There’s a bit of right and wrong in all this and how you believe football clubs should be run.
For those who aren’t familiar with the inner workings of Arsenal, and on-pitch performances aside, the club looks imperious. Wealthier than most, a state-of-the-art stadium and plenty more to mask the very real fact that the ship is without a captain.
Why would anyone want a man like Alisher Usmanov on the Arsenal board? After all, don’t most Arsenal fans take a sense of pride that the club isn’t just another Chelsea, Manchester City or PSG? With a man like Usmanov running the show, who’s to say the values and traditions of the club won’t be washed away in an instant?
I’m not for this idea that clubs need huge outside investment to be competitive. On the whole, you just need to have direction and an extremely clever and meticulous approach to gaining success. Some might view the new money clubs as speeding down the road to success and accelerating the need to build over, say, twenty years and condensing it down to two or three. That may be so, and it’s some of the worries that are sure to arise with someone like Usmanov in the foreground.
The problem is he’s the only alternative Arsenal have. He’s done well to align himself with people like Thierry Henry and seemingly gain their support. He’s also been clever in using the club’s shortcomings on the pitch to his advantage to gain greater levels of support, and there’s nothing really wrong with that.
Usmanov promises glory and everything that goes with it. In all honesty, it’s worth thinking long and hard on this one and whether a different regime will offer more than what is currently on offer – and I’m not just talking about trophies.
I don’t believe Arsenal fans are desperate for the club to win at all costs. As mentioned, success can be achieved by being smarter than others, even those with a bottomless pit of cash. But the issue at the moment is that Arsenal do not look to be moving forward. The best players are leaving, the board have put a worryingly large amount of hope into Financial Fair Play –which they don’t control themselves – and seem unable to conjure up an alternative.
If Arsenal finished second this season after the third-placed finish last year then that would be seen as moving forward. It would be even better if the best players were retained or only let go on the word of the club, and even greater progress was made next year and so on.
But that’s not what Arsenal currently have. The majority shareholder has infuriated many with his lack of decisiveness and general lack of interest in talking, and a cruising ship can often be viewed as one in a storm and headed for the rocks.
With all the negatives that could come with Usmanov’s arrival onto the board – and some of them are perhaps blown out of proportion – he would bring a better and needed sense of direction. He may not be a ‘football man’ and what fans would want, but we don’t really know too much about him other than quotes lifted now and again. Stan Kroenke, however, is definitely not a football man. He’s in it for the brighter financial tomorrow that Arsenal might see, and it comes at the expense of what fans see on the pitch.
But again, it’s one or the other. The best scenario is that there were a third party who would come in and offer plenty of direction while retaining the values of the club, yet who were also not afraid to spend when it was necessary. The promises Usmanov is making is one that could see millions of pounds flying around aimlessly, potentially damaging the club – and no one wants that. But it’s that middle ground between both the current board and what could be on offer that is likely to be most desired.
Spending heavily isn’t the sure way to success, but direction and an obvious sense of direction is what Arsenal are lacking. If Usmanov provides that then so be it.