Don't worry, there'll be no funny business
The Arsenal board seems out of touch with fans, we lose at least one star player a season and we are on a seven-year trophy-less streak. It's time to let in the Uzbekistani billionaire...
When you survey the surroundings at Arsenal, things are looking pretty good. Supposedly there is plenty of money if the coffers, quite a talented set of players in the squad and a self-sustainable model in place fans are continually told other clubs are envious of – but there is one thing missing. That is sporting success. Since that fateful Champions League final defeat, all we have to show since the move from Highbury is two League Cup final failures, one F.A. Cup semi-final and numerous third and fourth place Premier League finishes. That definitely wasn't in the script when the club embarked on the near £500m Ashburton Grove project.
This close-season, our captain, top goalscorer (by a mile) and talisman Robin Van Persie has indicated (on his personal website, no less) that he longer wants to play in the Red and White and will seek a move away. This has been backed up by recent reports that he has refused to travel with Arsenal's pre-season touring party. Those who claim the club are again in crisis are over-exaggerating, but just as we started to feel optimistic with new signings Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski, the hammer of truth comes crashing down again. We don't want another Cesc or Nasri situation, so let's just sell him now and be done with it.
Van Persie isn't the loyal striker we all have been praying he would be since the contract issue first became public knowledge last summer, and he is no different to the rest. But let's get over it now, sell him for a decent sum and invest all our love and affection in his French replacement. Giroud's better looking and doesn't have any grey hairs. So there, Robin.
Giroud's better looking and doesn't have any grey hairs. So there, Robin
What has riled many Arsenal fans in the last couple of seasons is the lacklustre performance that the board continually produces. Allowing key players (Nasri, RVP, potentially Walcott and perhaps even Alex Song) to run down their deals to the point where our hands are tied in negotiations is simply unprofessional. Arsene Wenger's role is almost to oversee the club's progress, but he cannot do everything alone. The board must take their share of responsibility in these problems.
A recent survey from the Arsenal Supporters Trust - an influential fans group – backed Wenger as manager but revealed a huge antipathy from supporters towards the board. The meeting, earlier this month, makes for insightful reading and that the term 'AST' was trending on twitter afterwards just confirms the power and following of the group. Here are just some of the results:
- 13% are satisfied with owner Stan Kroenke's vision for the club since his takeover last summer
- 20% feel that Peter Hill-Wood is an effective non-executive chairman
- 77% wanted Wenger to remain in his role as manager
- 82% felt that Kroenke should invite Red and White Holdings to be represented on the club's board.
- 83% want a new appointment on the Arsenal board
- 72% want former board member David Dein to be invited back for a role at the club
It is quite clear from these important findings - that come from committed fans who care about the future of the club - that something must change at board level. And to me, the answer is already 29% invested in the club already. And his name is Alisher Usmanov.
The club must heed the fans' interests and invite Usmanov to join the board. At the moment it seems that only supporters at Arsenal can see what is going wrong, that those in charge are oblivious to the problems. And judging from Usmanov's recent letter to the board in the light of the RVP debacle, he does speak some truth.
Allowing key players to run down their deals to the point where our hands are tied in negotiations is simply unprofessional
These snippets from the Uzbekistani's letter stand out to me as just how supporters feel:
“Yet again we are faced with losing our true marquee player at the Club because we cannot assure him of the future direction and give confidence that we can win trophies. Where are the safeguards to ensure that this doesn't happen again and again in the future. As a top club we should, at the very least, match if not beat the offers that other clubs make to try and lure our very best players away, and also provide a more compelling vision of the future.”
OK, Alisher, I'm with you on that one, but are Red and White Holdings likely to execute a Venkys style cock-up if they become more involved at the club?
“It just does not allow our great manager to fully realise his managerial talent and deliver success for the fans who are paying the highest prices in the land.”
Well alright, praising Arsene and understanding concerns of the ticket-paying supporters is the right way to start. So far so very good. But how can this be achieved by Usmanov & co?
“To have a fighting chance of success, which means winning trophies, we need to match them (other top clubs) in every aspect, including, if not first and foremost, financial.”
Red and White Holdings' vision for the club was then simply stated in the next paragraph as: “A debt free club, with a big enough war chest to buy top talent players who can hit the ground running and who can compliment the club's long tradition of developing young players and homegrown talent.”
82% felt that Kroenke should invite Red and White Holdings to be represented on the club’s board
And that, I doubt, would be argued with by many Arsenal fans. Whilst it is hazardous to praise Usmanov as the solution to all the club's problems, from what can be gleaned in his letter, he is deeply concerned with the state of the club and has genuine ideas on how best to push us forward. Everyone is worried about a potential Glazer situation, massive debt with loan repayments we cannot afford. But this is more likely through 'Silent Stan' than Usmanov. The Russian-based billionaire seems more like Roman Abramovich - interested in being involved in a winning football club - than destabilising and placing a debt noose around our necks.
It may be premature yet to hail Red and White Holdings as the answer. But to me it seems that the fans want change, and there is a 30% stakeholder ready to realise that change. It is time to listen to Alisher Usmanov and his group of investors. Let's sell Robin Van Persie and look towards building a stronger future, where we don't live in fear each summer of losing our best talents. And for me, that is more likely to be achieved with Usmanov on board than cast aside.
Follow James on Twitter
Other great Arsenal articles
Click here for more stories on Football and Sport
Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Twitter
Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Facebook