Arsenal’s 2011 Crisis – Who’s Really To Blame?
To most Arsenal fans the greatest source of dismay in 2011 is our sudden decline (ie. collapse) and undignified position in the Premiership. For me the next most frustrating area for debate is … whose fault is it ?
I must agree …. too much time, these days, is spent apportioning blaming. But it is indeed frustrating when the club’s affairs are so opaque that we – the die for the cause supporters – are unclear who is responsible for what! It was the same for years as a shareholder before Silent Stan Kroenke bought most of us out. The Annual General Meeting (for the people who owned the club) was a carefully staged affair – at which the Chairman deftly brushed aside anything awkward and concentrated on the harmless bromide.
A) The Manager : –
There can be nil debate over who is ultimately responsible for playing issues E.G. : –
- We move to zonal marking at set pieces and stay with a high defensive line in open play.
- We will not stray back to 442 or 4411 or etc. We don’t do tactics, we let the other teams worry about us. (except that all the others know exactly how to play against us)
- Both fullbacks – and the deepest midfielder – are encouraged to end up in or near the opposition penalty area … because the best form of defence is attack … and we will worry about breakaways later (!)
- Arshavin and Walcott or Bendtner or Vela must play wide (ie. not in their best position) and try to work back down the flank (which they are not good at) because that is what our inflexible formation demands. Only one, isolated Van Persie can play down the middle.
Yes … there are highly experienced ex internationals on the coaching staff and yes … there is lots of consultation with le boss. But there is only one man really dominating and he ….. ” will never change my attacking principles.”
Equally, he will not buy a player as aged over 30 years – like Scott Parker – even when other Arsenal coaches, according to rumour, presented a video to persuade the great man that Parker was sorely needed. Spurs have picked him up instead and are prepared to amortise (say) £1m p.a. for a few years. But Harry Redknapp is not only very wide but very shrewd – and probably flexible. Mr. Wenger will not grant players of 30 plus a two year contract … irrespective of who he is, how good he is, how fit he is (eg. Robert Pires, bless him).
B) The Board of Directors : –
Meanwhile for a whole raft of financial matters the Directors are necessarily responsible.
- The development of and funding arrangements for a wonderful Emirates Stadium … albeit with much input from Mr. Wenger on its design.
- The decision NOT to offload the development risk / reward on the luxury Highbury apartments … to a developer – but to retain that exposure to the property market.
- The universally unchanging, uninteresting and uncheap catering in every single stand. One can blame Arsene Wenger for a lot of things but not for that.
- The semi egalitarian wage structure with a ceiling set at some £90,000 (?) per week with hardly any exceptions … while younger emerging players receive £40,000 or £50,00 or even £60,000 per week. It is said Danny Fiszman persuaded the Board of the merits of a jolly happy (and over comfortable) dressing room. We now see the demerits : we can’t pay a world class player as much as other clubs and we can’t shift overpaid under performers. I don’t know how far Mr. Wenger was enthusiastic about this wage structure but it could not have been introduced without the Board’s blessing and it has made life a lot more difficult for le Professeur – and for the supporters.
C) The Imponderables
Let us move on for the Directors seem to have been perfectly happy for the Manager to carry the can for as far as possible – without allowing the situation to be made clear E.G.: –
- Was it all down to Le Boss that we refused to pay up to £4m in summer 2010 for a big, ugly, experienced goalie called Schwartzer ? Yes … it was a lot to pay for a 37 year old but Almunia and Flappy Handski gave away several points before we settled for the then number 3 keeper in late season 2010/11.
- One understands, Nasri (and/or his agent) asked to negotiate a new contract in Autumn 2010 when he was assured a big wage increase would be organised. It is said he asked for this in writing but was never given it and lost patience some months later ? Was that down to Le Boss ? It sounds more like the Directors than the Manager.
- It has to be mainly the Directors who insist that transfer money must NOT be reinvested till money from player sales comes in. This despite the fact that (say Fabregas and Nari) represented very firm collateral – and despite the damaging uncertainty thus caused.
- Is this why we left it till the last 36 hours and 2 weeks into the new season before buying 4 more experienced players ? Was it the Manager or the Directors who needed to be convinced by an 8 – 2 caning that we had to recruit ? Of course it has been difficult to integrate all the late comers. Other clubs had weeks to train together!
At the end (or beginning) of the day … if there has been a key strategy to meet financial challenges – without a Usmanov – perhaps at its heart has been a determination.
‘To develop young players whose value, we hope, will appreciate while avoiding mature players whose value , we fear, will depreciate ’
Does this lie behind the obvious failure to blend youth with experience ? (as well as technique with power … and attack with defence etc.) If so, did the Board dictate to the Manager (which it is entitled to do) or did the Manager persuade the Board ? Or was it a joint effort ?
Whatever else the last few months have exploded the club’s plans and policies and goodness only knows what will happen now. If anyone can suggest the answers to some of these questions please respond … because I would love to know and so would many, many other supporters.”
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