Gunners At The Crossroads With The Start Of A New Decade
Ladies and Gentlemen. He’s Stone. He’s Cold. He’s Arsenal. He’s Back. He’s Darius.
May I firstly take this opportunity to wish you all on ACLF a happy new year.
It’s sometimes easy to forget the turmoil that has beset many around the world in the last decade, especially during the recent economic downturn. That’s why I feel Arsenal supporters the world over need to feel good about the fact that we are starting this new decade on a high, buoyed by a strong team ethic and determination, as well as excellent leadership by the board and Wenger.
Moving to the magnificent Emirates stadium, on time, on budget whilst maintaining a competitive edge on the playing field, was a monumental task that should not to be scoffed at. Those of a negative persuasion will quickly point out that we haven’t won anything, what is the point of playing pretty football and not winning? If only life was so simple.
Allow me to don my spectacles of the flowery variety and wax lyrical as to why the future is so bright. The future is indeed Arsenal as the old adage goes. Our only debt is a mortgage on the stadium that can be comfortably serviced from our organic revenue streams. Out of the 92 fully professional clubs of the Football Association, we are one of the few (and I can count them with the fingers on my left hand) that actually turn a genuine profit.
From the top to the bottom of the elite club championship in the world, clubs are ridden with unmanageable debt fuelled by the unsustainable ‘cheque book’ management of the last decade that dared to suggest that football was immune to the laws of economics. Manchester United, Liverpool, Hull and Portsmouth for example, are classic case studies of how not to run a football club in the 21st Century. The success of titles is no guarantee that you will be able to indefinitely leverage your equity and it’s only a matter of time before the devil comes knocking on your door, to shake your hand and collect his dues.
Arsenal on the other hand, has been labelled the small time non-spending and broke club with a tight fisted, egotistical manager who is anal about his youth experiment. In the last 5 years, our most expensive players have been Jose Antonio Reyes, Samir Nasri and Andrey Arshavin, all of whom were signed for fees that were less than £17 million. No wonder Arsenal is misguidedly seen as a poor man’s top four club who can’t match the other big spenders. Yet, this tight fisted French egomaniac has kept this club at the sharp end of the elite clubs in Europe Without bankrupting the club. Give me Wenger every day of the week and twice on Sunday.
The key thing though, is that over the last decade – whether you consider the successful move to Ashburton Grove, or the perseverance with the youth development programme or the building of one of the world’s best training academies – Arsenal has built a solid foundation for the next decade and beyond. Those who are short sighted enough to equate success with trophies at whatever cost will have been slow at picking up the fact that the footballing landscape has changed. It’s impossible to survive on the pitch if you’re living on borrowed time off the pitch.
As we start this new decade, it’s clear to see that Arsenal is on the ascendancy as other teams are wobbling as they start their descent. Pundits who are pre-empting a hearty serving of humble pie currently being baked at London Colney will suggest that Arsenal can only win the league this season if the usual suspects continue their poor form. While it’s easy to get angry at the lack of recognition for Arsenal’s effort, what isn’t in dispute is that we’re not declining and the others are on their way down.
The question has always been how long Arsenal’s transition was going to take before Wenger has another title winning squad. If you believe what you read in the papers and some blogs, your patience may have been easily worn down by the diatribe about Arsenal. If you’re more of the type with a sunny disposition, then you will understand and appreciate that the work Wenger has done over the last 4 years is now coming to fruition.
We still have the customary injury gremlins, and we still have the challenging task to maintain our mental strength, and to keep disciplined and professional on the pitch. All the ingredients are in place for this team to fight for titles and dominate Europe for the next decade and beyond. It is this last mile to success that is the most arduous, and this Arsenal team are stepping into the new decade in the right frame of mind for such a fight.
Of course, January wouldn’t be January without the silly season of the transfer window giving Arsenal fans high blood pressure. Wenger has uncharacteristically suggested that he’s going into the market – and journalists are having their bits squeezed by editors to concoct any list of transfer targets and stories to fill news columns and air waves all through the month. The truth is no one has a damn clue what Wenger will do or who he’ll sign. It might be more helpful for all of us to do something more useful – like support the team as we navigate a precarious month. If and when a new player arrives, we can chew the fat about the new addition. Until then, let’s all enjoy the football and look forward to a great year for the Arsenal, and a great decade of course.
Happy New Year!
Back in the morning with a West Ham preview. I’m off to practice my cockney knees-up routine…Roll out the barrel…’til Tomorrow.