The big Q&A with Ivan took place last night. Our CEO took on the questions of 300 curious Gooners. This year was different. The legend of Wenger has somewhat faded. The fans propensity to accept PR spin has almost totally diminished and though 4th place felt glorious at the time, the reality has kicked in that we’re treading top four water again despite having the funds to be so much better.
So how did this affect the proceedings? Well, to start with, I’d say nearly all the questions put forward were good. In years gone by, you get bogged down in petulant items such as the temperature of the coffee or the brightness of stewards jackets. Yesterday, people were shooting potent darts at Ivan… And structuring their language to make it politically bullet proof.
To be fair to Ivan, he tried to take the slickness out of his performance. He slated the preroll video of Arsenal creeping into 4th as ‘not what we’re about’. He tried to blend humour into his piece, he tried to convey passion and he tried to the best of his ability to reassure the fans the club intended to spend some money.
… though the caveat was that the final say sits with Arsene who presides over salary and valuation.
So before we crack into the key insight of the night, a few interesting bits revolved around protecting our away fans from permanent category A ticket prices. He said he’d back a
steering group on the issue and look to rectify the issue. On the issue of safe standing, if the government backed it, he’d look into it at The Emirates… though he was keen to point out, the desire to push that through in government is low. No politician wants to pin their name to that sticky issue. Cowards…
Someone asked if we’d ever have ticket prices like Bayern… because we clearly want to be like Bayern financially. I thought this was a silly question. Too many football fans forget the game is a business. The new stadium was built to drive match day revenue. We can’t sell season tickets for £106. That’s like moving your suburban cafe to Mayfair and still charging £3.50 for a full English. Our business model is different to Bayern. For starters, they have sugar daddy like commercial deals with partners who have controlling interests in the club. We’ll only be like Bayern in the sense that we’ll be self sufficient. It’s a good place to be if it allows us to compete.
FFP raised its boring head. Someone asked if we had a plan B if UEFA fail to impose it. Again, this question kind of grates me. Chelsea are pushing to conform to FFP. Looking to sell Luis, Mata and Torres to fund the good times. I just don’t understand why, if there are rules in place that sugar daddy owned clubs are trying to adhere to, Arsenal should ignore the rules. Such a dim argument. Also, what business plans for rules to fail?
‘Hey Pete, I’d like a marketing campaign that abides by the law… but just in case they drop that rule about lying to consumers, can we have one where we pretend the car can fly?’
Other areas of chat centred around the manager. He dictates the talent of a player and therefore decides how much money we pay players… and how much we bid. Ivan seemed to think we pay market rate for players salary wise. No one told him why we couldn’t shift Denilson, Bendtner, Almunia, Squillaci and Andrey? It wasn’t because we were paying market rate.
Still, there was acknowledgement that to compete we need to pay the best salaries. Which, according to Ivan, Arsene is fully on board with. When talking about making big moves, he said the club weren’t willing to spend over the odds to make a statement on an average player. No one has asked him to do that… so whilst being a valid point, it’s an irrelevant one. What fans get upset with is that we don’t pay market rate for great players.
He kept stating Wenger looks at quality first, price second. This is totally wrong. We look at price, then we look at quality if it’s a dirt cheap bargain. If we could have 5 Santi’s this summer… I’d be all over that. Fact is, football isn’t that kind…
The major insight of the night came with one of his last points. Not the one about having great pies. Saracens Rugby club have great pies, Arsenal have disgusting pies. No, the insight came from this question…
Do you feel you’ve missed a trick by not landing players when other clubs have been manager less and in turmoil?
Ivan responded that he hadn’t missed a trick and the reason we hadn’t made any purchases was because we’re going after top end players at clubs that lack a manager. Hello Higuain, Rooney (new manager, Fellaini (new manager), Martinez, Isco, Begovic… and obviously a whole raft of Wigan players ripe for the taking.
That my friends was the biggest talking point of the evening. Like I’ve been pushing for weeks… the club are trying hard for players. Whether they’ll come is down to money, ambition and a great sell. If City could land Yaya when they were rubbish, we can land big names.
So a big thanks to Arsenal and the AST for letting me in at short notice. It was great to hangout with everyone after. I’ve said many times before, the cost of the membership is peanuts in relation to what you get back in information, access and great people. I always like the fact that in real life, people have opposing views and still get on. Social media, you have a lot to answer for.
Also big respect for Ivan. He answered all the questions, took them from the floor and left the room with people feeling positive. Taking on 300 informed Arsenal fans is a tough job.
To join the AST, click here.
Have a great day and get excited for the summer madness that’s about to kick off!
P.S. I’m doing to rounds on SSN this morning…
P.S.2 To also those that took ire at my off the record meeting with Ivan. I’ve just written a whole article about an on the record meeting and I’ve not dropped a single quote. You don’t need quotes to tell a story… just a good memory.
Have a good one, I’m going to Spain now to bring Isco home.