Archive for the ‘Arsenal’ Category
Posted by Devang Desai under Arsenal, Counter Attack Podcast, Wigan on Mar 10, 2014
Posted by Devang Desai under AC Milan, Arsenal, Atlético Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Counter Attack Podcast, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Uefa Champions League on Feb 20, 2014
Devang Desai, Richard Whittall and James Bigg sit down to talk about this week’s Champions League action, including red card misery for a pair of Premier League clubs, PSG’s chances of winning it all and Adel Taarabt’s rejuvenation.
Football Finance: Arsenal supporters groups’ beef with AWOL owner Stan Kroenke reveals a fundamental antagonism
Posted by Richard Whittall under Arsenal, Football Finance on Oct 16, 2013
On Tuesday, two days ahead of tomorrow’s AGM, the Guardian’s Owen Gibson ran a story on the letter four Arsenal supporters groups wrote to majority Arsenal Holdings PLC shareholder (and effective team owner), American Stan Kroenke. Gibson wrote:
The Arsenal Independent Supporters Association, the Arsenal Supporters Trust, the Black Scarf Movement and REDaction wrote a joint letter to Kroenke last month reiterating their belief that it was important to have a dialogue with the owner. Given the lack of response, a question has been tabled on the matter at the AGM.
In the formal offer document Kroenke made a firm commitment to meet fans and his failure to do so has prompted some to consider reporting him to the takeover panel for reneging on his commitment. “Mr Kroenke has made it a priority to meet with supporters and fan groups in formal and informal settings. He recognises that fans are at the heart of the club. Their opinions and involvement are important to him,” said the clause, before his April 2011 takeover.
The full letter from the Arsenal supporters groups can be read here.
The Guardian and the Arsenal supporters groups are implying that Kroenke’s failure to meet with them over the last two years violates the spirit of the formal offer document Kroenke issued in May 2011, which was the basis for the decision of the remaining shareholders at the time to sell their stake to the American businessman. Therefore they believe they have a case to take Kroenke’s purchase to the takeover panel.
Before we begin, a reminder: I AM NOT A LAYWER. As ever though, some context is needed.
First, Kroenke’s commitment to meet with supporters groups was contained within a fairly boilerplate biographical section titled “Information Relating to Mr Kroene and KSE” (the whole letter can be read here [PDF]). Here is the relevant paragraph:
Mr Kroenke has made it a priority to meet with supporters and fan groups in formal and informal settings. He recognises that fans are at the heart of the Club. Their opinions and involvement are important to him. Mr Kroenke fully expects himself, the Arsenal Directors and Club executives to continue to engage with supporters for the long-term good of the Club.
That Kroenke has failed to meet with Arsenal supporters groups is unfortunate, and he is obliged to do so based on his own commitment to the club. However, at the same time both chief executive Ivan Gazidis and the Arsenal board have met with various fan groups, in formal and informal settings.
Yet there is also an interesting irony in supporters groups going down this “bad faith” path.
That’s because in Kroenke’s original takevoer offer, there is a section preceding Mr. Kroenke’s biography, one entitled ‘Intentions for the club, management and employees’. I will reprint a couple of key points here:
Mr Kroenke and KSE have confirmed to the Board of Arsenal that:
• it is [Stan Kroenke's company's] current intention that, if the Offer becomes or is declared unconditional, they will continue to support and adhere to the self-sustaining business model hitherto pursued by the Board of Arsenal;
• it is their current intention that, if the Offer becomes or is declared unconditional, existing
employment rights of the executive management team and the employees of Arsenal will be fully
(Explanation for the language—in any company takeover, an offer becomes unconditional once the shareholders accept it).
So Kroenke essentially included a promise to keep the “self-sustaining business model” maintained by the existing board. This is echoed in a later section titled Background to and reasons for the offer, which states that “Mr Kroenke believes that the self-sustaining model which is currently followed is the most effective way to ensure the longevity of Arsenal, whilst maintaining its unique history and traditions.”
Why does this matter? For one, there is a case to be made that the demands from some supporters groups for Arsenal to spend more on players would violate the spirit of Kroenke’s takeover offer.
Let’s look to a letter that one supporters group, the Arsenal Supporters Trust, wrote to Ivan Gazidis back in August of this year ahead of the transfer window. The AST demanded, among other things, that “the club’s entire focus must be on using the remaining days of the transfer window to strengthen the team significantly.” Another Arsenal fan group, the Black Scarf Movement, wrote a letter to Gazidis which included, “Make no mistake, if there is not significant improvement in our playing squad over the next couple of weeks, the rapidly growing anger in the stands will become difficult to overturn.”
This is not the first time a supporters group has called into question whether money kept in reserve was being made available for spending in the transfer market. In February 2012, the AST asked Arsenal representatives, “”Did [Arsene Wenger] have the option to use all or some of these cash reserves in summer 2011 and January 2012? Or are resources being held back as a contingency for failure to qualify for the Champions League?”
While there are compelling arguments from very smart people that Arsenal has been stingy relative to means in the transfer market, the fact is Kroenke has reasonably fulfilled his primary commitment to Arsenal in the original offer document by maintaining a self-sustaining financial model toward “the long-term good of the club.” Had Kroenke met some fans’ wishes and allowed for a massive transfer spending spree in the hopes of short term gain and failed to achieve success (as is reasonable to expect for even the biggest spending clubs, see Man City), he would have arguably violated the terms of his offer.
This example underlines that supporters groups don’t really want Kroenke to fulfill his promises and be a good steward for the club. Because, by the standards of his mandatory offer, he arguably already is. What they want is fundamental control over how their club is run. As long as the current private ownership model in the Premier League exists however, they will never get that, even with symbolic minority shareholder initiatives like Fanshare.
This isn’t about good owners versus bad owners, it’s about public versus private ownership of teams. It’s a fundamental antagonism. Everything that appears to bridge the two sides—whether it be a Gazidis Q&A or Kroenke finally deciding to drop by the AST—is, without conceding actual power, symbolic. As long as the issues of supporters groups primarily revolve around anger over ephemera like lack of trophies or the spending by the manager, and not around the fundamental issue of democratic fan ownership of clubs and a real willingness to use extreme measures like organized boycotts, no amount of meetings with Stan are going to do a thing.
The Story So Far – August 20th The media on Wenger: no longer “SPEND SPEND SPEND!” but “HIRE A TECHNICAL DIRECTOR!”
Posted by Richard Whittall under Arsenal, Arsene Wenger, The Story So Far, Transfers on Aug 20, 2013
Now I’m going to link to a Daily Mail article to kick things off this morning, so I will warn you in advance, it contains a pair of sentences that may be among the more cringe-worthy you’ll read either today, tomorrow, or the day after that. So I will post it here first to get it out of the way. Ready? Good. Here goes:
His scouting team, headed by Steve Rowley, are asked to identify players with three distinctive characteristics: pace, power and football Intelligence.
If only they had added a fourth — the mentality of champions — they really would be in business.
That out of the way, here’s the link. For all its sudden lurches into talk radio pablum, it does paint a very different picture of Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger than we’ve been used to from the critical British press.
In the old days (last year and perhaps the couple of years before that), the going perception of Wenger was that of an old school European economist, a powerful technocrat who performed a little summertime Punch and Judy show to ward off anxious fans but who in reality was loath to spend big money in the transfer market to compete.
This view has been augmented somewhat, and it’s easy to see why. For one, according to many pundits Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis practically fired a pistol in the air at the start of the transfer window when he relayed that “Arsene is not scared to spend money, but he has to believe they are top-class players who will add to the squad. Can I guarantee he will spend all of the money available to him? That depends on the talent.” Obviously Gazidis would not say this without the approval of Wenger, so it raises the obvious question: why, therefore, since June 11th has Arsenal failed to pick up any ‘top-class players’?
That had led to a growing understanding that Wenger does, in fact, want to spend money, but has been failed by an outdated transfer market strategy that ruined several potentially valuable deals for the club. And while this is all based on very limited information, and while this particular Mail article plays fast and loose with some of the facts (particularly over Oxlade-Chamberlain’s playing time), the lack of a coherent transfer strategy seems the most plausible explanation for the club’s failure to match its public ambition in the transfer market. If you don’t buy that, I suggest you cozy up and read Swiss Ramble’s economic assessment on Arsenal from the other day:
If there is a modern, coherent transfer structure in place at Arsenal, then it seems remarkably well hidden. There may well be a great deal of activity behind the scenes, but the results speak for themselves.
So the next time you want to print out an angry sign to bring to the Emirates, you might consider printing “Hire a technical director to assist you in acquiring your transfer targets!” on a piece of paper three times in bright, bold red letters.
Arseblog’s great response to Ashton’s Daily Mail piece linked above [Arseblog].
John Brewin twists the knife a bit [ESPNFC].
The Premier League opening weekend featured the fewest number of England-eligible players in league history, writes Louise Taylor [the Guardian].
Alan Pardew calls Arsenal bid for Yohan Cayabe ‘derisory’ [the Telegraph].
Michael Cox on Pellegrini’s love of touchline huggers at City [the Guardian].
Scott Parker is Fulham. [Twitter].
Posted by James Horncastle under Arsenal, Transfers on Aug 02, 2013
Reading the transcript of one of Arsene Wenger’s press conferences in Japan last week, you could be forgiven for thinking at least for a brief moment that maybe this was a missing chapter from Haruki Murakami’s What I talk about when I talk about running.
Exploring the theme of motivation and what it means to him, he told an anecdote about jogging in Saitama earlier that day and how he had got lost. “I was motivated to come back to the hotel,” Wenger said, “but I couldn’t find my way. So, I was highly motivated and slowly I found my way back.”
The image of the Arsenal manager stood on a street corner somewhere, a puzzled look on his face as he tries to get his bearings is a mildly amusing one. There’s a temptation, however, to see it as a metaphor for something else. Like Arsenal’s transfer strategy perhaps.
At various points over the summer they have seemed to be on the right path. The Gunners were supposedly in the running for a number of players of the calibre that they require. Along the way, however, they appear to have become a little disorientated and frustrated by things.
Just when Arsenal thought they were home and dry with a signing, they have discovered that they’ve either been misguided or that the lay of the land has suddenly changed and an obstacle is blocking their way.
Whether Arsenal, like Wenger on his actual jog around Saitama, are motivated highly enough to overcome the issues that they’re encountering while navigating the transfer market this summer remains to be seen.
This isn’t to say that they haven’t tried to break from what became the norm after Arsenal built the Emirates. They have been prepared to go beyond the £17.6m they paid for Jose Antonio Reyes a decade ago, which is still a club record transfer.
However, while Arsenal appear willing and able to spend more, they don’t seem prepared to go much beyond their valuation of a player. So, for instance, when Real Madrid raised Gonzalo Higuain’s price from £24m to £32m, you get the impression that they felt it just wasn’t on.
Sometimes, however, if you believe that a player is the “right man” for your team, the piece that might complete the puzzle, then compromising on your principles – which doesn’t mean abandoning them – can be justifiable.
Take Bayern Munich, for instance, a club to whom Arsenal are often compared for their shared values predicated on a responsible financial model. A year ago they were well aware that they were paying over the odds for the Athletic Bilbao player Javi Martinez.
They were prepared to do so, however, because, heck, they could afford to and their team was missing a player with Martinez’s attributes. Bayern reasoned that paying more might cost less in the end if it meant completing or contributing to the completion of the puzzle.
“Martinez is of course not worth [€40m],” Uli Hoeness fronted up, “but that’s the sum we had to pay due to his contractual release clause. His normal worth is perhaps €20m, €25m. We decided we will take part in this insanity, for once.”
Arsenal supporters wish that their coach and board would do the same every now and again. CEO Ivan Gazidis has said: “We should be able to compete at a level of a club such as Bayern Munich, I’m not saying we are there by any means, we have a way to go before we can put ourselves on that level.”
But we do know from what the club bid for Liverpool striker Luis Suarez that, had they wanted to, they could have comfortably matched what Napoli spent on Higuain. It would have meant spending more than anticipated, considerably more, but at least they’d have a top class striker.
He was in their grasp. “We didn’t think there was a chance of getting Higuain,” Napoli coach Rafa Benitez admitted, “because he’d spoken a lot with Arsenal.” But get him they did, acknowledging, like Bayern, that to do so they had to go an extra mile or two, or three.
Arsenal instead gave up the chase when the finishing line was in sight, which is a questionable decision, perhaps, when you consider that the probability of getting a deal done for Higuain was higher than it is now for Suarez.
“What are they smoking over at the Emirates?” asked Liverpool owner John W Henry. It’s a valid question. Another one might be: was this Arsenal’s attempt at a ‘Martinez transfer’? In short, no.
Because if, hypothetically speaking, a bid worth £40m plus £1 was actually enough to active a sale clause, which is a misinterpretation according to Liverpool, then that figure, particularly, for a player like Suarez in this market, even taking into account all his personal baggage, probably represents decent value. By paying it, Arsenal would break their transfer record and by some distance, but few would argue that they’d paid over the odds.
Instead, it seems, offering £40m plus £1 only compels Liverpool to inform the player that they have received a bid for him, which leaves Arsenal in a difficult spot.
For all the posturing towards the end of last season by Gazidis who insisted Wenger “is not scared to spend money,” little has been done to change that perception. With just over a fortnight to go until the beginning of the Premier League season and less than a month until the transfer window closes, their only new recruit is Yaya Sanogo, the France Under-21 striker, who arrived on a free from Ligue 2 side Auxerre.
Understandably Arsenal supporters are growing anxious. By this time last year, they’d signed Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud and weren’t far away from announcing a deal for Santi Cazorla. Wenger’s latest comments have offered little reassurance that the situation is about to change either.
In Saitama he expressed his pride at how “Arsenal have fought against the policy of only buying stars.” Then in a Google Hangout on Thursday he suggested that, while “we are still working on improving our squad.” Arsenal have a basis of young players who “have a special bond and are on the way up,” indicating that he’s confident with what he’s got, which, is perhaps reasonable on the evidence of how the team performed in the final third of last season.
But after all the indications that this summer would be different, so far it has been most underwhelming. At the Emirates Cup this weekend, Arsenal supporters will get to see Higuain, a timely reminder for them and the club of what could have been.
Posted by Ethan Dean-Richards under Arsenal, Arsene Wenger on Jun 07, 2013
When the best you can do to create some hype around yourself is use Wayne Rooney as a hypothetical example of who you could sign if you really wanted to, you might not actually be in a great footballing situation. I’m talking about Arsenal. Sorry in advance. (Not really sorry.)
I always find the he trick with bigging-up your buying power is not to say you could do something, which tells everyone that it’s a potential world which might never exist, but to say that you will do something. Use strong, positive signals, not ‘maybe we’ll sign a pale English bloke. We’ll see…’ Because no matter how much you wink, that possibility isn’t going to turn anyone on—you may simply appear unhinged. Also, if you really want to impress everyone, don’t say that you might sign someone who spent last season looking a bit bloated. There is nothing romantic about a bloated striker. Or a bloated anything, in my opinion.
Which brings me to the thing about Arsenal and their potential new money (announced by the co-owner this week); they still can’t really compete, can they. Ivan Gazidis declared that Arsenal are ready to “compete with any club in the world,” but he has done a mistake. Someone tell him, quick!
It’s a rubbish world where one of the only properly profitable clubs can’t produce as much cash for players as their nouveau riche rivals, but can we all admit now that it is the world that we currently exist in? (my editor Richard Whittall aside, he told me he is an alien). You can’t just make up a different world where Arsenal are competing with Chelsea and Manchester City for big name players, which appears to have been happening this week. It’s not allowed.
Read the rest of this entry »
By Graham Ruthven
After the loss of Robin Van Persie last summer, this season was supposed to be the year Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere finally came to the fore as Arsenal’s marquee stars. But while one looks likely to finish as the Gunner’s top scorer, the other finds himself the subject of a fiercely debated question: are Arsenal better without Wilshere? Or more specifically, are they better with Tomáš Rosický?
The purest comparison between the two sees Arsenal’s win percentage with Wilshere at 53 per cent, and at 56 per cent with Rosický. Of course, there are a number of variables that need to be accounted for. Wilshere tends to be Wenger’s preferred option against higher standard of opposition, where it is naturally more difficult to impose on the game.
But with the Gunners currently on an eight-game unbeaten run which has included clashes with Manchester United and Everton of which Rosický started five and Wilshere two (Santi Cazorla was deployed in the central attacking midfield position against Swansea), there is a case to be made that Rosický is better suited to the team Wilshere was once said to be made for.
The signing of Mikel Arteta from Everton two years ago means Arsenal need Wilshere, arguably their most technically gifted player, to be an attacking midfielder rather than the pivot in the centre of the field.
Wilshere has yet to show he can translate the energy and power he possesses in central midfield into a more advanced position. Until he can, Rosický appears to be the better option.
If Wenger wants to stick with his somewhat rigid 4-2-3-1 formation with Arteta and Aaron Ramsey as the central midfield platform, there appears to be little space for Wilshere.
Wilshere’s reputation as a box-to-box midfielder has also been called into question this season, with his defensive weaknesses exposed by the loss of Alex Song as a midfield partner.
Instead, Rosický appears to be better equipped and more at ease with the attacking midfield role Wenger needs him to fulfill. Somewhat surprisingly, Rosický even holds his own from a defensive perspective, recovering the ball 14 times against both Man Utd and QPR.
His sly movement and creative thinking has defined much of Arsenal best attacking play in the second half of the season. It’s the kind of influence that’s difficult to capture in statistics. At times he has encapsulated everything Arsenal need from the most advanced member of their midfield three.
The best demonstration of how effective Rosický can be in the central attacking midfield role came in the 2-1 win over West Brom last month. Indeed, the Czech scored both goals in the win but it was his performance elsewhere that impressed and somewhat surprised.
It is Rosický’s understanding with Cazorla that provides Arsenal with a dynamic, yet advanced, midfield platform, when the two play together and Arsenal’s opening goal at The Hawthorns illustrated this.
Cazorla took up a more central position, allowing Rosický to overlap on his left side. A square pass into the centre of midfield saw Arteta release Gervinho over the top, who came off the right wing and across the opposition defence.
Gervinho’s run afforded space for Rosický to exploit through the middle, heading home the cross-come-shot. It was the brand of intricate attacking move Arsenal have become renowned for under Wenger, but have executed all too rarely this season.
In fact, Rosický almost embodies what Arsene Wenger wants his Arsenal side to be; stylish, intelligent and energetic. Put simply, he moves Arsenal closer to Wenger’s ideal.
Positional heat maps show that when Wilshere plays in the attacking midfield role, he and Cazorla congest the same area of the pitch. Both are trained to exploit the same spaces, meaning Arsenal often reduce the size of the playing area by playing both players, something that betrays Wenger’s philosophy at the club.
Arsenal seem to struggle with the imbalance Wilshere brings to their line-up. The difficulty Wenger faces is whether to play him behind a central striker and discount his lack of creativity in attack, or deploy him as a midfield pivot where his mobility and dynamism is lost.
Despite Rosický’s slightly deeper starting position, the Czech’s goal threat appears more concise than Wilshere’s, finding the net three times in just 14 appearances, compared to just two in 32 for Wilshere.
Rosický also leads Wilshere in terms of attacking third pass completion rate, with 82 per cent compared to the Englishman’s 75 per cent, setting a fast tempo in line with the Arsenal identity.
Wenger may well have stumbled across Rosický as the attacking midfield dynamo Arsenal have lacked for much of the season, wary of rushing Wilshere back from injury, but although the Czech might be a temporary solution, for the moment he is the right one.