“When it rains, it pours” goes the proverb, five words that Arsene Wenger would have come more familiar with over the past week after a dismal date with Schalke on Wednesday night was compounded by the Arsenal Annual General Meeting held at the Emirates on Thursday, another year in which Wenger and Stan Kroenke, the Gunners’ distant American owner of 67%, had to defend their thrifty outlay to a trophy cabinet that has not been added to in seven years.
Ivan Gazidis, chief executive at the Emirates, spoke of how Arsenal’s ambition is not for profit but to be successful on the pitch, but his words appeared noticeably hollow the day after slipping to defeat in the Champions League which will now, struggle to provide a welcome escape from troubled league form.
Wenger’s side have won just one of their last four and have won just three of their opening eight games, a run that has seen them slip to ninth in the league, the most recent of which the wretched 1-0 defeat at Norwich coming complete with anaemic attack and fragile defence suggestive that this season, again, will yield another barren search for a trophy.
As Gazidis spoke, the feeling of frustration would have intensified in Arsenal fans who are aware that the CEO is the highest paid CEO in Britain, pocketing the huge bonuses Arsenal’s admirable profit streams create. When it is considered these are the same fans who are being asked to fork out in excess of £1,000 for a season ticket at the Emirates, they would be entitled to ask just exactly where the money is going after another summer of modest investment.
A grilling ensued as shareholders asked, after a suggestion that Robin Van Persie was sold for profit, whether the board were guilty of intentionally putting the commodity of profit before any chance of success. Gazidis argued that the Arsenal business model would succeed and pleaded for patience as the wheels of the Financial Fair Play ruling from UEFA slowly creak into play.
It has been a favourable chestnut in north London in recent years, an ideology where, in a climate where Manchester United, £24 million takers of Van Persie, operate on massive debts whilst Manchester City and Chelsea spend huge sums in the transfer market on the likes of Oscar, Eden Hazard, Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure, Arsenal lurk in the shadows nurturing their sustainable business plan until FFP leaps over the horizon and creates a level playing field for Arsenal to thrive on. This, according to Gazidis, will occur in two years time.
Yet, after a steady stem of talents flowing out of the Emirates exit doors in the past few years, Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy, Robin Van Persie, Emmanuel Adebayor, Kolo Toure and most recently Alex Song, there isn’t a huge amount of support for such a plan. There is a feeling, in Olivier Giroud, Lukasz Podolski, Per Mertesacker and the much derided Gervinho, that the money garnered from numerous sales hasn’t been reinvested satisfactorily enough and further Arsenal slip behind their rivals without any solid evidence that they will catch up again in the near future.
The subject of Van Persie would have been especially erogenous to the Arsenal board as the Dutchman’s departure was vocally centered around accusations that the club “lacked ambition”, further illustrated, covertly, by Arsene Wenger’s personal opinion that qualifying for the Champions League was more important than winning a domestic cup.
It was understandable and possibly correct, Champions League participation would hold far more weight in negotiations for a potential transfer target than a Capital One Cup win, but the drudgery of ambling to finish fourth and settling for it will not satisfy the most eager of talents like Van Persie and the ones named earlier who preceded him out of the Emirates.
Still, Gazidis’ emphasis and that of the Arsenal boardroom remained on the future, the new sponsorship deals with Adidas and negotiations for a sponsor post-Emirates will boost the Arsenal coffers to a degree, though it will take a lot for the unsettled to be convinced such money would be invested acceptably back into the squad as they strive, as Kroenke put it, “to win trophies”, if that is, it is even invested at all.
For Wenger, it is back to the pitch on Saturday for the visit of QPR. Lose, and it will take far more than words and a support of the FFP to convince Arsenal are going in the right direction whilst Wenger may find, when it rains, it really does pour.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow him on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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