The fight for accurate information is a tough one in the world of football which is notoriously opaque. We’ve also moved into an era of the amateur influencer who will say anything to seem like they have a stronger take on a topic because it enhances their reputations amongst gullible fans. Now, there are some great insiders in the Arsenal game, but not many.
You can place Le Grove firmly in the bucket of amateur, and it is, but the narrative of the blog has been pretty spot on for a number of years because it’s informed by lots of interesting folk in and around the club. Do I share big transfer scoops? No. But rest assured, regardless of the emotion attached to the words, the summary of how things go down has been more hit than miss over the last 10 years.
I spent the back half of last season fighting the misinformation being peddled by the access journalists in the build to the Arsene Wenger’s contract. Right now, the information battle is to ensure that fans don’t get pulled into the wrong narrative, the one that centers on Stan K withholding funds from Arsene Wenger.
… especially because we wouldn’t be having this conversation if Wenger had 3 wins in 3.
Every club will have a financial strategy of some sort that impacts the playing side. Southampton invest heavily into their youth team setup, the idea is to prop up the club with world class talent they could shift on every few years at box office prices to allow them to compete on smart signings elsewhere. Manchester United operate a king strategy, they’ve invested heavily in winning to bring in mega commercial returns, their model needs trophies, that’s why Jose Mourinho is so important for their future because brands won’t continue to pay top dollar for a crumbling empire. Spurs are working to a net neutral transfer approach, they hired a coach who can work with kids, and their transfers funds are created from within to support their stadium move. Madrid buy the best, because they know brands will always invest in them regardless of trophy haul.
Arsenal’s strategy has been a little unclear. We operated on a lower budget post stadium move, but reality is, we still spent huge amounts on underserved wages to prop up our indulgent socialist appraoch. For 5 years now, we’ve not had a clear plan. We still have a poor wage structure, but we have cash to spend because of all the new TV deals. We just do it really badly. £35m on Xhaka, when Kante was the star, because Wenger thought Xhaka was a B2B with better passing. £35m on Mustafi who is going on loan to Inter. £20m on Perez because he failed to find a striker. The list of bad buys is endless.
Anyway, some Arsenal fans are now pinning our summer failings on funds being held back by Stan Kroenke. Here’s why that is incorrect.
Arsenal were the 3rd highest net spenders in the league over 5 years at the start of the summer. If your strategy is to create a cash pile, there has to be an actual strategy in place to achieve that, and that’s what a CEO would implement. Arsenal hasn’t sold a player for more than £15m in over 5 years, we never sell our players at peak value, we grossly over pay large swathes of the squad to the point they can’t be moved on, our squad is hugely bloated… and we’re spending a lot of cash badly.
Stan K has been letting Wenger bungle the finances for years. If the owner wanted to create a cash mountain, he’d hire Moratta from Juventus and hand over the steering wheel so he could straighten out the finances, bring structure to the wage bill, and move players on at their peak value, have a 3 year plan for signings, and absolutely not get into a situation where we had 6 first team names with one year to go on their deal at Aug 29th.
Here is the thing with Arsene. If something looks insane, don’t try and rationalise it, just accept that’s his operating model because he doesn’t know what he’s doing anymore.
Pulling out of deals
I appreciate Stan K isn’t the businessman certain owners are, however, he’s not stupid. Arsene Wenger lied to the fans when he said the Lemar deal was off because Monaco wouldn’t sell. Liverpool are now in with a £60m bid. Fans are making up stories saying the board called this deal off. Simply put, the board don’t have that power. They’re largely ceremonial, if they were serious people, Wenger would have gone this summer.
Wenger decides EVERYTHING that goes on at the club on the playing front. He is the contracts guy. He’s the sports scientist. The tactician. The chef. Never forget that. The Thomas Lemar failure is one of two things:
1) The player didn’t want to give up playing under an exciting manager in a better team, for a setup the whole world of football knows is a shit show
2) Arsene Wenger didn’t want to pay £60m for a player who has had one good season under his belt
I could go for either one of those. But more likely, it’ll be point two.
Wenger has a long and chequered history of pulling out of deals. Juan Mata was pulled last minute. The Luis Suarez deal died when we didn’t go higher than £40,000,001, next summer he went for £75m. We had Higuain lined up for £22m, Madrid jacked the price £10m and we pulled out, he went to Napoli, next year to Juve for £90m. I’ve had it on good authority that the Ballague story about Arsenal not paying £7m commission to M’Bappe’s parents DID cost us a deal for him last season. Yes, the club that dropped £4m for Wellington Silva wouldn’t pay £7m for M’Bappe. I mean, fuck me, we even lost out on Mark Schwarzer because we wouldn’t pay £4m. We nearly lost out on Holding over a £2m fee. We lost out on Cahill because we offered £6m. These decisions don’t come from Dick Law or Ivan G, they come from Arsene Wenger. He is the king.
How anyone thinks we’re losing out on Lemar because the club won’t fund a player who if successful, could double his value in 2 years, is beyond me.
Now here’s where I’m making observations. But if you’re a bank looking for leverage on an LA Stadium, what is going to be more appealing, Arsenal FC as leverage, or its cash pile that’s just sitting in an account?
> Cash in football loses value sitting in the bank. £100m buys you the best midfielder in Europe last summer, this summer, it buys you half a Neymar.
> What bank is going to take 100m of sterling as leverage? The pound is extremely volatile at the moment, and even the most ardent Brexiter will admit the currency is more likely than not going to take a massive tanking as Brexit talks continue to disappoint
> Stank K doesn’t own Arsenal outright, he has 70%. Could he really use the cash at Arsenal as security on another deal? Have my doubts.
> Barclays had some sort of clause in their deal with us that the club had to invest in the playing side of things to secure the loan for the stadium. Would their legal team be happy that the future of their investement was being jeopardised by some shady ‘don’t spend’ deal (EVEN THOUGH THE NUMBER POINT TO HUGE SPENDING)
The whole story is a red herring because simply put, the problems are facing this summer have nothing to do with player purchases. We have way bigger issues.
> The club failed to tie big name players down to new deals last summer
> The club failed to make big decisions on the rebels futures at the start of this summer, deciding instead to play chicken with our season, to the point that we’re now flogging them all at the backend of August in a panic. Strategically, one of the most suicidal decisions of the last ten years
> Arsene failed to identify the true issues of last years failings, arrogantly pinpointing his contract woes, not the systemic failings top to bottom in his approach to the game. Remember when the club leaked that Sanchez and Ozil were waiting on Wenger’s future to sign on? Looks like they waited then ran the moment he inked his deal. Pretty obvious why, Wenger is finished.
> The club wasn’t ruthless enough in clearing out deadwood. Wilshere, Gibbs, Debuchy, Chamberlain, Theo, Giroud, Ospina, Jenks, should all have been told to leave the day after the FA Cup Final and told they would train with the kids until they moved. That would have freed up wages, salary and set the tone for the summer. Instead, we sat on our hands and did next to nothing.
> We had no transfer strategy because the club has no footballing philosophy. If the vision isn’t there, it’s easy to see why the summer ended in such a mess.
Finally, let’s not get too caught up in Arsenal having a net surplus this summer now Chamberlain has gone. Juventus, Cheslea, and Spurs all run neutral and surplus. One club finished 2nd the year before moving Stadium, the other two are Champions. You can run a surplus and buy great players, you just have to look further ahead than one week.
So in short, Arsene has plenty of money, he has all the control, the mess is all his. Don’t get bogged down into the Stan K conspiracies, because all the facts point to them being completely untrue. It’s just amateurs echoing one anothers untruths to sounds like they were in on the lie, sorry, ‘exclusive.’
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