We’ll never know what is really going on at Arsenal, and most opinions on the way the club is run can only really be based on interpretations—at least that will be the case until Arsene Wenger releases that book confessing all the ills of the club’s hierarchy. I’m not holding my breath for that one.
Ivan Gazidis and the other people working the operations behind the scenes have been brought in for their business sense, not their football sense. Does Gazidis deserve blame for where Arsenal are at the moment? It’s certainly easy to level criticism his way, especially considering he so often engages directly with fans.
Taking Arsenal’s latest shirt sponsorship deal with Emirates, there’s no way Gazidis and his team can be seen to be doing a bad job. Arsenal need huge revenue streams and ones that are in-line with those of Manchester United. For that, Arsenal’s CEO is spot on. Of course, this is taking aside the huge prices for match tickets. But would there be such criticism of the ticket prices if the club were spending big and well in the transfer market? Everyone would love Bundesliga prices, but location and potential demand means the club are unlikely to move significantly in that direction.
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But the frustrations and the dizzying effect on most fans is due to the fact we’re constantly given conflicting explanations for the club’s decline on the pitch. The manager says he needs to make a profit of £20 million each summer while also insisting that he can’t be reckless in the transfer market. The story from the other end and from Gazidis’ side is that there is significant funds available and that they would never hold the manager back from spending in the transfer market.
Now that aside and looking specifically on what Arsene Wenger has bought in recent seasons, most of Arsenal’s signings have been upward of £10 million: there are no buys that would really be considered bargain purchases. But at the same time, no one from the board appears to be guiding the manager down an avenue of poor players—they’re very much Wenger’s buys.
I doubt Gazidis has a significant knowledge of French football and whether Gervinho is good enough to play for a club like Arsenal. No one forced the club to sign the player from Lille, just as no one forced the club to sign Sebastian Squillaci or Mikael Silvestre. That’s a side of the game that Wenger takes responsibility for, not the board, despite a lack of clarity on how much there is to spend.
Gazidis is the excellent speaker and brains you want to front a PR campaign. He says a lot when he meets with the fans, although parting with very little knowledge. It can be infuriating at the best of times, but whatever secrets the club are keeping, the CEO has never let slip on that information.
If Wenger had spent the same amount of money over the past few seasons but had picked up better quality and value, it’s unlikely there would be discussions as to who the good guys and bad guys were at the club. A winning team on the field, or at least a team who seemed to accurately represent the wages and transfer fees spent, and a team behind the scenes who are looking to help the club grow organically.
But it’s so easy to just assume that the club are limiting Wenger’s actions in the market, but again not having any real say on who he signs. You’ve got to ask if Wenger would do much better with £20 million instead of 10. If we’re to believe that there is circa £70 million sitting around and available for use, where has Gazidis gone wrong?
That’s the line of thinking now and yet it could all change by this time next month. Who’s to blame for the club’s failure across the board? We’ll continue in this form of uncertainty for a long time it seems, until at least someone comes out and tells it like it is.