COS Contributor Don McMahon sings the praises of Emirates way of doing business.
I recently read an article by YNWA entitled: Liverpool: A Club In Crisis – 10 Reasons Why We’re In Big Trouble It has inspired me to ruminate on and share with my fellow COS bloggers and Arsenal supporters the reasons why I claim the Gunners are still the best run club in the EPL and will remain the model for European and worldwide clubs to emulate, when and where possible.
a)The first and greatest strength Arsenal enjoy is ARSENE WENGER. The fact that any and all of the top 10 teams in Europe and every national side would jump at the chance to have him as manager is proof enough of his acumen and effectiveness. He has brought a hodgepodge of neophyte youth, sprinkled with veterans to a competitive level both in the EPL and the CL on a shoestring budget that is, incredibly self-imposed. He has shown penultimate skill in man-managing talents whose egos could have balooned like Ronaldo’s and Adebayor’s, but who have shown humility and dedication, loyalty and perseverance despite 4 years of no trophies. How he manages to generate these qualities and strengths in such a young crew is a wonder to behold. He is also a Board’s dream, as he saves more money than he spends and has remained loyal and committed to Arsenal despite a great deal of lamenting and criticism from so-called “fans” over the trophyless seasons just last year. He even admitted that it was one of his most depressing moments, yet he remains steadfast and loyal…a great example to his players and others. He is also a brillant business manager.
b) The next most important asset is the UNITY that the Board,Manager,Players,staff and spectators seem to share, with rare exception. You don’t see Arsenal bloggers filling 90% of this and other blogs lamenting Wenger, individual players or tactical decisions, even when the Gunners lose. Wenger always gives credit to the victors and most of the fans keep the faith and remain constant in their conviction that Arsenal are a work in progress which will be revealed to be a superb masterpiece very soon. Arsenal’s fans aren’t the most vociferous and stimulating home or away, but they are as loyal and devoted as any EPL team’s and that’s what counts.
c) The next positive is Arsenal’s relatively inflexible transfer policy. I say relative as Wenger himself strayed from it(albeit not too precipitously) by resigning Campbell. This was, however, under duress and is not likely to become a precedent. The very fact that he follows three, apparently simple rules when transfering players is part of the mystic: One-sell only if you have to and only players who have either reached their decline, or expressed absolute interest in moving on or become a pain and destructive to the team. Being sold by Wenger is a sign of respect for that player’s integrity and contribution to Arsenal or that he’s had enough of the twit and has better prospects in sight. Two – buy mostly players who noone knows or others don’t want to bid on but Wenger has scouted in depth, and who are diamonds in the rough or experienced professionals who’ll fit in well to the Arsenal spirit. Three – Avoid displacing up and coming talents for quick fixes a la Real Madrid tradition. By passing on “superstars” and Giant Egos and sticking with a youth and reserve promotion policy, he has mortgaged short term glory for long term success. He is among the few managers who realize that 4 trophyless seasons are quickly forgotten if silverware shows up the next season(s) and that ruining the club’s all important team spirit and squad cohesiveness for short-term glory is a sure fire receipe for long term misery and instability.
d) I spoke about humility and loyalty beforehand but this is a crucial force at Arsenal. You don’t see players making fools of themselves, criticizing teammates,managers, etc. very often at Arsenal. What you do see (read Arshavin’s absolutely comic website) is humour, transparency, authenticity, grace and merited pride and a certain naivete which is a very welcome change from the burlesque behaviours of other “stars” in the EPL and worldwide. Arsenal never ever boast about being the greatest, the best, the certain champions, etc. They do take it game to game and as Wenger says, you are only as good as your next result. In fact I think Arsenal are too self-effacing and genteel so they have been branded as lightweight, bridesmaids and not to be taken too seriously by pundits, other fans and teams alike.Arsenal however like to put their money where their mouth is and seem destined to succeed soon.
e)No majority owner(s) is one of the Gunners’ saving graces. God help us if Usmanov evers gets control…but that isn’t likely to happen as long as the current Board and Wenger are there. The current Board are English for the most part, understand Football and Arsenal well and are commited to doing what is necessary to ensure that the team and the club flourish in these troubling economic times. Deloitte’s latest financial audit reveals that they are among the 4 most financially sound and stable clubs worldwide….not bad for a club fighting for the CL and EPL title!
f) Many people claim that Chelsea, ManU and Liverpool are way too dependent on a few international class players like Drogba, Rooney, Torres and Gerrard. This may or may not be true and I don’t believe it is. However Arsenal have proven, despite their severest critics’ claims, that they have strength in depth and that with or without Cesc Fabregas, Robin Van Persie, Eduardo, Walcott, Arshavin and a host of others who have played few games this season, they can muster the courage and skill to keep them near or at the top in Europe and the EPL. The most costly transfer Arsenal have made in 5 years was Arshavin for an undisclosed fee (apparently around 20 million pounds). Compare that to Lescott’s fee of 35 million to ManCity or Ronaldo’s transfer fee of 89 million Euro! Arsenal can field a team capable of beating any club in the world thanks to their gradual talent development, sane transfer policies and promotion of players based on their fit and style in matching Arsenal’s needs.
g)Following on point f, players who have been revelations in past seasons may not be running on all 8 cylinders the next BUT there is always someone in the club to step up and do what it takes to win. Eboue last year was booed at the Emirates but this year his detractors are praying that he comes on as he adds so much. Everyone said we were losers to let Adebayor go but Arshavin,Bendtner, Van Persie and company stepped up their game and we don’t miss him at all. Song was somewhat invisible last year but he is the master of the midfield along with Cesc and Nasri this year. And on and on it goes. Ramsey was humming until he ran into Mr. “he’s not like that’s ” scythe but you can bet he’ll be back better than ever (and hopefully wiser).
h) Wenger’s talent for adapting his tactics and approach is a key element as well. His 4-3-3 formation is working extremely well for the Gunners and his substitutions often lead to key goals scored for Arsenal, especially in the crucial last minutes of the game. It scares the daylights out of the fans but isn’t that what Football is all about?
i) The fact that Arsenal has got its financial and Football act together and many other teams don’t is a testimony to the approach the Gunners have espoused since 2005. Sure Man.City or Real can buy a shipload of superstars, plunk them down in front of their newly hired manager and with a few stirrings of the pot, hefty salary increases, massive shirt sales and a bit of luck, challenge for a CL spot and 4th place in the EPL, after firing their first manager, but that is all predicated on a very fragile entente between a rich Arab owner who can, any day, return to camel racing as his favourite sport and leave that fine old club floundering in his wake, or as in the case of Real, massive debt and fragmented player performances. I’ll take Arsenal’s option anyday as it will shortly provide real results versus short-term gloss.
j) Wenger and the Board don’t let issues in the Boardroom unsettle and distract players like some other clubs do. This, in turn, ensures a tranquility and maturity, a focus and assurance that other clubs can’t seem to penetrate or understand. Take Real and Barca’s relentless pursuit of Fabregas. Cesc has remained above this “tapping up” and flowered a renaissance in this youthful side. Players know that they don’t have to run the gauntlet of paparatzzi, yellow journalism, rumour-mill offal and such in order to just get on with their career and profession. They can play for enjoyment and success and leave the politics to the management. They also know this management will support and back them up when things aren’t going well. Nothing makes a professional more at ease and confident than the absolute support of his club and teammates.
k)The final weapon in Arsenal’s panoply is the balance and skill of the team. They ALL play one-touch, flowing, attacking Football but they also can defend in depth. This is definitely NOT an unbalanced or fragile squad! They have had a nightmare injury season, exacerbated by violent and brutal opponents who thing “Kicking up the Gunners” is a viable tactical and strategic option. They have faced challenge after challenge (and in Barca will face their greatest) and come through in style, never resorting to butchery or hacking. They had their first red card this season last game for a foul that was debatable but so what. They were down 11 points in November, won only 4 of a possible 12 points in February and yet are still in it with sublime assurance. How can anyone claim they are too lightweight or that their “pretty”Football is nice to watch but ultimately futile. They are in the quarter-finals of the CL, in superb position to win the EPL and one of the most highly respected, admired and envied clubs in the world…not bad for lightweights!
So all you biased and blinkered Arsenal-haters in the media, backward looking opposition fans, volatile supporters who cut and whine at the first trouble,pessimists and the like, think on these qualities and this team…a team of great destiny!