Monthly Archives: March 2012

Arsene Wenger: saviour of the Board.

In order for ‘evil’ to prevail, all that need happen is for ‘good‘ people to do nothing.

Right now ‘evil’ is prevailing because a very, very good person, and a brilliant manager is doing a hell of a lot more than nothing, the man is doing a smidgin less than working miracles.

The Arsenal board are happy to win nothing. They are happy to withhold money from Wenger for new purchases. The finances that we hear about being so healthy, possibly aren’t as rosy as everyone makes out, and whilst Wenger doesn’t believe in overpaying, he isn’t the skinflint that he is portrayed as in the media and by some fans.

Wenger is a noble man, and one who loves Arsenal through and through, so nothing will hurt him more than knowing that Arsenal aren’t challenging genuinely for titles, and that the fans are feeling the pain of being slightly irrelevant as far as engravers are concerned by March.

Forced by the club to sell Samir Nasri when he had intended to keep the player and use him to really push, forced by a sense of obligation and a twisted arm to sell his captain, Wenger oversaw the worst start for the club in 58 years and the knives were out in some quarters. Since then, the worst Arsenal have offered up in years, a squad depleted by sales and injury to Jack Wilshere – the main playmaker after the departure of Cesc and Samir – has managed to drag itself into not just the top 4, the pinnacle of post Sky achievement, but the top 3, ahead of local rivals Spurs, who are basically having Arsenal’s normal season, starting magnificently but falling away hopelessly at the end.

People will point to the form of RVP, and rightly so, Van Persie has been out of this World this season, but whilst the joke “the most popular item in the Arsenal gift shop is a Van Persie tea-tray – guaranteed to carry 10 mugs” is brilliant, it also ignores the fact that Arsenal have had 16 different goal scorers this season, a feat equalled only by Everton and Manchester United. But ultimately, if Wenger is to take large shares of blame for the start of the season, then it’s only fair that he receive large shares of the credit for the turnaround, and in acknowledging this turn around, it’s worth noting that Arsenal are most likely going to qualify for yet another Champions League campaign under Wenger.

The reason that I highlight this is it’s become the Holy Grail for teams. Arsenal of the last few years feel like if they won it, it wouldn’t be the biggest upset in recent years, but if you’d gone travelling to a remote island for a year, and came back and found out they’d done it, you’d spit out half of your first cup of proper tea in 365 days, after all, this is a team that could beat Barcelona on their day, but then lose to APOEL in the final, in fact, that would just be soooo Arsenal (I’m going to get slaughtered for this because of United’s performance in Europe this season, but regardless, it’s how I perceive Arsenal in Europe).

Anyway, even if they don’t win it, being in it gives Arsenal those wonderful European nights that Clive Tyldesley loves to wank lyrical about, it gives the club a huge boost to revenue, and it allows the club to attract a higher calibre of player, often on a lower wage because you aren’t paying the “we’re not actually a very big club right now, but we want big club players” premium that some clubs have to. So now that 4th place has been identified as being good enough to virtually guarantee (have to play a qualifier or two) all of these benefits, it has probably prompted a question or two from the bean counters about whether it’s actually more profitable to finish in the top 4, or to heavily invest in the squad to challenge for the title….

Now this is hardly conspiracy theory stuff, nobody is saying that the Arsenal board have planted thermite bombs in little Jack’s knees, or that Pat Rice makes opposition corners un-headable with the power of his mind, it’s clearly in their interest for Arsenal to do as well as possible, but without them spending any more than they currently do. Right now, the difference between 1st and 4th is about £2-3m in prize money, based on some rough figures cobbled together by asking on Twitter (that’s how much research I do, if you don’t like it, do my research for me – for free), but the real money is in the later stages of the Champions League. Something Arsenal seem to reach year after year, getting past the group stage with a consistency that a lot of people seem to take for granted.

What would it take for Arsenal to pose a realistic threat to the title race, not just for one year, but on a long-term basis? There isn’t really a figure that you can put on this, because you just never know with football, but considering anything they can buy, City can buy more expensive, considering the buying power that still remains at Chelsea, and considering United have a deeper base to build on even if they have the World’s biggest overdraft, it makes you wonder if dropping a money bomb the way Liverpool have recently would really make a huge difference. Clearly signing the right players and not just spending the most is the key, and you’d like to think that a well spent £50m on Sahin, Huntelaar and Vertonghen might solve a hell of a lot of problems, but it would also raise two, namely transfer expenditure and the wage bill, and with no guarantees that Arsenal would make any more money, sorry I mean perform any better, as a result of these hypothetical signings it begs the business (EVIL) question of why sign off on it?

Now it’s possible that the money really just isn’t there, after all, Arsenal had to wait until they had sold Nasri and Fabregas before they went out and got replacements, which at the time reminded me of the guy that waits until payday to actually eat anything other than baked beans or 14p noodles, but that could have been down to there actually being no money, or just the board not letting any be spent until it had been recouped (if it’s the latter, then they are idiots, buying replacements is always cheaper in advance – Suarez £23m before selling Torres for £50m, Andy Carroll £35m after selling Torres).

The question of finances is one for people far smarter and more dedicated to the cause than myself, but either way, two things allow this to continue –

  • Fans continuing to fill the stadium, and the club’s coffers
  • Wenger continuing to work his minor miracles without complaint

Right now, fans are starting to get antsy about the lack of trophies, the fact that pretty football doesn’t quite make up for year after year of ticket price increases, and rightly so, because unless the fans say something, nobody else will, Wenger isn’t the type to publicly slate his board, he shields them  entirely from blame by refusing to speak out and demand money the way a lesser man would – you think he’s tight, I think he might just be the most noble man ever to grace a club that until my 10th birthday were famous for nothing other than being boring and having big guns outside (a paradox to a 10 year old), so, you know, maybe just appreciate him, because if you don’t, then I can guarantee there will be plenty of clubs that would.

PS your board are a bunch of cads and bounders, so if you want to boo somebody, boo them, because they’re sneaky evil bastards, rather than the really direct, obvious, unspeakable shitheads that we’ve got in charge, relying on another miracle working manager to cover up the fact that they’re happy to try and bleed a club dry.