Another meandering musing from Mr. Wade, but hopefully its worth reading. If not, there are some songs to take the edge off…
In my last column, I speculated that things might get ugly after a few poor results. Well one game down and the situation has collided with a few branches of everyone’s favourite tree and is still in free-fall.
With Arsenal’s prospects and manager’s popularity already precariously balanced, the club crashed to their worst opening day result in two decades, despite leading after six minutes. The smallest squad of senior pros in the Premier League was further trimmed by freak injuries and incompetent officiating – despite the attempts of Sky and the BBC to justify all his decisions, Anthony Taylor has been banished from the Premier League list. As a result the 7th most valuable club in the world is struggling to find enough fit players to fill its match allocation. This on the back of being rejected by an apparently nailed on and needed signing, in favour of a mid-table German side with a small stadium, few fans, a total 15 years in the top flight, one major trophy and lack of European football. Meanwhile Spurs have been spending all their Bale money in advance with a raft of excellent signings, several of whom fit our needs.
Now even the Arsenal Supporters Trust have spoken out against the manager.
It was as if someone had foolishly asked, “what’s the worst that can happen?”. Which is not far off a summary of Arsenal’s transfer dealings. Unwanted International squad players given away for free, and nothing coming in. At best, it has been a shameful misuse of resources.
All in all, this state affairs has had two effects, beyond what has been seen on the pitch and the frustration in the stands.
A massive amount of introspection from the club’s less reactionary supporters. And a barrage assault from almost every external source you can think of.
There is plenty for the fans to feel aggrieved about, as it increasingly appears that something is rotten in the state of N5. While an ever increasing vocal minority are joining in with the slings and arrows, the rest of us are just worried, and trying to work out what’s going on.
We all know about Arsene Wenger’s perceived (probably justifiably) obsession with quality and value, and noises from in and around the club seem to agree that it his parsimony, hesitancy and narrow list of criteria that has hamstrung the club’s transfer dealings.
While this may be a case of a smear campaign preparing the ground for eventually removing the Frenchman, we can only assume it is also accurate.
So if indeed our lack of consolidation and investment is down to the club’s best paid employee, why has no-one given him a kick up the arse?
on here and elsewhere have speculated about the impact of Arsenal’s increasingly outmoded management structure. As opposed to having a clear chain of command leading to the Sporting Director, CEO and Board, it seems Arsene has for years been given a free reign (not to mention far too many responsibilities), and our apparently disinterested absentee landlord is too pre-occupied or ignorant to address this.
It has been my feeling for some time that long-term strategy and short-term goals cannot sit comfortably in the same chair at an organisation of any size. It’s a small club approach. The artistic director of The National Theatre doesn’t direct all the shows, train all the actors and hire all the crew.
Recent weeks have also cemented the view that the man coaching the team is not best placed to also be the only one who can move things along on the football side.
As ner193 posted in the comments section;
Who is closing the deals at Arsenal? How can a business that prides itself on running so well on a sound financial footing not realise the need for someone to take resposibility for player acquisition?
Realistically, though, the club’s structure on a sporting level cannot radically alter while Wenger is still at the club. To do so would essentially be an undermining of his authority, and would be seen as a pretty public slap in the face. That said, unless Arsene pulls a rabbit or two out of a hat in the next fortnight, it’s hard to see him being here next year.
As a manager he has done amazingly well at making silk purses out of sow’s ears, and has squeezed close the maximum (bar a few obvious tactical blind spots!) out of his squads in recent seasons. He also has an extremely unusual complementary knowledge of wider economic and sporting issues, but he is looking increasingly out of touch with what bridges that gap in the football world. This is probably largely due to both a lack of effective internal support and internal pressure. And at present, there doesn’t seem any great appetite at the club for this to change, and the lack of transparency seems to suit all parties.
This inevitably raises one question.
How far does this lack of cohesion within the club extend?
Quite apart from our own online and pub-based conversations, its seems others are asking the same questions, such as this damning missive in The Independent.
These concerns about the academy have been echoed by more than one ex-employee of the club, and one who I am in contact with has commented on the decline:
The academy has been “broken” for about 5 or 6 years. It’s only now that it starts to impact at the older age groups is it becoming more apparent.
Lots of good people have left Arsenal because of the problems. The best youth coach I have ever worked with is now the U15/16 coach at Brentford.
I’ve been saying that there is something wrong at the heart of the club for years – something fundamental needs changing, and not just the manager
The daily mail article also mentioned the rift between academy & 1st team, which is also a major contributing factor in the problems
Certainly the crops of home-grown kids seems to be on the wane, not helped by the worrying trend of youngsters turning down scholarships, like Jordan Brown going to West Ham. It is also pretty clear that as well as our first team recruitment policy, our youth production line seems to focus disproportionately on small ball-playing midfielders. This seeming institutional bias towards a very specific mould of player has the net result of all our best reserve and youth players trying to get a look in ahead of our best first team players, of who we already have too many to put out a balanced line up. And endemic tactical imbalance if you will, and a reason why we have no kids to blood in our most injury hit positions. Accordingly Thomas Eisfeld scored twice on Monday for the u21s.
No wonder Arsenal approached Dinamo Zagreb’s head of youth development to take over from Liam Brady. Dinamo’s record in recent years, in a range of positions, has been very impressive.
We all know how Gazidis has done a decent job of dragging the club’s commercial activity into the 21st century, but he still hasn’t managed to sort out the club’s PR with its own support. In business, a certain amount of meaningless corporate psycho-babble can be a good thing, but most football supporters are a different category. Whilst the shiny boxes may attract the men in suits, it’s still the vast majority below who cover the cost of most of the wages, and the club’s continued failure to engage with them on a level other than disdainful complacency and disinterest is appalling. Our beleaguered CEO at least tries to engage with supporters, despite not being able to speak their language or they his, but the arrogance of Hill-Wood, Wenger and our man in Missouri is astonishingly counter-productive.
Indeed, Stan’s continued silence not only suggests a lack of understanding and interest, but also as the man with final say on pretty much everything, is undermining the value of his asset. Which reinforces the view that not only does he not understand British football, but also that he may not be all that interested.
Against this back drop of emerging issues, questioning and angst, it seems as though those less enamoured with the club have been queuing around the block for the ideal moment, like some sort of iPhone launch of criticism. We have everyone to embittered (though now massively rich) ex board-members, club legends (and wannabe managers), ex-players, a host of ex-players for rival clubs and most of the print and screen media. While the criticism of inaction and tactical inflexibility are of course entirely deserved, the way in which tentative or formal approaches for prospective players has been dealt with is instructive.
Not content with such unarguable logic that Arsenal should have paid the extra £10m for Higuain AND bid for Suarez, there is now the assertion that any bid the club makes now is a ‘panic buy’. But that not bidding is a refusal to spend. And that not opening the bidding massively over the odds is cheap.
As Wenger said yesterday:
“You can’t reproach us on one side for not buying & yet on the other side when we try to buy to reproach us as well”
Given that all the players in question have been followed by the club for at least 18 months, with some being the subject of prior bids, it would be more accurate to say that the club has been given an increased sense of urgency. And unless you are Real Madrid or one of the oligarch/oil funded nouveau riche, buying players is seldom an act of spending more than you need for its own sake. Man Utd and Barcelona don’t usually turn the transfer market into an act of comparing penis size, so neither should Arsenal.
Of course this is not helped by the likes of John Henry, Rodgers, Pardew and others on the continent taking massively public umbrage at Arsenal daring to bid for their players. Joining the line to put the boot in, our old mate Pardew even lied about when the bid for Cabaye came in, picking an easy target to distract from his own teams woeful shortcomings. As for Liverpool’s “How dare they attempt to triple their transfer record so we can make a massive profit on a player with a clause in his contract”, pull the other one. Perhaps Liverpool were annoyed by Arsenal’s only offering the minimum to exceed the perceived release clause, as it essentially forced them to show their hand that their internal contract negotiations are at best deliberately vague, and at worst fundamentally dishonest.
But the key thing in both cases, as we have seen with teams in France that Wenger has tried to buy from, is that it has been the club receiving the bid that has leaked it to the press (and not entirely honestly). The question that no-one in the media feeding frenzy wants to ask is why. What’s their agenda? I would suggest that Arsenal fans out there using the specifics of these bids to criticise the club also ask the same question.
Surely the way to deal with bids that are ‘derisory’ and ‘unacceptable’ is to either laugh at them or simply not accept them. You know, as the actual words would suggest…
- Trying to smoke out other interest for an auction.
- Attempting to pressurise Arsenal into bidding more.
- Covering their own arse’s in advance – in case of failure or deciding to sell said player.
- Enjoying the opportunity to grind a personal axe.
Either way, the media and supporters are lapping it up, without asking the pertinent questions, and all are taking advantage of a chance to kick the club when it’s down, including a surprisingly large number of Arsenal Fans.
What to do? What to do, What to do? The outlook was decidedly blue….
Whether entirely representative or not (and to varying degrees pretty much), supporter discontent has been effectively expressed, and judging by press conferences and interviews, duly noted.
As Arsenal supporters, we are used to sitting and waiting, and after the very public angst of the last fortnight, this state is once again our fate. And the club are making the right noises, at least. While there will a small minority who will want the club to crash out of Europe and tumble down the league to show how much is wrong with their great club, most of us just want things to improve.
The club goes into tonight’s fixture limping all the way to Istanbul, with battered bodies, confidence and pride. At this stage, just staying in the tie until the second leg in the hope of reinforcements will be decent result, and one that the club needs, in order to attract players as much as anything else.
Contrary to a lot of what has been said, and some of the concerns outlined above, we haven’t yet reached the end of days. One has to hope that there is an internal attempt, at least from some parties of improve things. Personally I can’t understand how much abuse Gazidis gets. He was brought in to sort out the club commercially and make it better at communicating. While there is a long way to go, progress has been made on those fronts, so while not giving him a free pass, I’m reluctant to apportion blame in that direction.
Equally, as seems to be increasingly recognised among the supporters, it isn’t the players fault. This current lot work as hard as any we’ve had in the last five years, and most seem to have a fairly genuine emotional affinity to the club. They have been somewhat left out to dry by the club in terms of the amount of pressure they are playing under and the lack of quality to support them, and as such they still deserve our full backing.
At the moment, until new faces arrive, they are the only ones that actually impact on the results that, lest we forget, this business is about. As such, whilst communicating our dissatisfaction at the board and the management, the fanbase should support the team to the hilt. If the recent trend of turning on the team or each other continues among Arsenal supporters, it’s going to be a long miserable season.
And let’s not listen too much to the tabloids or Sky or BBC journalists. They are writing because they are paid to, and rewarded for whatever makes the biggest splash. Likewise with those gasping for the oxygen of instant publicity on twitter or in interviews. And remember that managers at other teams and ex-pros of other clubs rarely say anything for the good of Arsenal.
Victoria Concordia Crescit might be a bit optimistic at this stage. But for two hours on matchday, its all we’ve got. As fans, let’s stick together, starting tonight.
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