The current Arsenal squad is probably the most promising in English football, yet they have not won anything since 2005. In that time the club has moved to a fantastic new stadium but the side has not yet consistently matched their new surroundings. With most fans and pundits saying that they need to invest in players, would some greater transparency of the financial situation appease fans.
Arsenal are a successful and wealthy club, with a strong and passionate fan base. They can not however compete financially with the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City, because they do not have a ‘sugar daddy’ to prop up the clubs spending. Instead Arsenal have 4 prominent shareholders who hold large amounts of the club and as a result prevent each other from having a controlling stake. Despite a few attempts to buy out other shareholders it has been a generally stable situation for the club. In comparison to the instability and uncertainty that so many other Premier League clubs face, used as play things for the world’s mega rich, Arsenal is an oasis of calm.
The board have chosen to act responsibly and invested vast sums of money into the building of the Emirates. This investment has inevitably affected the strength of the 1st team squad, with less available for player investment. In spite of this the club has however bought some excellent players in recent years such as Thomas Vermaelen and Andrey Arshavin. The club however is not in a position to spend excessively on high risk moves. Considering the waste of money, players like Robinho have proved to be, Arsenal should be commended for such sensible business.
Arsenal fans are however continuing to show their frustration at the gap between themselves and their main rivals for the title. Arsenal have a core of very good players but lack some of the star quality of Chelsea and Manchester United. Arsene Wenger does not like to get involved in speculation but he has stated before that an impressive signing is on the way. Such a claim appeases fans, who will then wait expectantly to hear who is to join the Gunners. Unfortunately as happened this January there have been no such signings. By building up expectations and then not delivering, the club in fact annoy the fans more.
If financial constraint means that the club can not or does not want to compete for certain players then fair enough. Arsenal will be in a better position when their rivals are indebted beyond their means. Such a stance should however be made clearer. Tell the fans that they are unwilling to pay the bloated transfer fees for the players they are linked with. Instead they will continue to work in the transfer market, making sensible and financially manageable signings. Sensible fans will understand and appreciate such candour from their board.
Personally I am a big critic of the debt and instability which has swept much of the Premier League. It is a serious disease which threatens to ruin the game in this country. Too many clubs are attempting to sweep it under the carpet and Arsenal prove that a club can have a world class stadium, some world class players and be competitive at the top of the league without running up ridiculous debt. The way the club is run makes it difficult one person to suddenly buy the club and proceed to run it irresponsibly. Takeover bids from both Stan Kroenke and Alisher Usmanov have been resisted the club is better off as a result. Both men may well attempt a takeover again soon, but they are likely to cancel each other out as both are prominent shareholders. The situation keeps everyone in check and avoids one person having too much say on how the club is run.
The club are on firm financial ground but some more honesty would be appreciated by fans. If claims come from the club of a transfer kitty and new players then the club needs to deliver. If the money is not available then say so, and let the fans know. Football fans will follow the club regardless so there is no need to string them along, hoping not to upset them. Of course the fans would ideally want to see signings, and the lack of success may eventually mean that the board decide to invest heavily in the transfer market. A winning side will increase revenue and it may become a calculated business decision to invest in a new striker or goalkeeper. Under the stewardship of Arsene Wenger and the board however the club have grown massively, and the future looks bright for Arsenal. A trophy sooner rather than later would be a fantastic way to realise this potential.
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