So how are you feeling about our summer so far?
I think it’s probably fair to say that most Gooners are approaching Saturday’s season opener with a mix of anticipation and expectation.
Or, to put it another way, excitement tempered by a nagging concern (like the way you might feel if your most reckless friend invited you for a spin on the back of his new motorbike).
The over-riding sense of optimism is largely down to the way the club has handled its transfer business this summer:
Experienced international attackers Podolski and Giroud signed up early doors; one of the best creative midfielders in world football wrapped up within the last week; and (at the time of writing) an apparent willingness to play hardball in our latest want-away-Captain saga.
After last summer’s transfer window debacle there were plenty of people willing to point the finger at the manager, the owner, the CEO and the Board.
So, if you agree that things have been handled well this year, it’s only fair to give credit to those who have made it possible.
Obviously Arsène Wenger deserves a decent slice of the credit cake, as (probably) does the much-maligned Dick Laws who handles the fine detail of our in-and-out business.
As a point of order, NONE of the credit goes to those Wenger-hating blogs that are trying to suggest that their criticisms have forced a change of policy at the club. That’s like the pebble thinking it made the sea retreat when the tide turned.
But the man who may well deserve to take home the rest of the cake (and eat it) is our very own non-speaking American.
Last summer was Stan Kroenke’s first close-season transfer window after assuming majority control of the club. My pet theory is that he believed Arsène when Le Boss told him he would be able to keep hold of either or both of Fabregas and Nasri.
He gave Arsène his head – only to find it covered in egg as Cesc left after taking acid (DeoxyriboNucleic Acid to be precise) and Nasri, like the evil gnome he is, ran off with an empty wheelbarrow hoping to fill it with banknotes.
It’s fair to assume that, in his first summer in charge, Kroenke did not have a full handle on how the “soccer” transfer window works. It operates very differently to the way in which transfers are done in most North American sports.
But Stan is a quick learner and I have no doubt he entered the 2012 window fully prepared to make a success of it (and to not repeat the mistakes of 2011).
So when Arsène said to him “I am convinced I can persuade van Persie to extend his contract” Stan will have said something like “don’t p*ss on my boots and tell me it’s raining.”
Well, alright, he might actually have said: “I hear you Arsene, but let’s play it safe this time round and act as if he IS going to leave. That way the sumabitch can’t put us over a barrel and make us squeal like little piggies.”
(One of the nice things about having a silent American owner is that you can have a lot of fun imagining how he talks).
Anyway, I’m sure he personally gave Arsène the go-ahead to spend money on the quality players he has signed this summer.
Of course it also helps that this is the first year in which our financial position is finally allowing us to spend money. Up until now the debt burden caused by the stadium move and the economic slump has severely restricted our clout in the market.
We have made a net profit in the transfer market every season since the stadium move while also qualifying for the Champions League every year – an achievement by Arsène that probably even eclipses his two Doubles, even though it will never be generally recognised as such. And he didn’t balance the books because he’s tight fisted, or obsessed with youth or obeying the cruel orders of an over-weening Board of Directors. He did it because it was economically essential for the Club to behave in that way.
Now, with the renegotiation of our major commercial deals on the horizon and our debt the lowest it has been for six years, we are finally able to be net spenders rather than net savers.
The icing on the cake is that UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations seem also to be having some impact on the moneybags clubs, with Manchester City, in particular, finding it a problem to bring in new players when no-one wants to take their vastly over-paid cast-offs. If it wasn’t for the threat of FFP, I have no doubt that City’s Arabs would just sign off on another couple of hundred million quid and buy whomever the manager wanted.
But back to Silent Stan. (By the way, isn’t it funny how the Glazers – who are also seldom heard talking about Manchester United in public – are never referred to as the “Gob-shy Glazers.” Nor is Man City’s Arab owner, who generally keeps his own counsel, ever described as “Miming Mansour”?).
But if you look at his custodianship of his North American sporting enterprises, you will see that Kroenke is an involved and committed owner who gives them financial stability and every opportunity for sporting success.
I, for one, am delighted that he is in charge of affairs at Arsenal. I think he deserves the lion’s share of the praise for the good things that have happened this summer and I suspect him to get even better as the years go by and he learns the system more and more.
I can’t bear the lazy comments about how he’s only in it to make money on the club. Of course he’s in it to make money – he’s a financial investor. But how do you think he can best make money on his investment? By penny-pinching his way to mid-table mediocrity? Or by putting Arsenal right back at the top of European football?
You don’t have to be Bertie Einstein to figure that one out.
Stan wants Arsenal to be winning titles and Champions Leagues just as much as we do – because then the value of his investment will grow exponentially.
So let’s hear it for the mild-mannered American who is now firmly at the tiller of our great club…
Silent Stan – whisper it, but you’re my man.