Last week, Arsenal announced that Sir Chips Keswick would be replacing Peter Hill-Wood as the Chairman of the board at the Emirates, ending a family dynasty that began in 1927, citing health reasons following a heart-attack last year as cause to step down.
But the appointment has been blemished somewhat by an unlikely verbal attacker – club legend and former Gunners captain, Tony Adams. The retired England international, who claimed 66 caps throughout his career, is disappointed that his offer of joining the Arsenal boardroom was met initially with no response, having sent an application to Hill-Wood after the former Arsenal chief stated in an interview that the Emirates politico and bureaucracy needed some fresh blood, only to find out a few months down the line that a 73 year old would now be heading board meetings.
Adams told The Sun; “It’s time that Arsenal won something again, even the FA Cup or League Cup. But I can’t see it, to be honest. They are still not good enough in certain areas of the team.
“And they are miles off the title. Chips is a great guy but not a very imaginative choice by the owner. And he is 73.If they just wanted a figurehead, they should have gone for me. It would have been a better visionary decision than Chips.
“Look, I would make the tea for Arsenal Football Club, but I thought I ticked all the right boxes for the board. I don’t need the money, I would put the good of the club first in every case and I could mediate well within the club.”
[cat_link cat=”arsenal” type=”tower”]
One can easily claim sour grapes. Hanging out your dirty laundry in public is rarely an approach used to improve relationships, and there are obvious connotations in using The Sun, a hyperbolic Red Top newspaper that prints for profit rather than integrity. Similarly, although Adams may have seen himself an ideal fit for the role, there’s little reason why others should.
He is undoubtedly a hero at the Emirates, and even has his own statue outside of the ground, but so far throughout the former Gunners skipper’s non-playing career, Adams has far from excelled, with poor managerial spells at Wycombe, Portsmouth and Gabala all coming to a rather abrupt and disappointing end. The role of a manager and board member are by no means directly comparable, but Adams it yet to prove that he is a successful administrator, man-manager or a businessman.
But regardless of whether or not the Arsenal legend’s words came with a hint of bitterness and jealousy, there is undoubtedly some truth behind them. The last nine years in North London have represented constant stagnation.
The eight-year trophy drought appears to be verging on a curse – this year, the Gunners fell short against Bradford in the Capital One Cup, who went on to play in the final against Swansea, while even Wigan loanee Ryo Miyaichi has managed to secure silverware during his season away from the Emirates. At the same time, Arsenal have continually regressed in the title race, with this season’s squad and final league standing representing more than any other the vast decline since the days of ‘The Invincibles’ – the 2003/2004 team who went the whole campaign unbeaten, claiming the Gunners’ last domestic title.
Some have pointed to the arrival of foreign owners at divisional rivals and payments for the new Emirates stadium as a justification for Arsenal’s recent slump, but nothing like nearly a decade of being entirely dormant in the title race, while failing to gain anything from the auxiliary competitions, spells out more the need for new blood – the status quo of Champions League football, in itself, is not a worthy accolade for a club of Arsenal’s quality and stature.
Whether Adams’ leadership in practical terms would have been able to remedy the situation remains unclear, however, as the Gunners fans have argued to Arsene Wenger this year, sometimes the signal of intent and ambition alone is all you need to get things moving in the right direction, and a young and fresh face, known for his ability to lead others, could have been exactly what the board needed to win over the fans, who have been discontented with the limited aspirations of the Arsenal boss and his employers.
Whilst Arsene Wenger has become the butt of media scrutiny this season, it’s quite clear that there are further intrinsic problems at the club, starting with the boardroom. Relationships between Alisher Usmanov and his fellow board members is said to be at an all-time low, and in April the Uzbek businessman accused majority shareholder Stanley Kroneke of lacking enough ambition to take the Gunners forward, as the two rivals continually battle for full control of the North London club.
The stale atmosphere in the board room has further contributed to Arsenal’s recent demise. The departure of Robin Van Persie was met with little protest or outrage from Kroneke’s clique, whilst the club’s head officials have also shown a lapse attitude in regards to Wenger’s tenure potentially coming to an end, with the Frenchman now 63 years of age, and receiving interest from other European clubs. Adams sees the lack of a clear contingency plan as a major concern.
Similarly, the pressure from above on the Arsenal gaffer to succeed has been non-existent in recent years, allowing the head coach to not only oversee an overall decline in standards, but furthermore, attain an almost monolithic control of how the club is run and managed, being involved in many aspects on and off the pitch. It’s created a situation where Wenger’s ideas are no longer confronted and compromised, and bringing in a natural leader like Tony Adams would at least create a barrier to the often philosophical and idealistic Wenger.
There is also something to be said regarding the method of bringing former players as board members. It’s the model used at Bayern Munich, and to a lesser extent at Manchester United, and is yet to do either club wrong. In sharp contrast to the usual scheming businessmen around that appear to dominate Premier League boardrooms, using former players, often with hero status amongst the fans, reduces the political in-fighting, and successfully aligns the supporters. The Gunners faithful could certainly do with a positive rallying cry, with sections of the Emirates divided over ticket-prices and a lack of investment in the first team, leading to regular protests from the Black Scarf movement.
Tony Adams is by no means the perfect candidate – he is yet to prove himself off the pitch in any form, and as he himself pointed out, Sir John Keswick is undoubtedly a better candidate to reach out and maintain contact with Alisher Usmanov. But in many ways, it’s a shame that once again, Arsenal as a club have resisted the urge for change. It’s not that the current board members are not well enough qualified, but simply that their situation has become comfortable and stale, and they are all representatives of an era at the Emirates that will be best remembered for a slump in quality.
A new, fresh, young face could have been the perfect remedy – even if Adams lacks in certain skills, he would have at least been a symbolic statement that the board are keen to start moving in a new direction.
Does the Arsenal board need some fresh blood?
Join the debate below!
How committed a fan are you…