“I think the time when we have to continue to ask them (Arsenal supporters) for patience is coming to an end and I think we will be able to deliver the kind of success they want on a consistent basis going forward as one of the leading clubs in Europe.” Ivan Gazidis.
About this time every season, and again, usually in July, our esteemed old Etonian Chairman, has a chat with his newspaper of choice, the Daily Star (how incongruous is that?) about the size of the war chest available to the manager. The timing is deliberate, PHW is conscious that the club’s annual statement will have just been released and the January transfer window will be open in 11 weeks. The message is the same at every juncture; Arsene Wenger has buckets of cash to spend and if he chooses not to do so, it’s his call.
Yesterday evening, the board’s Communications Director, some may call him the CEO, Ivan Gazidis, in a very detailed and interesting interview, called the manager “extraordinarily brave”. According to Ivan, AW is strong enough to resist the temptation to blow buckets of the cash that PHW maintains is constantly available and instead, is not afraid to see the value of young players as a real alternative to spending £20 million plus on a proven asset. This is broadly true, all great lies contain a grain of truth; it’s great to see Gibbs and Wilshere wear the shirt, but we all know that to genuinely compete in today’s football, we need more than that.
This is a classic ploy used by corporate bodies; the Chairman goes on the record with a bold statement and then the CEO or FD provides a more detailed analysis which, although it doesn’t actually contradict the Chairman, it just sheds more light on the reality of the situation and adds greater texture and context. It’s clever, whatever you think of the AFC board, they didn’t get there by being at the back of the queue when the grey matter was dished out, perhaps with the exception of PHW… My firm contention is that the financial locks are placed on the manager by the board and that part of the deal that allows Mr Wenger such massive power within the club is to swallow this and keep schtum. Actually, if Arsene Wenger didn’t exist, our board would pay scientists to try and invent him.
This morning Arsenal was linked to five strikers, most of who would be in the £25 to £30 million bracket. How many of us really think that any of these quoted players will be bought? Personally, I don’t, the books were balanced nicely during the summer, when Arsenal sold two players for £39 million and brought in three players for £39 million. I like the players that have been brought into the squad, Cazorla looks world class, Podolski is a proven goal scorer of genuine quality and Giroud has the look of a very good centre forward. But let’s not fall for Chairman Hill Wood’s flannel; there is no way that the totality of the £35 million profit will be made available to Mr Wenger, that’s pure spin, you know it, I know it.
Most supporters focus on the purchasing side of a transfer policy, that’s understandable, but I think Arsenal supporters would be wise to reconcile themselves to the club being equally active in the selling side also. The balance used to be spot on, Vieira, Henry, Ljunberg all sold on or after their sell by date, others who weren’t going to make it at Arsenal (Sidwell, Hughes etc…), sold for small amounts and given a chance of a career elsewhere. This was right for the club and right for the players.
With the exception of Real Madrid and Barcelona, every club sells up the food chain; expect that to happen again, but to genuinely move up the food chain, to really compete, PHW’s flannel needs to become fact.
By Ian Byrne