising support for a place on the board) it highlighted that something at the top is very wrong. Key members of the board have left, proving that it is not only the fans which have become disillusioned, there is an obvious lack of ambition and the financial structure is severely flawed.
Both the Board and to an extent Wenger, have argued for a system that, as Usmanov puts it, advocates ‘prudent financial planning’ and whilst it is sad truth that the past decade has been characterised by an attitude of, ‘let’s just buy all the best players in the world until we start winning stuff’ (not to name any names), the Arsenal camp need to start seeing things for how they actually are, quite plainly, that the footballing gods aren’t going to reward us for having a tight-knit cash flow statement.
Arsene Wenger has been shackled by this current financial arrangement imposed by a self-interested and unambitious board. We are priced-out of bidding for the top players, even if we could, under the current regime, we cannot support their wage-demands and this has also meant we are unable to hold on to top players who can simply earn more elsewhere.
Despite this, inconsistencies remain within the wage-structure. Whilst it appears as if Wenger is unable to offer players a contract exceeding £100,000pw, he is the second highest-earning manager and Ivan Gazidis, Stan Kroenke’s very own Alistair Campbell, is the highest earning chief executive.
And to top it all off, to really throw salt in the wound, Arsenal fans have to pay more to watch the team than any other Premier League side despite not having won a trophy for 7 years!
All this doesn’t mean we should suddenly turn blasé about our finances, of course it is important to run a viable business, but the wage structure and its inconsistencies evidently need revamping. It has also been a mistake and continues to be a mistake, marginalising Usmanov and the potential investment he can bring.
Arsenal fans generally accepted that a post-unbeatable era would require some sort of a rebuilding process but patience has been tested to boiling point. And whilst a lot of blame can be put on the board, even Wenger is no longer immune to critics. A pragmatic solution would be to suggest that both parties have been partly to blame.
It is an obvious logic that if you get rid of one of your best players and do not replace them with an equally good player then your team will not be as good as it was originally. Equally as obvious is the fact that Arsenal have been unashamedly guilty of this.
For all the great qualities the manager possesses, it cannot be argued against the fact that Arsene is a stubborn man. And I can’t help to feel that this stubbornness, combined with the stranglehold imposed by the board has meant Arsenal has lost out in past years.
Depending on the sources you want to trust, Wenger’s lack of ruthlessness has meant that we have lost out on several players in the past. Cristiano Ronaldo, Juan Mata, Gary Cahill, Eden Hazard, Ryan Babel, Petr Cech and Nuri Sahin are just examples that I can pluck from the top of my head, some perhaps more credible than others, but the point still stands. The same goes for contract negotiations, although no one really knows what is going on behind the scenes and the board clearly have a lot of control, it feels as if Wenger has, at times, been overly stubborn.
This is by no means a call for Wenger’s head, he has produced some of the finest players the Premier League has ever seen and the club will long be in his debt for what he has achieved during his tenure. But he needs to adjust his attitude. We need to fight harder to keep players, and if players do leave they need to have sufficient replacements. The time lag between losing experienced players and developing younger ones means that larger investments are sometimes necessary.
Finally, all this brings us to where we are now, mellowing in middle-table mediocrity, 11 points off the top spot and enduring our worst start for over 30 years.
There are dreams of dishing out 30 million big ones for a player of the Falcao variety. Just Dreams. Only Dreams. Maybe are more realistic suitor would be someone like Huntelaar.
We could talk all day about players and tactics; Ramsey shouldn’t be played out of position, Wenger should give Theo a chance down the middle, Giroud doesn’t suit our style, Oxlade-Chamberlain should start, Andre Santos shouldn’t… but perhaps these are points better left to be discussed over a pint.
What we can safely say now, is that there is something fundamentally wrong at Arsenal and we need to get to the bottom of it before true progress can be made. Unfortunately as mere fans there is only so much we can do. For now we just need to carry on voicing our opinions and keep shouting until silent Stan is forced to speak up.
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