Arsenal’s AGM meeting last week was same old, same old. The board members at the club and specifically Ivan Gazidis are doing a really good job of saying the same thing every year without actually parting with any usual information.
It didn’t help that at the time of the meeting Arsenal were coming off a shocking week of football. Losing home and away without scoring a goal or even managing a handful of shots on target should have been enough to set up a spiky affair. However, even if Arsenal had seen more favourable results on the pitch that week, specifically in the Premier League, it would have done nothing other than paper over the cracks again.
The suits at Arsenal managed to play out that old hit single, the one that is quickly turning into one of those terrible Phil Collins songs that fill you with rage more than anything else. The words “self sustaining” and “FFP” were quick off the bat, and it was obvious once again that nothing much was going to happen.
But Arsenal are so committed to this idea of financial fair play, so mesmerised and somewhat enslaved by it’s apparent charm, that you’ve really got to question if the club knows what they’re supposed to do next.
This is completely on the assumption that FFP does kick in immediately and have the impact that Uefa are promising. What then for Arsenal? Do the club actually have a set of plans, something concrete, a logical set of ideas that will take the club forward? We’re hearing a lot of talk about new commercial deals and the promise that Arsenal will be one of the better placed clubs in European football, but what happens when the clock winds down to zero?
There’s some sort of view that Arsenal will be able to compete with the biggest teams in Europe for the finest players. But I’m sure Arsenal fans were told the same prior to the move to the Emirates Stadium. And is the club really going to spend £20-£25million on a player when it’s absolutely needed? It seems the club are banking on everyone else dropping their bids for players and coming more in-line with what Arsenal currently pay. Regardless of FFP, can fans really envisage Arsene Wenger signing off on a transfer that not only breaks the club’s previous record but shatters it?
It’s been explored in the past that big clubs are going to find ways to circumvent the new rulings. After all, isn’t FFP just a device to keep the rich richer and the poor well away from anything worthwhile?
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The thing is, it becomes increasingly worrying that an institution such as Arsenal are so far removed from it’s supporters that we on the outside don’t really have any idea where the club is going, and that’s regardless of Michel Platini’s brainchild. The club talk about ensuring the long term safety and wanting to remain competitive and be successful in the future. But surely Arsenal are the only big team in sports who have the resources to take another step further but choose not to.
It’s all about low risk and not taking chances—and I’m not necessarily talking about buying the most expensive player. If the club do have such a firm belief in what is going to come up in the next few seasons, and they can justify many of their actions of the last six years, then why not give supporters some real and valuable information on the workings of the club.
The problem for Arsenal fans is that there is no real pressure for the board to do anything other than continue on this path. You get the feeling that they’re enjoying this ride of waiting out the storm until FFP arrives, but at the same time are dreading it because they know they’ll have to take some form of action. Supporters aren’t going to run away from the club, and even those who do oppose the current board set up are vilified for being anti-Arsenal.
In 2016 with FFP in full swing (hopefully), does that mean Andres Iniesta can be bought for about £18million? Because technically, clubs have to break even and can’t spend £70million, for example, on a player. These are the questions: are Arsenal going to increase their spending or are they hoping that everyone else’s wanes? The value of a footballer is not going to decrease just because three invisible letters (sort of) are saying so. With that, how much is really going to change at Arsenal?
Arsene Wenger seems committed to this idea of bringing in young players, and with the funding that went into the training ground and into youth football, why wouldn’t he continue on that path? But there is a problem at Arsenal that won’t just disappear once FFP is in effect, from the team not turning up for games to the stupidity of £13.50 for fish and chips.
There is a view from within, and unfortunately one that is shared among certain sections of the Arsenal fan base, that everything will simply fall into place. The team will start winning, the youth set up will produce outstanding talents and the ticket prices at the stadium will be a much better reflection of the quality on the pitch. But has there ever been acknowledgement for the other clubs in the league?