“Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily.”
And so we have the Arsenal Uncivil War. The Arsenal way is no more.
Whatever the reasoning for two expected bombs landing in two sites occupied by the public, the inner workings or malfunctions of our football club have conspired to make summer yet again, the most foul of seasons for its fans.
I am all-too-often a person who likes to complicate and pick apart notions and ideas for that which looks worth explaining. But in this instance, the simplest approach seems the most appropriate.
Let’s break this down:
• The best players want to leave year on year.
• The manager confides in no one and practises the art of damage limitation to no great success (unless we include his marriage).
• The board want to make money – huge money, out of the club by completing a 5 year plan and selling at around a 75% profit per share. Debt free, Arsenal is an amazing proposition to a billionaire looking for a Man City toy in a prime area of London. (Inevitable if the current financial base incurs a further economic demise – relative to our competition)
• The fans pay the most in the world for their tickets.
• If it is to be believed, the fanfare surrounding the appointment of our CEO and our Commercial Director culminates in a cold-call exploring sponsorship links with a company owned by our 2nd biggest investor.
The club is a mess. The Arsenal way is an organised, yet minimalist mess. Wenger’s overgrown teenage affection for all things Japanese – (eg no obvious acts of rebellion, no aggression to one another, take your shoes off before trying to burgle my house and so on), is the only thing that disguises the torrents and rumblings that continue to affect our planning and consistency.
Now it is not all doom and gloom. But right now the 8-2 defeat feels far more resonant in my mind, than any decent result as I remember how the disaffected Wenger and his shell-shocked troops were dismantled and imploded last September.
What appears to be the case is that it is not all the managers’ fault. He has made the club in his image and the board have allowed this to happen. Wenger is a better PR, commercial director, product in himself, manager, CEO and economist than most people working in football. All this for £6 million a year is a bargain. But only if you work on the board of Arsenal FC.
So what of the rumours of Wenger’s and Gazides’ relationship? What has the Chairman done in his Prince Phillip role? What do the chairmen of clubs like Tottenham, Dortmund and Porto do that is so relatively successful, yet continually have to contend with the higher achieving clubs around them, (or conditions such as Spurs minimal pay scale)????
These questions cannot be answered by us and need more than speculation by ourselves. However, as I started this with Occam’s Razor, I might as well continue it. The simplest way is to conclude that many errors have been made in many areas. Some are directly attributed to judgement and capability issues from employees at the club. Others are down to the irregular and unpredictable nature of cash and cache. We don’t know when a player is going to ask for more, or claim to want success – but we sure as hell know it will happen. What prompts them to do it is usually a mixture of agents, media, personal glory and stagnation.
Theo for example is another player in a similar situation as Robin. However he won’t be offered what R$VP wants because his demands don’t mirror his erratic cache. But in terms of what the club stand to lose, it will be viewed and take a similar effect (though in differing amounts/impact) to the R$VP case. This will contribute to the detriment of the club (and have a variable impact on the performance on the team), it will have a similar effect on the issues that affect the management of the club and team. This might sound like waffle but it is critical as it suggests the need of a rather large change to the contracts of our players.
Parity in pay can only be merited once players have proved themselves. Parity that Wenger espouses is contradicted by the policy to sell tickets at different values depending on the opposition. These are largely part of the same value system and therefore need to be further addressed.
EG: R$VP is paid £100k per week. Theo £60k. Denilson £60k and so on. Now is Theo a top tier player? Is Denilson a middle tier? We know Wenger pays (and it is Wenger, not the club) players based on the idea that they will come good and wish to remain loyal. Nope. He knows but is he willing to accept this? Arteta took a pay cut to come to Arsenal and is now the fans’ favourite to be made captain. A captain that will not leave next year. Sounds like a pay-plan to me.
If dead wood gets shipped out and frees up a load of money, that shift can change the current pay policy without costing the club more. Then again, we can also purchase and pay more without costing the club too much more. We need to make the decision based on the supposed pledge that 75% of all revenues must be spent on player acquisition and/or retention. Is it? Is it really? Have we spend all that we amassed with Adebayor, Toure, Fabregas, Nasri, Clichy and so on? Or do those sums offset the heavy price we pay for Diaby, Denilson, Chamakh, Bendtner, Almunia (RIP), Squilacci, etc? In which case, we need to take a hit and start again with a new pay structure. Future players need it, we as fans need it. We are like Status Quo complaining when Radio 1 decided not to play them again. Who cares? We were once important and within our own fan base we are important but the difference is that Arsenal FC doesn’t have to age, even if the Arsenal way seems a bit old and stuffy.
Now the claims and counter claims, rumours and so on will try to kill our summer. They will try to destroy all that the club foolishly prides itself on by sending out a PR message dressed like Miss Jean Brodie in a Playboy beauty pageant. Does it even matter how good-looking she is, if the myth and allure are killed by the ‘surface’ presentation? Or what if Brad Pitt enters a body building competition? Is Arsenal the embodiment of Feminism or metro-sexuality in a world of hardcore banking porn?
It says so much about how football is viewed by the players, agents and fans alike that an attractive and decent club with an amazing infrastructure, can be mocked and pilloried because they decided to adhere to an ever-growing, utilitarian view of football. Ticket = pleasure.
Do me a favour!
Usmanov has taken a chance to destabilise, as has R$VP. Wenger has hidden behind the board and CEO for the first time in a while. The financial damage to the brand increases every hour that nothing is said or done. But this cannot be properly felt in the ‘bubble’ that has been created for the players and the management. Occasionally, the businessmen of the board have to step out of the bubble and take a look around, because in the original Adam Smith ethos of economics, the ‘market’ exists for the people. But the ‘football people’ don’t seem to see this and choose not to cater for it at Arsenal. Not beyond doorsteps of stale bread with morsels of fois gras. Meanwhile, the rest of the league are bankrupting themselves to gorge themselves to a slow, medium or rapid death.
So my patience is a thin as Usmanov is fat. My reticence is fragile and my faith in those who control and steer this ship is more Costa Concordia than Victoria Concordia Crescit.
We can come out fighting. We can do damage limitation PR. We are not the royal family. Nor are we cream and will not ‘float’ to the fecking top. Our class may be as permanent as the damage done by our own staff, the media and the economies of scale. If we think big and pay little, we will end up hosting concerts and X Factor auditions to more people than football matches.
We do not need sea change, we need some change. We do not need billions, but we need hundreds of millions. We do not need more fans, we need loyal and appeased fans. We do not need to be in the know, but we need to know some truths. We put our faith and hope in the most ungodlike of people.
Our football will not be saved by two signings and a couple of loan deals. Nor will a farcical cancelled trip to Nigeria, which no doubt will still result in the website showing photos of ‘our’ Frank Stubbs posing next to an urban open gasoline pipe, a couple of Muslim-targeted churches and him hitching his way round the country blindfolded and gagged.
This is the time for political and financial change. But not revolution. Make the moves Arsenal but stop being so bloody British about it.
Written by fergalburger