Fisking tends to be argumentative in nature, but it can also help read between the lines. It’s for the latter reason I think it’s worthwhile to look at the AST’s statement on Wenger in full, first because Arsenal fans should ideally be best positioned to make statements on the direction their club should take so we can get a good sense of what’s going on by reading their opinion, and second because the situation at the club is both unique and intractable.

Unique because very few clubs in England could claim a divine right to the winning of trophies, and intractable because the board under Stan Kroenke would prefer to be fiscally responsible than spend money willy-nilly in the hopes of bringing Arsenal back to glory. Below, the AST’s statement on Wenger in italics, followed by my own comments.

At the meeting today the board must review its approach to much more than just the position of Arsene Wenger.

The board needs to consider recruiting new members with exposure to the football world who can support and challenge Wenger to be a better manager.

It’s wrong to focus on just him at the moment. Every single non-executive director of the club is over 70 years old and it is time for some fresh blood.

It’s certainly true that the make-up of the board is decidedly ancient. In addition to Peter Hill-Wood, it includes a Conservative member of the House of Lords (Philip Harris), and Eton Old Boy and former banking executive (Chips Keswick), and someone who has worked in one way or another with Arsenal since 1946 (Ken Friar).

They have all been with the club throughout the Wenger revolution, and before that in the George Graham years and even before that. They know what Arsenal once was, and what it has become.

However, they were also on watch to see foreign investors with practically limited capital arrive and radically transform the sport. It’s not clear whether they feel fundamentally challenged by the new financial world order, or simply think it has temporarily unsettled things.

Having seen what Wenger has accomplished with the club since 1996, it’s understandable they’d want to keep a leader who is amenable to the singular mission to keep the club profitable. It’s unlikely they would find a person who would not put constant pressure on them to release funds to compete. They may also believe Financial Fair Play strictures may further put the club in pole position to take advantage is several years time.

The honest thing to write here is that Arsenal supporters simply don’t know. But the AST’s assertion that “new blood” is the answer is not convincing by itself. What has the board specifically not done?

We would call for Stan Kroenke to meet with Alisher Usmanov to work out how to make it stronger.

Our position is that we review the manager at the end of the season.

Usmanov has positioned himself as a figure in the Abramovich mold, one who is willing to spend what it takes for the club to win, even if at great personal cost. The AST is carefully giving the nod in his direction as a possible ally in moving Kroenke to reconsider the club’s current operational ethos.

The board must ask hard questions about itself and not just the manager. AST members are not happy with the current situation.

We think the club needs to review how they scout, recruit and pay players as the current approach is creating a depreciation in competitiveness.

I’m not sure there are any obvious things Arsenal could be doing in these areas that they’re not already, but it’s clear there have been some poor decisions in player acquisitions in recent years. Whether this is the direct result of the departure of David Dein in 2007 is for an avid Arsenal fan to debate and decide.

The major problem at Arsenal is the arrogance of the board in not making its policy in each of these areas crystal clear. There have been no groundbreaking ceremonies on new youth facilities and little noise surrounding the club’s approach to scouting and recruiting. If Arsenal are indeed banking on a policy directed more toward player development and advanced scouting to succeed, they need to make this clear to their supporters.

It is time for Kroenke to show to Arsenal fans some of his vision, to end his silence and to engage properly with them.

We would also like the board to be more accountable for the transfer budget available to the manager and make sure it is spent on players and not just used as profit.

This last statement to me is a major mistake on AST’s part. It smacks of fan naivete that believes clubs should just spend more on players to win. A far better approach would have been to ask the board to reinvest monies earned into the club (of which transfers are a part), rather than pay them out to stakeholders.

As for the Kroenke question, Arsenal could learn a lot from Manchester City’s media strategy, in which the club is forthright on plans to offset current financial losses with a pro-development approach in future. A little communication does go a long way, and that means far more than Ivan Gazidis pissing in the wind in front of an assembled hoard of angry fans.

Comments (7)

  1. Excellent analysis, I think what happens to arsenal in the next 5-10 years will tell us more about where the game is going than probably any other team in England in terms of FFP and how to try and be successful in competition with teams who have bottomless pits of cash.

    Also I think you mean “practically unlimited” not limited.

  2. Man, I wish Leaf fans had an organization like this to speak for them.

  3. Statements like these by the AST are good, but Gooners have to hit the board where it hurts: its wallet. More empty seats and less revenue should generate some type of reaction, and might instigate positive change.

    • Truegooner, I agree it would send a message but its just not a realistic approach unfortunately. People will always buy tickets, swag and apparel. We heard the same calls from NHL fans after the strike and fans showed up in numbers. Sad that big money organizations cant be held accountable…

      • I think only smaller clubs are accountable to their fans. Protest marches against unpopular managers have proven to result in firings. Liverpool’s sacking of Roy Hodgson comes to mind.
        On the other hand, all that Green and Gold nonsense at Man Utd hasn’t really changed how they do business. They bought Van Persie and Kagawa and they can still afford to have numerous expensive, talented players rotting on their bench. Berbatov for season after season, and now Nani.

        What do/did Utd supporters have to complain about? I would love for the Gunners to be as stingy as Utd.

  4. Lately these supporters trusts remind me of book: death of a salesman. But more pointedly I think you could call it “death of a minority shareholder”.

    There seems to be some sort of romantic and colloquial view of what their rights are or how much power they have. Unfortunately – and not saying this is morally correct or good for the game – it’s a lot of sizzle and very little steak. Majority owner doesn’t want to spend or be involved in the public eye and that will be that.

    I’d be careful with what they expect from Wenger as well. He is doing ok with the budget that he has to work with. Reminds me of liverpool where the gap between the results the fans expected and the results the budget realistically allowed for just kept growing.

  5. An excellent analysis on the state of the board. AST’s press release was finally a ray of sunshine on what us supporters expect of our club and the board that runs it. I still think more protests are needed, like the Black Scarf Movement and She Wore Yellow. The more people voice their concerns, not just in the wallet but in the media, the board will have to listen. I have never been a fan of Kroenke and here’s hoping Usmanov finally makes a push to become majority shareholder. At least Usmanov has some ideas of where the club needs to be not just making money.

    As for this additional 70m GBP available for Wenger to use in the summer: this comes out each and every year when the club is pushing for season ticket holders to renew. And in the end of August 2013, Wenger will not have ventured into the transfer market. And if he does, it’ll be a rash transfer to fill a hole he should have filled two seasons ago.

    These players need to go in the summer: Santos, Arshavin, Bendtner, Chamakh, Squillaci, Park
    1. They haven’t performed to the standard of Arsenal since being signed
    2. They are being overpaid adding to an ever increasing wage bill. Wenger believes in paying a player on a high weekly salary first then let them prove themselves. Shouldn’t it be the other way?
    Per week: Arshavin 78k, Bendtner 50k, Chamakh 60k, Park 50k, Fabianski 50k, Campbell 60k, Santos 60k, Squillaci 50k

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