To make a bad weekend even worse, tragic news just dropped the Jose Antonio Reyes passed away after a car accident. A tragic loss of a young life. He was one of the most exciting ‘out of the blue’ signing from way back when and certainly an unsung hero of our invincibles era. Thoughts are prayers of everyone at Le Grove are with his family right now.
I took a pretty big swipe at our ailing manager yesterday, and many people felt I should focus more of my energy at the family running the show.
So let’s talk about what running a club with vision and purpose looks like. What better place to look than Spurs and Liverpool? (I know, it hurts so bad)
5 years ago, Arsenal had just finished the season in 3rd place. Spurs and Liverpool had finished 5th and 6th respectively. Neither team had broken 60 goals.
Arsenal were ahead of the game. We had built our stadium, we had better players, and we were still enjoying our superb run of Champions League football.
So what happened? As we wrote extensively at the time. The Kroenke family were happy to watch their fortune grow because they are real estate people. Sadly, they didn’t pay attention to the reality of what was going on pitch side. They couldn’t recognise the decline in the football, they didn’t understand what the influx of money was going to do to the competition in the league, and they only paid attention to the standard health metrics of the business… namely, that all financials were ticking upwards.
That said, here’s where so many fans get things brutally wrong. They’re not bloodsuckers. They have invested ample funds in Arsenal. We have had exactly the same chance at greatness as the rest of the teams around us. The single biggest failure of Arsenal was to keep Wenger on way beyond his sell-by date, the second biggest failure was on Ivan Gazidis for his cuck like behavior in not at the very least building an elite team around him. The third was the missed opportunities. Sign Sven Mislintat and Jurgen Klopp 5 years ago when we could have, we’re talking about a different Arsenal. We could have had Pep Guardiola. The list goes on.
Ivan didn’t have a real football vision for the club. He had some really nice platitudes that he’d parrot at the AGMs, but there was zero know-how for delivering his substanceless proclamations that we’d become like Bayern Munich (‘be like them’ isn’t really a vision).
No vision, no philosophy, no structure, and a bad manager was a recipe for criminal wastage… not just that, we had a placid fanbase that didn’t understand the damage their father like manager was doing (even now, people still talk about him like he’s an absent dad and it’s f*cking creepy).
Spurs and Liverpool didn’t have the same issues. They both embarked on a similar plan of attack. They hired in two managers that boasted vision, coaching skills, outrageous charisma, and absolute belief in the project they were taking on. A manager is step one, it’s always the simplest way to impact a club. Know what you want to do, then find people with the energy to deliver it.
Spurs wanted to bring through young players and coach them to elite levels. They wanted a core of British players that loved playing with each other and felt deep affinity to the manager and club (Arsene > Project Youth). They had a good crop of kids that blended in with very smart buys from around the globe. The football might not always be that technical, but the work ethic is a sight to behold. Their players are more than the sum of their parts, they are an uncompromising beast of a team.
Liverpool, it was simple, they wanted to play heavy metal football. Klopp made great strides in season one and slowly built players around his exciting vision. Power, pace, flair, aggression and warlike mentality from everyone was the absolute standard. No one has more fire than the manager, he’s someone they all love, and he loves them back.
Also, the fans knew what was coming, they bought into the energy and they saw actual progress on the pitch.
Both managers galvanised the fanbase.
‘But, but, but…’
The money, right? Stan K doesn’t invest, he’s a leech, he’s going to bring us down…
Not quite my friends. The Kroenke’s biggest weakness now is the one that’s going to sting them very badly moving forward. They didn’t take the time to understand what was going on at shop level. My guess is they haven’t wanted to be bothered because they’re making magic with The Rams. They don’t really get football, they’d like to succeed, but they’ve entrusted average people with the fortunes of the club, which was fine when elite average could get your top 4 every year, now the bar has shifted.
Arsenal has a net spend of €288m over the past 5 seasons. We’ve dropped almost €500m on players.
Liverpool, a team everyone calls cheque book these days, has a net spend over 5 years of… €204m! €84m less than Arsenal! Their outlay over 5 years is €710m, but 50% of that has come in the last two seasons because… the vision they implemented started reaping financial rewards!
Spurs success, as much as it pains me, is even more staggering. Their net spend sits at €42m over 5 years. Think about that, we’re out here crying that poor old Emery only had €83m to spend last summer! Spurs total player expenditure over a 5 year period has been €328m. (Numbers sources from Transfermarkt)
Wages paints an even starker picture. Liverpool has spent £990m on player wages (Swiss Ramble sourced) over 5 years, with Arsenal right up behind them having dropped a STAGGERING £975m. Spurs, a team in the Champions League final, having just built a new stadium, have spent £576m!
Let me put this into a harsher light… Spurs wage bill is actually £18m lower than ours was FIVE YEARS AGO.
Our weak leadership has consistently thrown their hands up and said we can’t compete because of money. As you all know, we’ve been saying that’s a loser mindset. The best thinkers always find a way to at least get themselves into the mixer. Atleti, Dortmund, Ajax to name but a few.
Luckily for Arsenal, all is not lost.
I have very little faith that current leadership is going to fix this mess. The vision for the club is meek at best, I don’t understand the action plan, and there’s no timeline against it. The shift we made this year is at least there’s now a loose idea of how a football club should be run, the problem is I’m not sure we have the expertise to deliver, even to the ‘proud’ part of it.
We’re going to feel the brute force of how a well-intentioned structure will always fail when average people are attached to its success. Arsenal is littered with people that don’t know what they’re doing, don’t understand the values of the club, and will ultimately fail. Also, please don’t think I mean that about everyone, the club is also full of a lot of absolute heroes who love the club and want to make it better.
There is hope. We are an institution, we are London based, we generate tremendous revenue streams, we have class, values and integrity… and we are a beautiful sleeping giant. When the Kroenke’s finally wake up, pull the wool from their eyes and take positive action by making people truly accountable for something exciting, we’ll be able to make the climb back up to the top.
… but what we can’t keep doing as fans is continue to celebrate average. We can’t keep groaning that it’s impossible to attain greatness. We can’t have such embarrassingly low standards.
Strong leadership shouldn’t be hard to find with the resources we have available. An exciting vision isn’t that hard to formulate if you are talented and ambitious. Moving Arsenal up a level in every department should be low hanging fruit.
… I just don’t think the reality has kicked in with those that own Arsenal.
Today is a dark day for Arsenal. Two teams that five years ago were in much worse positions commercially, financially and on the pitch are in the final of a trophy we’re not even good enough to qualify for.
The exec leadership can either lie down and accept it, or they can pull their finger out and get a little more serious about implementing an exciting vision for the future of our great club.
Let’s see where this summer goes, but for now, let’s all hide in a box and pray the worst doesn’t happen this evening.