The one question that was poignantly avoided at Arsenal’s AGM at the end of October was that of the return of David Dein. The fact that many fans like to throw around is that we haven’t won a trophy since Dein left. But then again we haven’t won a trophy since Pascal Cygan left either; you don’t hear people clamouring for his return. However the importance of Dein is not to be underestimated. Not only a great friend of Wenger’s Dein was the man that not only pushed Wenger to sign more players but was also the man that could make that sort of thing happen.
Lyon boss and former Gunner Remi Garde was quoted in the papers recently as saying that he thought Wenger was struggling without Dein: “He kept an eye on the choice of players, the strategy of the club. He is sorely missed.”
So as we consider the possible yet unlikely return of the former maverick board member we have to ask ourselves how much we would be willing to sacrifice to see his return? The situation seems to be that too many bridges have been burned for the former chief executive to return under the current establishment. Yet with ever deepening analysis of Arsenal’s struggles as the barren years roll by Arsenal fans are more and more inclined to desire the return of the former overseer of the club.
One of the main problems that arises when considering his return is the obvious point that his job is already occupied by Gazidis. However there aren’t many people who would be sad to see the back of the former chief of the MLS. Ivan’s work has been adequate but there a numerous issues with his methods, particularly the sale of Fabregas. Obviously the Barcelona born midfielder was always going to be sold, and obviously the sale was a peculiar one in that there was no competition for his signature, but ultimately to sell one of the world’s greatest players for almost half of what he was worth is a sin by anyone’s standards. Particularly as his contract wasn’t due to run down for another three years.
The second thing standing in the way is our chairman. It is, to say the least, unlikely that Dein would ever return whilst Hill-Wood remains as a figurehead at the club; but frankly nobody is quite sure how much longer he will continue to a be a force at the club. Whilst Kroenke may be indebted to Hill-Wood for giving him a way in to the club the American is a businessman and it is unlikely that the bond between them is anywhere near sacred.
The problem however for Kroenke, as we all know, is Dein’s relationship with Usmanov. It seems that the two will now only come as a package. And this club isn’t big enough for two billionaires, no club is. The only realistic option it would seem at the moment were for Dein to be given a place on the board as a representative of Usmanov. Usmanov has been angling for a place on the board since he first bought in to the club but the unsavoury nature of his character and proposed strategy for the club mean that he is unlikely to get what he wants. Dein however as chairman of Usmanov’s ‘Red and White Holdings’ could be offered a place on the board. However this is still unlikely.
So then we are left with the last remaining option somehow allowing Usmanov into our club on a more controlling scale. It is an interesting contrast in principles for Arsenal fans. For so long we have smugly declared that we are a sustainable English owned club. But we’re not even English owned any more and whilst sustainability is desirable I wonder how many people would be happy to be boasting of success instead? Ultimately if anyone is able to swing the power towards Usmanov and Dein in the power struggle for our club it is the remaining supporters who own shares. Now I know that the AST and many others are totally unwilling to sell their shares at all and I, like many, both admire and am grateful for this. There must always be an element of fan power within clubs. But not all shareholders will feel the same way. Whether because of money or other reasons it will be interesting to see whether, when the time comes to sell, people would rather sell to ‘Red & White’ or ‘KSE’.
No we don’t want Usmanov to come in to our club, riddle it with debt and destabilise the future of the club, but neither do we want to continue along the unsuccessful on field path that we currently follow. Kroenke talks about how he is here for the ‘long-term’ and how he wants to make this club successful. But then again he also considers the teams he already owns to be successful. And, let me tell you: they are not. His NFL team is currently enjoying a barren spell that stretches back to the beginning of time. His Hockey team has not won the Stanley Cup since 2001, he boasts that his basketball team reaches the playoffs every year but Arsenal reach the Champions League every year and people aren’t satisfied with that. The only team he has that has enjoyed any recent success was his MLS team that won the league. But not by coming first, they won through the playoffs.
I’m not saying that Usmanov is our best choice, far from it. I think the mistrust aimed at him is more than justifiable, but David Dein is the one man who could truly come back in to Arsenal and be the catalyst for a stagnating boardroom. It just depends how much people are willing to sacrifice to bring back Wenger’s old partner?
Read more of Hamish Mackay’s articles at Arsenal Mania
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