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Crystal Balls: what the future holds for Arsenal

By Richard Bedwell

All the talk at the moment is about what has gone ‘wrong’ and what can be done (mainly in the transfer market) to put it ‘right’. Opinions as to what should happen are of course, just that, opinions. Trying to predict what actually will happen is somewhat different and, when it comes to Arsenal, not such an easy thing to do.

Based on past experience very little will change this summer. One or two older players will depart (although this year it could be three or four) and they will be replaced, at least in terms of squad numbers, by one or two bought-in players and one or two promoted from the fringes.

But surely two major influences on squad building/maintenance strategies will be different from now on. Sadly we will be without Danny Fitzman’s guiding hand and we will have a new, all powerful, ‘owner’ who will be in a position to impose his will and call all the shots when it comes to making the ‘improvements’ that he sees as necessary.

We will also see the beginning of UEFA Financial Fair Play (FFP) which will, in theory, hamper our main rivals by forcing them to change their strategies and leave the field open for us to buy whoever we want at knockdown prices. After all, take out the money emanating from ‘financial doping’ and the transfer market now would barely exist.

Let’s look at Stan Kroenke first. Unlike all other previous ‘takeovers’ ours has not been done by a complete stranger in what is to all intents and purposes, an emergency sale situation. Stan has been involved with the Club for quite a while and has sat in on probably 20 Board meetings since he started to be a Director.

He knows exactly what makes the Club tick; the history and what strategies have, or have not, worked in the past. He has also seen what’s worked at other clubs and has, no doubt, read Moneyball from cover to cover. He’s certainly seen every report on football finance issued over the last few years. Be assured that he hasn’t spent so much money to get involved with a club that has a lot of problems with the way that it goes about its business. Neither has he bought a Prius in order to put a Ferrari engine in it.

Just as important, he is unlikely to fall into the usual trap that Americans working abroad fall into (trust me, I know). This involves believing that he knows best even on subjects that he has little or no experience of. He has happily admitted to those fans who have spoken to him that ‘soccer’ is not his game (basketball is his passion) and that he firmly believes in letting the experts do what they do best.

He will only demand that money is spent if matchday attendances dramatically fall – but that is why the transfer reserve fund exists and our mortgagors would demand it even more quickly!

He will have been told over and over again that all successful post war Arsenal squads have been built on home grown talent and that Wenger has merely extended the definition of home grown. That, to a numbers man, will be very persuasive.

As far as FFP is concerned it’s easy to assume, indeed hope, that its impact will be large and immediate. But such assumptions are usually wrong. It’s a natural human trait to overestimate the short term impact of change and to underestimate longer term effects. The Bosman ruling is now sixteen years old and took quite a while to become anything like the force it now is.

But we’re already seeing some. FFP inspired, changes. The timing of events at Chelsea both last summer and in January, were not coincidental and, in three years time, we’ll look back at the situation in the early years of post-Abramovich Chelsea and wonder how and why.

I’m not saying that the most successful clubs now will not be the most successful in 2014-15 it’s just that they will have to go about their business in a different way and change, for some at least, will involve risk that they are not used to handling.

In the past those clubs with a business plan which involved a lot of high- priced transfer activity will have to be a great deal more careful. Much of the money that they have spent has actually been spent to make up for previous purchases that haven’t quite worked out as expected. I’m guessing that if they get it wrong in future they’ll be no going back into the market to throw yet more money at the problem. Short-termism and instant gratification are going to become passé.

So, back to the beginning – what’s going to happen next? While I don’t expect Arsenal to return instantly to the position they were in immediately pre-Abramovich they have, by moving to Emirates, made by far and away the best investment they could make to prepare themselves for a future in which how much you pay in wages and the working environment that you offer will be far more important that the transfer fees you are willing to pay. And, five years after doing it, it’s still the case that no other club has managed to pull off the same trick. They’ve huffed and they’ve puffed and their executives and potential sponsors have been shown round Emirates to see how it should be done. But no one has done it and I’ve got a feeling that no one (except West Ham?) will manage it for many years to come.

Despite all the gloom and confused expression of ‘opinion’ I, for one, have never been more optimistic about the future of my Club – both on and off the pitch.

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31 comments to Crystal Balls: what the future holds for Arsenal

  • vretou

    A widely respected manager has been allowed to indulge his own personal fantasy about winning the Premier League with a group of unproven, underachieving, injury prone, players who earn vast amounts of money for repeatedly failing to deliver. For six years. His fantasy fails time after time. But, according to the manager it’s the fault of the officials, of clubs who spend too much money, of everyone but himself.

    Consistent failure to deliver means the tide has turned
    You can’t really blame the players. They have been brought by the manager (with the exception of Wilshere), trained by the manager and their tactics decided by the manager. So, lets face a few facts. The manager has failed. He’s run out of ideas. His tactics don’t work. The players don’t respond to his management.

    The same manager has been indulged by a board whose aim has been determined to pass the club onto a safe pair of hands. For £11,750 per share. Judas only got 30 pieces of silver. To enable the vast profit the board has made they have given the manager total power in the club. We were given a new training ground, then a new stadium and a team that went from going 49 games unbeaten to a team that currently is 14th in the Premier league form table.

    Compared to every club below 3rd and, probably, soon every club below 4th our problems are laughably small. But we’ve seen how other clubs have fallen apart under foreign owners and failed managers. I really, really don’t want to see Arsenal follow them.

  • walter

    Vretou,

    First of all have you read Arsene Wengers statement after the Bolton game??????? He said: don’t blame the players, blame me.

    How much money have the board taken out of the club in the last years because that is what you are saying they are doing. Please give us some evidence of this.

    And the day of the form table…. yeah that is something to look at and take as the marking point.
    Why don’t you look at the league table and in this we are still 3rd. And the league table tells a lot more than your form table.
    Because as every wise person knows: form is temporary.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Interesting article, this club are and will contnue to be in a very good place.
    What is it with these lazy copy and paste merchants – no original thoughts of their own? Thought not

  • vretou

    Well boys this one I have waited for the entourage will include the people from the BL Section i.e. Employment Law, Company Law for Accountants, Commercial Law, Law of Business Organisations and Professional Practice and Sports Law. The meeting is at Potters bar and the main issue is how contracts are drawn up and how they can be repudiated. Boys once the final outcome is presented I will present it to some of the members of Arsenal Board. Wenger should and must be fired and here are the ways to do it or let the entourage see the content of Le boss contract. This sequence can be circumvented if wenger guts the team from top to bottom, a clean sweep, out with the junk. This is highly unlikely as wenger thinks he never makes mistakes as he is flawless. The message is simple change the team or this fight will continue. Arsenal is before Arsene. There is Arsenal FC not Arsene FC.

  • walter

    Richard, a nice article.

    I must say that at first I was not that happy with Kroenke buying all the shares of Lady and Danny Fiszman. But after the Fiszman died I understand that it was the will of Fiszman to keep the club going in the direction we are heading. Even though one never knows how things will change in the future I think the agreement between Kroenke and Fiszman showed that they are on the same wave length.
    So I think we will go on our path like before. Maybe Kroenk will offer us extra income when the running contract are finished (well I hopen anyway) and so our club can grow further.
    And with the FFP rules coming in action around the same time we are looking great for the future.

    Whatever some trolls may say or think. 😉

  • Edda

    I am really excited about the future of the club, and i really hope that the new financial fair play rules will “fix” the transfer market. Like it is today with so many sugar daddy’s using football as a toy with spending huge sums of money for instant success, i fear that many clubs will risk getting bankrupt because they try to compete. There are so many things to be proud of supporting Arsenal FC, not only do we have one of the best teams in Europe, but we also have a great stadium and are making more money than most other clubs in the world… 6 years might be long for many, but its not like we are a mid-table team who plays in an empty stadium, we are always competing at top lvl and have 60000 avg attendance! The future is bright!

  • Muru

    Hi Mr.Walter-man and fellow good netizens of Untold Arsenal. Let’s just leave the anti-Arsenal Brigade alone and its merry-men alone. Let’s not even be bothered about “vretou” and he’s kinda blind as he never read the title header of this webpage (Maybe his computer is spoilt-must be purphased in Spud-land, me thinks). Just plain waste of time.

    Anyhow, let’s all get behind the team and Le Boss for the final phase. It ain’t over till the fat lady sings…and yes to Mr.Walter-man, as me too thinks that the future looks extreme bright with the FFP system coming into play. Anyway, apologies for the short off-topic moments – Mr.Walter & Goodman Tony, is it possible to do a short write-up about how the English FA’s something+something rule that was implemented at the start of the season. Is it paying dividends as of yet?

    Cheers to all Gooners…

  • jose

    Soy un fans de sudamerica que cree siegamente en el trabajo de wenger y espero que no se deje influenciar por el ruido exterior de personas que no sabem nada de futbol y solo se dejan llevar por su pasion de hinchas

  • WalterBroeckx

    If I may to try and translate the comment from Jose (and if my Spanish is good enough):
    I am a fan from South America who believes in the work of Wenger and hope that it doesn’t get unfluenced by the rude words of persons who know nothing about footbal and are only driven by their own passion.

    Please correct me if this is wrong :-/

  • WalterBroeckx

    Untold goes South America… 🙂

  • bjtgooner

    Looking into the future is best done from a position of stability and we are fortunate that the club is financially stable. Also, from a managerial point of view we have stablility and further, our manager has put so much of himself into the development of the team that it is essential that he continues this work. I do believe we are close to having a championship side and with a small number of changes we will get there.

    At board level we have regrettably lost Danny Fritzman and silent Stan is now our owner. We will have to wait to see how Stan shapes up. Fingers crossed.

    I think the best route to developing the team is

  • bjtgooner

    Looking into the future is best done from a position of stability and we are fortunate that the club is financially stable. Also, from a managerial point of view we have stablility and further, our manager has put so much of himself into the development of the team that it is essential that he continues this work. I do believe we are close to having a championship side and with a small number of changes we will get there.

    At board level we have regrettably lost Danny Fritzman and silent Stan is now our owner. We will have to wait to see how Stan shapes up. Fingers crossed.

    I think the best route to developing the team is a continuance of a few tweaks each year – always keeping the core of the team (and team spirit) together. This route will easily match the FFP spending rules. I do suspect some clubs will not worry too much about the FFP rules and some will successfully flaunt said rules.

    (sorry – hit wrong key earlier)

  • Dark Prince

    First of all, regarding the Financial Fair Play (FFP), i think the author is slightly uneducated. The FFP doesn’t prevent clubs to sign a player for £100 mil or any other crazy amount, it jus says that it should break even. And that also, many leeways are allowed to the club for the first 5-6yrs. Whether Arsenal will be able to buy the players it wants will not be in any way affected by FFP. It will be decided, as always, on which club pays more, infact i should say which club has more revenue to pay, which at the present state Arsenal will find it difficult as, our wages are increasing every year but our revenue streams are tied down to long term deals. And you dont expect the matchday income to increase significantly, so basically our revenues are almost unchanged but our costs are increasing. So i dont think Arsenal is having any advantage.
    Currently i think the 25 man squad rule will be more of a concern than the FFP. Not only Arsenal but every other EPL club will have to look at their squad size to make a signing.

    Regarding Stan Kroenke, as you hav stated, he isn’t a soccer guy, he’s just a businessman tryin to earn as much money as possible. He isn’t any different from the Glazers or Gillet-Hicks. So his position should be treated with caution. Dont expect him to know about Arsenal more than long standing supporters.

  • Adam

    Call me an old cynic but I just can’t see the powers that be saying to Chelsea or Real Madrid or Barcelona or Man City sorry chaps but you’ve played fast and loose with borrowed money or funds from a super rich sugar daddy and you haven’t actually got the turnover or current earning power to cover that. So, we are afraid that you won’t be allowed into the CL or the EL or whatever. Also, you are so financially top heavy that it is going to be years before you will be allowed in. I just don’t see it. There will be some contingency built in somewhere and a few quid will pass under a few tables to miraculously appear in numbered Swiss accounts and it will all be ok.

  • RedGooner

    Nice Article. Has anyone seen this though.
    I know clubs need to prepair for the future BUT this should be illegal its down right stupid at best.

    http://uk.eurosport.yahoo.com/blogs/world-of-sport/article/45106/

    1 year old signs 10 year contract with dutch club. I mean what next why dont we just get the Arsenal ladies team and start breeding them with Ronaldo and Messi and stick them in our own little colony and start schooling them.
    Looks like we might need to if we wanna keep up with the dutch clubs 🙂

  • Shard

    @Walter

    ruido = noisy I think, not rude, though I think the meaning is what you say 🙂

    How many languages do you speak? Flemish, Dutch, English, Spanish?? Anything else? Is that because you come across different languages as a referee? I guess not, because then you’d only know swear words 😉

  • Shard

    I’m with Adam on the FFP. The rules will not be applied equally for all clubs, just as they aren’t on the field.. Wenger himself hinted at this in an interview where he said that we will respect the rules, but not sure if everyone will. We’ll see..

  • Stuart

    Interesting article, this club are and will contnue to be in a very good place.
    What is it with these lazy copy and paste merchants – no original thoughts of their own? Thought not

    (thanks Mandy)

  • Gooner80

    The question is why are so many clubs run like they have their heads buried in the sand, there is something seriously wrong with these owners

  • WalterBroeckx

    test

  • WalterBroeckx

    Sorry some problems with my computer.

    Shard, to answer your question I do speak Dutch (Flemish version), English, French, German and I can read some Spanish. Mostly enough to understand what is is about.

  • Mandy dodd

    This article reflects the optimism that should be surrounding this club. Unfortunately some sheep are taken in by the media, so called fans having nervous breakdowns as their lives are so empty their fragile egos demand silverware or bragging rights, whatever they are.
    Vretou the silly protest movement you go on about will flop as it did last time if it takes place at all. Wenger may change a few things but he will stay and lead the club to better things as he has done before. Stop being silly and support you club, your support will be needed when arry goes.

  • Waleed

    Sorry this is completely off topic and I haven’t even read the article yet, but Tony, I sent you an email with an article attached. I’m not sure if I sent it to the right email address or if you got it. Please let me know, thanks.

  • Mandy dodd

    A link with no comment gb? Poor show surely you can do better

  • C4

    These mindless sheep who copy and paste from other sites are just annoying. Thanks for letting us know that you allow the media to do your thinking for you. Around here, we tend to think and analyze for ourselves. You’re not going to have much luck recruiting more mindless sheep on this site, so stop trying and go back to the blogs you cut and paste from.
    Come back when you learn to think. And if that’s too difficult, go back to your school and ask for your money back.
    Yes, that means YOU, vretou…

  • Waleed

    Richard, I think you’re right that the FFP rules will not affect much in the short term. In fact, I doubt they will affect anything in the long term either. Clubs will find ways around them and I don’t think UEFA will really enforce these rules. But who knows.
    You’re right about Kroenke, let’s hope he doesn’t do anything out of character.

    As for the squad, I think some players might leave but very little will change. Those who are demanding big changes will be disappointed, and rightly so. There is talk about how this team can never win anymore because they’ve become “used to losing” but seriously, these kids are still 23,24 years old. How many players win anything at this age?
    And the most ridiculous rumor these days is that Wenger is about to sell Cesc to fund an overhaul of his squad. Why would he start his overhaul by selling his best player??
    I think Cesc will stay and we’ll see a better Arsenal next season.

  • Cape Gooner

    I’m afraid that I don’t share your optimism for the future. AW says we should have had 9 points from Liverpool, Spurs and Bolton. He doesn’t mean that we played badly and will do better next time. He means that seven points were stolen by the refs. The players know that too.

    I think that any player who knows that their club is being screwed and that management is doing nothing about it will grab a chance to leave with both hands.

    From this morning’s Guardian (“He” is Mourinho) – “He added that he would not say what he “really thinks” because he feared a life ban but said he felt “disgusted” to be working in football.”

    I would like AW to risk a life ban.

  • bob

    Is Mourinho Barcking up the wrong tree? Yes. But there’s something in it to ponder and weigh that is relevant to the work of this website: Yes, the Dark Lord may be a hypocrite, but he names 4 refs – yes NAMES them – and that takes courage. Is it a distraction from his team’s piss-poor display? Yes. But I’d still call it a double edged sword. Is he wrong when he rattles off Barca’s massive advantages? I say no. (Alves & Co, make DiveMaster Rooney a choir boy.) Is he one-sided and a hypocrite? Yes. But even paranoids (and hypocrites) do have enemies. Have a look at his entire rant, as there are kernels of truth sprinkled throughout, including mentions of where Arsenal/van Persie/Wenger/Nasi has been stiffed by the UEFA/Referee cabal. NOT at all unlike the FA/Referee cabal that Walter convincingly has nailed. Now, comrades, the CL has its dream match. I submit, while the sides are both very good, they are also VERY advantaged by (trumpets) bent refereeing. Have a read and analyze for yourselves. http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2011/apr/28/jose-mourinho-real-madrid-barcelona?intcmp=239 Up the Shire! Down with Kastle Fergus! Nothing to lose on Sunday – let fly the dogs of war!

  • Gooner S

    Vretou – It just goes to show two people (you and me) can follow the same club and have such differing views. Not a bad thing, especially if people are sensible about it.

    You write “A widely respected manager has been allowed to indulge his own personal fantasy about winning the Premier League with a group of unproven, underachieving, injury prone, players who earn vast amounts of money for repeatedly failing to deliver. For six years. His fantasy fails time after time. But, according to the manager it’s the fault of the officials, of clubs who spend too much money, of everyone but himself.”

    I look at it differently; A widely respected manager has had to, through neccessity, not of his own making, build a squad capable of challenging for the Premier League with a group of inexperienced, homegrown, young, talented players. He has had no choice, we have a stadium to pay for. It can’t be ignored. Yes, that situation is abating but there realy isn’t a need to do anything drastic. Do you really think that Mourinho or the other litany of names that are hawked around by various bloggers would have dealt with the last 6 years or so competitively? I don’t, in fact I doubt that they they would have taken the challenge on…just my opinion of course. I give a lot of credit to Arsene Wenger for staying and taking that challenge on.

    I firmly believe that we will add 2 or 3 players this summer, if Cesc goes add one more to that list. We do not need to change manager. Are we in criss? What would it achieve? Do you think the board is going to say to any new manager “here’s £60 million to spend”? I don’t think so. Any new manager would have to work under the same conditions as Arsene Wenger.

    We have a talented but frustrating team, that is undenieable. We also have a manager who is undoubtedly a poor loser, that is not a bad thing either. We have a manager that avoids blaming his squad in public, after poor results and performances, which is admirable and the right thing to do. That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t know what is wrong or that he is going to ignore it. With respects to blaming officials; many of his quotes that you are indirectly referring to have been said in the aftermath of dissapointing results and with a great deal of frustration – he is human you know. Arsene Wenger has blamed himself and knowbody else for the current siuation hasn’t he?

    Anyway this is all opinions on our part, the ony thing to do is sit tight, see what happens in the summer and then come back next season and support the team again. Isn’t it? That’s what we do!

  • goonergerry

    I think the writer has made a strong point about Kroenke not being a new face-he was after all instrumental in the appointment of Gazidis. We may see some differences-such as the club Directors taking dividends-but the clubs overall financial position is likely to improve as better commercial deals are put together.
    I am sure that Arsenal will stick to FFP-and its minimum change philosophy. The club will not sack AW-but I would be surprised if they did not take cognisance of the stress that AW seems to suffer-a man in his 60s after all-and indeed looking and sounding like a broken man is not demonstrating the kind of in controlled leadership that any American businessman would think is desireable. Surely they will consider the need to reduce the pressure Wenger experiences.
    I doubt that they will consider that there is no connection between the leadership on the field and the team’s performances of late.
    There is a self destructive nature to our recent results which is concerning. Nobody needs to list the games we have been ahead in and not won. It is not a new phenomenon-Liverpool in the CL quarter final comes to mind, or the 4-4 draw. The team appears to panic under pressure, to lose its shape and confidence, to give away penalties. Are we to just to continue to ignore this-and pretend it doesn’t exist?
    The Man U game is a massive one for this team-as much to prove to itself that it can overcome the demons in the heads of some of our players. Our record against them since November 2008 is dire-so its time for a change. They are a full strength fully confident team-no doubt with a tame ref against us that is-and on top form. Beating them will not be easy.
    If we lose again-in the same lame way we have been conceding against inferior teams recently-it will reinforce the view that something in the way of more fundamental playing changes has to be made-if this pattern is ever to change.
    As well as addressing a few tactical and technical deficiencies in our team isn’t the mentality of the team the primary issue that has to be sorted out in the summer?
    I am not as confident as the writer that we are so well placed for success-on the evidence of the past few years-we will not be able to address shortcomings by using the transfer market which means we will wait to grow our own youngsters-do you think that such an approach will impress our best players-who are quite young themselves? Not a chance-and they will not be short of offers.It is not too difficult to see a no change philosophy resulting in us dropping out of the CL spots altogether.