What direction are Arsenal taking?

The self sustaining model of running Arsenal football club has it’s many proponents, it also has an equal number of opponents who claim that this policy is responsible for the club’s stagnation. I have to confess some sympathy towards the latter lobby as evidenced by the current state of transfer dealings which means that like it or not, we will sell Fabregas to Barcelona despite assurances to the contrary at the end of the season. Also following the Twittergate row involving an ex Board member, it has highlighted the divisions within our club and we need all need to accept that we cannot have it both ways, which in effect means that we will all have to be honest about our desires. Do you want jam tomorrow as promised by the Club? or success today by spending big? Oh and whilst I’m at it, I have lost interest in the Arsene debate. He is wedded to the self sustaining policy and as my last Blog suggested the policy is M.A.D (Mutually assured destruction)

Could we be facing the prospect of success or dropping out of the top four as our rivals strengthen? Who knows… It will depend upon the outcome of this transfer window. My view is that conviction policies are not necessarily black or white. A healthy shade of grey is quite acceptable, which means that occasionally the policy will need fine tuning or in extraordinary circumstances a complete U-turn. What really annoys me is that when there is any whiff of calling for change, it is seen by the current Arsenal hierarchy and Board alongside the fanatical “AKB’s” as absolute heresy. This is what I believe Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith meant by her twitter exchanges, when the Board was described as out of touch, and Passe.

Constructive criticism is neither welcomed nor sought. This lack of accountability has lead to the unhappy outcries from loyal supporters. But Arsenal football club is not in crisis YET… Lady Nina may have been criticised by Sir Peter Hill-Wood, but let us not forget two things. It was Lady Nina who supported the self sustaining model and protected the Plurality of ownership of Arsenal Football Club by selling to Stanley Kroenke the Board’s pick, rather than Alisher Usmanov. For that we should all be thankful. Sir Peter Hill-Wood on the other hand seems unable to accept that many fans found his defensive verbal attacks on fans who “moan” insulting and disingenuous.

The facts are as plain as the nose upon my face. If we lack high levels of additional revenues from commercial activity and we are not successful upon the field of play, then if we rule out any injection of cash from out two Billionaire owners, then the balance sheet can only remain in the black by selling our best players and increasing ticket prices. There seems no desire to try and reduce costs. If one looks at the “investments” given high priority by the Club last season, then extensions to the upper class dining areas appear high on the list. Scant comfort to those fans who have had to give up their Season Tickets. We also have a highly paid Commercial executive tasked with increasing revenues. Ivan Gazidis spoke of “green shoots” of revenue return at the recent Q&A with the AST. I wonder if he would confirm whether this increase would more than cover the salaries and pensions of these new executives?

Is there anyone out there that seriously believes that selling our best players will lead to success? Furthermore, if they are acknowledged as being among the best in the world like Fabregas, how the hell can we afford a replacement? The facts are yet again we are gambling our future upon youth. The likes of Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere. But I do believe that it is unfair to deprive these very talented players of the benefits of training alongside world class players. The learning curve will be very steep no matter how talented they are, and only winners, can pass on the experience of what it means to get over the finish line when the nerves are jangling. The likes of Cahill and Alvarez may change the approach, but are they the world class infusion that we need to overcome the likes of Manchester United, Barcelona and Real Madrid?

So Self sustainability, though marvellous as an ethos to be proud of, clearly has it’s downside. Which is simply, unless we can bring in an extra £20 million each season from other activities, we are in effect committed to being a selling club until the stadium loan is paid off.  Yep! Arsenal Football Club is effectively a nursery or feeder club for the likes of Barcelona or Manchester City, or who so ever will be prepared to pay top dollar for our players so that we can invest in cheaper staff with these inflated returns. We will groom our young talented players and bring the best out of them, only then having to sell these players in order to cope with player wage inflation. The logic of this means whether we like it or not, the likes Jack Wilshere WILL be sold in the future. Mark my words. It happened with Thierry Henry, Paddy Vieira and now Cesc Fabregas. The death knell will be the allocation of the captains armband to the lad, which will mean that he has less than four seasons left at the club…

I don’t recall that this was the true intention of the “Living within our means” mantra when it was conceived. It was to get us through the potential financial turmoil of coping with a new stadium project. To that end it has indeed succeeded. But this fledgling infant has grown into a Frankenstein and now this monster has become a real threat to us. Yet it’s creators hang on to the moral high ground. “This is a way of guaranteeing being compliant with the UEFA Fair play rules” they croon proudly. Hoping to persuade us to cling onto the hope that the likes of Barcelona Real Madrid and Chelsea will be banned from the Champions league for having massive deficits. But we all know that this will never happen. The sponsors would not stand for it. So this policy is for the purists. I would also add that what is the point of proclaiming our leadership in these areas if the current trend of footballing results mean that we will drop out of the Champions League placings in the future?

So how do we change? I really think that Ivan Gazidis has got it wrong by rejecting my proposal of getting the two Billionaires to pay off the Stadium debts. In very much the same way that UEFA would never kick Chelsea out of the Champions League, neither would they remove Arsenal for injecting funds into the club via a loophole. I still see the merits of the self sustaining model, but not at the expense of our success. The medicine must not kill the patient! In the absence of a solution it also means that strict adherence to this policy will mean that NO big names will EVER be bound for Arsenal. The only big names will be those that we produce and if they become big names whilst playing for us, then as sure as eggs are eggs the transfer exit door will be the next destination for these names. Is this what we really want? Oh my God…Where has our Arsenal gone?

Article courtesy of FTK at the excellent Arsenal Insider