Signing two top strikers to replace one outgoing striker seems to be a change in the right direction for Arsene Wenger. Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud are unproven but they have enough of a mix of pedigree and or potential for us to be confident. If they can each chip in 15 goals then they replace Robin van Persie’s league contribution.
The real test now for Wenger is whether or not he holds Van Persie to his contract, or if he is even allowed to hold Van Persie to his contract, and if he does not where do we offload him? Last summer he mentioned many, many times that he would rather let Samir Nasri or Cesc Fabregas, or both run their contracts down rather than let them go, a combined £55million later, they were both gone, one to a team who we play at least twice in a season.
We have seen several first teamers go over to Manchester City and with the exception of Gael Clichy (ironically one I wasn’t too upset to see leave) have never been much more than ‘occasionally good’ but RVP is a different matter.
I cannot, for one second, contemplate Wenger not being bothered by his sale to Manchester City. I simply can’t. So, how much the manager now controls his first team is the test that will be passed or failed by RVPs destination.
Red & White holdings have made a power play. That is what it is people, it is not an open letter of concern, it is a move to try and put pressure on the board from the fans and get what they want, which is more control of the club. If Usmanov and co simply wanted to discuss concerns and not destabilise why the open letter? Why not a phone call, a private email etc? The publicness (I think I just made up a word) of it all rankles somewhat and sits very uncomfortably with this Gooner and I am sure many others.
Undoubtedly the board will now have to respond. They will also have to do this publicly, but not necessarily through a statement or letter, simply to the players and the fans by bringing in talent that belies Usmanov and Co’s ‘concerns’. They will fail this test if they react by playing Red & White’s game, open letters, public statements, these will simply fuel the growing fire between ‘We are on the right track’ fans and those who say ‘wholesale change is the only way forward’. I truly believe the majority of fans sit somewhere in the middle of these two camps but, as is so often the case, these fans don’t shout too loud about it so don’t get a huge amount of attention.
If it is going to continue to be acceptable for teams to live way beyond their means, funded by a sugar daddy or by refinancing debt over and over again to pay wages and transfer fees that do not reflect their business model then Financial Fair Play (FFP) will be worthless. UEFA have long talked of their desire to even up the boardroom playing field and Man City is the prime example of a team who will fall foul of these regulations. My fear, and as I sip a pint in the Tollington or The Arsenal Tavern you can hear it shared, is they will simply fine clubs as a way of getting what they want, which when those clubs have demonstrated in their transfer and wage dealings that money is no object it is as pointless an exercise as me encouraging my wife that she really wants to spend Friday night delivering me cold beer as I play FIFA and watch Stallone movies from the 80’s. I mean, I want it to happen. It is not going to. So lets see how much UEFA stick to their plan and what sanctions, if any, they can bring in of worth to stem the flowing tide of billionaire playboys who should have stayed playing Championship Manager on cheat mode.
We, the fans are stuck right in the middle of two tugs of war, for a truly wonderful piece on this read Tim Stillman’s weekly column on Arseblog, one of these traditional English rope games is between Club and Player and the other between Majority Shareholder and next largest shareholder. The test that faces us is to keep calm, stay loyal to the 11 men who take to the field for kick off, and not allow ourselves to be swayed by clever PR bullshit. This is a tough test, one I found myself almost failing yesterday when, at times, I read the open letter and started to nod like the Churchill dog (who would be a decent tug of war colleague by all accounts), stop it, I told myself, do not get sucked in!
The truth is I became an Arsenal fan when we were a decent side, capable of winning stuff with the right combination of players and attitudes but with no sense of entitlement, and that hasn’t changed, and you know what, even if we went another seven years without a trophy (don’t type it Ed, don’t tempt that little fickle bastard fate), even if we went bankrupt and got relegated, even if Tony Pulis became our manger, sorry, I got carried away, even when Hell freezes over I will STILL be an Arsenal fan. Regardless of what happens to RVP, Wenger, the current board et all, as long as there is An Arsenal I shall be a Gooner.