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.