Here we all are again biting chunks out of each other, rowing and bemoaning the abysmal performance and the state of Arsenal FC in general, as well as arguing and taking various sides regarding the “should Wenger stay- should he go” scenario. It really is a little more simple than most of us are willing to admit – and unfortunately its rather grim to consider.
The Rot starts at Board level and let me tell you why: A number of years ago David Dein, who has been vilified by some for leaving the club and planting his flag elsewhere, was forced out of the club due to the board members untenable position on Dein’s proposal to bring in Alisher Usmanov into the boardroom. Dein had a plan of having an Oligarch invest heavily in the club, well before anyone else was thinking of such a move. HOWEVER the Board, all being Old Etonian merchant banking types as well as members of the minor aristocracy clique, were solidly set against this idea – due to their (supposedly) traditional values of the club and the reluctance to sell out to “foreign investors”.
David Dein had brought Wenger into the club, and was also pivotal in bringing in a wide variety of our then stellar and now legendary signings. He was also almost singularly responsible for moving the club into a top tier contender and someone who was the architect of the club as well all saw it becoming.
And then he leaves. Because he sees the Hierarchy within the Board of Directors for what they are, and knows that they wont go the way he would like, and they see him as a jumped up non blue-blood who is shaking their steady ship with all this talk of foreign investors.
Since then we have built a stadium that the whole world has marvelled at and we have maintained a top four position within the EPL, and kept our books balanced and the corporate ship steady.
Arsene Wenger has laboured under severe financial restraints and during his tenure at the club has produced some outstanding and earth shattering results and has been frankly an absolutely brilliant manager.
But also over that period we have gradually gone backwards as a competitive team, we have sold key players and brought in replacements that are not really up to the same level. We have had some atrocious injury problems and we have had a little bit of bad luck. We have also had our major competitors regaling in “heavy foreign investment” and they have overtaken us both in the transfer market and in the universal branding of our club, along with the all important reputation in the media and with our fellow Premier League clubs.
We have tried to change the way we have played football from our initial skilled but physically imposing squad to a smaller youth driven and technically skilled players and this was implemented by Wenger, I’m sure, because of the financial restrictions imposed by the building of a new stadium.
BUT, while we were trying to compete under these circumstances, everybody else was taking the formula that Wenger implemented (and inherited) and made it their own, and we are now slipping down the table with regards to ambition, performance and presence, both in the worldwide market as a brand and as far as our reputation is concerned.
WHY IS THIS? …. Some blame Wenger and in part it is his fault, and some say that he has performed miracles and we should trust in him, and both parties are right but only halfway; the real problem is an unambitious, self serving and money orientated board of directors. They manipulate Wenger’s financial caution and keep him in the role by slyly offering him greater and greater rewards – and the prospect of competing with the big boys when FFP comes in – and yet the real agenda is to keep a manager in a role whereby he performs adequately according to their brief (in other words getting a top four spot), keeping the books balanced as far as transfers and sales are concerned, and not taking too many chances financially. Yes Wenger does love the club I am sure and he does endeavour to do all he can to keep both the Board and the fans happy. But this doesn’t fly anymore and his weaknesses are becoming more evident with each passing season. We as fans are caught in a horrible catch 22 scenario, if we see the back of AW does anyone really think that we would get a top flight manager in? NO! Anyone coming in of a high calibre would want to revamp and spend money and that is an anathema to the board, so we could end up with another yes man who doesn’t have the skills or experience to get CL football each year, or we stay with Wenger and NOTHING will change.
My point is after this long winded history lesson is that while we blame the manager, the players and even each other, the real culprits are the moneyed toffee-nosed shadowy men up in the wood panelled board room who sacked Dave Dein, simply because he wanted to bring in an Oligarch. Instead the Board brought in an American who has NO idea about the culture and history of the club, and is no less foreign than the Uzbekistani who they baulked at. A man who sold off our key players over many season and did not lay out the money to replace them; who allowed a manager to take us to a peak position and then cut off his funds, because they implemented a plan for a new stadium without taking into account the hardships the club would go through; and who continues to charge the highest prices in the european areas for tickets but does not advocate spending the asking prices for players that could really push the club into the elite Pantheon of European football,
This from a board who boasted of £100,000,000 to spend last summer and didn’t !!!! Who “didn’t want to sell to foreign investors” but jumped at the chance of bringing in Silent Stan who cares less about football than he does about the length of his toenails! Its all smoke and mirrors, and although Wenger is to blame for a certain degree of it, the real culprits are sitting in the board room. Until the attitude or the personnel change upstairs then nothing will change on the field.
But be careful what you wish for Gooners .