Monday, August 29, 2011

Chaos at Arsenal - Part 2

So, who or what is the cause for the team doing so badly?

I think the senior players for one have found if difficult to keep motivated and have looked at the way the club being run and they are not stupid, they know it's going downhill and see no investment coming in. Kind of reminds me of Rooney not so long ago, he clearly was trying to force a move last year because he saw what Man City were doing, and he knew he needed to move to win trophies unless United started to seriously invest. Luckily for United, Rooney was high profile and good enough to force something like that. And the club have invested heavily, although they still had success last year. I do wonder though, was it all Rooney's doing, did he think all that all for himself, did he really want to leave or was it a bluff? Or, rather, was it a concerted bluff and scare tactic by ol' willy fox Ferguson and Rooney to scare the board and force their hand? One things is for sure, they, Man U, board and manager, convinced him to stay and have invested by buying the best English talent available in the land. Could Arsenal do the same financially?

I wrote a post a few days ago about the financial implications of a new stadium and I stand by that. But I have researched the financial situation at Arsenal a bit more and it's all all that clear. The stadium seems to be by and large now pretty much generating enough revenue and the club self-sufficient. It seems that since 2006/2007 the club and the new stadium's revenues are enough to cope with the clubs debts and mortgage repayments, with a net profit that year of about £37 million. So clearly, this is not the whole story.

That year the senior team's net transfer was -£836K and the following season £24.8M. Making money in the transfer market. Great, if you want to increase the club's revenues. But what about performances on the pitch? Well, Arsenal were doing well enough, there had been a couple of years with no trophies but too early to worry about it. Please see below Net transfer Spending over the next few years in comparison to the closest competitors Manchester United and Chelsea:
07/08 -£24.8M (profit)
08/09  £14.4M
09/10 -£31.4M (profit)
10/11  £12.4M
11/12 -£37M (profit)

Man U
07/08  £52.0M
08/09  £33.2M
09/10 -£67.8M (Ronaldo's freak transfer of £80M)
10/11  £9.8M
11/12  £40.3M


07/08  £14.0M

08/09  - £11.9M (profit)

09/10  £21.7M

10/11  £96.8M

11/12  £41.9M

A lot of profit there for sure, but is the team good enough? Well, no, and everyone knows this, but in Arséne we trust. And you know what, so we should, because let's be honest and clear about this, for a team to have done that well and stay competitive is a massive feat. One may go as far as say that they have over-performed, well and above their capabilities. Similarly to Everton, a lot of credit has to be given to the manager to ahve done as well as they did with the resources they have. But, and this is the clincher, like a an elastic band, you can stretch and stretch and if you are careful and really good stretch some more, but eventually it will invariably break.

Arsenal's tether has broken. In the most spectacular fashion yesterday.

So, when Fabregas said he wanted to leave last year, Wenger managed to persuade him to stay, and to be fair Arsenal did ok, but the squad was just not good enough to cope with  four competitions. When this Summer come around everyone knew that Fabregas would go, it was a case of waiting for Barcelona to come in with an offer, clearly with their new chairman they were less inclined to pay £40M plus. So why wasn't Favregas swayed this time around? And why did Nasri suddenly decided to move? And Clichy? Why didn't Arsene persuade his players to stay? Couldn't Arsenal do the same as United and Ferguson did with Rooney financially? Or wouldn't? I think the net transfer spending tells you that Arsenal have not spent big on any players, but why wouldn't they spend to keep their best players?

Well, an interesting development this week, a blog suggested that it had information from a source inside the club that the club's board and the manager were at loggerheads over the wage structure. Which was promptly denied by an email from the club.

The fact remains, why doesn't Arsenal spend money on players? Is the official line of developing, and not going crazy and get over-priced players the reality? Or just part of the story? Even if that were true why are players wanting to leave? Worse still, why can't they be persuaded to stay? Suddenly wages seem to start making a whole lot of sense. Arsenal can and could afford the fee for Mata, yet he goes to Chelsea, where he's wasted not time showing how good he is and will be. So why? Chelsea are more likely to win the title yes, but Arsenal were after him for weeks and much before Chelsea showed any interest, and yet as soon as you heard that they were interested he had signed for them already. Was he simply offered a better contract from the off?

Now you can say all you want about player power and the obscene amounts they get paid, but at the end of the day, this is the game, it comes down to whether you want to play it or not. You want the best players you have to pay for them, either in fees or wages or both. Sometimes you don't have to spend insane amounts but sometimes you have to invest to get a return. It seems that for years Arsene Wenger has refused to play the game, and I always thought that the man has a philosophy and a degree in Economy he knows what he is doing. But I now start to wonder if everything has gone exactly as he wanted over the last few years. I start to wonder how much of this "philosophy" is his or the boards. He knows football he knows he needs players, better than anyone, I think he has hidden the fact that he as been constrained all these years.

In my recent research another fact emerges, and the timing of it is clear. I said and I thought that the stadium was a massive investment, which it is, and that was seven years ago, but clearly the club is making money, so what has happened since 2007? Any Arsenal supporter will tell you, David Dein has left the club. He seems to be somewhat of a controversial figure in football but it is undeniable that he has been a key man in shaping both Arsenal and English football, from the creation of the Premier League, to bringing Wenger to Arsenal, creating a self-sustained modern club with a new and expensive stadium. More fundamentally though seems to be his instrumental role is securing big name players for the club, something that has been sorely lacking for years now.

I have also found out that one of the main reasons for Henry's departure was David Dein's leaving the club. This was something I had not realised at the time, and I remember thinking at the time that he would never leave, not Thierry Henry and being completely dumbfounded and in disbelief when he did leave. apparently other players expressed their concern and going to the extremes of saying that the when he take away the foundations of a building it will eventually topple.

Has Dein's departure been the start of the erosion of the club's fundamental blocks? Did Arsene lose his main ally that day? The reason for his leaving are also both interesting and mysterious. Irreconcilable differences with the board, a strange reason for someone that had been so influential. Apparently he wanted Usmanov to invest in the club thereby allowing the club the necessary revenue to be able to invest the team and compete with the other big-spenders, after all the club was self-sufficient it was now time for some serious spending in the football players. He cannot fault his logic, but his was not what the board wanted, no, Arsenal could not become Chelsea, in essence, owned by a foreign investor. And so four years later, instead of Usmanov who had Dein and wanted to invest heavily in the club, the club's main shareholders sold the bulk of the club to another foreign owner, the American Kroenke who somehow managed to have the board on his side and convinced them he was the man for the job not Usmanov. The reason for this is unclear. Kroenke has business nous and is very rich, but Usmanov is one of the richest man on the planet, so why? In a further twist, by buying so many of Arsenal's shares, 66.1% he had to make an hostile bid for the remaining shares of 30% but Usmanov refused to sell, as he was caught completely in the dark by Kroenke's move and felt betrayed and that the board had conspired against him. I think that particular saga is not over and Usmanov is not a man to be taken lightly, he has been outmaneuvered and he last some influence, but he still owns 30% of the club.

Among the boardroom wars, poor Arsene Wenger has had to make do, and reportedly, wanted a bigger wage structure to both attract and keep the best players. He has not been allowed to do so but he has stoically kept positive and has tried to minimise the situation and has not blamed the board, but it became clear yesterday how bad things have got.

Wenger though, I think has to take some responsibility as well, for producing teams incapable of defending, being poor without the ball and dealing with set pieces. Mentally as well, he keeps talking how good the team is, because he knows how important it is, but surely he knows that they are in fact quiet weak and that's why he keeps talking about it, and I am surprised no one in the press has picked up on this.

There were key moment's in Arsenal's mental self-destruction: Eduardo's injury affected the team so badly that for at least two years they were shell-shocked and Gallas agony on the pitch who was supposed to be the captain was a symptom of the team's mental weakness. Even before that, with the great team of Invincibles, the following season, after they lost convincingly 4-2 to Manchester United they could not pick themselves up. Then last season, a make or break for Arsenal, and key for the continuance of Fabregas, the team mounted a spirited fightback since January and were in contention in four fronts, but the hapless Koscielny makes a mistake in the League Cup final that both he and the team failed to recover from, it was as if the bottom had fell out, and systematically they lost their chance in all competitions, a malaise that has transferred over to this year.

In summary, a host of reasons and protagonists, silent and otherwise, and maybe, a result yesterday that needed to happen. Maybe, just maybe, the club, the board, the manager and the players wake up in time to turn things around. We wait and see. Maybe Usmanov will decide that enough is enough and will buy out Kroenke and bring David Dein back. Or maybe the board will sack Arsene Wenger. Or Wenger will sign a handful of players but without addressing the deep-lying problems Arsenal will never recover in time to compete with the likes of United, City and Chelsea, and perhaps even Liverpool.

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